I’ve listened to singer/songwriter Eric Peters for years. My devotion to the Rabbit Room and the Square Peg Alliance came from my son. We started listening to the artists of the Square Peg Alliance years ago. And, when I discovered the Rabbit Room website and their devotion to not only music, but to classical Christian writers I was sold.
In 2010, Sean and I attended the first Hutchmoot gathering in Nashville. Eric Peters sang at that gathering. In 2012, Sean and I were fortunate enough to make the 90 second window during online registration and we made it back for Hutchmoot. During that gathering, I was shocked to hear Eric’s story during his “Recovery Through Song” breakout session. I had no idea about his struggle with depression. He was very open with that young adult audience about his depression. Afterwards, Sean and I sat under an outside tent for a personal concert by Eric. I was stunned and moved as Eric was brought to tears and almost speechless trying to share more about his battle with depression. I totally understood.
That night in Nashville I desperately needed a hug from my wife but she was a three hour drive away visiting her friends in Chattanooga. I leaned against a tree in the darkened parking lot of Redeemer Church and watched people move inside the bright, clean interior of the church’s attached house. Most of them smiled and laughed as they exchanged brief touches and hugs. Somewhere in that brightness my son spoke with peers his own age. I, an aging gray haired fossil, made up only a small minority at the 2012 Hutchmoot.
I called my wife and listened to her joyful voice as she answered her cell phone. She was having the time of her life playing bridge with her friend Barbara. I was more depressed than I had been in months thanks to an email I had received that afternoon from my publisher “releasing” me from a five book contract after the second book would be released in less than a month. She tried to console me and offered her practical and sensible advice. Always practical and sensible. I, on the other hand, found myself living half the time in a dream world of hopes and aspirations that could never be totally realized. She reminded me that by October, I would have two fiction books in the marketplace released by a major publisher. And, I had just landed a contract for an update to a depression book my co-author and I wrote in 2001. I should have been able to throw all of that on the scales and realistically see that in spite of the release from one contract, another had taken its place and, in the balance of things, I was actually ahead of the game. With the offer to update our depression book had come the offer of writing an entire book series.
But, as much as I loved the idea of updating our depression book, I did not want to say goodbye to Jonathan Steel and his spiritual warfare against the forces of evil. I told my wife I loved her and wiped the tears from my face and tried to man up. I had to go back into the church and face that crowd of giddy millennials. I did and here is the beauty of this thing called Hutchmoot.
The people surrounding me totally understood my situation. Many of them had been in similar circumstances, their art rejected or their idea laughed at. Attendees at Hutchmoot are much, much more than artistic wannabes. I’ve met artistic wannabes.
Once, I attended a local “writer’s club” and was met at the door by an aging 1950’s glamour girl. She was obviously in her 70s but dressed like Kitty Carlisle (whose grandfather was once mayor of Shreveport!) with a flowing gauzy dress and matching long, wavy hair dyed a hideous blue black. Her face was caked in powder and her eyes were limpid. She greeted me with a dried lipstick smile and a cold, narrow handshake.
“Are you a published writer?” her first words.
I shook my head. “Trying to be.”
“I’ve been published.” She smiled again and I watched bits of lipstick fall to the ground like dying flower petals. She held out to me a fading copy of LIFE magazine tucked into a cellophane wrapping — November, 1957 I think. Impressive. Most impressive. She tapped the magazine.
“Right here in this magazine I was published, my dear.”
I took the magazine and nodded looking beyond her willowy figure to the open door. I had to get passed her. Or did I really want to? Were all of the club members like her? “You wrote an article?” I smiled back at her.
“Letter to the Editor!” She clasped her hands and beamed at me.
I never met anyone like her at Hutchmoot. Everyone in attendance either created art or loved Christian art. No pretenses. Just a simple concept — community. Here at this gathering of like minded Christian artists spanning the range from music to writing to painting to catering, yes catering! Even the “celebrities” hosting this event exhibited humility and frank honesty and friendliness. Andrew Peterson, author of four fantasy books and countless wondrous albums would sit at the table with me and my son and just talk. No pretense. No celebrity snobbiness. No LIFE magazines!
Outside, beneath a tent, Eric Peters tried his best to hold an acoustic concert for about a dozen of us. However, his battle with depression, still being waged, would get the best of him and his face would darken with the shadows of that beast and he would halt — pause — emotion in his voice as he tried to explain that THIS song came out of his pain and agony.
You see, nowhere on the face of the planet would a total stranger get up from his seat, walk across the grass to a celebrity and reach out and hug him. Nowhere but Hutchmoot. I told Eric I understood. I have battled depression and most times won; I battle it still. So does he. But, there are times when the VOICES speak loud enough to command our attention and we turn away from the smiling, loving face of our Savior and gaze into the abyss. What keeps us from falling into that crafty chasm of the enemy are many but one saving grace is our community of family and friends who love Christ and each other no matter how many “releases” from contracts fill our lives.
Recently, God began working again around me. In spite of my many weaknesses and faults, God placed certain people in the line of my movement. And now, I may see the birth of something like Hutchmoot. I tried to get the Inkwell going in 2011 and only had one meeting with one person before it faded away. But, there is a growing community of Christian artists here in our area and perhaps it is time for us to meet. It is time for a community to form to encourage, to lift up, to hold accountable our creative acts inspired by Christ, to be there when we are reflected by tradition and to offer a simple hug.
If you are interested, let me know. Here is how you can get involved. First, there is a “meetup” called InkwellSBC (Inkwell Shreveport/Bossier City). You can go to that page and sign up and get involved. Or, you can check out my Facebook page here. Or, you can drop me an email through the contact tab on this website, but if you are interested, we need to KNOW soon. I have to schedule a night in the Well, the coffee shop, at Brookwood Baptist Church.
And, to entice you, I will offer something very special. At our first meeting, soon to be determined, I will review Andrew Peterson’s latest book, “The Warden and The Wolf King” and we will have a drawing to give away four copies of the book SIGNED by Andrew Peterson! Interested? Then, I gotta know. And, soon.
So, if you would like to be a part of a local Christian artistic community that meets on a regular basis, contact me. If we get enough interest, we’ll meet and four of you will walk away with signed copies of Andrew Peterson’s book!
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.
Bitter disappoint burned in my chest. I had just found out I was being released from my 5 book contract with Charisma after my second book. It was late on the first night of Hutchmoot 2012 and I wandered the beautiful grounds of Redeemer Church in Nashville crushed and weepy. I made my way back into the sanctuary to listen to our hosts regale us with song and sat on the last pew. In front of me, a young girl, probably 5 or 6 squirmed on the pew beside her mother, restless and bored. On the stage Andrew Peterson was about to sing a number from his newest album, “Light for the Lost Boy”. He told us this story:
An artist told about growing up without knowledge of God. But, somehow he knew there was Someone to watch over him, a secret Companion. Later in life, this man came to know Christ and realized that God was always with him in the quiet, desperate moments of his life. Andrew decided to write a song about this secret companion. Then, he paused and called out to his daughter. The girl on the pew in front of me snapped to attention and with great delight ran up to the stage to sing with her father. As they sang, “The Voice of Jesus” I wept silently with joy that even in the midst of my depression and disappointment, the voice of Jesus still whispered hope and love. When she joined in with her father at the end of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and a hushed, reverent stillness gripped us all. In that moment we heard not just the voices of Andrew and his daughter. We also heard the Voice of Jesus. My despair lifted and the music calmed my soul and brought me a measure of sorely needed peace.
I tell you this because when I read of Leeli in “The Warden and the Wolf King” I hear the voice of Andrew Peterson’s daughter raised in song. In fact, song and music are integral to the story of this novel and permeate throughout the narrative. This shouldn’t surprise me. Andrew Peterson’s songs are more than catchy tunes. They are deep, thoughtful reflections on our life in this imperfect world and the redemption we find in Christ’s love.
Song is so important to the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King”. I remember reading “Lord of the Rings” as a teenager and being impatient when I came to long verses of song lyrics. Most of the time, I skipped over them. And, although the songs’ words gave some framework for the world of Middle Earth, I could have done without them.
I was sitting at an outdoor table under a tent with my son Sean when Andrew Peterson plopped down next to us and began to eat his dinner. It was a cool September evening in Nashville at the 2012 Hutchmoot. Talking to Andrew was like talking to a long lost friend. The conversation meandered to children, much like the three jewels of Annieria in the Wingfeather Saga. Andrew scrunched up his face, shoved his nose in my son’s face and proclaimed: “You better behave, Sean me boy, or your father’ll have you hoisted up the petard!”
I’m sure Andrew doesn’t remember this. He said things like that to everyone at Hutchmoot, but we remember it well. And, it is that spirit of random abandonment to reality that flows through the Wingfeather Saga.
Being a alumnus of two Hutchmoots, I can easily see in Andrew’s writing his love for Buechner, Lewis, MacDonald, Tolkien, and Wendell Berry. He blends elements of fantasy, swashbuckling, and allegory with a touch of parable throughout his works all set against a lushly realized landscape. Now, I am an author of a book series. I am currently in the final edit on book four and I can tell you it is not easy keeping all the story lines coherent and moving in parallel. One of my pet peeves is with authors who set out to write a book series and run out of creative energy early on. They create immersive worlds, stunning characters, and set up elaborate plot lines and then just get lost in their own maze. The list of book series I have given up on is long. By book four, you can tell you are lost in a forest along with the author and there is no way to get out unless you turn back (reboot your story) or open up the Pandora’s box of contrivances and let loose the deus ex machina.
I can’t sleep!
My back is acting up thanks to the trip to Nashville for Hutchmoot 2012 and having to sleep in two different beds from my own. So, my doctor put me on a 12 day steroid dose pack because I am traveling. Again. One week of work in my “day job” as a radiologist and then I was off this past Saturday to work with my co-author, Mark Sutton, on an upcoming update to our depression book.
But, the steroids may make my back better, but they keep me wide awake every night! I don’t mean restless and cat napping. Wide awake! The entire night!
So, I’m sitting here in my hotel room in Orlando at midnight wondering when the Tylenol PM is going to kick in! So, I thought I would share a profound event from my day. I decided that on Wednesday morning, since Mark would be prepping for a class to teach tonight and would be unavailable for writing that I would do something fun. Just for me.
I had seen the ads on the internet for months so I took a chance and, yes, they had an opening on Walt Disney World’s Wild Africa Trek. This is a three hour tour behind the scenes on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney Animal Kingdom. It involves a great deal of walking through narrow trails in the wooded areas around the animal’s homes. And, it involved climbing, leaning over a cliff or two, and crossing creaky rope bridges. I was thrilled! After all, what is a bad back compared to almost getting eaten by crocodiles.
I showed up at 1015 after taking care of bathroom duties (No restroom for 2 hours) and was zipped and tied into a harness by Devin and Eleanor (later switching to Elly as we got to know her!). Now, here is how it works. We follow our guides through winding, narrow trails in the jungle areas to a “cliff” overlooking animals. We’re clipped into a tether so we can “lean” out over the cliff to the animals below.
I must admit, even though the hippos are herbivores, watching the two hippos chomp down on cucumbers, melon, and bananas thrown to them by our guides gave me the heebie jeebies. Those molars and tusks looked rather dangerous. I guess the highlight of that little venture was when “Nacho” marked his territory with a “dung shower”. Yeah, it is what it is.
Next we arrived at the crocodile enclosure. Here, we had to cross two rope bridges complete with broken boards and holes in the side. Not to worry. We’re tethered in! But, I still felt a little creeped out as I passed over the 23 or so crocs napping just 15 feet below. Then, we were tethered on the “cliff” and just six feet below my leaning body was a huge croc as big as a banana boat! Not to worry! They only eat once a week. But, I was informed that if I fell in, they would bite me, kill me, and then hide my body for a snack later on!
After this perilous but thrilling part of the journey, we were loaded onto our own small open bed truck to drive around the savannah. We stopped and had ample opportunities to take pictures of giraffes, wildebeest, antelope, elephants, ostriches, rhinos, cheetahs, lions, and warthogs. The highlight of the day was arriving at our own private pavilion overlooking the entire savannah while we had lunch. It was so refreshing to sit down in a cool breeze and look out over the animals in the savannah. A great and wonderful adventure that I would highly recommend to anyone.
But, no journey is without its lessons. So, I want to share some of what I learned from this adventure.
Dung Showers — No matter how hard we try in life, there are times when we end up producing a “dung shower”. Nacho, the hippo expelled large quantities of his “refuse” and then would twirl his little tail around like a propeller slinging it in a wide arc to mark his territory. Whenever another male hippos would show up, they knew Nacho had been here!
I thought about how many times we get upset, arrogant, self-righteous, or downright indignant and we have our own “dung showers”. Of course, at the time, we don’t see what we did as “dung”. What we did was justified, righteous “anger”. The affect is just the same. The words, the demeanor, the ill spirit we leave behind among those who are showered is just as lasting. They will remember our outbursts and wicked behavior. In fact, I’m coining a new phrase, using myself. “Yeah, that Bruce Hennigan just hit me with a dung shower. The jerk!”
We mark our territories whether we intend to or not. Or words and actions have consequences and in a world where Christianity is increasingly condemned and looked down upon, it is up to us to find better ways to “mark our territories”. Perhaps with something other than dung? Like, love, understanding, compassion, mercy, empathy, kindness, and so on. So, tomorrow, don’t hit anyone else with a “dung shower”. Instead, shower them with kindness. It’s a much better mark to leave behind!
Rope Bridges Sway — There is definitely a difference between solid ground and a swaying rope bridge. I found out the hard way that if you lean over the side to take a picture of a crocodile the other side of the bridge will move AWAY from you! In fact, you sway DOWN toward the croc! This throws you off balance and you are teetering on the brink of a crocodile snack.
But, solid ground doesn’t shift under your feet. Walking through the jungle up and down slopes, roots in the soil gave me enough traction to keep from slipping. There are no roots on a rope bridge. In fact, our roots do more than nourish us. They steady us. They give us purchase on the shifting ground around us.
Our culture is filled with lies. “What is the lie?” is the question I ask myself often when I am feeling down, depressed, or stressed out. Like the rope bridge, when we lean into the lie, we teeter on the edge of disaster. Instead, we need to rely on our rooted, solid stance on solid ground. All else is shifting sand, as the song says. In today’s postmodern culture, we tend to compartmentalize the world and think that all is NOT related. But it is. We cannot walk on a swaying rope bridge and act like we’re on solid ground. The TRUTH is there is only one way. One solid ground.
Don’t buy into Satan’s lies and his swaying rope bridges. Instead, rely on the solid ground in which we are rooted in Christ; the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Standing on the Brink — I have a picture of my feet at the edge of the cliff that dropped directly down to a sleeping crocodile. He was only about six feet below me. The only way I could get the picture was to lean forward. My harness was attached to a bungie like rope behind me so I could feel the elastic pulling me back away from the cliff. But, I really wanted to get that picture. Suddenly, I lurched forward and for an almost infinite moment, I was falling to my death. I picture over two dozen crocodiles waking up and tearing away bits and pieces of me to hide away in their little pond for a midnight snack. And, there is a lot of me to go around.
Turns out, Devin had tapped me on the shoulder to get me to turn around so he could take a picture of me with the crocs in the background. As far as he was concerned, I was never in danger. But, my imagination took that little lurch and pushed me straight into one of those old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies where the bad guys feed the crocs.
Lesson learned: God has us on a tether. We have a path to walk that is straight and narrow. But, true to our nature, we like to wander to the edge of that path to check out that exotic odor, or that enticing flower, or that alluring seduction. And, when we reach the edge of the cliff, we have this false sense of security that we are still within God’s will. We feel the tug of the tether and yet, we lean further and further over the pit. There, waiting below, disguised in his lies is Satan. He has his mouth open, his eyes gleaming, just waiting to tear us apart!
And then, God taps us on the shoulder. He awakens us from our trance and we lurch with the unexpected realization that we had almost gotten taken in by Satan again. Again! When will ever learn? Be mindful of the tether. It is there for a reason; a connection to God through His Holy Spirit who holds us back from oblivion because God loves us. Thank you God for a tap on the shoulder.
Friday at Hutchmoot. First full day.
Sean and I made it for breakfast and sat once again under the tent outside in the cool morning air. We both sipped lattes from the most excellent coffee cart upstairs. What should we do? There were multiple sessions to choose from. Frankly, my first choice seemed untenable to me now. “Recovery Through Song” would feature Eric Peters, Jason Gray, and Andy O’Senga talk about emotional issues like depression and how song helped them cope. I was sliding into depression even as I sipped my coffee. I know it was silly. So I had just lost the remainder of my contracted books with one publisher the afternoon before. So what? My plans over the past 12 years would come to a stop unless I could somehow get my second book onto the New York Times Bestseller list. Unlikely in this age of crazy quilt marketing. How do you market “Christian speculative fiction” to Christian book stores? Horror, science fiction and fantasy get lost amongst the Amish romances and the female lead thrillers — all good books but not likely to attract the demographic that liked speculative fiction.
There was glimmer of hope for me. Just weeks before I had been led by God to walk into a meeting room at the International Christian Retail Show, the largest Christian artistic trade show of the year. There, in a matter of breath taking moments I had been offered a new book series deal that I cannot talk about in detail. But, guess what the subject of that book deal would be. Depression! Man was I going to nail that book now! I had the biggest opportunity in 12 years to really give into the raging beast that was growing darker by the moment within my crushed heart. Want to know more about depression? Give me a few more hours and you’ll see it raw and bloody before you.That was why I really DIDN’T want to hear a session on recovery. It might give me hope! And hope was my enemy right now. I wanted the deep, dark shadows to swallow me; I wanted to wallow in the pain and loss; I wanted the sweet, sweet oblivion of not caring a whit about the next breath I would take; I wanted the darkness to take me again as it had in 1995.
There is a difference now from then. My son. Sean was there gently encouraging me; never nagging or telling me to “just get over it”. He just loved me. And, my friends, that is what I needed most in that hour. So, I followed him to the session on recovery.
First, let me tell you that I cried through most of the session. When Jason Gray shared the night he couldn’t get that beam in the attic off his mind, I was almost breathless with anxiety. There was that beam up there, he said. And, I kept planning exactly how I would put the extension cord over it and how to tie the knot. For hours he could not get that off his mind. Would anyone miss me when I’m gone? That lie!
That lie! It all came flooding back to me. My first session with my counselor. The day I dreaded asking someone for help after six weeks of helpless struggling with my depression. He very simply said, “Bruce, what is the lie?” Simple. Elegant. Like Jason, I had bought into a lie. My life is worth something. You know why? Because God loved me enough to become flesh and to suffer and die to bring me back into a connection with Him. And, God does not lie. Who is the father of lies? Satan. Lucifer. The Master of this Realm. The Leader of the fallen angels. And, he was alive and well in my personal space, sticking out his forked tongue and laughing at me and goading me and lying to me. It all washed over me like a cold shower. I had never once considered a beam in the attic. I had never gotten so depressed that death seemed the only release. That would be cheating. Rather, I had wallowed in the pain until I realized that this pain came from the lies. I looked up through tears and listened as Jason said, “How did I become my pain?” and later, “Wisdom can come only through pain.”
Okay, God, I get it. I still have Hope. It never left me. I was the one who walked away into the shadows. I’m coming back into Your light. Eric Peters talked then and tore me asunder with his song, “Voices”.
Voices, when I listen to the voices
Every shroud of anger is sorrow in disguise
The voices, when I believe the voices
That convince me I am worthless, bent on my demise
Hear, oh hear the saints’ and angels’ voices
Everything about my weakness that is strong
Everything about the heart that could go wrong
Every hope that ever lived there but has since flown
I’m finding again, finding again
In the garden, when we lived inside the garden
Creatures bright and shining, we were, dust brought to life
In the silence, when we lean into the silence
We choose the things that hate us most, and rest upon the lies
Everything about my weakness that is strong
Everything about the heart that could go wrong
Every hope that ever lived there but has since flown
I’m finding again, finding again
We choose to love the things that hate us most
Everything about our weakness that is strong
Everything about our heart that has gone wrong
Every light that ever shone in darkened halls
Is shining again, I’m finding again
Oh, the voices
When I listen to the voices
I listen to the voices
Of the saints and angels
We choose to love the things we hate us most and rest upon the lies!
By now, I am reeling, dizzy, sweating, awash in God’s merciful truth. And, this was the first session of the first full day! As I stumbled out of “Recovery Through Song” I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the following.
My dream of becoming a bestselling Christian fiction author was now put on hold. Sure, my second book of “The Jonathan Steel Chronicles” would be coming out within the month and I would do whatever it took to promote it. But, as far as my daily writing, right now and for the short term forseeable future I had to focus unflinchingly, unfailingly, without distraction on the update to my depression book. This is what God was telling me. There is an epidemic in this country of stress, anxiety, and depression. God had laid in my lap the most awesome opportunity to write a new book on depression fueled by my own personal struggles, my own wisdom garnered in the valley of the shadow of death, my own walk with God. I heard the TRUTH and guess what, the TRUTH set me free!
If you want to know more about Eric Peters’ excellent album, “Birds of Relocation” check out this link.
If you want to know more about “Conquering Depression” go to this link.
I still have a limited number of promotional copies of my first book, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and you can get a FREE book for no obligation by filling in the info below. I’ll send it to you FREE!
Thursday afternoon and it is around 530 PM. My son, Sean and I can smell the wondrous aroma of dinner wafting up the stairs from the basement of Redeemer Church. We were sitting in the sanctuary with 184 other people attending the 2012 Hutchmoot. I watched as Andrew Peterson smiled and looked out over the crowd. He welcomed us and then said something that in any other creative conference in the world would be a sign that we are all in big trouble. “Welcome to Hutchmoot. I’m not sure what is going to happen but here we are.”
Yeah, Hutchmoot is like that. Well planned and well co-ordinated thanks to the ever awesome hard work of Pete Peterson. But, exactly what each person is going to take away from the conference is uncertain. At least to us. Not uncertain to the One who spoke the world into existence, the One who holds the universe together, the One whose Story is unfolding all around us, the One who invites us to be a part of that Story.
An hour before my son and I left the hotel for the conference I received the email I had been dreading. One of my current publishers was “releasing” me from my contract. Just an hour away from the most wondrous creative conference of the year and I get this bad news.
But, you know what I thought? Instantly, I knew that God had something very specific to reveal to me through Hutchmoot. God is in control. This was no surprise to him. In fact, this development was the next plot point in my story. He wrote it. My job was to play my part as truthfully and as faithfully to the Author as I could. So, it was with heavy heart and a growing sense of depression that Sean and I set out for Redeemer Church for the opening of Hutchmoot 2012. The dark clouds were gathering and blotting out the shining light of the sun that I had hoped would illuminate the next four days. I felt my world contracting and squeezing down, pressing in on me with the bitter oppressive realization that my Dream was dying. Twelve years of hard work culminating in a five book contract were now a total and complete waste. God, where are you? Why?
I was understandably subdued at the most excellent dinner Evie had concocted for all of her “so many rabbits!”. Sean and I sat outside under the tent at an empty table waiting for others to join us. No one joined us. I guessed it was for the best. I wasn’t very good company. But, it gave Sean and I a chance to talk for over an hour. He lives in Austin, Texas and I live in Shreveport, Louisiana. We seldom get to see each other and already the past twenty four hours together had been fantastic. Now, Sean sensed the need to comfort his father. And, I sensed the need to pull out of my funk and make the time we had together the best it could be. The food helped.
That evening, Hutchmoot 2012 kicked off with one of my favorite events. The Square Peg Alliance, the alliance of independently minded singers and songwriters that Sean and I had grown to love performed for us. It was a totally random, unplugged affair filled with gaffs and laughter and wonderfully real performances. As the songs filled the air and swirled around us, I felt my mood lightening. Just a bit. It wasn’t the end of the world. Things would get better. I would move on with my books. God was in control.
I slipped outside for a moment to call my wife, Sherry. She was in Chattanooga staying with friends of ours. I had told her briefly about the email and we talked for a while as I wandered around in the still, cool night outside of Redeemer Church. I went back inside and sat on the back row. In the row in front of me were Andrew Peterson’s three children. His two sons sat at the end of the row listening with intense concentration to the music. His youngest daughter, Skye was stretched out on the seats with her head in her mother’s lap. She was the typical young girl, twitchy, bubbly, moving all around, staring at the ceiling, mouthing words, perhaps even bored? Andrew Peterson took the stage to sing us the last song of the night. He asked if Skye was in the room.
I watched in wonder as Skye’s eyes lit up and she sprang up from the seats with childlike energy. She bounded up the aisle to the stage. She joined her father to sing a song. She joined her father! I suddenly saw a ray of hope. I was here with my son. And, Andrew Peterson would be singing a song from his latest album “Light for the Lost Boy” about a son and his father. Suddenly, a framework appeared, suddenly the plot thickened, suddenly I saw that God had planned all of this. I was here with my son for a reason. All was not lost. I was not wandering through the misty woods alone.
And then, Skye and her father sang a song, a powerful and yet simple song, The Voice of Jesus. Moments before, Skye had been the typical energy filled, mind wandering child but now she was focused and engaged and sang with the voice of a child in perfect harmony these incredible words:
I know you’ve been afraid
Don’t know what to do
You’ve been lost in the questions
I don’t know what to say
I’m sure if I were you
I’d proceed with some caution
But I want you to know
When the joy that you feel
Leaves a terrible ache in your bones
It’s the voice of Jesus
Calling you back home
I know you’ve got a lot
Spinning in your head
All this emptiness fills you
Maybe you could try
Laying in your bed
To ask the silence to still you
And you might hear a beat
On the door of your heart
When you do, let it open up wide
It’s the voice of Jesus
Calling you his bride
Once upon a time there was a little boy
Who wandered the forest, abandoned
And he heard in the leaves
And behind every tree
The sound of a secret companion
So listen, little girl,
Somewhere there’s a King
Who will love you forever
And nothing in the world
Could ever come between
You, my love, and this Lover
So when I kiss you at night
And I turn out the light
And I tell you you’re never alone
It’s the voice of Jesus
It’s the voice of Jesus
Calling you his own
There it was. The refrain for my first day, closing up my depression and despair into a simple realization that I am not alone and although I am now wandering through the woods, if I stop and gaze carefully into the fog and mist and listen with intense concentration I can hear the voice of Jesus calling me His own.
After the concert, Sean and I hung around and met four guys from San Diego and bless his heart, Ryan lifted my spirits to the heavens. We talked for about thirty minutes just standing there in the aisle while the singers broke down their instruments. Ryan, you will never know what that conversation meant to me! Never! You helped me refocus and repurpose Hutchmoot. Jesus was speaking and I needed to listen.
Just a reminder that I still have a few books left for the free giveaway of “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” in preparation for the release of “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” on October 16, 2012. If you want a free book just fill out the form below and there is no obligation.
Back in April, I was invited to speak on the intersection of apologetics and Christian fiction. I’ve been invited to present again in August at the Athanatos Ministry’s Writing Conference and I’ll bring you more information on that later. I will be changing up this presentation for that conference so I thought I’d post the Vimeo feed of my presentation.
Here are the topics I cover:
What is Hutchmoot?
Walter Wangerin, Jr. on Story
C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”
A Review of current novels that utilize apologetics:
“The Night of the Living Dead Christian” by Matt Mikalatos
“The Skin Map” by Stephen R. Lawhead
“The Resurrection” by Mike Duran
“The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” by Bruce Hennigan
“The God Hater” by Bill Myers