First, let me say I want to thank everyone having me on their radio shows this week. I now have 11 interviews!
In one interview that will air sometime tonight, I talked quite a bit about the relationship between father and children. Here is one of the most powerful music videos I’ve seen in a while from one of my favorite singers and authors, Andrew Peterson.
Now, one more thing. My son sent me another interesting link about video game violence:
The author makes a very valid point. While violent video games do cause changes in behavior, it is the responsibility of the player to use common sense and moderation. Ideas have consequences and it is not the idea that carries out the consequences, it is the person acting on those ideas. And, yes, there are lots of non violent video games that can involve the entire family. This situation reminds of me of Walt Disney. He would take his two daughters out on Sunday afternoon to the carnivals along the shore in Los Angeles. Back then, these carnivals were dirty and trashy with the lowest common denominator human being working there and the rides were half broken and would not allow a father to enjoy them with his children. All Walt could do was watch. But, he saw an opportunity to change that dynamic. He imagined an “amusement” park where things were clean, employees were clean cut, motivated and engaged; and where the attractions provided something for the entire family to enjoy together. He created Disneyland and the rest is history.
Maybe we parents need to consider doing this with our kids. Enjoy some positive, fun video games together as an alternative to the violent ones. Encourage them to participate with the entire family, even if it is for just a short time. The video gaming industry is beginning to get this idea and if we, as consumers, encourage these kind of experiences, maybe we can have a positive impact on the future of our children!
My father passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 98. Even though he had been living in the nursing home for the past three years, I always brought him home for the holidays. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Fourth of July, my father would sit at the head of our table. And, always, he would lead us in prayer and sing us a song or two.
My father’s singing idols were Tennessee Ernie Ford and George Beverly Shea. Although his voice was weaker and weaker as he aged, when he switched to his singing mode, from somewhere deep within this clear, deep, resonant voice would boom out a song in perfect pitch.
And so, this year, more than any other, I am thankful for my father. His absence has made me realize how much I came to depend on hearing that voice raised in song. “Don’t you want to thank someone?” is a more than just a question. It is a song written and sung by Andrew Peterson. The last song on his newest release, “Light for the lost boy”, this song brought tears to my eyes just a few weeks before my father’s death.
I used to be a little boy
As golden as a sunrise
Breaking over Illinois
When the corn was tall
Yeah, but every little boy grows up
And he’s haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the Fall
Oh, but then forgiveness comes
A grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
I just want to thank someone for this
Those are just a few words from this incredible song. I did not grow up in Illinois, but the corn grew tall in my father’s garden here in Louisiana and one dark day atop the tall tree I realized the world was broken and no longer the glowing, innocent thing I had lived in for my first ten years. It was atop that tree, above the vampires that lurked in the dark shadows and the werewolves with glowing yellow eyes that waited for me in the blackberry bushes and the myriad monsters of my imagination that my fear of the worlds I had only until then imagined became the beasts of approaching adulthood. Just as real. Just as dangerous. Just as deadly.
I write about vampires and werewolves and creatures in the dark because we live in a broken, fallen world. We try desperately to understand it and to dissect it and to equate it and to reduce it to laws and axioms that fit neatly into a science textbook. Equations we can control. With them we hope to tame the beasts but to no avail. Rather, it takes imagination.
During a midnight walk, J. R. R. Tolkien told C. S. Lewis that his atheism was no more than a lack of imagination. Here are some other words from this incredible song:
Now I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets’ lips
But still, my thirst is never slaked
I am hounded by a restlessness
Eaten by this endless ache
But still I will give thanks for this
‘Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It’s howling in the snowy peaks
It’s blazing in the midnight sun
Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning
Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on
And when the world is new again
And the children of the King
Are ancient in their youth again
Maybe it’s a better thing
A better thing
To be more than merely innocent
But to be broken then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent
But it’s waking up
And I’m waking up
‘Cause I can hear the voice of one
He’s crying in the wilderness
“Make ready for the Kingdom Come”
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?
I am so thankful for the power of my imagination to open up the doorways of my heart and mind to the REALITY of God! I am so thankful my silent companion standing in the gap between my soul and the monsters of my brokenness is real and loving and forgiving and the author and finisher of this universe. I am so thankful for the times of failure and faithlessness and doubt so that I could search those shadows again and find Him waiting there right where I left Him. I am so thankful my father showed me the love of God! I am thankful for each and every reader that has trusted me to fill a book with words that are more than echoes of futility. Rather, they are words that lead slowly but inexorably to the Word, the Logos, the One who became flesh. And, for that, I am thankful.
Look around you in the aftermath of this hectic and busy season of empty thanks and muted praise and awkward family gatherings and frantic hours of shopping. Stop and look into the shadows. There may be beasts among us, and I am sure there are. But, there is a quiet, abiding companion following, following and watching over us. My father sang of this companion in his powerful voice. He sang of a Father that is greater than any earthly father could ever be. A Father who sits at our table; who sings the story of our lives into being; who longs to love us and redeem us and hold us in his arms. Think on this with an imagination that is a poor reflection of the image of God and you will find in your heart and in your soul the need to thank Someone!
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.