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Monday, December 07, 2015

Christmas Story 2015…and an Atomic Facepalm!

Greetings, Readers! {Author salutes sheepishly} So, you've probably already noticed the discrepancy in the polling results. At the close of the poll, the votes showed the Mash Up story as 5 votes ahead.

And yet, here's Mr. Author claiming that the Cat/Anne Pirate Story won. So HOWWZZZAT work? Well, it's a simple and vexing matter of me counting chickens before they did'st hatch.

I checked the vote on Thurs and once on Friday, and the pirate story was in the lead rather comfortably. And I was very, very glad because I've already poured a ton of work into that story. And I was actually afraid because, if any of the others won, I wouldn't have time to finish by Christmas or even (like last year) New Years!

So, imagine my shock and horror when the Mash Up was victorious! So there I am, feeling much like a world-class donkey. Awwww Hee!

{Insert Atomic Facepalm Here}

So, after much thinking, I've decided on the only course I can complete on time: Cat and Anne's new Pirate Adventure. To those hoping for the mash up, I most sincerely apologize. But, as a little concession, I am going to scatter characters from my other books throughout the pirate story. So, it will kind of become both Isle of (something) and a Mash Up.

These will be cameo appearances, so don't expect Alastair Coldhollow to swing down onto the deck to slash the story's villain. But...he might appear as a deck hand. LOL

Anyway, please forgive me for the major GOOF. Since I've already gotten a good start, I'm hoping to have the new story out by Christmas Day!

Never alone.

Monday, November 30, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! What Story Would You Like for Christmas?

I love Christmas. What's not to love? It's the time of year to celebrate the birth of our Savior, whose gift of eternal life will never be surpassed by any gift we could give or receive. And, during this festive season, even this old, stodgy world wakes up from its selfish stupor and remembers to love one another.

In keeping with the season of giving, I'm writing you a Christmas Present Story. This is a previously unpublished work somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000-15,000 words.


It'll be some kind of fantasy adventure, but that's all I can say for certain right now. The rest is up to you! You have between now (November 30th) and Saturday, December 5th to vote on the poll below. You can vote once a day for a total of six votes, so come on back to make sure the story you want to read gets the most votes!

And the winner is...

Griffin (Cat) Thorne & Anne Ross Pirate Adventure!

The story will be available Christmas morning for FREE! You'll find links for the story here, on Facebook, and on Amazon Kindle. You'll be able to get it in two formats: Kindle and PDF. Most eReaders have a way to convert a pdf to something it can use, and Kindle has an app for just about any computer, tablet, phone, etc. to allow you to read it on whatever is convenient to you.

So set a reminder on your device: check back here for a free story on Christmas!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Prayer Salvo...

For those of you who have also taken it on the chin recently, as my family has, I offer up this prayer for all of us:

Dear Heavenly Father, for the grace to live and love another day, thank you. For the trials and hardships, the tragedies, the challenges, and even the daily inconveniences...thank you. Chisel our hard hearts through these troubles, burn away the impurities that we regularly insist on collecting, and transform us into loving, serving, tenderhearted, trusting, patient, and absolutely courageous warriors.

For those of us who have been beaten so low that every breath seems a labor, that just starting the day seems a mile-high climb, that every darkness seems a fearful horror, every face seems full of scorn, and every tick of the clock leads to more loneliness…Father, bring comfort. Shelter us under your mighty wings and defend us. You are our Rock, our Shield, our Deliverer. Please, help us to abide in you and you in us.

Lord God, you also are our Sword. We ask, God, that you would go to war for your namesake. The enemy would seek to show the world that he is your equal, but we know he is NOT. With a thought, you destroy the enemy's plans. We ask, Lord, that you would bend your thought toward the enemy and his followers. That you would wreck them, that you would overwhelm them, and defeat them.

But, God, we confess that we have been traitors to you, Lord. We have praised your name while, in the anonymous darkness, we have left open a backdoor for the enemy. We have even laid foundations upon which the enemy has built stronghold after stronghold. For these selfish, foolish acts, we confess and apologize and repent. Father, you were right all along. Now please, clean up the mess we've made. Put forth your mighty hand and smack the living daylights out of the enemy. Batter him, smash the strongholds to rubble and sweep away the debris! Unleash the might of your name and leave no doubt that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL.

In the Triumphant name of Jesus, Amen. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In the Face of Evil...What are You Prepared to Do?

In the 1987 classic mobster movie, The Untouchables, Eliot Ness (played by a very young Kevin Costner) sits in a church cathedral with a sage beat cop named Jim Malone (Sean Connery). Ness wants to catch the notorious but seemingly untouchable mob boss, Al Capone, but he doesn't know how. Capone always seems to be one step ahead. And no matter how hideously evil Capone's acts, nothing seems to stick to him. He always manages to escape. The law can't touch him.

Malone confronts Ness here by saying, "What are you prepared to do?" Enough from me. Watch the clip:

It's a brilliant scene. Powerful, thought-provoking, and a little bit unsettling. In the narrative, Eliot Ness gets the message intellectually but he doesn't quite get it in his heart, in his gut, or in his soul. It takes a mortally wounded Malone, lying in a pool of blood, gasping out the words once more:

"What are you prepared to do?" finally get through to Ness. He gets it, at last. But it took a brutal murder, a face-to-face confrontation with black, soulless evil…to WAKE. HIM. UP.

November 13th, 2015, Paris, France.

More than 120 people are murdered by terrorists. Black. Soulless. Evil. This will be for France like September 11th is for us. But here, I need to ask you (in as much as I must ask myself): What are you prepared to do?

How many 9/11s is it going to take? How many school shootings? How many inner city teens dying? How many genocides? HOW MANY? Before Christians will get up off their collective butt and get on their feet and on their knees?

It was Paris last night. But it could have been Washington D.C. It could have been Arlington, Texas. It could have been Eugene, Oregon or New York City, or even Asheville, North Carolina. It doesn't matter. Evil is evil, murder is murder, and death is death—wherever it is.

On October 12th of this year, I lost my father. He lived a long, fruitful life and in his 85th year, was definitely beginning to show his age. We knew it was coming in a few years maybe, but when he died, it was still tragic. My whole family went to my parents' house. We got to sit with my father one last time, to say goodbye. I got to hold his hand and caress his gray brow…one last time. But the man I knew as my father was gone. All that remained was his physical body, an inanimate object…a shell.

In Paris today, there are thousands of loved ones struggling to come to grips with an even more tragic and sudden form of death. And millions more, worldwide, will shake their heads and mutter things like, "What is this world coming to?" or "Can't someone stop these terrorists?" or even the most basic question of all, "Why?"

Science can't help you answer these questions. Atheism blinks and hollowly points fingers. In the face of abject evil, moralism and humanism peel away like old paint, exposing the rot underneath.

So, Christian Brothers and Sisters, it falls to us. It falls to us to answer the WHY question. It falls to us to call evil for what it is, to not excuse it or rationalize it away, and to recognize that we have an ENEMY. And that enemy is not the terrorists.

What are you prepared to do?

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12. 

Satan, and the fallen third of all the angelic realm—they are the enemy.

The enemy will do anything. He will hit you when you're down. He will exploit your weaknesses. He will destroy the innocent and dance over our grief. He is not playing fair. He is not playing by the rules. He could care less about our human laws, but exists only to strangle our hopes. He is sin. He is despair. He is death.

What are you prepared to do?

No, we don't fight the Chicago way. But we can learn from it. We're not to go all vigilante-style looking for and murdering possible terrorists or evil-doers. Don't you see? That kind of response wouldn't do any good anyway. Our enemy is NOT people. If we burn the puppets, the puppet master simply gets more puppets. We need to attack the enemy. We need to cut the puppet master's strings.

Put simply: we need to pray; we need to love; and we need to help.


This is a spiritual battle. We access the spirit realm through prayer. But we need to step it up. We need to ask God to send angels to protect us. We need to ask God to drench those grieving with His supernatural peace. But we also need to attack. We need to ask God to send legions of His warrior angels to: slash the enemy's lines of communication, to put the enemy's networks in disarray, and to  crush evil strongholds to rubble. This is not a game. This. Is. War. So, Christian, fight. Pray that God would kick the devil in the teeth and then crush the enemy under our heels. Pray specifically for the terrorists to have their eyes opened to see Jesus and believe. Pray for the terrorists to escape the snare that they are in and turn from their missions of harm, fear, and murder. Pray that ALL false belief systems would burn in the holy light of the One True God.


This is where we really pull a Sean Connery. Love isn't fair at all. Love is beyond law. And we Christians are told:

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? … Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:44-48)

BAM. Love everyone and everywhere you can. A kind word. A smile. A hug. A hand. A note. A service. Love your brothers and sisters in Christ so that the world may see AT LAST that we are ONE. How do we love our enemies? See prayer. Are there other ways? Ask God to show you.


Love not just in words but in actions. There are going to be collections at Church and elsewhere, collections to help the people of Paris. Give. Maybe take all the money you might have spent at Starbucks and give it to relief agencies to help Paris. (Sorry about the Starbucks jab. I couldn't resist.) If your church puts together a team to travel to Paris...or anywhere else, try to go. Or help support others who can go. And then, not just the occasional effort, but help others all over the place. With every cup of water you deliver in Jesus' name, you rock the spiritual world. You send tremors through the enemy camp. And, you open the eyes of the world.

Our enemy is not flesh and blood. The law of this world can't touch him. We cannot fight conventionally, but we must fight.

There is black, soulless evil in this world. What are you prepared to do to fight it? 

Monday, August 31, 2015

New Book Plans and Coming Full Circle

Hi, all!

The Door Within, my first novel, was published in 2005. But it began far earlier. In 1993, my third year of teaching, I gave my 6th grade students a short story writing assignment. Being the wonderfully cagey kiddos that they were, they challenged me to write a story as well. It just so happened (read "a God thing") that several deeply personal events had transpired in my life, things that fueled passion and story.

Seventeen pages of loose leaf paper later, written in green ink, The Door Within came to be. Of course, then, it was called "The Faith of a Child." Over the next ten years, my students continued to encourage me to write, to build The Door Within into something much greater. 2004 arrived. I obtained an agent and, after much toil and blessing, landed a contract with Thomas Nelson (now Thomas Nelson / Harper Collins).

Fast forward to 2015*. I'm beginning my 25th year of teaching, and I've got a unique opportunity. I've been given stewardship of a wonderfully small class of English Language Arts students who need a little extra help and motivation. And, the beautiful thing is, the course of study is pretty wide open so long as it supports the regular ELA curriculum. So...that gave me an idea. {Cue fiendish laughter and mustache twirling}

So, in order to amp the motivation, I've gone to my students and offered to write a novel just for them. I will work on it a chapter at a time and use it for the fictional / narrative components of the ELA curriculum. The kids were jazzed, so I set up an online poll where they could pick and choose aspects that they did / did not want in the story. Everything from quirks for the main character to creatures to theme. The results are in, and I've begun writing the tale. The story is code named:

I was thinking of putting the book up on Amazon as a series of shorts, 2-3 chapters at a time. It would be kind of like the old serial stories that used to be published in magazines. Of course, the story has to pass muster first. I have nine very serious editors who are ready and waiting to sink their collective teeth into anything I throw down for them to read!

*Yes, I've still got Dark Sea 3 "Mirror of Souls" in the pipeline. And yes, GHOST 2: Minister of Fire too. Fear not!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Rejoice! Second Summer has Begun!

Usually around this time of year, I begin to lament the end of summer vacation. It's a malady peculiar to teachers and students, and it can really suck the joy out of what still might be glorious time spent. So, no more! No longer! I've discovered the cure!

Hence forward, today, August 8th will be the FIRST day of SECOND SUMMER!! Yes, that's right! In the spirit of Merry and Pippen's 2nd Breakfast, I declare that August 8th thru September 23rd will forever more be known as Second Summer!

After all, there's still plenty of sunshine to be had. Plenty of blooming and greenery. Plenty of fun times with family and friends. Plenty to praise God for! And, as a special bonus, there's FOOTBALL!!! What's not to like?

So who's with me? Mark it on your calendar! Second Summer begins TODAY!! Enjoy the season!

Friday, June 26, 2015

THE supreme COURT'S DECISION and World Entropy...

In light of the supreme court's decision today to legalize gay marriage in the United States, here is Romans 1: 18-32:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,  and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

The most frightening dynamic in this passage of scripture is that there comes a point where people can be so enamored of their sins that God "gives us over" to depravity, ie: we no longer see right and wrong. We simply see things the way we want to see them. Welcome to America, circa 2015.

Abortion, pot, gender identification, race identification, polygamy, gay marriage...the list goes on. For the Christian, it's daunting to see such erosion in our time. It feels like something has slipped. Maybe, it has. But, remember, Romans 1 was written 2000+ years ago. Moral decline was happening back then too. In fact, wherever there is society, there will be societal breakdown…entropy. Why? Because society is made of human beings. And we have been, are, and will be…broken. We are sinful. We are frightened. We are at war with ourselves and others. We beg for blessings, and when we get them, we abuse them. This is what broken people do.

If Romans 1 was the end of the book of Romans, I'd probably want to jump off a bridge. But it doesn't end there. Romans 2 tells us that it's not just these crazy people who've lost their sense of right and wrong. There are religious fanatics who blew it too. In fact, we are ALL alike under sin. Romans 3 continues that thread showing that there's no one who can claim innate goodness. We're all messed up. BUT then, then, we get to it:

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

And there it is: Jesus. Justification. Redemption. 

He and only He can mend the broken. And we are all broken and in need of mending. 

So the court's decision today is disturbing. So. There have been disturbing things going on in America since its birth and in every society since the dawn of time. So, what is the Christian response? That hasn't changed either. Love God; love your neighbor.

What did Jesus do with sinners? He befriended them. He dined with them. He spoke to them. He listened to them. He loved them. He also told them the truth. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bat-Book Readers, Would You Consider Becoming a Patron of the Arts?

Greetings, wonderful Readers! Lots of book news for you! Read on:

Over the last six months, I've been blasting away at Dreamtreaders 3: War for the Waking World (set to release in October), and I think it's the best of the series. But...'s also the LAST contracted work. Since then, I had a very lucrative offer from a publisher for a three book series but, after a lot of prayer and counsel, I turned it down. To take that deal would mean shelving The Dark Sea Annals and GHOST for a while. I just couldn't do it. It felt oppressive, so I said no.

So what this means is that now, at last, I've made the leap. I am no longer under any contract with any publishing house. I am now on my own. I am my own publisher. YIKE! I hire editors, proofers, cover artists, designers—the whole nine yards. And that is where I could use your help.

If my books have touched your lives at all, would you consider being a Patron of the Arts to support my work? Patreon is a kickstarter-like company that allows you to support writers, artists, musicians, and creators you love with monthly pledges of as little as $1. I've been a part of Patreon for about a year now, and it has really helped me. Now, more than ever, I need kind readers to become Patrons.

In return, you'll get private access to my creation process: artwork, proofs, sneak peek chapters, private messages, and a host of other crazy creative benefits!

If you'd like a little more info on what it means to be my Patron, check out my Patreon Page:

So what's next? Dark Sea Annals.

I'm hoping for a July / August release of both Sword in the Stars and The Errant King repubs, and then fall for Mirror of Souls (Book 3).

Thank you again, readers...friends. I love this adventure all the more because you are part of it with me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Theocracy: A Band You Should Know About...and an Unforgettable Father/Son Weekend

This past weekend, my 17 year old son Tommy and I took a roadtrip down to Atlanta, Georgia to catch Theocracy, our favorite band, in concert. It was a weekend to remember.

Theocracy is a relatively new band (3 CDs now) and perhaps new to you as well. They play a style of music called Progressive Power Metal. For those of you who like any kind of heavy metal or hard rock, Theocracy is a band you'll love. If you're a little hesitant about heavy metal because you're imagining loud, discordant songs with vocals that are growled or so harsh that you cannot understand it…that is NOT Theocracy. Theocracy's brand of power metal is symphonic, melodic, multi-layered goodness. And, if you're a Christian, you should know that this band is bringing glory to God in major ways. Just check out some lyrics:

...from the song Mirror of Souls:

"I must get across and get to that light
For it represents my only hope tonight
But when I saw the chasm, all that hope was lost
I've spent so long in the dark and the rain
That the sight of the light made my heart sing again
But the gulf's so wide, and there's no way across"

The stranger smiled, and took my hand
He said, "But you are wrong, my friend
You cannot cross the gulf yourself, that's true"
He led me down toward the edge
And pointed just over the ledge
And said, "Behold, I built a bridge for you"

From the song I Am:

I am the light upon your path when you have lost your way
I am the footprints in the sand the ocean’s tide can’t wash away
I am the shelter from the storm that rages on and on
The incorruptible foundation that the wise man builds upon
I am the bread that feeds a starving man upon the street
I am the bounty on the table in the palace at the feast
I am the rain upon the earth after a scorching drought
I am the quenching of the thirst you never thought you’d be without

I am the melody that weaves its way inside your soul
I am the symphony, the masterpiece, the actor’s greatest role
I am the poetry that speaks to you with every rhyme
I am the songwriter who seems to write your life in every line
I am the simple truths that shaped your world from your birth
I am the vast volumes of knowledge spanning all across the earth
I am the whisper of the wind you feel, but cannot see
I am the alpha and omega, first and last, eternally

See what I mean? It's worship. And Theocracy is reaching people who might otherwise never hear about Jesus. I hope that you'll support them and / or tell friends who like the music style.

Here's a link to the Theocracy Website:

Now, onto the weekend. The roadtrip down was fun simply because my son Tommy and I were together, but certain developments made it a lifetime memory and another footnote of God-at-work for our journals.

Just before the concert, I said to Tommy, "The only thing I'm bummed about is that they won't have my size t-shirt for sale." I wear a rather large size, you see. One so large that I shall not mention it here out of sheer embarrassment. lol We get to the concert, rush into the merchandise area, and ask about the shirts. They had a shirt and a hoodie in Tommy's size. We bought both. Then the lady said, "Oh, we do have one other shirt, but we only have one and it's this size." I looked down. It was my size. Unreal. Seriously, folks, you don't understand. Unless you're in a Big and Tall Shop, most places don't carry this size or even the next two sizes down.

There were three bands before Theocracy, so Tommy and I went out to the restaurant part of the concert hall to have dinner. Afterwards, Tommy went to check out one of the other bands. So I'm sitting at the dinner table, and none other than Theocracy vocalist Matt Smith comes walking up to my table to personally thank me for making the long trip. I was thrilled to meet him, but Tommy was in the other room. I texted him urgently, but he didn't show...until after Matt had left.

It was like a bad sitcom. "Tommy, where were you?"
"What, why?"
"Matt Smith just came to our table."
"No way."
"Yes. He was right here. We talked for five minutes. I signed a book for him."
"Why didn't you text me?"
"I did!"

Fortunately, Matt came back to the table to meet Tommy and took a pic with him. It was just about the kindest, coolest thing. Matt Smith is a rock star. I mean, really. He is virtuoso at guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, oh…and he sings like a combination of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Dennis DeYoung of Styx. Seriously. That good, and yet, Matt is as humble and gracious as can be. 

Then, the show was incredible. Theocracy played each and every song Tommy wanted to hear AND played the title track from their new yet-to-be-released CD. It was the first time they'd played the song live. WHOA. The show was just mindbogglingly good. And yes I, the 46 year old teacher/author, was headbanging all night.

Afterward, God thing number 2 happened. The stage manager gave Tommy the "set list" from the stage. Bands often have a single sheet of paper with all the night's songs printed on it, and they tape it to the back of a PA monitor or onto the stage floor. This is a pretty cool piece of memorabilia, and the stage manager gave it to Tommy. And then, the entire band signed it. And then we took a group pic with the band. Amazing.

Tommy and I went to sleep that night with major post concert euphoria. Blessing upon blessing, upon blessing.

Here are a few more pics of the show:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What the FONT?

This summer, I plan to RE-release Dark Sea Books 1 (Sword in the Stars) and 2 (The Errant King). I'm not changing the plotline in any significant way, but I'm doing a lot of what I call "Rendering."

As in digital animation where, pixel-by-pixel and line-by-line, the image becomes more detailed, more lifelike, and altogether more breathtaking to behold, I've done a serious overhaul of the language. Often it's as simple as deleting one word from a sentence. At times, it has been fleshing out a setting that I carelessly "mentioned" in the original. In sum, the new versions of Sword in the Stars and The Errant King will be the same story, told more precisely and more vividly. And yes, Dark Sea book 3 "Mirror of Souls" will follow shortly afterward, aiming for Fall, October-ish release.

If you've read this far, thank you. That probably means that this book series means something to you. So here's where I could use a little help: I need a front cover branding-kind of font for the series. There are a gazillion fonts out there, but I'm looking for something that speaks of "Fantasy" but not of hokey, over-the-top fantasy. I want something totally readable, even when it's very small. When I say branding, I want this font to become the brand name look so that whenever you see the font, you'll know it's a dark sea font, you'll know it's this series. Above all else, it'll need to be professional.

If you have a font in mind that might fit the description above, post a screen shot of it, or if you've seen another fantasy book cover that has a very cool font, please post it in the comments. If you come up with a font, and I end up using it (or even one like it), I'll give you a first edition signed copy of "Mirror of Souls" BEFORE ANYONE ELSE GETS IT.

*I should also mention that the reason this font needs to absolutely ROCK is because I'll have BRAND NEW COVER ART for the whole series. If you've seen Caleb Havertape-illustration​'s work, you know these images are going to blow people away, so a lame font just cannot be permitted.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Bruce Jenner…and How Far for the Pursuit of Happiness?

There are times when a person tries to stay away from an issue but just can't simply because it's so pervasive. The Bruce Jenner thing is one such issue. There's no way to escape it, not really. And…now, I'm becoming more and more convinced that it's not something for Christians to try to escape. But before going into any more detail, here are the ground rules:

If you read on...

1) Understand that I am a Christian. I'm not God (duh), but I believe in Him. I trust Jesus as my Savior and TRY to live as the Scriptures and my Holy-Spirit-driven conscience leads me.

2) I do not speak for God. What I mean is, I dig deep in the Scriptures and pray for wisdom. I'm an educated person, and I try to discern rightly. But I'm not perfect. I may not get all these thoughts out there quite right. So don't take my word on it. If you don't like what I have to say,  go check out God's word for yourselves.

3) Do not pull the "What about NOT JUDGING, Mr. Christian? How 'bout that?" thing. Look, if you don't understand what the Bible says about judgment, discernment, right, and wrong…you probably shouldn't be talking about it. God never tells Christians not to judge right from wrong, never tells us to openly praise evil, and never tells us that loving someone is patting him on the back while he tries to drive off a cliff.

4) There is objective truth. If you say there is no objective truth, you've left the path of reason because the argument defeats itself. The statement "there is no objective truth" is in itself an attempt to state an objective truth. Is it true, except for this one time?

5) Disagreement is not hate. Disagree? Does that mean you "hate" me? Come on now, if we're mature, we can discuss a difference of opinions with support and evidence…not name-calling.

Agree to these terms? Then, read on. If not, escape is just a click away.

The "Bruce Jenner Thing" bothers the heck out of me. It troubles me at a foundational level because it is symptomatic of an America I now no longer know. And it bothers me because there are children watching.

Former star Olympic Decathlete Bruce Jenner has gone on TV to announce that he is becoming a woman, or rather that he believes he is a woman and is taking strides to make his physical self match his identity concept. Then, dressed as a woman and photoshopped (as so many female models on magazines are), Bruce appears on the cover of Vanity Fair and we're told to call him Caitlyn.

Having seen Mr. Jenner as he was, a-once-in-a-generation MALE athlete, a man who reveled in masculinity, married, and fathered children, I'm disturbed to see him now. He was born male. He is male. No amount of self-persuasion, no amount of plastic surgery, no amount of make up, and no amount of image manipulation can "rebirth" him as a true female.

In the beginning, God made people male and female and intended for them to be joined together. That the Bible makes these clear points, is indisputable. It was God's idea, and I trust He knew (and knows) what He's doing. But mankind sinned, pouring eternal poison into the ecosystem. Human beings and all of creation suffered for it. And we still suffer for it. Bruce Jenner may be completely sincere about his thoughts and feelings. He may sincerely believe he is a woman trapped in a man's body. But feelings and sincerity are not the basis upon which truth is founded.

I want to say this again: Feelings and sincerity are NOT the basis upon which truth is founded.

You can be sincere and be sincerely wrong. And feelings are flighty things. Such little catalysts can cause wild fluctuations in feelings. The time of day/night, the weather, nutrition, sleep, exercise, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Mr. Jenner may feel passionately that he really is a woman, but that doesn't make it true any more than if I sincerely believed I am 16 years old again would make me a day less than 46. I suspect that Mr. Jenner is suffering from a form mental illness compounded by the reduction in testosterone that is typical in males after 40 years of age. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to live with the issues he has identified. I'm certain his feelings are very real to him and powerful but, strong as they are, these feelings and convictions do not create truth.

Celebrating Mr. Jenner's actions as brave and heroic is a horrifying precedent. It shows that much of America has forgotten what real heroism is. Should the man who sincerely believes and feels that he is worthless be deemed worthless? Should we applaud his suicide as a heroic act? Should the addict simply accept that he is an addict and keep using? Should the young woman who believes she is fat be allowed to starve herself near to death and we do nothing but applaud?

And what if Mr. Jenner or, for that matter, someone else -was- "born that way," ie: with a genetic abnormality or a predisposition or an excess of one hormone, a lack of the other—what does that change? It should amp our compassion for the person's experience—no doubt. But it does not mean that we throw our brains out the window and declare anything we're born with as wonderful.

This is especially true for the Christian. We KNOW we have sinful urges, and maybe we were born with them. I might be born with a predisposition to a rotten temper. I might be genetically more likely to eat too much and get fat than someone else. I might suffer from depression or feel inescapable paranoia that everyone is out to get me. But that doesn't excuse our poor reasoning or decisions; it doesn't excuse our sin. And it doesn't make us the least bit heroic.

The Declaration of Independence grants Americans the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But…in that pursuit of happiness, there must be a modicum of objectivity and more than a little common sense. Or it all falls apart. What if it makes me happy to pee in your front yard? And what if it then makes you happy to hit me in the jaw? Is that still covered under the pursuit of happiness right? May it never be so. And yet, that is precisely the kool-aid that so many Americans are drinking right now. If it feels "right" to you, then it IS right. Whatever makes you happy…must be a good thing. And who dares to disagree?

We are clucking with glee that a man is doing what we would otherwise call self-mutilation to perpetuate a belief! The same dynamic applies to other issues as well. Look, look! Look at how sincere those three women love each other...we should call that normal marriage now. And worse still, we are applauding for all to see. And believe me…people are watching. Children are watching.

This is the most gut-wrenching aspect of the whole issue: impressionable children are watching. They are being taught explicit and implicit messages. They are being sold to the lie that feelings = truth. If you don't understand how dangerous a message that is, you must not remember what it's like to be an adolescent. Hormones and social pressures are already amping the confusion and turmoil in kids' lives. They don't need these kinds of ideas to further complicate their volatile identity issues. It breaks my heart to see kids wrestle with even more than they ought to due to their physiology.

So what do we do about it? For the Christian, the answer is manifold: 1) Know God's word so that you can accurately discern right from wrong.  2) Do not mistake popularity or sincerity for truth.  3) Love the way Jesus loved. That last one alone is heavy enough for a thousand books, much less a single blog post.

When Jesus was in town, He hung out with sinners. He touched sinners. He had compassion for sinners…but NOWHERE did Jesus ever tell sinners that they should continue in their sin. He didn't dine with the tax collector and say, "Y'know, Zacchaeus, it's fine that you're cheating all those people out of their money." He didn't sit beside the adulterous woman and say, "Yes, I know you've had five men…no problem. Continue on in this way." When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what to do to be saved, Jesus never answered, "Keep all your riches for yourself and make sure you value that money above God."

Jesus loved them and pointed them to truth. May we all do the same.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Inferior Rewards.

Should Christians be motivated to act, do, and serve…by rewards?

Before you answer, disclaimer time! 1) Non Christians do not earn salvation as a reward for good works…ever. 2) Christians do not earn God’s love through good works…ever. If you believe otherwise, that’s your right, but don’t try to read that into this article. 

So should Christians be motivated to act, do, and serve based on the promise of rewards?

In a word: yes. In fact, as I’ll address later, most of us are already doing tons and tons of stuff to get rewarded. The problem is, we can find ourselves going way above the call of duty to earn INFERIOR rewards.

First to establish the point that it’s not just okay for Christians to be motivated by reward, but that reward is actually integral to faith. What does the Bible say about rewards? A ton. Consider:

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Psalm 37:4 (the verse that provoked this post): "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

This is just a sampling of the great many verses in the Bible that discuss reward openly or infer reward quite clearly. Hebrews 11 is especially revealing because here we see that reward is a key tenet of faith. Anyone who comes to him (God) must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews is also the book that contains the “hall of faith” verses…showing example after example after example of saints who ventured forward, set out, worked hard, fought hard, traveled far—because God told them to, but also because God promised a reward. We learn from these pillars of faith that most of them didn’t receive their reward right away. Many didn’t receive the reward in their lifetime.

And so it is with our rewards today. We receive some rewards right away. Other rewards, we won’t see for years. Some we won’t notice until we look back and realize: wow, did God bless me silly right there! And some rewards well, we won’t see them this side of Heaven.

Keep in mind that a reward is often very different than an earned wage. There’s no quid-pro-quo. We don’t play games with God. We don’t coyly say to God, “I did all these things, now where’s my reward?” God is sovereign and, among other things, that means that He knows more than we do. He knows what reward we can handle and when we can handle it. He knows when rewards will bless us most. He also knows when His children are too busy with worldly rewards to have even the slightest wish for a reward from our Heavenly Father.

And that brings us to a stark and convicting reality: many of us (especially American Christians) are absolutely addicted to worldly rewards. C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised to us in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

“We are far too easily pleased.”

Does that sound familiar? It’s American marketing 101. The world sells us 10,000 flavors of mud pies, and we gobble them and beg for more. Look at the Matthew 6 passage above. The Pharisees fell for the mud pies, didn’t they? We’re told that their motivation was to receive praise from men…and they got that reward. But that reward was inferior. Far better would it be to head for the prayer closet and pray alone where only God can hear you and reward you. God’s reward is ALWAYS better.

Let me say that again: GOD’S REWARD IS ALWAYS BETTER.

Learn this early in life and just watch how often certain “troubles” just fly right over your head. So much of what we worry about are “worldly rewards.” We’re like spoiled little kids crying “gimmie, gimmie,” and then whining when it’s a little less than we thought it would be.

How do we distinguish God’s superior rewards from the world’s inferior rewards? Well, I haven’t got it all figured out. But it seems to me that there are some pretty logical measures.

First, we need to remember that God created human beings with certain needs: we need food and water, shelter, companionship, love, meaning, hope, freedom, rest, and (apologies to C.S. Lewis) sex. These are all God-given GOOD things. When God throws these things at us, they are MARVELOUS rewards.

God has already told us in His word how we should look toward each and every one of these rewards. When we go God’s way, we are reaping God’s rewards for us. Take meaning for example. God tells us that we have meaning because we are made in His image, we are His saints, His chosen people, His beloved, and even His friends. When we realize this, it is a priceless reward. But when we go determining our identity by the feedback of our peers, we’re on dangerous and dubious ground. .

Whenever we seek after a legitimate need but pursue it in an illegitimate way, we have gone off the reservation. If we try to find meaning or peace in food or drink, we fail. It just won’t fulfill. When we try sex outside of marriage or any other sexual gratification outside of marriage, we fail. We will get, at best, a temporary, hollow copy of what God intended.

God has an infinite supply of rewards for His kids. This should motivate us to do things God’s way.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Avengers, Age of Ultron an Utterly Biased Review

My wife and I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron last night. It was hyped. I was hyped. The movie did not disappoint. In fact, I will go so far as to say that Age of Ultron has landed my top ten favorite movies of all time. I know, that sounds like hyperbole, and it's likely a very biased statement.

In fact, this review will be entirely biased because I'm a storyteller. And throughout the event (I don't feel like calling it a movie does it justice), I found myself *marveling at the skill through which this story—these multiple stories—were told.

[SPOILER ALERT] To the best of my abilities, I will avoid specific spoilers and plot points. But I cannot avoid talking about the themes and artistic elements. So, if you don't want any of it ahead of time, just check back and read after you've seen the movie.

Review Begins:

Joss Whedon is a freakin' genius. There, I said it. Call me a fanboy. I am. I was literally in awe of how he could wield such a massive ensemble cast and yet manage to tell each of their stories in one movie. Part of it is Marvel's brilliant universe, having TONS AND TONS of excellent source material and then releasing the stand-alone Iron Man, Capt. America, Thor pics, etc. But still, Whedon took 2 hours and 21 minutes and ran us through a tragic, inspiring, painful, and wonderful gauntlet of each character's lives, hopes, fears…

Here, I need to mention the pacing of the film. There was action. Duh. And I mean brilliant action. In some scenes, I was literally torn, not sure where to look because there were so many interesting things going on in ever square foot of the movie screen. Seriously, try looking away from center screen in just a few of the scenes, and you'll see the attention to detail that I'm talking about. I want to see this movie about five more times.

For me, however, the greatest draw to this movie was its diverse and yet cohesive thematic elements. Again, I won't tell you specifically what happened nor who was involved. But I absolutely have to talk about this. Age of Ultron connected with me on multiple levels. Whedon and his brilliant cast found a way to take ultra-beings and make them ultra human. One of the biggest themes was the fear of the monster inside of each of us, the fear that we might do irreparable harm, the fear that we won't measure up, the fear that we will fail, and the fear that we will let others down. You get to see, hear, and feel each of the cast battle with these. There was betrayal, there was grace, and there was redemption. There were more Biblical themes than you could shake a tract at. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. Seriously? Call me blown away.

I'm still reeling from how multi-dimensional all the characters became. There was a study in each scene, a study in each exchange of dialogue, and a feast for the eyes. So, yes, I'm biased. I'm a storyteller, and I get excited when I witness good storytelling. And I have to stand up and applaud when a mainstream movie delivers a hammer-shot of take-home-value.

*Pun very much intended.