My Second Half

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I’m not much of a sports fanatic. Occasionally, I’ll watch a basketball game (haven’t been interested in my Pistons since the 2004 squad disbanded); maybe even a football game (my Lions–nevermind). The second half is usually the turning point for a lot of teams who find themselves falling behind. It’s the time to refocus on the mission; to rally the individual players into a single unit, with the singular purpose of winning the game.

If we look at life as the ultimate game, then why shouldn’t we treat the second half the same way? Six months after my 45th birthday, I’m really looking back on the first half of my life, and taking stock of where I am. I’m also regrouping to plan on the second half.

For discussion purposes, we’re going to assume that I’ll live to be 90 years old. If I live longer than that…we’ll say I was granted that “1UP” life. You gamers know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I digress.

Did you know that many people deal with bouts of depression right around age 45? Of course you did. That’s where the term “Midlife Crisis” comes into play. Instead of replaying self-appointed shortcomings and failures in my personal game, I’d like to look at the lessons learned and accomplishments achieved. Successes and failures in life really boil down to perspective. It’s all in the way you look at things, that determine your attitude.

In my first half, I saw my wife and kids grow; wrote and published a book; wrote, produced and published music; and (most importantly) gained a relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, I found myself running life’s hamster wheel for more years than I care to count. Because of that, there are regrets of experiences I wish I could have given my family. But, I’m a firm believer in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I have been called, according to his purpose. I have faith in that knowledge, so I know that the good and bad plays of my first half will only strengthen my gameplay in the second half. Someone might ask, “Enn, how do you plan to play your second half? What are you going to do different than the first two quarters of the game? Some might think your play pattern is set.” Well, that’s a great question.

If I take up the mantle of “coach” for a second, let’s pretend we’re in the locker room regrouping. My personal talents, attributes and dreams represent my offense, defense and special-teams factions of the squad. These are some things I might say to my team.

  1. In the second half, we need to go out there and gel. I can replay moments (during the first half) when offense and defense worked independently of one another, and each totally ignored special teams. Sometimes, my talents operated without the use of my attributes. I can’t follow my dreams if talents and attributes aren’t lining up. People who continue to fall prey to this, often look back on life with regret.
  2. We’ve got to execute. I’ve got all of these ideas in my head. My problem is putting action to those ideas. I’ll give you a prime example: A few years ago, I put together an instrumental album on Bandcamp and Noisetrade called, “Takin’ It Back To The Oldschool“. Now, if you know me personally, you know I love old school hip hop and actually produce my own music. I had the great idea of producing instrumentals incorporating that old school hip hop sound. Then I would reach out to old school artists like Will Smith, MC Lyte, Rakim, KRS-One, etc. to get them to flow new rhymes over these tracks. The problem was…I executed as far as producing the instrumentals and never reached out to the artists. Flash forward to 2017: Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff ft. Biz Markie and Slick Rick drop a video for Will’s song, “So Fresh“. Jeff and Will executed their idea fully. I only partially executed. Partial execution doesn’t score points in a game.
  3. We’ve got to defend. Listen, the older I grow, the louder the voice of doubt screams in my head. It reminds me that other people have the same ideas and better resources. It reminds me that I’m not as young and adventurous as I once was. It wants me to doubt God’s ultimate plan for my life. It reminds me that I don’t even know what that plan looks like! I can gel as a team, and execute to score all the points in the world. But, if I can’t defend against the opposing team’s attacks, I still lose the game. In my personal game, Satan is the coach of the opposing team. He has no problem with trying to thwart my plans and frustrate my faith. He’s frustrated my writing in the past. He’s frustrated my dreaming. He’s kept me running that hamster wheel for far too long, under the guise of “This is just how life works. Accept it and keep running“. As a Christian, I know he’s a liar. That truth doesn’t make his attacks any easier to block. So, in the second half of the game–my game–I need to step up my defense. My relationship with the Lord has to continue to grow. His word; His time; my prayers; His will for my life. This is my defense against the opposing team. At the end of the game, I want to be able to say what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Gel, execute, defend. These are the tactics for my second half. Maybe you’re in a season of life when you’re looking backward instead of moving forward. Maybe midlife has you questioning where you go from here. Maybe you just need to take a breather and refocus, friend. It’s never too late to refocus your efforts, or repurpose your God-given gifts. Make your second half count.

 

 

 

Only One of Perfection

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Romans 3:23 (NIV)“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Do you know how much pressure we impose on ourselves by trying to live a life of perfection? Oh c’mon. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, you uber Christian, you. Everyday, we struggle against the earthly desires we crave, while trying to uphold our Christian duties. Duties; as in works. You’re not convinced you’re one of them? Fine. Let me give some examples of what we tend to do. Check out my fancy-shmancy color coding:

“Christians should really stay away from ‘Harry Potter’ movies, because they promote demon worship and witchcraft. We can finish this conversation later, after I return from watching “Solo”.

Yep: an actual statement made by one of God’s children. Here’s another one.

“You let your kid listen to that ‘Kendrick Lamar’ crap? My kid only listens to ‘Bizzle’ and ‘Sevin’. Yeah, they drop ‘Nigga’ in their lyrics too, but they’re promoting Jesus by speaking the language of their folks.”

Yes, actual statement. I really can’t make this stuff up. Here’s one more for you.

“I give to the needy every chance I get. We have to give to the less fortunate. It’s in the bible, you know.”

“What about that homeless guy we saw Downtown?”

“Oh, he probably just wanted money for drugs or something.”

That was an actual conversation.

Sometimes I think we try too hard to adhere to rituals and rules, and forget that at the end of the day we’re all just people prone to fall short of God’s standard. In our quest to be perfect, we often come off as judgemental and hypocritical. If that’s the way we present ourselves in front of unbelievers, why would they want to follow us? 

I tend to get caught up in ritual practices, too. Sometimes, I cross the line between following the Lord and I going off the deep end, in my own quest to earn His favor. I reason to myself, “This is what God wants me to do, so I’ll do it and prove myself perfect in His eyes.” Now, no one is going to admit that’s what we do, but it’s the truth of who we are. We try to live super Holy lives despite partaking in straight-up pagan and carnal activities. 

Did you NOT know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th? Did you also NOT know that the December 25th celebration was originally a pagan feast, we Christians adopted? We need to cut out all the Pharisee acts, and just live life to the best of our abilities. Celebrate the birth of our Lord, absolutely. But don’t judge the family that doesn’t celebrate Christmas as being sacrilegious! That’s their choice. Let God sort that out, in His timing. 

Let me say this: God knows our hearts and He knows our flaws. It was because of His love for us, despite our failed nature, that He sent the only one of perfection–that’s His son, Jesus–to die sacrificially for our sins. We can’t earn Salvation through any acts of super Christianity. Salvation is a free gift of God, through faith in His son Jesus Christ. 

I am a God fearing, flawed man. Everyday–every single day–I mess up one of God’s Old Testament laws. There is no way I could ever live up to any of them. That’s why I love Jesus. He knew me before I was born. He knew what kind of a failure Christian I would become. In that knowledge, He still said, “Father, I’ll go down and take one for the team. Ennis is going to be out there someday. I need to do this for him.” 

In His perfection, Jesus chose to become a living sacrifice so that I personally would be set free to live my life for Him, complete with my everyday failures. I could never repay Him for that! I can’t mimic His perfection!

I see Christians get mad over Donald Trump tweets. I see Christians hate on each other, over clothing. I see Christians judging other Christians who show love to Muslims. I see Christians judging others over music, food, even the type of car one drives. 

I think (and this is just my opinion) we ought to get on with the business of focusing on our own personal relationships with Jesus, as opposed to following rituals and judging others who may not live up to our standards. That’s why I like Romans 3:23. It reminds me that we all fall short of God’s Holy standards. Who am I to judge someone else, as I’m enjoying Sevin lyrics,on my way to watch a Star Wars flick and eat cheese Ballpark Franks with my gay cousin. Did I mention I was wearing my anti-Trump T-Shirt to the movie theater? 

You hate me right now, don’t you uber Christian conservative?

Jesus loves you.   

The Folly of Greed

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Proverbs 1:19 (NKJV) – “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.”

The year 1987 gave us an Oliver Stone classic that did an amazing job of capturing the psyche of corporate America, that still rings true even today. Gordon Gekko, while a purely fictitious character in the film Wallstreet, delivered an immortal mantra still standing firm within our culture.

“Greed…is good.”

We see it everyday, everywhere we look. The Smiths down the street buy a new car and suddenly we begin to question our own seven-year old minivan. Mr. Jones was given a promotion for the successful completion of a project, and suddenly Mr. Ivy decides he needs to work more overtime to keep up. The Drake family plans to embark on a 5-day cruise, and suddenly Mrs. Banks resents having to pinch and spend every dime on her large family, just to make ends meet.

People will literally work themselves to death, in the pursuit of more stuff. Sometimes we never seem to have enough. The chase for more can, and often does, take a toll on a person’s Spiritual well-being. We choose to work more hours to get ahead, and in the process lower our personal standards on the time we spend with God. Maybe we cut God out of our lives completely in an effort to chase riches and comfort.

King Solomon knew this was folly, even back in his own time. In the context of the verse, Solomon was speaking a warning against partnering with shady characters. But, he knew enough about the dangers of greed to pray for wisdom and understanding of God’s law, without asking for material securities. As a result of the condition of his heart, God rewarded him with the very riches and securities Solomon didn’t ask for. The king put God first in his own heart. Often, this is just not so with the rich.

Greed is like an unquenchable fire. One has to keep stoking the flames to keep the fire burning because it’s never satisfied. Millionaires, superstar athletes, entertainers, businessmen die unhappy and broken people every day. Their wealth does not equate to happiness. In many cases, the wealth equates to short lives. It must be an enormous amount of pressure to be able to juggle and sustain the type of lifestyle that continuously chases after more than yesterday; last week; last month; last year. The quest to fulfill greed sucks the life right out of people.

Jesus taught we cannot serve both God and manna (money). We will either serve one or the other. I’m learning to be content with whatever roll or situation the Lord keeps me in, and to trust that His ways and guidance are for my ultimate good. Contrary to popular belief, greed is bad.

 

 

Wisdom in the Tale

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Ted,

I think the mark of a truly gripping story is its ability to seamlessly graft its audience into the role of the protagonist. Sometimes, such stories mimic a heavy truck starting a decent down a gentle slope. It’s only a matter of time before that truck gains enough momentum to become an unstoppable force. At that point, you need to grab the wheel tight with both hands and hang on for dear life. The final-destination is a mystery, but the ride is the thrill. Great stories take us on a journey and cause us to ignore the destination for joy of the ride.

I’ve read through “The Circle: The Complete Volumes” edition three times, and with each read, my respect and admiration of Thomas Hunter grew. He doesn’t resemble me in the slightest. Yet…I watched him grow through the complete story—from a naïve young hustler, into a full fledged seasoned hero. Thomas is the kind of warrior I envision King David was. Heroic. Fearless. Human. I fell into the role of his character and lived out his journey with ease. Each time, I not only learned something new about the character, but learned something new about myself through Thomas’s experiences as well.

When I first learned you were writing a new book tethered to “The Circle” series, I was immediately stoked! The idea that Thomas’s adventures might continue filled me with great anticipation. I ventured to my local Barnes and Noble, walked straight for the Ted Dekker section and purchased my hardcover copy without hesitation; in and out in 5 minutes, man! No need to look for anything else. When the time was right and I had space to devote my full concentration toward beginning the new journey, I plowed right in and was immediately introduced to my new protagonist. Not one to drop spoilers, I’ll stop right there. Needless to say, I was a bit…surprised…at the roll of the lead character. But like that ol’ truck spoken of earlier, I resolved to fasten my seat-belt and take my foot off the break peddle. And you know what? Roughly 160 pages in, we’re rolling, baby!

Ted, it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything of substance, I think. On my 45th birthday, I bought a nice blank journal to get back to putting pen to paper. Writing the old-fashioned way helps to get the creative juices flowing when I’m dealing with writing-draught. In addition this year I resolved to really focus on reading through the entire bible. Between the physical writing and the devoted time with God, He’s really been challenging me and my walk. Sometimes it’s frustrating seeing my broken way of thinking laid out in front of me. But, at the same time, I think God’s fixing my understanding. What’s all this got to do with “The 49th Mystic” you might ask. I’ll give you the answer by a single name: Talya.

By the time I realized Talya was speaking directly to me (with his teachings), I acknowledged my full immersion into the role of our protagonist. Once again, the transition was seamless. It wasn’t like, “We’re in first gear; shift to second; shift third; etc.” It was more like, “I’m reading a story; I’m in the story; the elder is speaking to me personally!”

Talya gave me 6 hours of silence to work on adjusting my perception by the truths contained in Romans 12:2. Ted, do you know how many times over 9 years I’ve read that particular Scripture? Yet, it never hit me as square in the face as it did while Talya took me through the first training lesson. Amazing! God can use anything to get to anyone.

I’ll tell you what I’m learning through the process of reading this story. I’m learning that I’m the Christian looking forward to the joys of the life after this one, but stuck trying to figure out how to enjoy this life. I’m learning that, though saved by grace by faith in Christ Jesus, I’m still struggling with judgment which keeps me from understanding what true love looks like. Perfect love cast out all fear. I’m struggling to understand how to live that out because fear binds up my writing.

Even now, I struggled to begin writing this…this…whatever you wanna call it…addressed to a specific author, because fear told me I’d be wasting my time in reaching for someone untouchable. Yet…you conquered your fears at some point in your career. You faced the same battles I struggle against. You pressed through. That much is clear because, as a fan, I’ve purchased the evidence of your triumphs.

Talya, rather God using the fictitious character Talya, is inviting me to go deeper into the waters of my walk with Christ. It’s uncomfortable, man! I can’t see what’s under the surface of those deep waters. I don’t even like to swim. But…I know He’s calling me into something greater. So, I’m forcing myself to keep moving forward. I can’t wait to see where this journey leads, both for me and for our protagonist. The journey is scary, but so far it’s a wild ride.

Ted, I want to thank you for your obedience. The story’s going to be another best seller for sure. But, even if it isn’t, you need to know that through your God gifted talents, you managed to reach through time and space to help a brother in need. I needed a helping hand to remember my purpose in Christ. Your story and your characters are helping me to Re-member.

A House Divided

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Mark 3:25 (NIV) – ” If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

A house is generally strong when it’s set on top of a solid foundation. Maybe that foundation is a simple concrete slab on grade; maybe it’s a solid wood crawlspace; or just maybe it’s a good old fashion poured-concrete wall basement with a 6-inch concrete slab. Whatever your foundation is constructed of, it’s an integral part to building a strong house that will eventually be weather retardant.

On top of that underground foundation, the builder constructs solid walls of treated wood framing with insulation and brick facade. Maybe your home has steel reinforced dead-bolt doors, vinyl weather-guard windows and seamless gutters circling a pristine asphalt-shingle covered roof. Even your chimney flue is cover protected. Can you see it? Of course you can! You’re picturing it right now, in your mind.

Now imagine that I’m actually a 25-feet tall gremlin, dangling a gigantic screaming chainsaw monstrosity over your beautiful roof. The blade on this demon-tool is 24 inches wide and spinning so fast, the teeth are glowing red hot. I’m smiling at you, because we both know what’s about to happen. You watch horrified as I arc a tremendous chop, bringing the chainsaw down and through the center of your new dream home. As I pull the machine free of the smoking cut line, we watch your house collapse into the gap left by the chainsaw. For a few moments, your house bucks and strains against its own weight. Wood beams splinter. Glass windows crack. Bricks fall from the facade. Where the structure was once a single solid unit, the two separated halves now struggle for balance, pushing against one another. Finally, the strain proves to be too great. We watch your ramshackle abode implode, falling into the basement. Your home is totally destroyed.

Do you understand that example is exactly what the devil has planned for your marriage? Or how about those relationships within the church (the church, people!) that are toxic. Sister so-n-so is mad at brother what’s-his-face over something inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. That toxic relationship and that struggling marriage are bound to drive a wedge between what should otherwise be a united body. Gossip and rumors divide a church. Power struggles divide a marriage.

This afternoon, I was in Kroger going through the checkout line with my wife. The bagger was an older woman who happened to glance at my River of Life T-Shirt (shameless plug for my home church, y’all), before smiling at me.

“You have a home church or something?” She asked. I was a bit bewildered because she had just checked out my T-Shirt.

“Yes ma’am,” I said. “We’re in Belleville, and we love it.”

“You should think about visiting us sometime. Some of those other churches are just too ‘churchy’ if you know what I mean.” She said. “We’re non-denominational and encourage people to come as they are. We don’t get into all of that extra church stuff.”

I was stumped on so many different levels. Did I not just tell this woman we loved our home church? Why in the name of Jesus would she ignore that and suggest my church might be too “churchy”? By the way, what does “churchy” look like? And, what is all that other extra churchy stuff?! In the body of Christ, we should honestly encourage each other, rather than divide one against another.

Could you see your left eyeball having a conversation with your right foot?


“Hey, how’s it going down there? You enjoying kissing socks all day?”

“Uhh–”

“You know, you should seriously consider coming up here where right and I hang out. We don’t do that ‘Walk-N-Balance’ stuff. We see no point to it.”

“Did you seriously just invite me to  park on top of face? Who’s gonna get us all to the car in the morning, if I’m not where I belong?”

“Don’t worry about that. Just come on up here where our vantage point is way better than anything you’re looking at down there.”


Yeah, when we fight each other–whether it’s a spouse or a brother in Christ–we’re destroying our own home. Power struggles have no place in the body of Christ. Think about it.

 

 

The Eleventh Hour

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Destiny's Journey

This short story was recently published in the new release from Faitherwriters entitled, “Mixed Blessings-Classically Inspired”, available now on Amazon. Enjoy!

“Adam.” Henry whispered.

“I’m sorry?” Paul knelt down to get closer to Henry. Surprisingly, the younger man seemed calm given the gravity of what was about to happen. During his 25 years in this business, Paul Whitney had seen the gamut of emotions run through men, at this stage of the process. Some cursed, others cried, still others begged for mercy. Never had he come across a man like Henry Jones: so reserved; almost peaceful. Paul reasoned the kid must be in shock. He needed to hear what was going through Henry’s mind.

Henry slowly turned his head as far as the restraints would allow. Smiling up at Paul, he spoke.

“I said Adam, boss. It all started with Adam. You see, his life was perfect. He had everything…

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