What Can I Do For You, Dear?

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I have a married friend who struggles with pornography. His wife simply isn’t interested in sex anymore. Every time he advanced, he was met with violent opposition. So, he simply stopped asking and chose to turn to the false satisfactions of the internet.

Another friend of mine was addicted to promiscuity. Her husband was so bent on climbing the corporate ladder, that he never made time for her. Eventually, she began to date outside of her marriage and became a slave to the lifestyle. By the time their marriage began to heal, she couldn’t stop.

And then there is that one friend we all have, who doesn’t understand he’s married. He still frequents the after-hour spots, or “window shops” women or constantly bombards Facebook with skin-selfies. Maybe your friend’s a married woman. Either way, they’re completely dishonoring their marriage and just don’t understand or don’t seem to care.

Sometimes I think my wife and I could have avoided many of the marital pitfalls we traveled through, had we submitted to God before we were married. You see, we’re both forgiven adulterers. We both had to deal with selfish pride driving us away from one another. If we had a genuine love for the Lord before we made our vows, maybe we would have embraced the enormous responsibility and cherished the great honor that is marriage. It took us a while to get to the place of love and trust, but God’s grace and mercy saved our marriage. While listening to John MacArthur this morning, I was reminded that the fight for our marriage is never really over, as long as we breathe. Satan has a plan to not only destroy our marriage, but all Godly marriages as well.

In his radio message, “To Marry Or Not To Marry”, pastor John MacArthur preached on biblical marriage, straight from 1 Corinthians 7. But this wasn’t a boring sermon. Instead, pastor John hit his listening audience in the face with real talk. You should have seen me feverishly scribbling notes while I listened, because I didn’t want to miss a thing. With my iPod handy, I wrote down a few direct quotes from pastor John; quotes that I think every husband and wife need to remember.

  1. “You have an obligation in your marriage, to give to one another what you owe to one another.”

When I married Misty Nielsen, I spiritually tied myself to her. I promised to provide for her every need, without question, and she did the same. God expects me to honor that cheerfully. I owe her happiness, to the best of my ability. Don’t misunderstand me here: only God can provide her with joy unspeakable. But, as her husband, he entrusted me with her marital happiness. If I’ve been saving up for a 2015 Honda CBR 650f motorcycle and my wife has desired a family vacation for five years, I better use that $9,000 to fulfill her wishes, and I’d better do it cheerfully. That attitude carries over into marital intimacy, as well. Our culture teaches us the attitude, “I’ll do what I want to do, and nothing else.” But, if that attitude binds my wife’s happiness, because of my selfishness, it’s no good. This brings us to point number two.

  1. “When you withhold from your partner for any reason, you put that partner in a place where Satan will tempt them toward their lack of self-control.”

Let me put it to you this way: if you continue to deny your spouse what he or she asks for, you will literally drive them toward the very temptation that your marriage was designed to keep them away from.

“Babe, I was think that we could—”

“No. I don’t feel like it.”

Strike one.

“Honey, the kids are gone. Maybe we can—”

“Not tonight. I just want to get some sleep. Don’t forget you promised to take my sister to work in the morning.”

Strike two.

“Sweetness, let’s—

“Gosh, get away from me! Is that all you ever think             about? I’m really not in the mood!”

Strike three. You’ve just given Satan the green light to tempt your God-given husband. Remember the friend I told you about, who fell into the sin of promiscuity? Her husband chose his career over their marital happiness. Satan came calling, and she accepted. Pastor John goes so far as to reiterate the point in this manner: “Anytime you withhold from your partner that which is rightfully theirs, you become the agent of Satan.”

Whaaaaaattttttttt?! You mean to tell me, by denying my wife’s happiness, I’m doing the work of the enemy? Let’s visit point three.

  1. “Now you say you love your wife, men; women, you say you love your husband? Then don’t ever put your wife or husband in a situation where they are open to the temptation of Satan, simply because you’re selfish!”

My married friend, whose wife simply decided to stop having sex with her husband, comes to mind here. He is responsible for seeking out the internet trash, but she didn’t help him much by denying him. In 1 Corinthians 7:4, Paul says, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”

Our culture is so backwards, that married men would rather spend hours in the gym perfecting the look of their bodies than to spend that same time in intimacy with the wife God blessed them with. It’s perfectly okay to workout. But, if you’re working out to maintain a certain look, and then plaster that look all over social media, who are you really trying to satisfy; yourself or your spouse? My body doesn’t belong to me, and it certainly doesn’t belong to Crystal, Michelle, Stacy, Evette, Julie, Kimberly—and every other woman I know—to enjoy through Facebook! That kind of activity will drive my wife, the one person who isn’t seeing me half naked, straight into the carnal mindset. This brings us to John’s last point.

  1. “If I say I love my wife; if you say you love your husband; if that’s really true, then you will never willfully, openly put that person in a place where Satan begins to tempt them to carnality.”

The carnal mind is set on the desires of our flesh; our lusts; our fantasies; conquests not of God, but of ego. If my selfish ego causes me to deny the desires of my wife—desires placed in her heart by God, for our marriage—then how can I actually expect her to remain totally faithful to me? It can’t be done! We’re human living in a fallen world. What’s her motivation for remaining true to a guy who seemingly doesn’t want her? Why would I expect her to be strong enough to deny her physical needs with others, when I’m too prideful to fulfill her desires?

Pride’s a monster. It tells us that our wants and desires are more important than anyone else’s. It’s the author of divorce. It’s the instigator of numerous marital spats. It’s anti-love. It has no place occupying space in a Godly marriage. What if your spouse asked you to do something totally uncharacteristic for them? It would bring them joy. Deep down, we all know what makes our spouse happy. For whatever reason, we choose to cater to our own desires instead of pleasing them.

I think this is a good place to pose a question for my married readers. Tonight, can you put your pride aside and submit to your spouse without them asking you to do so? Would you let pride, hinder that happiness?

The Dream Realized

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A few years ago, I purchased Michael Hyatt’s book, “Platform – Get Noticed In A Noisy World” at the urging of a well respected published author by the name of Sabrina Adams. After reading through the book once, I quickly determined that Michael’s formulas for success in an oversaturated world were way out of my league. So, I benched the book. Foolish.

You know, no one can defer your dreams unless you first give them permission by convincing yourself of your own failure. Michael’s book spoke of insane and outlandish possibilities. Things like:

  1. Make $100,000 a year doing what you love.
  2. Hit the New York Times Best Seller list.
  3. Becoming a CEO of a successful publishing house.

I mean, the man was literarilly telling me, “Ennis, you gotta give yourself permission to dream huge, brother! No, I mean really huge!”

It all sounds nice coming from a man who seems to have all his ducks in a row, but I was stuck just trying to break the egg in the first place. For years, I’ve held on to this fantastic dream of becoming a published fiction author of a book worthy of social buzz and chatter. But to do that would mean I’d actually have to be able to commit to writing a compelling story; something of substance; something of length. I would have to step away from the short-story scene and venture into the unknown and uncharted territory of novel writing.

Well, let me tell you how Satan works. See, first he tells you how much your writing sucks. Next, he whispers in your ear, saying no one in their right mind will read a guy who has no formal education in journalism, or (at the very least) taken a course or two in creative writing. Then he reminds you that your attention span for a single subject can only stand for about 750 words; maybe 1500 if you really stretch yourself. And finally, the pièce de résistance, he tells you to give up your fantasies and focus of the reality of the circumstances around you; ie. you don’t have any more time on this earth left to dream. Focus on your day job, because that’s what defines you as a person.

I’m speaking to you personally, aren’t I? We’re really getting to the heart of the matter you deal with. I know. Stay with me, because it gets better.

My pastor has this awesome two-word saying: “But God!” Amen to that, pastor Eddie. Friends, God had to get deep inside my heart and dig out all of the lies and foolishness Satan had sown into the soil of my spirit. He ripped the weeds out, turned the soil over, tilled and added his special blend of fertilizer. It was hard for me to learn to accept God’s promises without physically seeing proof of his work in my life. My soil was hard, and the weeds were plentiful. As I continue to grow in my faith (in Jesus), God continues to show me the truth of his word and my faith is strengthened.

Now, I didn’t just go off on a tangent. We are still talking about my dreams here. We’re still applying my story to your own situation as well. You need to understand, what I’m telling you is that I was so fearful of failure, I couldn’t even imagine what success might look like on me. God had to break in and break the chains that bound me. I mean seriously, it makes no sense at all that a fiction writer has a problem envisioning his own success. But, that’s exactly where I was. Ted Dekker, James L. Rubart, Frank Peretti, Jerry B. Jenkins, Randy Alcorn, Mitch Albom – these guys are all heavy hitters in the world of Christian fiction. Satan had me believing that not only would I never belong to their circle, but that they were somehow men who put their pants on, not one leg at a time like me, but by some type of mental telepathy. God had to get into that screwed up place inside of me and rearrange a few things. He had to make me understand exactly who he is, and what he’s capable of doing.

So I revisited Michael Hyatt’s book. And you know what? My man Michael’s got it all figured out! Yeah, his advice may seem a bit overwhelming and impossible at first glance, but I looked at it this time through a different set of eyes. If I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me, then why can’t I allow myself to dream big, in his name?

So I did. For once, taking very small steps mind you, I began to dream. First, I dove into my writing by learning from my peers at Faithwriters.com. There are some absolutely amazing unknown writers using their talents to glorify the Lord. They taught me sentence structure; composition; grammar & (oops) and punctuation. My short stories began to flow better. They grew longer. Pretty soon, 500 words weren’t such a challenge anymore.

Next, I revisited a story I’d written years ago; dusted it off; polished it up; repackaged it to glorify the Lord; and…waited. While I waited, God had me continue writing until he opened a door. Once that door opened, he told me to push that story past the threshold.

Lastly, I learned a very important rule: you don’t make a move until you pray about it first. So, before I believed in it, I forced myself to put it into practice. I began praying for direction in the smallest areas concerning my writing.

  • “Lord, should I add this particular line, or say something else?”
  • “Lord, how am I gonna end this section of the story?”
  • “Lord, will Mitch Albom ever respond to any of my letters, visits to his radio office, emails?”
  • “Lord, should I add illustrations, or just go with what you’ve given me?”

As ridiculous as some of that sounds, it began working (well…all except the Mitch Albom thing. It’s not like I’m stalking the guy. That’s my claim and I’m sticking to it). God took my little 200 page story and miraculously pushed it through all the enemy’s obstacles. The blessing of a paid publishing contract with a Christian self-publishing house; the blessing of supporting friends and fans eagerly waiting, encouraging and cheering me on; the blessing of the Lord ordering my steps and granting me peace in decisions made. He moved in my life!

So here we are, tonight. It’s May 13, 2015. Did you see that picture accompanying this blog post? Yeah, that was taken earlier today. I received 10 comp-copies of my book, “Paraclete’s Promise: The Fantastic Fantasies Of Timothy” in the mail this morning. It was a pleasant surprise receiving a text message and picture from my wife, just as I found myself climbing out of a filthy manhole, on the job. When I picked up one of the books; held it in my hand and thumbed through the pages, reading the words I’d written, reality hit me.

“I’m not just a published fiction author, but a published Christian fiction author.”

The dream realized.

A few nights ago, I wrote something to this effect: I don’t know what the Lord has in store for my future, but I’m trusting him and planning to obey. Tonight, that takes on a whole new meaning. Before I leave you for the night, I want to share something quickly. It’s something I’ve allowed myself to dream. Michael Hyatt, thank you for inspiring me, sir. This is my dream list:

  1. Make $100,000 a year doing what I love.
  2. Sell 1 million copies of “Paraclete’s Promise,” worldwide.
  3. Make the New York Times Best Seller list.
  4. LucasFilm Ltd. movie adaptation of my book.
  5. Book signings in New York, L.A. and London.
  6. See someone come to Christ with the help of my little story.
  7. Sign a copy of my book for Mitch Albom.

P.S. If anybody knows Mitch, tell him he needs a copy of my story for his book collection. I’m just sayin’…

Paraclete’s Promise: The Fantastic Fantasies of Timothy (Chapters 1 and 2)

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Chapters 1 and 2 introduce us to Timothy, his…charming personality and the start of his fantastic fantasies. I look forward to introducing the book to the world, later this year.

CHAPTER 1

Tim stood in the hallway, in front of a large closet-door mounted mirror. His hazel eyes inspected blooming auburn color in the caramel complexion of his cheeks; a stark contrast to his favorite navy blue Transformers T-shirt, and frayed blue jeans. His tiny fingers combed through his black unkempt natural curls, Dad had just trimmed two days ago. He checked out the slouch of his 9 year-old stance, and flipped an index finger underneath his nose, absently wiping the damp finger across a pant leg.

“I’m not sick,” he mumbled. “It’s just a stupid cold. I don’t know why I can’t go outside.”

“You’re not going outside, because I said so, kiddo.” Dad replied as he walked toward the front door. “You had a slight fever this morning. That means rest and indoor activity for you, buddy; understand?” He ruffled Tim’s hair as he passed by.The front doorbell rang twice.

“Yeah,” Tim grumbled.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Dad pronounced, as he swung open the door. “Care to repeat?”

Tim drug his feet over to the living room couch, picked up his orange-cover Fire Bible from the arm rest, tossed it across the room, and pressed his face into the soft seat cushions. He smashed a throw pillow over the back of his head, and screamed.

“Yes sir!” His voice muffled beneath the couch cushions.

Dad was already talking to the guests standing on the porch, instructing them to walk a delivery around to the side of the house. As he closed the front door and started back toward the kitchen, Tim sprang up from the couch and peaked through the bay window curtains to catch a glimpse of the visitors. Outside, snow fell from the slate gray sky in huge flakes, blanketing everything in wintery white. A blue and white delivery truck was parked in the driveway, with the front of the truck facing the street. Tim watched two men walk up a metal ramp lowered from the back of the truck. They reappeared moments later, slowly carrying a huge white cardboard box down the ramp, then up the driveway toward the side door.

“What is that?” He whispered, as he walked toward the kitchen.

Dad stood at the side door stoop, watching as the two men carefully carried the box through the propped storm door, and down the basement steps. He flashed a wink, and two-thumbs up, at Tim.

“We’re back in business now, buddy.” Dad said. Tim reasoned that Dad was going to be occupied for a while. This would be the perfect opportunity to get into some video game playing time. Last night, Mom made him shut it off, just as he was about to begin a new level. She had told him he spent too much time on the game.

“Dad, since you’re gonna be busy, is it alright if I play the game for a little while?” He asked. A little smirk creased the corners of his mouth. As Dad descended the basement steps, he called up,

“Sure buddy. No, wait a minute. Uh…we’d better ask Mom once she’s back from the grocery store. She thinks you should spend a little more time doing other things besides mining blocks and killing exploding Crappers.”

“They’re ‘Creepers’ Dad! I don’t spend that much time-”

“Tim, you’re not getting me busted, son. As soon as Mom’s home, you can check with the boss.” Tim heard the delivery men laughing. “Why don’t you get a jump on the next chapter we’ll be reading tonight, in second Corinthians?”

Tim stomped back into the living room, and spied his Fire Bible lying on the floor, next to the television table. He kicked the book across the cream Berber-carpeted floor, flopped down on the couch, and gazed through the bay-window. The sounds of plastic ripping and tools clanking together resonated from the basement. Then he heard an awful sound like metal scraping across the concrete floor. Dad yelled up the steps.

“Buddy, if you don’t want to read, why don’t you play with your toys?”

Tim clenched his teeth and shook his fists at the living room floor.

I don’t wanna read the stupid bible, or play with dumb toys he thought.

He huffed, and rested his chin on top of his hands, folded neatly across the back of the couch. Tim watched snow cover 12th Street in an awesome sheet of white fluff. His ears burned and his stuffy nose dripped, as he watched his brother, Kyle, and twin-sisters, Alicia and Asia, streak through the front yard, throwing snowballs at one another.

“Kyle’s outnumbered,” he said. “I should be out there with him.” His eyelids grew heavy. ***************************************************************  

Tim opened his eyes to see Mom kneeling over him. Her warm fingers were gently massaging his brow.

“Hi, sweetheart.” Mom said. “You’re still a little warm. Are you feeling any better?”

Tim sat up on the couch and stretched wide. He had fallen asleep while watching the snowball fight. Suddenly, he remembered Dad telling him to ask Mom about playing the video game. Faking a horsed cough, he sighed.

“Hi, Momma. Yeah, I guess I’m feeling better. My throat’s a little scratchy and I’m a bit tired.” He whined.

Mom wrapped her arms around him and squeezed tight.

“Oh, Momma’s little man is definitely sick. How about you stay put, and I’ll get you a blanket, okay?”

She kissed his forehead, before walking toward the bathroom. A wicked smile glistened across Tim’s freckled face, as he lie back lacing his fingers behind his head. Mom returned carrying a small plastic medicine cup half full of pink medicine that always reminded him of liquid bubble gum.

“Here honey,” she said handing over the cup and a small Afghan blanket. “Drink this and rest for a while. I’ll be in the kitchen putting the groceries away, if you need me.”

It was now or never. Tim quickly swallowed the pink medicine, and called out to Mom as she turned the corner, into the kitchen.

“Momma, Dad told me to ask you if I could play the game for a while. So, can I, please?”

Mom peered around the corner; one raised eyebrow, a sideways smirk lit across her face, and a hand rested on her hip.

“You must think I came down with the rain, Mister Smith. I was on to your little ploy from the beginning. Since you have enough strength to concentrate on your game-play, you’ve got enough strength to walk right into this kitchen and help put the groceries away. Hop to it, skinny-minny.”

Skinny-Minny; he hated being called that. Tim huffed and launched the blanket across the living room. It came to rest over the bible. Jumping from the couch, he defiantly folded his arms and stomped into the kitchen, grumbling under his breath.

“Hey! What’s with all the racket up there?” Dad called from the basement.

“Tim is about to help put away the groceries. I don’t think he’s in the mood to cooperate, Daddy!” Mom yelled down the basement steps.

“Tim, do you want me to come up there?”

Judging by the tone of his voice, Dad must have been standing at the bottom of the steps poised to race up. He was probably waiting for Mom to give the word. Best to drop the attitude.

“No sir, I’m fine. I was just about to help her put the food away.” Tim cut a sour glare at Mom, who stood before him smiling.

“Alright, mister.” Dad said, “You behave yourself, up there. I’m going have something for you to play with, shortly. In the meantime, be my big guy and help Mom out.”

Tim pouted all the way through the boring tasks of gently stacking eggs in the refrigerator, stacking canned goods inside the low cupboard, gathering up the discarded plastic bags, and depositing them in the storage bin. Mom made small talk, but Tim had decided to ignore her. It wasn’t fair that she wouldn’t let him play the game.

“Hmm, not talking to me, eh?” Mom said. “That’s fine. You and your attitude should be able to keep each other company in your room; definitely no video game time for you, Timothy Jonathan Smith.”

“What?!” Tim yelled.

“Don’t you back sass me, mister. Off you go, now. Make sure to pick up, and refold, that blanket in the living room, please. And pick up your bible as well.”

As Tim tromped through the kitchen, Dad intercepted, yanking him off his feet, and hoisting him in the air above his head. Tim squealed in frustration, as Dad hugged his little body and spun around the kitchen. Tim didn’t know whether to yell in anger, or laugh at how dizzy Dad’s spinning made him.

“Hey!” Mom yelled. “You two knuckleheads take that foolishness out of my kitchen. Your son’s going to spend some quiet time in his room.”

Dad set Tim on his feet. The whole kitchen seemed to spin around him. He reached out to steady himself, when Dad caught a loose arm, helping him regain a sense of balance. A few seconds passed before his eyes adjusted. Tim scowled at Dad.

“Whoa! If looks could kill, I’d be in serious trouble, Momma,” Dad chuckled. “What’s with the lemon face, buddy? Your attitude earned you a ticket on the ‘time-out trail’ again? We just read in Proverbs 29:11 this morning, ‘fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.’”

Mom whispered, “I think the T-Y-L-E-N-O-L he swallowed, is making him a bit S-L-E-E-P-Y and C-R-A-N-K-Y.”

“I can spell, you know.” Tim said. “The bubble-gum stuff isn’t making me tired, and Dad, I don’t even know what that poor verb means!”

Mom and Dad laughed. Dad reached into the snack cupboard, and pulled out a juice box and small bag of potato chips.

“Here buddy,” he said, shoving the snacks into Tim’s hands. “I’ll give you a pass on the trail today. The proverb means you have to learn to control your temper. Foolish people allow their anger to control them. When that happens, trouble usually follows.”

Tim rolled his eyes, and sighed. Dad always had a bible scripture ready to recite.

“Okay, I can see you’re not in the mood to listen. Tell ya what: the new dryer is installed. Why don’t you go on downstairs and check out the box I had the guys leave, by the steps. Maybe you can make something happen with it.”

“I don’t want to-” Tim started to protest. He was quickly interrupted by Mom.

“Timothy, I’ve had just about enough attitude from you, mister. You can either go to your room and sulk, or you can go to the basement and play with the box. Either way, you will not continue to traipse through this house, pouty-faced over your video game! Are we clear, Mister Smith?”

Tim glowered at Mom.

“Better do what Mom says,” Dad said. “Go on downstairs and let that imagination, between your ears, take over for a while. Who knows? You just might have a bit of fun.”

Tim gazed into Dad’s brown eyes, reassuring smile and shiny bald head, like a chocolate milkdud. He remembered watching the delivery men haul the box toward the side door, through the snow. It did appear to be a pretty nice sized box. He sighed then slowly walked toward the basement steps.

“Wait,” Mom said, walking into the living room.

She reappeared carrying the Afghan blanket and his Fire bible. As Tim mounted the first few steps, she draped the blanket over his shoulders like a cape, and handed the bible to him.

“Here ya go. You might need these down there. Have fun.”

“It’s just a dumb box,” Tim mumbled. “How much fun can I have with it?”

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CHAPTER 2

Tim walked down the tile basement steps determined to completely ignore the dumb box. Instead, he planned to walk straight to the toy chest. Better yet, he decided to destroy the stupid box, using Dad’s tools. He just needed to reach the toolbox inside the laundry room.

“Go play with a stupid box. What am I gonna do with it,” he complained, “Rip it to pieces.”

After the last step, Tim rounded the corner leading toward the laundry/utility room. Standing there, blocking the path of the basement hallway, sat the white cardboard box. He had only seen it from a distance before but, up close, the thing was humungous!

“Wow! Hey, Dad this thing is huge,” he yelled. “Can I cut a hole in it? I might need a window for my…fort…or something.”

Ideas and possibilities began to flood his mind, and suddenly destroying it seemed like a bad idea.

Dad shouted down the steps, “No buddy; no holes. We can use it for garbage later, this week.  That won’t stop you from playing with it, right?”

“No, I guess not. I can tip it over and make…” An idea clicked as quickly as a flash, and he was off to collect supplies and equipment.

Tim squeezed between the box and the narrow sheet-rock basement wall, and darted for the wooden toy chest at the far end of the hallway. Tossing the lid open freed the familiar smell of cedar. Secretly, he loved the smell of the old chest. It was filled with all sorts of toys he and Kyle played with. He rummaged through the chest, randomly inspecting an action figure here, a stuffed animal there. A variety of things were at his disposal. What would he need to make a trip through the depths of a newly discovered and uncharted cave?

No, not a cave, he thought. It’s my new race car, so I’ll need a few fix-it guys to put the wheels and stuff together.

While rummaging, he happened upon a red tyrannosaurus, and several action figures of interest.  One was a plastic ocean diver, with one pull-off, retractable flipper still attached. The futuristic diver was equipped with a removable utility belt and a flattened inflatable yellow plastic air-tank draped across his back. It was a present for Kyle’s 9th birthday. A few years ago, he had given it to Tim. The second action figure was a limited edition metal spaceman, Dad bought for Tim’s 5th birthday. He paused for a moment to press the buttons on the spaceman’s wrist computer, and smiled as miscellaneous lights buzzed on the action figure’s suit.

“Cool. Your lights still work Abe.” He said. “I guess you can come, too.”

The third action figure was a big-game hunter, Tim had bought with his own allowance money, two years ago. He remembered how proud he’d been, paying for it himself. There had been so many adventures the little hunter had shared with him, and so many nights the hunter had been tucked under his pillow while sleeping.

“Nimrod,” he whispered. A wide grin stretched across his cheeks, as he stared at the hunter. “I almost forgot about you, buddy. How about you take one more big adventure, with me?”

Tim set the dinosaur and three action figures on a shelf, before continuing his search through the toy chest. He found a lion-tamer’s bullwhip: a souvenir from a visit to the circus. Deep down at the bottom of the chest, his fingers wrapped around a battery powered light saber, Mom had bought for Kyle a few years ago. Flipping the toggle switch activated the toy. The plastic, round tipped blade flashed then hummed a bright indigo blue.

“Wow! The sounds still work, on this thing. Better take it with me, just in case I might need to fight off monsters, or something.”

Leaving the toy chest, Tim turned and walked through the dark utility room passing by the new dryer and the washing machine, and headed straight for the linen closet where mom kept the winter comforters and Dad’s special-occasion winter hats. He held the light saber overhead, illuminating the dark closet as he searched for the perfect comforter. As he waved the toy left to right, he thumbed through the neatly stacked linens.

“The force is strong with me.” he said. Tim yanked on a large green and brown comforter usually found on his parents’ bed. He dragged it across the basement floor, out the utility room, back into the hallway toward the box. One swift kick at the bottom, toppled the huge box. The open lid landed just before Tim, spilling miscellaneous wrappings to the ground. Inside, he discovered big rectangular pieces of packing foam and a large wad of bubble wrap.

These might come in handy later he thought.

Setting the light saber aside, he grabbed the comforter with both hands. In one quick yank, the comforter flew into the air and settled down over the big box. He ran back into the utility room, over to the low shelf where Dad kept all sorts of paint cans. Mustering all of his strength, he picked up one of the cans by the metal loop handle and dragged it back to the comforter-covered box. He walked the can to the back of the box and set it down on top of a corner of the comforter just as Dad came down the stairs, carrying Tim’s Fire Bible, he’d intentionally left on a step.

“What are you…ah, I see,” Dad said. “Making a little hideout huh?”

“Yep,” Tim beamed. “I just need one more can to hold down the roof so it won’t blow away when the storm comes.”

“Oh, yeah we wouldn’t want the roof to disappear would we?” Dad said. “I don’t think your insurance claim would cover imaginary disasters. I see your roof doubles as a front door too. That’s pretty good thinking, kid. I won’t tell Mom that you’ve got her clean comforter on the basement floor.”

“Thanks Dad,” Tim said as a yawn escaped his parted lips. “Can you help me carry another can over here?”

“Sure buddy. Where are we gonna put it; on the other side, at the corner?”

“Yeah, I was thinking about maybe using something for the-” Tim started, but was interrupted by another yawn.

“Sure you’re not getting sleepy buddy?” Dad asked.

“Dad I can’t sleep now! I’ve got stuff to do here.”

Dad shook his head and raised his free hand feigning retreat.

“Alright, why don’t you go back in the closet and grab one of the spare pillows. You may need a seat in there. I’ll just toss this inside, in case you need a little light reading on your trip.”

“Yeah, the pillow’s a good idea, Dad.” Tim said.

Dad started for the stairs.

“Okay buddy, I’ll leave you to it then. You need any help, just yell. I always knew you were gonna do something great, kid. It’s your destiny.”

He was half way up the staircase, when Tim yelled.

“Dad! Can you cut the light off up there please?”

“Sure buddy.” Everything was just about set. The lights flicked off, surrounding Tim in the darkness of the basement. He stood motionless allowing his vision time to adjust, before reaching for the light saber on the floor. Thumbing the button, the basement was illuminated in a soft indigo-blue. Tim walked through the darkened basement toward the toy chest, back through the utility room to the linen closet. Opening the closet door, four different hats, each its own unique color with a silk band around the crown, hung from cap hangers screwed into the door. Each hat wore its own see-through plastic bag. Dad once told Tim the Fedoras, as the hats were called, needed to be protected from dust.

“Probably shouldn’t touch these.” Tim whispered.

He reached up the door and tipped the brim of the hat on the lowest hanger: a caramel brown Fedora with a chocolate colored silk band. Setting the light saber down, Tim pulled the smooth felt hat out of its thin plastic covering, and hid the bag between two blankets.

“Wow, this is so sweet.” he snickered. “Every explorer needs a cool hat.”

He closed the closet door, picked up the light saber and walked back to the box. He set the large hat over his head. It sank low over his ears. Tim picked up the small bag of potato chips and the juice box, while holding the light saber under his arm. He crawled into the box and set aside the snacks and the light saber, right next to the bible. Next he hauled the packing foam and bubble wrap to the back of the box. He then crawled out to gather his passengers: the diver, the spaceman, the hunter and the red T-Rex. With just enough room inside to maneuver between the front and back of the box, he decided to organize everything.

“This is great, Nimrod! You guys need to sit in the back just in case of an emergency.”

Tim pushed the dinosaur and action figures between two packing foam blocks near the rear of the box, before sitting on the pillow.

“Well, I guess I need to eat before takeoff. You guys check the ship back there for any broken pieces. I’m just gonna have a snack and then we’ll be off.”

Tim sat, ate chips, and drank the juice while staring into the blue light of the light saber. The light reminded him of the night light mom used to turn on at bedtime. He was afraid of the dark once.

Not anymore. I’m a big kid now, playing in the dark. Nothing to be afraid of he thought.

As he ate and drank, Tim flipped the little bible open to the spot where his Spongebob book marker had been set in second Corinthians, chapter 13. By the blue light of the light saber, he absently read through verse 13:14.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the presence and fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Tim barely noticed another yawn slip through his lips as his eyes slowly glided toward the soothing glow of the blue light. The blue light was nice. The blue light was…somehow warm. The blue light…the light…

Pride And Arrogance

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In the book of Exodus, we see how the stubborn pride and arrogance of Pharaoh destroyed everything he coveted: his land, livestock, riches, fields, and his firstborn. Reading through the first 12 chapters, we usually look at Pharaoh as nothing more than a supporting cast member in the greater story of Moses and the Israelites. For once, I challenge you to take a closer look at Pharaoh because he actually represents us, in more ways than we might care to admit.

God knows the evil of the human heart. In Exodus 3:19, he tells Moses, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by my mighty hand.” Yesterday, I heard Doctor Charles Stanley say, “When God says no to your desire, he is protecting you.” So, you say, “Wait a minute Ennis, you’re all over the place! What does the one thing have to do with the other?” Watch this.

We are a double standard people. How many times have we prayed to God to do something for us? At the same time, how often do we ignore the nudge of the Holy Spirit to set free a habit or an idol in our lives? When God chooses not to deliver on our human desires, how often do we get discouraged, and harden our hearts? The two passages above go hand in hand because our lives and our worship of the Lord boil down to our attitudes. Folks, often times we want God to do for us, but we don’t want to obey God.

Pharaoh’s pride and arrogance caused God to harden his heart. There was no way Pharaoh was ever going to set the Israelites free, because they were the ultimate source of Egypt’s prosperity. By their labor, Egypt prospered. When we have a good thing going, we don’t easily want to turn it loose, even if it is wrong for us.

When God tells us to set something free, we’re supposed to obey; no questions asked. But that’s not the way we roll. In our humanity, we demand that God find another way to work his blessings into our lives. We don’t consider the fact that his “NO” to a request might actually protect us from a fate far worse than what our perception recognizes.

I find it amazing that Pharaoh bore witness to supernatural plagues as a direct result of his disobedience to God, but still chose pride over submission. We do the same thing today! God says, “Put that down, now.” We say, “No! I want to keep it, and I want something else, too!” We’re like diabetic spoiled brats, throwing a tantrum over a box of sweets.

So, today I challenge you to think of your own life. We all have things to deal with, and we all want God to take away burdens and bless us at the same time. But, consider this: is there something the Holy Spirit has been poking you to put down; something you’ve refused to turn loose? How can we ask God to bless us, if we will not obey?

The Blessed Victory Into The New Year

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In January of 2014, I said a prayer. Unfortunately I don’t remember the words verbatim, but the gist of it was something like this:

“Lord, let this be the year of ‘The Blessed Victory‘ for my life. May this be the year of breakthrough, prosperity, easy living, and happiness for my family and I.”

After I made that prayer, I got the sense of God answering me. “Okay,” He said. “‘The Year of Blessed Victory’ it is; trust me.”

I once heard someone say, if you really wanna hear God laugh, just tell him what your plans are. I tell you that, just in case you don’t know who God is. He’s all powerful, omnipotent (look it up in the dictionary, kids), kind yet jealous, gentle yet firm, fiercely loving and he’s got a sense of humor.

When I made my plans through that New Year prayer, I had a different perspective on what I actually wanted the year to look like, than the way it actually progressed. In short, 2014 turned out to be the toughest year for my family and I to endure. In fact, I believe it’s been the end of a stretch that began seven years ago, after my Mom passed away from Cancer. I was so mad at the Lord for taking her away. Despite my anger, he called me to him anyway.

Coming to the Lord wasn’t easy because of the lifestyle I wasn’t exactly ready to give up, but he was patient with me. In time, I began to follow him, but I had a lifetime of baggage to unload through the process. In the Christian community, we believe life progresses in seasons. There are seasons of prosperity, season of peace, even seasons of sorrow, loss and sadness. Sometimes those seasons might last a few months, or they can stretch out for a few years. That’s just life: one gigantic roller coaster. My season just so happen to last seven years, during which time, God allowed all sorts of trials to test my faith in him and my resolve in allowing my life to be changed by the truth of his word. The first six years were a culmination of painful lessons and miraculous blessings. God, knowing that I was still a baby Christian, walked me through, holding my hand. But, there comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to find out what he’s truly made of and what he really believes in.

2014 put my faith to the test in ways, I might not have been able to handle in previous years. God will never give you any more than you can handle, but he’ll allow it get awfully uncomfortable, to build and sharpen your faith. I learned true humility. I’ve learned that it is not a sign of weakness to cry out to the Lord in front of your kids. I’ve learned how to pray the God for the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve learned that…there really is a difference between the world of the faithful believer and the world of the non-believer.

I want to spend just a moment on that point, if I may. This is so very important. There was a time when I thought being Christian meant you simply added the words of the bible to the life you already have; that every once in a while, you needed to throw in a “praise Jesus” after a couple of words, just to let people know where you stood regarding religion; that every once in awhile, you needed to go to church, just to get that emotional pick-me-up, from an entertaining pastor. But overall, you really didn’t have to change who you already were. You simply needed to add to it, like learning a new craft. Afterall, we all live in the same world, right?

I could not have been any more wrong. Contrary to popular secular belief, Christianity is not brainwashing. The Lord Jesus knew exactly what he was telling his disciples when he charged them to take up their cross daily, and follow him. Parents, the culture of today is in direct conflict with the teachings of God’s Holy word. Everything about our culture is in direct defiance to what the Lord had intended life to be like.

How many times have you seen a homeless person, and immediately felt the urge to be someplace else? How many times have you seen a wicked celebrity fall from the grace of Hollywood, and thought, “Well, they had it coming anyway.” That’s the world we live in. It’s different than the world God wanted us to be in. The two simply can’t coexist because a house divided cannot stand. A person who is both compassionate and cold at the same time, will always have to deal with some form of torment. You have to be one or the other.

There really are worlds within the world. If you’re not careful about what you’re following, you may find yourself walking through a season of sorrow longer than you’d like. And so it was for me, and my family. On the surface, we may have all looked like we had everything together. But we struggled this past year in ways that would amaze some of our friends and family. There were days, we prayed for the gas tank to make it another few days. There were days of choosing to pay a bill to keep the electricity on for another 10 days, or eating. There were times when fasting wasn’t really on purpose. Your kids eat before you do.

I doubted my writing ability. When you need to make a living, you turn to what you know how to do first. When that doesn’t offer enough, you start to dream. When you dream, you learn to start praying. But, when your prayers go unanswered, you find yourself tested. I was tested a lot this year. In the passed, there were people I could call on for physical help, or secret stashes I could dip into. Not this time. This was the season to believe or not believe.

Somewhere I heard, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do what you’ve never done.” Now, that saying could go in many different routes. Sure you could brandish a piece and go out and rob someone. No thanks. In my case, I did something I never saw myself as capable of doing on a somewhat long-term basis. I fasted for 21 days. I won’t go into detail with that, because the honor and glory is not mine to be had. All praise is given to the Lord for walking me through that very difficult time, because in the midst of it, I found out what true joy in the Lord looks like. At the end of that period, nothing happened.

Or did it?

In the late November, I got a word from the Lord while I slept.

“Your season is over, son.”

That’s it. I really didn’t think much about it, until I recalled my daughter giving her heart to God in September. That was a huge deal, and though she fights her own personal struggle against the influences of the world, I know who’s walking beside her. There were a few other miraculous occurrences; things that might be explained logically to anyone else. But to my wife and I, we recognized God’s hand working in our lives. And then, on the 19th of this month, God showed up and reminded me of the promise he made back in January.

Despite my doubts on the effectiveness of my writing, I continue to write. I don’t know how to shut it off, so failure is never an option where my writing is concerned. Faithwriters and Xulon Press must be in agreeance because they sent an email to me, announcing that I had just won a publishing package for a book I’ve only written one chapter for! That, my friends, is the blessed victory. It could mean absolutely nothing to anyone who just happened to click on this story, purely for entertainment. But, to me and my wife, it is the beginning of something new and great; something that was promised by the Lord himself.

When I look back on the trials and challenges of not only 2014, but the last seven years, I understand that God needed to take me through some things in order to get me to a place where I would willingly lean on him alone. That’s a good thing, you see. I’m selfish, self-centered, judgmental and sometimes cruel without him in my life. I had to get to a place where I could honestly admit those traits exist within me. But, with him leading me, I am the opposite of them all.

You see that gauge I picked up? It topped out at just over 120. Let’s say the 200 mark is the tipping point between my faith in the Lord and going back to a life without him. It’s a pressure gauge, you see. It tells you just how much you can take before you quit and go back to a life devoid of God’s presence. Now, look at that needle again. Over seven years, that’s how close I came to giving up. I was more than half way there. But God knew me better than I did. He always cheered me on, while I struggled to believe in him through the hard times.

“C’mon son, just a little more. You’ve got this, and I’m still here with you.”

I wouldn’t change a thing. The road ahead is still littered with trash I have to walk through, but I know God is with me. I know he’ll make a way. I know his promises are faithful and true. I know that when times get tough, he will never leave me as long as I believe in him.

The promise of the blessed victory happened, and I didn’t see it coming. 2015 is going to be an exciting year for my family and I. So let me ask you, friend. What are you believing in these days, and what are your expectations for the New Year?

Bro. E on Facebook

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For a long time, I’ve suppressed my musical artistic side. There are so many wonderfully talent young people out there in the world, I figured people would simply view me as an old man trying to recapture some sense of youth by getting involved in music at such an age. But, I had to take a serious look at my motives for pursuing music as a hobby. Why, after years of secretly tapping away at piano keys and drumming out beats, would I actually want to get involved in a culture oversaturated with talent?

I’ve always loved music. I just never had the gall to go after it. On top of my lack of heart, I didn’t have a purpose to drive me toward it. Once the Lord moved into my heart, he gave me purpose. The more I learn about Jesus and follow His lead, the more I want to use ALL of my talents to glorify Him.

Today, I set up a Facebook Artist page dedicated solely to the promotion of my music. If I can get people into the door, maybe they will stick around to hear me share the word of the gospel. If my instrumentals will get them clicking “likes” and listens, then maybe I can expose them to the lyrics I write, preaching the goodness of God and his grace.

Most people know of my writing talent, but few are aware of the music within my soul. It’s time I introduce that side of me to the world.

Come visit me @:

http://www.facebook.com/BrotherEUS