Note To Self…

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The health of both in-laws is in jeopardy. A childhood friend is literally fighting for his life. Two brothers in Christ decided to turn away from truth. Marriages are unraveling before my eyes. Tensions between co-workers (at work) are at an all-time high. Border-wall talk is continuing to further divide our nation. James Ingram died.

It’s just February. What surprises will the remaining 10 months hold for 2019?

Sometimes I look around, and it seems as if the enemy is winning. But I know better. I know that…while times and trends may change, God is still the same today, as He was yesterday. Tomorrow, He’ll remain the same: forever faithful; forever in control of everything.

It’s not always easy to remember that truth when everything around you appears to glorify tragedy. But, if you look close enough and remember what truth really is, you’ll see God hasn’t gone anywhere.

Last week, a total stranger was miraculously healed of cancer. Last Sunday, I witnessed a father, mother and son each get baptized and publicly profess their love for Jesus. Today, another childhood friend left the hospital after almost two weeks inside, due to congestive heart failure. God’s given him a new lease on life, and my old buddy is taking it seriously. A couple at church is experiencing a renewed relationship, through a life-group. My wife and I see the change in them both, and it’s amazing to see God refreshing their zeal and passion for one another.

God’s still in control.

A Great Start

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So…here I am, sitting alone in my empty classroom, just 30 minutes away from turning in my final writing portfolio for the Fall-2018 semester of writing class CRTW-201. Eastern Michigan University welcomed me back into the swing of college gently by tossing a straight pitch for me to wallop out of the park. I mean, it was writing. This is what I do. That’s not to say the class was easy. In fact, my instructor–Jesse Eagle–challenged everything I thought I knew about writing characters, scenery and drawing the reading audience into the story.  I honesty believe I’m leaving this class a better wordsmith, than  when I began the semester.

I think the class did more than boost my confidence in my ability to write. You see, until about mid-semester, I wasn’t 100% sure the act of returning (to EMU) to finish what I’d started was set in stone. There was a part of me vying to squash the vision of earning my degree, after so many years of starting and stopping. But, I think the Lord reminded me to focus on one step at a time, rather than the long journey ahead. One class session; one week; one assignment; one month; one semester; one more class completed toward the goal. When I took that approach, you know what happened?

I did it. I finished one class.

Heck, if I can complete one class, then I can surely complete another next semester; maybe even two. That leaves 11 to go…

It’s a great start.

2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT)–“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”

Sometimes, You Gotta Just Go With God

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“What does that mean, Enn?”

Yeah, I know…

“Sometimes, you gotta just go with God; what exactly are you saying?”

Well, see, that’s the thing. I don’t exactly know.

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t exactly know?’ What am I about to read here?”

I can’t rightly answer that question. But, I can tell you this: there are seasons when the Spirit moves in me and I recognize it’s time to sit down at the keyboard. Usually, I’ll turn on some inspiring music and wait for Him to put words into my heart. Tonight is no different. He’s moving, and I’m trying to listen.

One of my favorite songs is “Hymn of Praise” by William McDowell, featuring Julia McMillian and Daniel Johnson on lead vocals. Man, whenever I hear this powerful worship song, I can’t help but to fall in line with the Holy Spirit. Tonight, this song is on heavy repeat…even as I write. As I listen to the praises of God’s people, I’m trying to see the words forming in my heart. This special message is for someone tonight.

You’ve been trying so hard to make things work out in your favor, doing everything you think is right. You’ve been working hard, taking care of your responsibilities and doing everything by the book. Yet, for every step you take, it seems like something or someone pulls you two steps backward. When’s it going to be your time to catch a break, for once?

God sees you. He heard that prayer of desperation, last night. He knows exactly where you are and precisely what you’re going through right this moment, as you read these impossible words. Yeah…He sees you. He sees your struggles.

Mark 9:23-24 records a powerful exchange between Jesus and a father. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'”

That last verse is personal to me, because I know what it feels like to struggle with unbelief strapped to weak hope. But Jesus doesn’t say, “If you wait until your emotions line up with your head-belief, then I’ll act.” No. He simply tells us to believe. You may not feel it emotionally. It may not make any sense to you. It’s a leap of faith.

Tonight, I need you to believe, even if you don’t feel it in your bones. Just trust in God and know that He’s got you exactly where he wants you. Maybe it’s time to leave that job. Maybe it’s time to be brave and put yourself out there. Maybe it’s time to ask for help. Maybe it’s your time to pursue you calling. You’ve been struggling so hard. Believe. He is with you, and knows where you are.

 

*Always*

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.

 

 

 

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.

Soldier At War

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1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) – “Pray without ceasing,”

My nephew recently enlisted in the Marine Corps. As we speak, he’s being trained (physically) in the ways of a fighting military soldier ready to defend our nation and our interests at a moment’s notice. He will receive special weapons training; learn to be proficient in hand-to-hand combat. He’ll be taught mental toughness techniques; learn to use his fear as a self-motivating tool to press forward. The military will teach my nephew to become a man ready for war.

My cousin recently made the decision to give his heart completely to the Lord. As we speak, he’s being trained (Spiritually) in the ways of a fighting Christian soldier ready to defend our beliefs and our faith at a moment’s notice. He will receive special weapons training; learn to be proficient in apologetics combat. He’ll be taught mind-renewing toughness techniques; learn to use his own fear as a catalyst to seek the help of the Lord and press forward. Jesus will teach my cousin to become a man ready for war.

I am a Christian soldier. I do not use an assault rifle; I use fervent prayer. My frontline is not a physical land border, but a spiritual realm plane. My sword is not a sharpened blade, reserved for close encounters. It’s my bible, and I use it in daily battle. I’m not trained to push my body to its physical limits through rigorous physical activity. I’m trained to push the physical limits of my aging knees, as I assume the prolonged posture of prayer.

My brothers and sisters in arms are with me–and I with them–as we stand in the gap for those in need, just as our respected veterans stand beside one another in defense of the weak and helpless. Military soldiers muster courage in the face of insurmountable odds. Christian soldiers stand fast in the face of overwhelming hostility. Although our battle is not against flesh and blood enemies–but against rulers of the spiritual realm–we are ready to fight against our adversary at any time.

I am a Christian. I believe Jesus is the son of God. I believe He died on the cross and was resurrected. I believe I am saved by grace through faith in Him. I am a saint of heaven’s army. I am a soldier at war.

 

 

Calling All Wordsmiths!

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Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) – “A man’s heart plans his way; But the LORD directs his steps.”

I love to write. For those of you who actually follow my blog, this year may not have proven that to be a true statement given the infrequent number of times I’ve actually posted content. See, that’s part of my challenge in doing the thing I claim to love: inconsistency. I can think of a million different distractions to keep me away from the keyboard. But, in the end it all boils down to being consistent and purposeful.

I have a gift. Not everyone can sit down and crank out a couple hundred words to draw a reader into a personal connection. I can do that. Sometimes I do it well; sometimes, not so much. The gift can only get better with increased usage.

When I first started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t really have a plan for it. The thought was, “I’ll just use this as my internet space to put down a few thoughts here and there. If anyone follows me; great! If no one follows me; no big deal.” There was no set goal or focused direction for my blog, so it comes as no surprise when I learn that after a few years of internet space, roughly 120 followers stick by my side. It’s easy to let my pride tell me folks down follow because folks don’t get me. But that’s not the case.

I am a Wordsmith. My subject of choice is the LORD. As I sit here at the keyboard on November 14th, 2017 (at 5:35pm if you really want to get specific), I’m admitting that I want more readers to discover my gift. Not just that. I want more readers to hear what I have to say about God, His Kingdom, what it means to me and what it can mean to them, from my perspective based on my experiences. I have a limited number of followers because I haven’t actually thought about what direction I want my blog to follow. I haven’t come up with a plan.

My good friend Gus once said, “E, you’re fiction is really good. But, I think your non-fiction writing is what will get people to follow you. That’s what really touches people.” Even when that was said, I didn’t take the time to really think about it.

Recently, my friend Cassy asked, “Do you want to turn your writing into something full time, or are you just doing it as a hobby?” At the time, I couldn’t really sit and think about it, so I put it off. As I sit here thinking on it now, I think I would like to see my gift make room for a full time position in my life. I think in order to make that happen, I need to admit out loud that I have a plan to become a professional writer.

Proverbs 16:9 is my favorite proverb. I like the idea of God planting something in my heart; something that I desire to do. Then He orders my steps to see it accomplished. Does God want me to become a successful author? I have no idea. I believe he wants me to write for Him. Whether I become successful or not really doesn’t matter much as long as I’m fulfilling my purpose. I think that purpose is to write for Him and His kingdom. To that end, I want to have more readers.

I have to choose to be consistent with my posting. Consistency increases my chances of reaching more readers, and gaining more followers. The more folks read my blog, the more people I have an opportunity to share the gospel with. There are only seven weeks left in 2017. I’d like to end this year, and transition into the new year strong. I’m going to make a decision (right now) to post something at least once a week. Fiction or non-fiction doesn’t matter right now. I simply have to purposefully write and get back into the swing of truly loving what I do.

I’m going to challenge some of my fellow Wordsmith’s to dig deep and finish the year strong. Let’s share some great stories, inspirational blog posts, and encouraging words between us and with new followers. Are you up for the challenge Cary, Lindsay, Doug,  and Sheldon (just to name a few)? I’m calling all Wordsmith’s! Let’s finish 2017 strong in our craft.