Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
Good piano music, a good book, a hug.
What turns you off (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
Anger, Hurt, Disappointment
What sound or noise do you love?
I'm with Deena on this one...I love the sound of my children laughing!
What sound or noise do you hate?
Someone yelling in anger
What is your favorite curse word?
Favorite curse word? Isn't that an oxymoron?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Publicist and writer!
What profession would you not like to do?
Teach in public school
What one book, other than the Bible, do you read again and again for inspiration? (added by ME!)
The Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers
If (Which I'm changing to BECAUSE Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Welcome home, I've been waiting for you!
I tag Kelly at Scrambled Dregs, Becky at A Christian Worldview of Fiction and Tami at Tree Swing Reading!
What about you? Care to answer any of these questions? Leave me a comment with your link to your post and I'll swing by and check it out!
I came to this book with some preconceived ideas, and quite frankly I was prepared to be offended by bad theology and troubled by a disturbing story. Lord, forgive me. What I found written upon the pages of this book was truth so beautiful – so powerful – so real that I am left somewhat breathless with wonder.
In truth, it was the author’s own testimony at the back of the book that put The Shack into complete perspective for me. His own year of jubilee experience after the raw ugliness of life, for him, turned into a very unexpected book publication. Isn’t that just like God? Turning our sorrows into something good to be used for His glory alone? He is every bit the creative, spontaneous, loving Papa portrayed in the pages of this story. Bottom line, if we belong to God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we all have our own “Shack” story.
I’m going to go further and share with you how God personally prepared my heart to receive this book. I have been volunteering at a women’s rehab facility for over a year now. Last month, as a favor to the director, I lived with the women for a week so she could go on a mission’s trip. I can testify that life is and can be so ugly you cannot bear it.
But just last week a group from another church came to our facility on a mission’s trip of their own. One lady testified that she had been sexually abused by a family member from the age of 6 until her late teens. She went into a bad relationship and wound up the single mother of two girls. At the age of 4 her oldest daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer. She spent most of a year in isolation with her daughter as treatment was given. Friends and family abandoned her. How much should one person have to bear???
BUT GOD showed up with a nurse who shared the Bible with this woman. She emerged from that hospital with a new heart and a cancer-free daughter! God IS everything to us! HE IS the GREAT I AM! He does love us with mercy and grace we cannot fathom! He gives us the strength to walk through life at its ugliest and emerge stronger and whole!! My heart was abundantly, tenderly prepared to read this story.
God revealed Himself to William P. Young in a very personal way and allowed him to share his story in fiction – a book entitled The Shack. Don’t miss this incredible story! I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to share this book with you!
P.S. Because there is some controversy surrounding this little book, I would also like to share some thoughts from other blogging buddies who read this before I did. Please read Deena's thoughts here, here and here. Read Kelly's thoughts here. I just want you to understand this is FICTION and not theology. The ONLY way to withstand the evils of this world is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. ONLY His death and resurrection offer eternal security and salvation. Don't go to fiction for your theology. Immerse yourself in the BIBLE alone.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
So please, welcome Julie back for her second visit to my window. You can read her first interview here to learn about the first book of this terrific series! Welcome Back, Julie!
How difficult was it to allow Charity to keep lying to everyone even after she'd paid such a painful price for lying to start with? What kind of responses does Charity solicit from your readers?
Gosh, I hate to even admit this, but it wasn’t difficult at all. I mean Charity is Charity—a woman without Christ in her life who has spent every fiber of her being manipulating and lying to get what she wants—so lying was as natural to her as breathing. And what does she want? Simply to be loved. But without Christ, she can’t possibly attain the type of love she craves—to be loved as she is and for who she is. That’s called “unconditional love,” and it’s only available through a God who loves us to the depth of our sinful souls!
Charity is the type of woman whose drive for love was so misguided and so strong, that I honestly felt deep pain would be the only thing that would turn her to God. Thus the Scripture theme of this book, Psalm 83:13-16: “As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. Cover their faces with shame so they will seek your name.” And unfortunately, that’s what it takes for Charity to finally change—ultimately taking her from the casual lip service she gives to God mid-book … to the heart commitment where she’s finally willing to live her life for Him rather than for herself.
What kind of responses does Charity solicit from readers? Grin … not good! I actually had one reader say she loved A Passion Most Pure, but could I do her a favor—slap Charity for her! Another reader said she had this overwhelming desire to see Charity “maimed or killed.” But personally, I have always loved Charity (just like I loved Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind), maybe because she is so wonderfully flawed and needy of love, not unlike I used to be before Christ. In fact my husband, who is currently reading A Passion Redeemed, does not like Charity AT ALL. Grin. The poor guy—he doesn’t realize he’s been married to her for over 30 years!! J
Share with us what God has done in your life since the publication of A Passion Most Pure. How is He working through your writing?
First, let me get a Kleenex, because the tears are sure to fall! With the publication of A Passion Most Pure, God has once again proven His Word true by doing “abundantly, exceedingly more than I ever hoped, thought or prayed.” And let me tell you, when He says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart,” He is not kidding!
Six months before my book sold, I was sitting on the swing outside on my deck, reading and praying. As always, I prayed to be published, although with 37 rejections under my belt (out of an eventual 45!), I wasn’t real confident. All at once, I heard God’s still, small voice. Have I ever failed to give you the desires of your heart? I gasped and tears misted my eyes. “No, Lord,” I said, overwhelmed with the knowledge that He had indeed given me three of the four desires of my heart—to write for a living despite not having a college degree (I miraculously got a job as a Travel Writer), a loving husband (a miracle in itself considering how high-maintenance I can be! J), and two beautiful children (after being an infertility patient). The only other desire of my heart that was still unanswered was to be published—a dream I had had since the age of twelve when I first started writing A Passion Most Pure after reading Gone With the Wind. And then came the gentle reply—And I will give you this one too. Of course, as we human beings always do, I wondered if perhaps the thought hadn’t just been my own imagination. But when Revell gave me a 3-book contract six months later, I knew it had been God’s still, small voice—faithful and true to the end.
So what’s the key to reaping the desires of your heart? Three simple, little words: Apply God’s Word! One of the things that grieves me the most is how so many people in the Body of Christ (myself included) read the Word and study the Word and memorize it cold, but they DON’T APPLY it! Then they wonder why they don’t have peace or victory in their lives. As far as I am concerned, applying God’s Word IS the missing link for victory in Christians’ lives.
It’s really pretty simple. Somebody ticks you off? Pray for God to bless them. Are you jealous of the pretty girl with the great marriage? Pray for God to bless her more. Something bad happens to you at work? Praise God and ask Him to make good from it. I mean, come on! We Christians have the greatest insurance policy in the world—Romans 8:28: And we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose. There is an application of God’s Word for EVERY problem we have, and if we would just “choose life” (God’s way/applying His precepts, which is the Deuteronomy 30 lesson in A Passion Most Pure) instead of death (our way, or sin), we would be in Fat City!
As you can probably tell from reading both my books, I have a great passion for both God and romance. And if there was such a thing as a passion detector, I’m afraid my needle would be off the chart. I do everything with passion, from brushing my teeth with a vengeance … to piping dinner guests’ initials into twice-baked potatoes. So when I gave my heart to Jesus at the age of 23, naturally I did it with all the passion I possessed—I read my Bible daily, prayed throughout the day and worshipped Him with everything in me. But most importantly, I diligently tried to apply God’s Word to the letter, which I believe is the “key” in delighting Him … a key that can and will unlock the door to the desires of your heart.
Finally, you asked how God is working through my writing. Well, He has allowed me to take my passion for Him and put it into stories that hopefully will convey how natural and fulfilling an intimate relationship with God can and SHOULD be. Like breathing. My books may be fiction, but this is NOT a fairy tale here. It is possible to have a living, breathing relationship with the living, breathing God of the Universe. So when I got the following e-mail from a precious woman who had read A Passion Most Pure, I was brought to tears. She wrote:
“I just wanted to write to let you know that in all my life, I've never before read a book that has inspired me to change my life as much as this one has! The desire to turn my life over to God has never been this strong. Thank you for making such a strong impact on both me and my family!!”
Sniff. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julie Lessman is a debut author who has already garnered writing acclaim, including ten Romance Writers of America awards. She is a commercial writer for Maritz Travel, a published poet and a Golden Heart Finalist. Julie has a heart to write “Mainstream Inspirational,” reaching the 21st-century woman with compelling love stories laced with God’s precepts. She resides in Missouri with her husband and their golden retriever, and has two grown children and a daughter-in-law. A Passion Most Pure was her first novel.
ABOUT THE BOOK
No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought. Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is.
Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.
Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever? Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.
Praise for the first book in the series:
"Full of romance, humor, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure will captivate readers from the first page." --Historical Novels Review "Superb! Incredible!
"I loved Julie Lessman's A Passion Most Pure from the second I picked it up until the very last moment I stopped reading." --Armchair Interviews
"I devoured this book and loved every single page. . . . This is a thick, juicy read, and one I would pick up again in a heartbeat." --christianreviewofbooks.com
If you would like to read an excerpt from A Passion Redeemed, go HERE.
Ok. Julie Lessman has created the most conniving, conceited, manipulative, aggravating, thick-headed character I have ever had the pleasure of reading about! If you thought Charity was a mess in A Passion Most Pure, boy are you in for ride!! A Passion Redeemed is the second book in Julie Lessman’s The Daughters of Boston series, and it is absolutely impossible to put down! In this story, you follow the infamous Charity through a truly heartbreaking series of events. She is so real, you almost feel guilty for being just a tiny bit glad that things were hard.
However, the guilt suddenly softens when you realize that in one way or another we are all just a bit like Charity. We have all had our hearts broken and lashed out in spiteful vengeance. We have all been ashamed of a wrong choice we’ve made and lied to make others believe we were something other than the wretch we knew we were inside. If we are indeed a child of God, we have all been brought to a moment when we realized how ugly and sinful we are in the eyes of our Creator without the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. We have been brought to brokenness so that Christ alone could redeem us.
Charity O’Connor is not an easy person to like. We’ve all met her at some point in our lives. I’m so very thankful that God knows and loves us enough to redeem even the hearts that have been shattered. (Yes, Charity’s lessons are painfully learned!) God alone restores what the flesh and the devil try to steal from us. Don’t miss this book – whatever it takes. Purchase your copy here today!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and his/her book:
Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (http://evotional.com/). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (August 19, 2008)
An Geadh-Glas is the Celtic term for the Holy Spirit. In modern English, it translates to mean the Wild Goose. Mark Batterson takes this very unusual idea of God as our Wild Goose, and the pursuit of God’s will for our lives as our Wild Goose Chase. Sound a bit unconventional? Well, it’s not.
Each chapter of this incredible book takes a close look at the things in our lives that prevent us from fully pursuing God’s will and God’s plan for our lives. These things cage us in just as surely as a wild animal is caged at the zoo. (Batterson’s analogy) There are six cages:
Responsibility – allowing day to day responsibilities to bury our God ordained
Routine – trading the routine of life for the adventure of following Christ
Assumptions – we stop believing and start assuming, limiting God’s power in our
Guilt – allowing our lives to be neutralized by focusing on past sins
Failure – learn to see failure as divine detours and delays for God’s purpose
Fear – learn to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death
Batterson looks closely at each of these situations that are common in all of our lives and offers both scriptural and personal insight and understanding about breaking out of these cages and pursuing God’s will for our life. We can live lives that are filled with God’s purpose and blessing, and we can navigate life’s unexpected turns more smoothly as we learn to trust God’s sovereign hand to lead us. Each chapter is practically a sermon in itself and is filled with truth that you will want to write down and remember.
Wild Goose Chase is a book that will challenge and encourage you in ways that you can’t imagine. For me, it was a divine appointment – like a balm to an open wound. Don’t miss this terrific volume! You can purchase your own copy here today, and it would make a great gift of encouragement for anyone struggling to find their God-given purpose. If you leave a comment on this post, your name will be entered to win a free copy of this book!
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Living a Life of Spiritual Adventure
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
The Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit that has always intrigued me.They called Him An Geadh-Glas, or “the Wild Goose.” I love the imagery and implications. The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious at first earshot, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to pursue the Spirit’s leading through life than Wild Goose chase. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something that institutionalized Christianity hasmissed out on. And I wonder if we have clipped the wings of theWild Goose and settled for something less—much less—than what God originally intended for us.
I understand that “wild goose chase” typically refers to a purposeless endeavor without a defined destination. But chasing the Wild Goose is different. The promptings of the Holy Spirit can sometimes seem pretty pointless, but rest assured, God is working His plan. And if you chase theWild Goose, He will take you places
you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.
I don’t know a single Christ follower who hasn’t gotten stressed out over trying to figure out the will of God. We want to solve the mystery of the will of God the way we solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. But in my experience, intellectual analysis usually results in spiritual paralysis.
We try to make God fit within the confines of our cerebral cortex. We try to reduce the will of God to the logical limits of our left brain. But the will of God is neither logical nor linear. It is downright confusing and complicated.
A part of us feels as if something is spiritually wrong with us when we experience circumstantial uncertainty. But that is precisely what Jesus promised us when we are born of the Spirit and start following Him.1 Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: adventure.
I think it is only fair that I give aWild Goose warning at the outset of this book: nothing is more unnerving or disorienting than passionately pursuing God. And the sooner we come to terms with that spiritual reality, themore we will enjoy the journey. I cannot, in good conscience, promise safety or certainty. But I can promise that chasing the Wild Goose will be anything but boring!
ISLANDS OF EDEN
Not long ago I visited what must be the closest thing to the Garden of Eden left on earth. It almost felt wrong arriving in the Galápagos Islands via airplane. Washing ashore on a bamboo raft would have seemed more apropos.
We spent most of our time island hopping in a boat that didn’t seem large enough for the twelve people on board or the twelve-foot ocean waves we encountered. And sure enough, we discovered that the boat had capsized not long before our visit. That tidbit of information would have been nice to know before we climbed aboard—
but it definitely added an element of adventure.
The entire week was full of new experiences. I went snorkeling for the first time and saw some of God’s amazing underwater creations. Where did He come up with those color schemes? In an unscripted and unforgettable moment, my son Parker and I went swimming with some playful sea lions. And I accomplished one of my life goals by jumping off a forty-foot cliff into a narrow river gorge at Las Grietas.What an adrenaline rush!
The trip consisted of one adventure after another. So the saying in Spanish that we saw on a Sprite can that week seemed fitting, and we adopted it as our mantra: Otro día, otra aventura. Translation: “Another day, another adventure.”
I love those four words inspired by Sprite. They capture the essence of what we experienced day in and day out in the Galápagos. I think those words resonate with one of the deepest longings in the human heart—the longing for adventure. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better description of what it’s like to pursue God. Take theHoly Spirit out of the equation of my life, and it would spell b-o-r-i-n-g. Add Him into the equation of your life, and anything can happen. You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll go, or what you’ll do. All bets are off.
If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty, it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.
Situated five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos chain is one of the most primitive places on the planet.While many of the islands in the forty-nine-island archipelago are inhabited, most of them are absolutely undomesticated. When I was there, I felt as if I were as far from civilization as I could get. It was Edenic.
Somehow I felt a new affinity with Adam in the Galápagos environment. It helped me imagine what life must have been like before the Fall. Scripture tells us that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was naming the animals.2 And we read right past it. But it must have taken years of research and exploration to complete the project. I don’t think God paraded the animals past Adam in a single-file line; I’m guessing God let Adam discover them in their natural habitats. Imagine how thrilling it must have been for Adam to catch his first glimpse of wildebeests stampeding, mountain goats climbing, or rhinos charging.
That’s how I felt when I was in the Galápagos. And it was there that I discovered the difference between seeing a caged animal at a local zoo and getting within arm’s length of a mammoth marine iguana or walking a beach with hundreds of barking sea lions or floating above manta rays as they glide along the ocean floor. It’s one
thing to see a caged bird. It’s an altogether different experience to see a pelican that looks like a prehistoric pterodactyl circling fifty feet above your boat, dive-bombing full speed into the ocean, and coming up with breakfast in its oversize beak.
Few things compare to the thrill of seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. There is something so inspiring about a wild animal doing what it was created to do. Uncivilized. Untamed. Uncaged. So a few weeks after returning from the Galápagos, our family spent an afternoon at the National Zoo near our home in Washington DC. It’s a fantastic zoo. But it just wasn’t the same after the Galápagos. I’m ruined for zoos. It’s not the same seeing a caged animal. It’s too safe. It’s too tame. It’s too predictable.
At one point we were walking through the ape house, and I had this thought as I looked through the protective Plexiglas window at a four-hundred-pound caged gorilla: I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals.
I love the church. I bleed the church. And I’m not saying that the way the church cages people is intentional. In fact, it may be well intentioned. But too often we take people out of their natural habitat and try to tame them in the name of Christ. We try to remove the risk. We try to remove the danger. We try to remove the struggle. And what we end up with is a caged Christian.
Deep down inside, all of us long for more. Sure, the tamed part of us grows accustomed to the safety of the cage. But the untamed part longs for some danger, some challenge, some adventure. And at some point in our spiritual journey, the safety and predictability of the cage no longer satisfies. We have a primal longing to be uncaged. And the cage opens when we recognize that Jesus didn’t die on the
cross to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.
Praying for protection is fine. I pray for a hedge of protection around my three children all the time. You probably pray that kind of prayer too. But when was the last time you asked God to make you dangerous?
I would like to think that when I pronounce the benediction at the end of our church services, I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy.
Every once in a while, I have random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Here’s a thought that fired across my synapses not long ago: Do angels yawn?
I know it seems like an inane theological question, but I seriously wonder if angels have the capacity to get bored. More important, I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only are we bored, but so are our guardian angels. If they could, would our guardian angels coax us out of our cage and beg us to give them
something dangerous to do?
In the pages that follow you’ll meet some dangerous people. Mind you, they’re ordinary people. They have doubts and fears and problems just like you and me. But their courage to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ will inspire and challenge you to follow them as they follow the Spirit’s leading. I think of Ana Luisa, who used her award miles to fly to India and sacrificially serve some of the poorest of the poor at a medical clinic. I think of Mike, who started a dangerous ministry in a dangerous place—a porn show in Las Vegas. I think of Adam, whose
sensitivity to the Wild Goose resulted in a life-changing encounter on a mission trip half a world away. And I think of Becky, who made a conscious decision to endanger her own life by becoming part of the crusade against human trafficking.
Since when did it become safe to follow Christ? Maybe it’s time to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ.
SENSE OF ADVENTURE
The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard believed that boredom is the root of all evil. I second the notion. Boredom isn’t just boring; boredom is wrong. You cannot simultaneously live by faith and be bored. Faith and boredom are antithetical. Against that backdrop, consider the gospel story of the rich young ruler. On paper the rich young ruler had it all: youth, wealth, and power. But something was still missing. The rich young ruler was bored with his faith. And I think it is evidenced by the question he asked Jesus: “What do I still lack?”3
I’ll tell you exactly what he was lacking: spiritual adventure. His life was too easy, too predictable, and too comfortable. He kept all the commandments, but those commandments felt like a religious cage. I think there was a deep-seated longing within him for something more than simply not doing anything wrong.
Listen, not breaking the prohibitive commandments is right and good. But simply not breaking the prohibitive commandments isn’t spiritually satisfying. It leaves us feeling caged. And I honestly think that is where many of us find ourselves.
Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving as lead pastor of National Community Church inWashington DC. As with every church, our demography and geography are unique. Seventy percent ofNCCers are single twentysomethings navigating the quarterlife crisis. And most of them live or work on Capitol Hill. So the observation I’m about to share is undoubtedly shaped by the life stage of our congregation and the psyche of our city. But I also think human nature is human nature. And here is what I’ve observed: many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith.
We know our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We know we will spend eternity with God when we cross the boundary of the spacetime continuum. And we are trying our best to live our lives within the guardrails of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. But still we have a gnawing feeling that something is missing.
I think the rich young ruler is representative of a generation that longs to come out of the cage and live dangerously for the cause of Christ. But too many among us end up settling for spiritual mediocrity instead of striving for spiritual maturity. Jesus speaks to that deep-seated longing for adventure by challenging us to come out of the cage. But coming out of the cage means giving up the very thing in which we find our security and identity outside of Christ.
In the case of the rich young ruler, his cage was financial security. Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”4
A part of us feels bad for the rich young ruler, right? How could Jesus demand so much? He asked him to give up everything he had! But we fail to appreciate the offer Jesus put on the table.
I live in the internship capital of the world. Every summer tens of thousands of young adults make the pilgrimage to DC to try and land the right internship with the right person because they know it can open the right door. It’s amazing how many members of Congress were once congressional pages and how many Supreme Court justices were once Supreme Court clerks.
I don’t care how much this rich young ruler had to give up—Jesus offered him so much more. This was the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship with none other than the Son of God. Come on, that’s got to look good on your résumé! You can’t put a price tag on that kind of experience. But the rich young ruler turned it down. He opted for the cage. And he made the mistake so many of us make: he chose an accessorized life over a life of adventure, over a life of chasing theWild Goose.
Now juxtapose the rich young ruler with the twelve undomesticated disciples who accepted the unpaid internship. They heard the parables with their own two ears. They drank the water Jesus turned into wine. They filleted the miraculous catch of fish. And they were there when Jesus turned the temple upside down, walked on water, and ascended into heaven.
In a day when the average person never traveled outside a thirtyfive-mile radius of his home, Jesus sent His disciples to the four corners of the ancient world. These ordinary fishermen, who otherwise would have lived and died within sight of the Sea of Galilee, were sent to the ends of the earth as they knew it. What a Wild Goose chase! According to the third-century historian Eusebius, Peter sailed to Italy, John ended up in Asia, James the son of Zebedee traveled as far as Spain, and even doubting Thomas chased the Wild Goose all the way to India.
Just like the rich young ruler, we have a choice to make. The same offer is extended.We can stay in our cage, end up with everything, and realize it amounts to nothing. Or we can come out of our cage and chase theWild Goose.
In the prequel to this book, In a Pit with a Lion on a SnowyDay, I retell the story of an ancient warrior named Benaiah to show how God wants us to chase the five-hundred-pound opportunities that come across our path. And I cite the aphorism “no guts, no glory.” When we lack the guts to step out in faith, we rob God of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.5 In Wild Goose Chase, I want to take it a step further and show you how all of life becomes a grand adventure when we chase the trackless, matchless Goose of heaven.We’ll retrace the steps of sixWild Goose chasers who come right out of the pages of Scripture. And my hope is that their footprints will guide us as we chase theWild Goose. But before the chase begins, I do want to offer one simple reminder.This book is aboutmore than you andme experiencing spiritual adventure. In fact, this book is not about you at all.
It’s a book about the Author and Perfecter of our faith,6 who wants to write His-story through your life. And if you read through Scripture, you’ll discover that His favorite genre is action-adventure.
Sure, you can choose the safety and predictability of the cage, forfeiting the adventure God has destined for you. But you won’t be the only one missing out or losing out. When you lack the courage to chase the Wild Goose, the opportunity costs are staggering. Who might not hear about the love of God if you don’t seize the opportunity to tell them? Who might be stuck in poverty, stuck in ignorance, stuck in pain if you’re not there to help free them? Where might the advance of God’s kingdom in the world stall out because you weren’t there on the front lines?
Jesus’ disciples didn’t just live an exciting life post-Pentecost; they turned the world upside down.7 And that’s what you can be a part of too. Wild Goose Chase is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you.
Are you in?
In the pages that follow I will identify six cages that keep us from roaming free with theWild Goose and living the spiritual adventure God destined us to. I’m not sure which cages you may find yourself in. But the good news is this: you are only one Wild Goose chase away from the spiritual adventure God has destined for you.
The first cage is the cage of responsibility. Over the course of our lifetime, God-ordained passions tend to get buried beneath day-today responsibilities. Less important responsibilities displace more important ones. And our responsibilities become spiritual excuses that keep us from the adventure God has destined for us. Without even knowing it, we begin to practice what I call irresponsible responsibility. The Wild Goose chase begins when we come to terms with our greatest responsibility: pursuing the passions God has put in our heart.
The second cage, the cage of routine, is almost as subtle as the first. At some point in our spiritual journey, most of us trade adventure for routine. There is nothing wrong with a good routine. In fact, the key to spiritual growth is developing healthy and holy routines known as spiritual disciplines. But once a routine becomes routine, we need to disrupt the routine. Otherwise, sacred routines become empty rituals that keep us caged.
The third cage is the cage of assumptions. Our assumptions keep many of us from chasing theWild Goose. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m underqualified. I’m overqualified. It’s too late. It’s too soon. And the list goes on. As we age, many of us stop believing and start assuming. We stop living out of right-brain imagination and start living out of left-brain memory. And we put eight-foot ceilings on what God can do.
The fourth cage is the cage of guilt. The Enemy’s tactics haven’t changed since the Garden of Eden. He tries to neutralize us spiritually by getting us to focus on what we’ve done wrong in the past. Satan uses guilt to turn us into reactionaries. Jesus came to recondition our spiritual reflexes with His grace and turn us into revolu- tionaries for His cause. As long as you are focused on what you’ve done wrong in the past, you won’t have energy left to dream kingdom dreams.
The fifth cage is the cage of failure. And, ironically, this is where manyWild Goose chases begin.Why? Because sometimes our plans have to fail in order for God’s plans to succeed. Divine detours and divine delays are the ways God gets us where He wants us to go. And the sixth and final cage is the cage of fear. We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Instead, we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans.Why not you?
I want you to know that before you decided to read this book I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book is more than a casual read for you. It’s a divine appointment waiting to happen. And I believe one chapter, one paragraph, or one sentence can change the trajectory of your life.
Let the chase begin.
O What’s your reaction to the ancient Celtic description of God as the “Wild Goose”—untamed, unpredictable, flying free?
O How have you been living “inverted Christianity,” trying to get God to serve your purposes instead of you serving His purposes?
O Right now, where are you on this spectrum?
O How does the call to spiritual adventure strike you? What is it inside you that resonates with that call?
O Of the six cages described at the end of the chapter, which do you think might apply to you the most and why?
Monday, August 25, 2008
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lori lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband Lance. Lance and Lori have three sons, two daughter-in-laws, and five wonderful grandchildren. They are very involved in their church, and active in supporting mission work in Mali, West Africa.
Lori began her writing career in 1982, writing for the secular book market. In 1995 after many years of writing, Lori sensed that God was calling her to use her gift of writing to honor Him. It was at that time that Lori began writing for the Christian book market. To date, she has more than 95 books published including Now And Always
and Bluebonnet Belle.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Texas, 1865 Willow Madison and her friends, Copper and Audrey taught school in neighboring Texas communities until the Yankees rode into the area and burned them out. In the midst of fear and chaos, survivors banded together to fight for what remained of their homes. Then word reached the people that the terrible war was over.
Now penniless but still hopeful, Willow vows she will take care of her friends, Copper and Audrey, and her ailing uncle, in Thunder Ridge, Texas, even if it means having to marry wealthy Silas Sterling, a man thirty years her senior. But standing in her way is handsome sawmill owner Tucker Gray, with his enticing eyes and infuriating headstrong manner—the man Willow cannot get out of her head . . . or her heart. Even though her friends beg her not to give up her dream of happiness, Willow is determined to do the right thing for those who are dearest to her. But which path does God want Willow to take: a life of duty and commitment . . . or a life of everlasting love?
If you would like to read the first chapter of Twice Loved, go HERE
There is something appealing to me about a woman who will wrestle a man in the middle of a river to prove her point. Lori Copeland has created a fabulously feisty character in Willow Madison! In her latest book, Twice Loved
So come along to
Friday, August 22, 2008
I took some time to interview Dean, and I think you will be just as touched and amazed as I was to share his insight on his work, his family and his faith. I look forward to the stories that will follow this one! Please welcome Dean Briggs to my Window!
You do a masterful job of capturing the struggle taking place in today’s society. It seems many are like the nameless, “beckoned to the numbing lure of forgetfulness.” (p, 226) You describe what many long to wipe from their world with drugs, alcohol, entertainment, ect… “As the hues of a living world fell into gloom, gladly would they surrender the emotional burden of hope (and with hope responsibility) for the numbing comfort of insignificance.” (p231)
Is this a purposeful theme in the story? Is it something you have watched your own children struggle against? As Christians, how can we combat this despair in today’s society?
The themes are definitely intentional. Of course, as a storyteller, I made sure any subtexts are natural to the plot, not artificially inserted. Preachiness gets us nowhere. Our kids smell it a mile away (and it ruins a lot of Christian fiction, unfortunately). But let’s be honest: our kids are the target of an unprecedented assault, at a very fundamental level. The very notion of a vital, God-given personal identity is being systematically destroyed.
This is occurring in multiple ways, though some are more easily recognized than others. For example, at the risk of being too philosophical, consumerism is reducing individuality to little more than one of many “buyer’s impulse”—like Pavlov’s dog—wherein contentment can only be acquired with the purchase of the Next Big Thing. We’re spoiling our kids with excess. Then there’s Gender Identity—that clear-cut gift of birth, a once obvious Either/Or equation—now a blurry line in the minds of tens of thousands. It’s hard to comprehend, but so many of our kids no longer have the simple confidence of feeling like a young man or a young woman! They’re confused. It’s staggering. Plus, with the excessive stimulation of the new media, adult-level experiences are being practiced at younger and younger ages, robbing our kids of the joy of patient discovery. (As a result, look in their eyes: many of our young people are utterly joyless. “Been there, done that.”)
All these things promise an illusion of identity, but they lie. They accelerate the wrong parts and dull the meaningful ones. Our kids are being sexualized and objectified earlier than ever before. Kids are getting used to feeling secondary to their parents’ lives. They don’t know the soul-balm of being the apple of someone else’s eye. They have grown up in an age when children are an accessory that can be discarded in the womb. What does that tell them?
Finally, and most brutally, the evolutionary world view has succeeded to a large extent in stripping the notion of a divine image—of the human soul being crafted in the likeness of God. The value of Genesis 1-3 on our notion of self is incalculable. It is also an increasingly foreign concept to many kids. I’m valuable...made in God’s image...not just an accident of nature? Yes! So it may be a small attempt, but I suppose this book is me launching my own little, private war against the lies. Any one of these lies is significant in and of itself, but the cumulative effect on this generation has been truly horrific.
The Grey/Black/White colors of the men and women in the abbeys seemed to represent ideas such as truth/lies/inability to stand on the side of either. In The Book of Names, the target of the enemy is the young people just as it is in reality. As the father of a blended family of eight children how to you encourage your own household against the pressures of today’s society?
It’s a big task, and I blow it so many times a week, it’s not even funny. But being intentional is a big part of my strategy. My wife and I schedule individual time with our kids. We try to protect that time, no matter what. Otherwise, with eight, the week is just gone and nothing has happened. We get “face time” with them, where they are right in our face, and they can feel like the only thing in our world. We tell them they are special and why (which means we have to know them well enough to be specific!). We spend time together as a family, just goofing off, playing games, or getting into the Word. We’ve felt challenged of late not to take the view that we can simply outsource their spiritual growth to the local church. It’s our job. More than that, it’s our privilege, our joy, to help identify God’s plan for their lives and equip them to pursue it. Even something like chores becomes a holy tool. Chores teach more than responsibility. Whether they realize it or not, it also teaches a child that they have a place in the family, and that place has consequences. If they don’t do their job, others notice, others feel the lack. In a small, but meaningful way, this roots them to home...and that’s a good thing. Like everybody else, of course, we get it wrong. And then as we’re laying in bed, one of us will speak up. We’ll own up to some inconsistency, regroup, and charge the hill again the next day.
When you set out to write the story, did you intend to use the loss of the boys’ mother as an emotional springboard into their adventure? (I ask this because my own family is the result of my father losing his first wife to cancer) How difficult was that to include in the story?
Very difficult, but necessary. I originally began plotting this book before Amy (my late wife) contracted cancer. Then, it was just a rousing adventure. When she passed away, I lay in bed for six months, devastated. We had a rare, truly beautiful marriage. But the urgency of reclaiming my boy’s lives became my new mission. I wanted to give them a vehicle that somehow combined the thrill and magic of a good fantasy adventure, with a life story they could relate to, and through both, perhaps, give them the tools and the emotional language to grieve. I wanted us, together, to reengage life. Story seemed like the best vehicle. Great, heroic, escapist fun, with a back door to their hearts. It’s been hard, but they get to be the stars of their own adventure. And I know their mom would like that. So it’s almost autobiographical--as much as a Narnia-esque fantasy series can be.
What do your own children think of The Book of Names?
They love it! Like I said, they’re the heroes. What teen and pre-teen boy wouldn’t want to be the hero of an entire world? And it’s close to home. Their own names (with slight variations) are the names of the four brothers who enter through the magic Viking portal into the world of Karac Tor, where names are being stolen from the youth. Since I’m finished with Book 2 and starting Book 3, I’ll update them from time to time as I write. I’ll say, “Gatlin, you’re about to learn how to control the wind!” And he’ll just beam and say, “Garret gets to control the wind! Cool! When do I get to read?” My oldest son has already read it and loves it.
Have you always been a fan of fantasy fiction? What are some other types of books you enjoy? Have you always enjoyed history?
I’m a huge fan of fantasy. I grew up devouring every work I could get my hands on: Kay, Donaldson, Brooks, McKillip, Le Guin, L’Engle, Cooper. I developed a taste for what’s good, what’s compelling, what’s epic; also what’s cheap and slipshod and pulp. I came to prize vivid, lyrical prose. At the time, apart from Tolkien and Lewis, there was no such thing as Christian fantasy---and ironically, even their works were viewed with suspicion by large parts of the church. So I’m hopeful people will really support the works that are out there, so that their own children can be assured of great fiction in a Harry Potter world. Yes, I love non-fiction, too: most often C.S. Lewis, Watchman Nee, Andrew Murray, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, Dallas Willard, J.I. Packer, Bill Johnson, Francis Frangipane. A wide range, actually. But if I’m tearing into a novel, you can bet it’s fantasy.
Can you share some of what God is doing in your life? Words of encouragement for your readers?
Pretty simple: don’t give up. Life can be hard. But God is faithful. We all make choices. We live with the consequences. We do the best we know, at any given moment. Sometimes we see a part of our life thrive. Other times, we see it wither in the heat of adversity. I’m now starting over with a new life, a new love. I’m fortunate to have experienced love twice. What does that tell me? Life can be hard, but it is also meant to be rich. On both ends of the spectrum, God is moving, unseen. With us. At the end of the day, that’s all I know. It’s all that matters.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!
NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).
After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.
Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.
List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Watch the Trailer:
Enter the Contest:
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Doors shall open / Doors shall close
Forgotten curse / Blight the land
Four names, one blood / Fall or stand
If lost the great one / Fallen low
Rises new / Ancient foe
Darkest path / River black
Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack
If once and future / Lord of war,
Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,
Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,
Prepare / For day of reckoning
If Aion’s breath / For music cursed
Sings making things / Made perverse,
Fate shall split / Road in twain
One shall lose / One shall gain
If secret lore / Then be found
Eight plus one / All unbound
Beast shall come / Six must go
Doors shall open / Doors shall close
If buried deep / Hidden seen
Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green
Nine shall bow / Nine more rise
Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine
If falling flame / Burning pure
Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard
Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread
End of days / Land be red
When final days / Bring final woes
Doors shall open / Doors shall close
Fate for one / For all unleashed
Come the Prince / Slay the beast
Cross the water / Isgurd’s way
White horse / Top the waves
Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!
Aion rides / To save the day
— The Ravna’s Last Riddle
The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.
Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.
Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.
All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.
But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.
He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.
Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.
Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.
Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.
Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?
Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.
Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.
He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.
“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”
But not any warmer.
“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.
Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.
“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.
Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to escape...at least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing
Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.
He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.
The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.
New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.
He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.
How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—
It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.
His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?
For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.
Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...
He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.
Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.
Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”
Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.
“Wondered how things were going.”
“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”
Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”
“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”
Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.
“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.
“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.
Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.
“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.
Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”
“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”
“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”
“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”
“I don’t know, but they’re still—”
“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”
All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.
“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.
The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.
Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.
Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.
Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.
“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”
“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”
“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”
Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, but...do carrier pigeons even fly anymore?
“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”
“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.
Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.
“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”
“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”
Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.
“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”
While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper messages...by bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?
Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.
“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”
Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”
“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”
The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”
Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”
“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”
Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”
This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”
He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”
“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”
Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.
“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”
Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”
He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.
“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”
“To know a name is to know a thing for what it truly is, not what it appears to be. It is essence, connection, vitality – the difference between surrender and mastery.” (p. 141)
Who are Hadyn and Ewan Barlowe - the sons of a famous (slightly infamous) history professor or Champions of Karac Tor? Are these two teen brothers following the instruction of their father or are they answering the call of the great Aion? Do these two brothers have the strength to reach beyond the pain of death and conquer despair? These are only a few of many questions that can be answered by D. Barkley Briggs’ novel, The Book of Names.
D. Barkley Briggs has created an enchanting tale indeed! The Book of Names takes two very average teen boys and transports them into the world of Karac Tor. All along their fantastical adventure the two young men have to reach beyond themselves and learn how to capture a strength greater than their own dreams to return home. The spiritual analogies are so seamlessly woven into the story that I would often have moments of insight flash into my mind long after I laid the book down!
In Briggs’ tale, there is a battle between those who know they are named and loved and those who have become captive to a nameless despair. The struggle subtly builds in intensity until you find yourself anxiously cheering the Barlowe brothers to victory. This is beautifully written and amazing story of courage and strength that carries you on an exciting journey and leaves you begging for more!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Do you collect rare books?
I have a few rare books I picked up simply because I needed them as research tools for the August Adams series. I'd love to be serious collector...but it's an expensive hobby!
Is it your collecting or curiosity that leads you to such fantastic novel ideas?
Definitely curiosity. I love the collecting aspect too, but it's the absolutely unbelievable historical facts I find that drive me to write stories about August
Do you have anyone to assist you in your research or do you do it on your own?
For ILLUMINATED and HOUSE OF WOLVES, I hired research assistants to help me track down elusive facts. I'd send them on wild chases in an effort to connect historical theories. It was a great collective effort! For THE DEADLY HOURS, which won't come out till next August, I took a different approach. I decided to visit every location I was going to talk about, and dig a lot deeper personally into the history. The research took me from the Cloisters, one of the most amazing museums I've ever seen, all the way to
How do you find your way through the vast amounts of information?
It's tricky. I feel like I've already dug up enough information for dozens of August
Do you frequent museums or antique shops? Libraries? What are some of your favorites?
I love museums and libraries! Some of my favorites: As far as libraries go, nothing beats the Library of Congress in
Has ancient history always been an interest of yours? What draws you to these historic characters?
I'm not sure exactly when the bug bit me, but I don't remember being very interested in history in school. I guess some of my fascination goes back to the first time I heard about the Gutenberg Bible....and then learned more about Gutenberg himself. So much mystery...so many things unknown...it intrigued me to the point that I knew I had to write about it! I just thought it would be fun, for both the readers and myself, to place the historical facts inside of a thriller story. That's how ILLUMINATED was birthed....and that's how all my August Adams stories start...from real history!
What will August and April be doing next?
I can't completely give away the story... But as I mentioned earlier,
What exciting things is God doing in your life right now?
I'm so blessed to have an amazing wife and three great kids...spending time with them is the most important thing right now. Whether we're watching tv on the couch, or going somewhere fun and new, I learn so much by being with them. God is really teaching me about what it means to "serve your neighbor"...even when that "neighbor" is under your own roof!
THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR ENTHUSIASM AND SUPPORT!