In Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, God defines a Sanctuary.
The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone; the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each gate made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a sanctuary in it because the Lord God the Almighty is its sanctuary.
What defines a sanctuary? Is it what people take pride in – their wealth in gold and precious stones? However, God declares such things will be nothing more than building materials where he resides? The most valuable thing will be who not what is revered. There the Lord’s light surrounds those who seek sanctuary in him (a clear metaphor for the revelation of wisdom and truth).
Where do you invest your hope in life? Where do you invest your time and energy? Your retirement portfolio might be the envy of your peers, but what good is your grand portfolio at the end of your days?
Unlike Disney and Universal Studios where fantasies are promised to come true, there is a cost to enter their gates. However, God’s sanctuary requires only an affirming, sincere smile to enter and discover God’s invaluable, immeasurable grace.
What is the focus of your life? What relationships are more important, financial or spiritual ones? Remember, Jesus declared, You cannot serve God and money equally? One will influence your interest in the other.
This message rests within the pages of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories. Discover how the notion of Sanctuary galvanized the folks in lil’ ol’ Shiloh after Theo Phillips arrives in town and sheds light upon the dark secrets, scandal, and tragedy for all to confront. TMBrownAuthor.com
The pursuit of Wisdom is a most worthy and desirable journey. These facts remain true about the pursuit of it.
There will always be those wiser than ourselves. Conversely, this should become true too, others will see us as wise to them.
Wisdom is the application of goodness, righteousness, and justice, ergo godliness, in all choices of life.
Wisdom can never be fully reached in one’s lifetime, but its pursuit remains a worthy destination. The further one travels acquiring and understanding it, one’s relationship with God grows.
Wisdom defines one’s spiritual maturity.
Sadly, each of us recognizes wisdom residing in others long before we recognize it in ourselves.
I believe before one can truly attain wisdom one must grasp the dichotomies in the possible consequences for choices we make in life: Goodness against evil. Righteousness opposed to wickedness. Justice in contrast to injustice.
Yes, my younger friends, the pursuit of wisdom is a most worthy goal in life, and as you likely have recognized some degree of wisdom in others, others will look up to you as you look to your far wiser friends.
Wisdom should be a cherished destination in one’s life; the pursuit reveals God. The further you progress along the way of wisdom fading regrets will lose their grasp; any notions of retreat dissipate; all reserve left behind.
Again, no one attains wisdom, but the pursuit makes you wiser. Embrace the quest it takes you for the rest of your life.
After many years studying God’s Word, I wrote my Shiloh novels about a time-lost South Georgia town with colorful, realistic characters dealing with choices and consequences in life, and the response of others to our choices. I pray my grandchildren will eventually grasp the lessons that reside in the stories and become wiser as a result, and hopefully long before I discovered the value of wisdom in one’s life.
If you choose to read any of my inspirational Southern mysteries, please let me know what lessons you found within the twists and turns between the covers of each story.
At the Conclusion of ALL Understanding, GOD Smiles
In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: Â fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl 12:9-14 (HCSB)
At the conclusion of all understanding, God awaits. Why do so many people desire to read motivational books? Why do so many people pursue a regiment of devotional writings for encouragement in their lives? What benefit resides within the proverbs and parables and passages of wisdom? Will man’s attempts to interpret, comprehend, and translate God’s Word ever come to an end?
Why do I write what God has inspired me to express? Well, simply put, because maybe someone needs to hear what God has stirred in me. I confess the greatest benefactor for all that I’ve written after all these years is myself! As I have pondered the passages and prayerfully sought relevance of the wisdom treasured in God’s Word, my outlook on life has been altered. All the feedback received from others has also been a blessing to me. However, at the end of everything, the greatest reward I have received is a sense of God’s affirming smile along the way.
Am I wise? Certainly not. I am not any wiser than most people I know. Am I a good teacher? Certainly not. I am not smarter than many of the people I know. There are many wiser people than me who are definitely far better teachers. So what validation do I offer sharing what I have attempted to express after all these years? The only worthwhile validation: GOD’s inspiration and affirmation.
Have I written anything new and unique? Of course not! There most definitely is nothing new under the sun after all these thousands of years. All I can do is reveal how I interpret the wisdom written long ago and share what I sense is real and relevant in hopes we all may live in a better relationship with one another, pleasing God.
I pray that for a brief moment we all can take a step back from our break-neck fast and crowded lives and grasp a portion of God’s will, ways and wisdom, which reveals time and again that at the end of all things: God patiently waits for us! All our actions, attitudes, and words, even our very thoughts, spoken or scribbled, will record how we have lived our life before God. What will be the testament to your life? Will it comfort you on that day when you stand before God? What relationships can you claim that will generate a smile on God’s face, yet also which will cause us to writhe as well?
I pray what I have been able to share with you has helped you to ponder your life, your relationships, and most importantly, your awareness of God as your daily inspirational guide.
Just as the Bible records so many relevant stories and parables, God has inspired me to write stories that apply through the lives of the many memorable characters how to tackle tough circumstances and formidable challenges that life can throw at each of us in real life. I certainly hope you’ll enjoy investing in my stories for their hours of entertainment and inspiration too. Please go to TMBrownAuthor.com to learn more about my inspirational Southern mystery series.
Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun. For if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile. Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sights of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment. Remove sorrow from your heart and put away pain from your flesh, because youth and the prime of life are fleeting. Eccl 11:7-10 (HCSB)
Darkness by definition is the absence of light. Absolute darkness leaves no reference points to stumble around. In total darkness, only fear exists. Fear reigns because we do not know what the next step will bring. Future hope as a destination does not exist to focus our eyes.
In our darkest days there is only desolation and desperation. Yet, even in the darkest days, God provides us with sufficient light to find our way. His love is so great that even when we cower in the darkness, he seeks to draw us toward his gift of light. However, as the passage reveals, our fears of the light reveal the state of our lives. Light reveals truth. Though truth sets us free, it also reveals the shortcomings of our life.
Light is relative. In God’s presence there is absolute light; no darkness exists. In God’s presence man risks entering the “shekinah” glory of God – God’s light of truth.It not only reveals but also cleanses away what is not pure. Man must be exposed to God’s radiant light to purify him, dispelling all remnants of darkness. However, our memory of those dark days draws us closer to the light!
Hope, faith and love thrive in the light, whereas fear, desolation, and desperation rooted in darkness are cast away. From isolation and separation we discover fellowship and lordship. In pure light, we focus upon the “good” and discover the “truth.” Both are a gift of God as we leave behind the dark days, and pursue the light.
One final thought, once we value light, we become light to those left in the darkness. It is for this purpose God drawed us out of the darkness. His radiant light is meant to be shared, never hoarded as if given exclusively. It is a gift to share and is inexhaustible sharing with others.
Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Three things are stately in their stride; even four are stately in their walk: a lion, which is mightiest among beasts and doesn’t retreat before anything, a strutting rooster, a goat, and a king at the head of his army. If you have been foolish by exalting yourself, or if you’ve been scheming, put your hand over your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, and twisting a nose draws blood, and stirring up anger produces strife. Prov 30:29-33 (HCSB)
There is a difference between “strutting your stuff” before the victory and after the victory. In one case you are standing tall in confidence after the convincing victory has been won. The other is cocky swagger attempting to ward off any challenges that you may not be able to overcome. This passage has the imagery of the animal kingdom whereby confidence comes from experience, not from fear or intimidation.
To be “stately” means to be walk majestically in full confidence knowing who you are and what you truly are capable of achieving in life. You have been crowned the champion and are recognized and acknowledged as such because of your accomplishments. Such confidence comes also when you know you have worked hard and walk onto the field of competition with the best trainer and coach also on your side. In life, we can realize that confidence when we allow God to guide and direct our lives, because he promises us the crown of victory, if we do not give up and persevere in the struggles we face.
In stark contrast, there are those who “strut their stuff” only to pretend to be what they know deep inside they are not. They may dress the part, and may even appear intimidating, however their strut is founded upon their fear of failure; their fear of being exposed for what they really are! Their bark is loud; their threats fierce, but they will do about anything to not actually engage in the contest. They are more of the fool exalting one’s self and the schemer trying to get away with more than they are capable of actually accomplishing. However, all they manage to accomplish is to agitate and stir up others and to create strife.
A real champion walks in humble confidence because he or she has nothing to prove, and their reputation precedes them. All the challengers know who is on his or her side, and little needs to be said – no boasting, bragging; scheming or deception. A Christian anchored in God’s will, ways, and wisdom can realize the same confidence in life. As Paul said to Timothy:
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for, the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:7-10 (HCSB)
Exude the confidence of the Lion of Judah! When we have total faith, all fear is gone; our faith contributes to our confidence as we persevere through this life wearing the crown of victory which God promised. Do not be deceived by those who strut their own stuff, even within the Church. There are some who claim to be Christians; they openly boast and brag, even foolishly scheme in hopes they will be seen to be what they are not. But, strife and anger usually follow in their wake. Time adn trials reveal their fear, not their brandished faith.
Which are you? Humbly confident or foolishly arrogant? In the end, it matters only that God knows who the real victors are!
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: the ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; locusts have no king, yet all of them march in ranks; a lizard can be caught in your hands, yet it lives in kings’ palaces. Prov 30:24-28 (HCSB)
Around my house one can find an ant, a rabbit (cousin to the hyrax), a locust, and no doubt a lizard. Each one on their own is but an amusement or curiosity, but one fact of interest is that each is a member of a larger group that can demonstrate how they find safety and security in their numbers. All four of these creatures that God has placed upon our earth has demonstrated their propensity for survival that is more independent than that of man. Even when they are not obvious to us, they thrive because they understand how to survive in even the harshest environments.
Ants understand the importance of saving and storing food for the period of the year when they disappear deep into the ground during the extended cold days of winter. Long after man has been removed from the land, the ant will scurry across the landscape, because God created them with their instinct to survive by planning ahead and taking nothing for granted.
Hyraxes are rabbit-like rodents, actually more akin to the elephant, because they are hooved-animals that burrow in the cliffs of the Middle-Eastern world. They are common;y found in colonies of 50 or more. Yet, they understand for their security that they must find a safe place, a refuge from predators and the elements. The hyrax knows that to wander from the safety of the cliffs or their burrows means almost certain death. No matter how curious they become, they remain ever vigilant and close to the safety of their homes.
Locusts move in huge groups foraging for food. A single locust is a novelty, but when a horde of locusts appears, watch out! Unlike other groups of insects that have a queen or king, locusts travel in mutual cooperation with one another. Their survival rests solely upon their numbers working together for their common good.
Lizard are survivors. They adapt to their environment, changing colors, blending into the rocks or foiliage they call home. They are easy prey when found; harmless when caught, yet they thrive in many out of the way places; anywhere they can camoflage themselves to survive through adaptability. They attempt not to stand out or make themselves obvious to predators or their prey.
Each of these creatures is almost insignificant in of themselves but when we take the time to learn about their ways, God has sent us a message about our own survival. There is a lesson from each about how to live our lives successfully. And, the most important difference between them and us is this: We can know our Creator by seeking His will, ways, and wisdom, and discover a relationship that secures our life far safer than any man-made or natural scheme we may devise on our own.
God is our faithful Rock, Refuge, and Shield.
Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great! Luke 6:46-49 (HCSB)
In my Shiloh Mystery series, Theo clings to time with God with uncertainty envelops him as he and his wife Liddy realize thay must expose the scandals and dark secrets haunting their new community. TMBrownAuthor.com
Family memories inspire the most believable stories…
T. M. Brown, Southern & Inspirational Author
Folks have asked about my Christmas in Shiloh backstory timeline and how family plays such a key role in the story of Sanctuary. Here’s a kernel of inspiration that came from one of my grandsons performing in front of the Christmas tree when he was but five. These are the moments to be treasured and worthy of inclusion in my stories of Theo and Liddy Phillips overcoming their fears as they unravel mysteries in Shiloh. Their love of family is the fiber that binds their courage as they confront scandals and uncover dark secrets in their new small-town community.
Click the book cover images below to order your copy of Sanctuary or Testament today. Buy an extra copy or two as gifts for your book-loving family or friends.
Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family.
Let us not become weary when doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
When things are going well we should feel like nothing can stop us from continuing to do good. But, what happens when doing what is right and good becomes hard, and others are watching? Will you remain steadfast and NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT or buckle under the burden?
What happens to our enthusiasm when we receive the recognition we feel we deserve for doing good?
What about when choosing to do good means you may be the only one doing it?
No matter what, we are encouraged to stay the course, choosing to do what is right and good. There is a promise connected to staying the course, but the reward may be merely getting to see the fruit of our efforts – a changed life although nothing materially changes for us.
If such is our reward, will you continue to choose to do good? That is the test that God may place before you. Will you stay the course no matter what?
Please know doing what is right and good can be a challenge, taxing our willpower, but we also have a stronger power than our willpower — God’s spiritual power within us. Make sure God’s spiritual power empowers our willpower. Then you will NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT doing what is right and good!
Would you trust God when the choice you have to make conflicts with what may be in our personal best interest and cost more than we think we can afford? What price do you place on doing what is right and good? Consider the plight of John Priestly and Theo Phillips in Sanctuary.
Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17
In the time of Paul’s journeys to plant new churches and his writings to encourage the new churches, the weapon of war was the sword. Yet, Paul stated in his metaphor in our battle as a Christian soldier, our weapon is not made of iron finely honed to rip flesh and bone, but of the Spirit of God, which is His message of salvation and truth. Yet, in another verse, the metaphor says the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and can cut deeper. Why is this? Well, the Word of God reveals the truth about us and our nature. God ought to know us pretty good so His Word or His Message can cut deep into our inner being to inflict change that sometimes hurts. It hurts to realize we have sinned against God by our words and deeds, yet God still loves us and desires for us to walk away from that life of sin and selfishness. God’s Word, or message of Hope and Love, is found through the life example and teachings of Jesus, the Christ.
When we carry the Word of God into the battlefield in which we war against this world, knowing our weapons are more powerful than theirs boosts our confidence.
How have you invested in God’s Word as your weapon of choice today?
How have you invested in God’s Word today? Is it the one weapon you never neglect to carry each day?
To discover relevant applications of the value of daily devotions in God’s Word, might I suggest investing in reading my Shiloh Novels, Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories, and Testament, An Unexpected Return. Both exemplify a commitment to allowing God’s Word to be a part of your daily walk and seeing God guiding our choices and the consequences of those choices. Both are fun mystery/thrillers but include how God can be a steady guide in times of scandal, tragedy, and uncertainty. Go to TMBrownAuthor.com for more information. Available in paperback and Kindle editions.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35
To become an encourager to others, we need to allow encouragers into our life. To encourage those who are weaker, we must identify our weaknesses. To feed the hungry, we should know the pangs of hunger.
Fasting has a personal purpose that emphasizes our dependent relationship upon God, but it also reminds us what it means to do without and experience genuine hunger.
I challenge you to fast; learn what it means to feel real hunger pangs. You will find yourself closer to God through the experience, which will allow you to better sympathize with others in genuine need. God can use you then to become a better encourager effectively reaching out and caring for others in need.
For stories that reflect the lasting benefit of being a genuine encourager, visit TMBrownAuthor.com and order a copy of Sanctuary or the sequel, Testament.
Are You Willing to Step Beyond the Safety of Your Front Porch?
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
To what extent do you dare to reach out and touch someone? Too many well-meaning Christians stand feet-planted on their safe front porches, preferring to shout the good news some passerby might hear. Then there are some brave soles who go out beyond the safety of their surroundings and venture onto less familiar grounds where those with the greatest need reside daily. There they touch lives and make friendships so that the God’s message can be seen and heard through face-to-face conversation.
We must become like Paul; willing to leave our comfort zone to impact others in need. We must be willing to get to know them and they must get to know you before they trust you and the message you wish to share. Caring and sharing cannot be done from a distance. It only can be accomplished within arms reach! And your arms only stretch as far as your feet take them. What holds you back from reaching out to others? Are you waiting for them to come to you or crossing the bridge to meet them where they are?
Are you trying to be all things to all people to make a difference in some who will seek to listen?
TMBrownAuthor.com – my stories try to reveal these messages through the interactions and often conflict between people. Visit my author page to learn more. Fiction is nothing more than real life and truth masked to make the story more palatable and in some cases more plausible. Even the Bible carries such stories to share an underlying message or truth.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Does your heart have God as its anchor and the words and example of Christ Jesus inspiring you? If so, the hope of dwelling forever with God is real to you. This eternal hope removes all doubt that God cares for you and you discover his encouragement, empowerment, and equipment to face every inevitable challenge in this lifetime. And, all this is God’s gift for the asking because he wants you to experience life with him, and to witness to all who may ask for the reason of the hope you have within you.
So these questions remain: Are you prepared each day to explain the reason for the hope that resides within you? Do you know the heartfelt words that will testify of Christ’s influence on your life?
Our testimony before others is not about quoting scriptures or singing hymns of praise but sharing in your own words what it means to have God as the anchor in your heart! “Being prepared” is not intended to be a motto, but a new way of life for every born-again, child of God.
A man cannot help others unless he can learn to help himself, and having God as the anchor of one’s heart is the beginning of always being prepared to respond to others in need.
Therefore, if you…remember that your brother has something against you, first go and be reconciled to your brother… Matthew 5:23-24
Okay, first of all, it is important that all our relationships are right before we can have a right relationship with God. Note in this particular verse, it is not that you have a problem with someone, but that someone has a problem with you! If someone feels slighted, cheated, or merely angered by something you have said or done it is imperative on our part to reach out to that person and seek reconciliation. Never walk away thinking it is their problem even if you are not angry. If someone is not right with you, God declares the responsibility lies with you to make it right.
More than likely, people develop issues with others due to misunderstandings or something failed to be communicated clearly. Any interpretation of the facts without your input only fuels the other person’s fears of rejection. Certainly, I cannot promise that all the fences may get mended by your earnest efforts, but the majority will. For those seemingly unmendable fences, allow time to do its work. Rest assured that you at least made a God-pleasing effort to make it right.
Remember we are God’s ambassadors and He too works daily to patch up broken relationships between people. Reconciliation is God’s goal with all His creation. It’s not that God needs our relationships for any ego purpose. He desires our relationship with Him and with all others to be right because we are His creation. So do as God is doing each day and go the extra mile when trying to make right our relationships that have gone astray no matter who is at fault or to blame.
“…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
What about your day-to-day living causes you to lose focus as a Christian? Are there choices you’ve made that continue to hurt you physically, mentally or spiritually? The Apostle Paul rightly proclaims an urgent request of all young Christians – STOP doing what you used to do. It is interfering with your new life being like Christ. Take away the idols that hinder you and sidetrack you from enjoying the fullness that God desires for you.
Who we are as a person begins with a thought that grows and sprouts like a seed planted in fertile soil into visible attitude and action. An incorrect notion may seem innocent enough, but it may prevent you from pleasing God, pleasing only yourself.
Consider all the areas of your life. Pray about the changes you need to make in your life. Some will be harder than others, but your decision to change will reap incredible rewards. You will also discover that there is nothing you cannot change about yourself if you allow God to be the impetus for change. He will become and provide his spirit of change.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, [it returns] to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again. All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no memory of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no memory among those who follow [them]. Eccl 1:1-11 (HCSB)
We all want to be different, or at the least, uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life the well-traveled and well-marked road of life prodded by many long before us, and many more will assuredly follow us on this same road. The choice we get to make is how we navigate this road of life among all the others who share the road with us. Let us be clear; there are no new paths to choose, just enticing highways with dead-ends should any of us choose to wander off onto our ways. God declares there is but one way to follow him. All other ways are futile and paths of destruction for any of us who decide to navigate our ways.
Look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave specific ways, just as the stars and planets have predictably paraded in the heavens as reliable guides for millennia without deviation. The living creatures on land, in the waters, and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in their never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given mankind an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. When we fail to check with the Creator along the way, our eyes and ears become preoccupied with the prospects of the new, the uncharted paths, we tend to perceive them as new to us, but is not nascent to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – nothing exists outside Creator God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
So what must we do? Is futility a trait of maturity? We mature as we realize just because something appears new to us, nothing is new to God. The moment we assume we have captured an original idea, a uniquely created revelation of some truth within our mind, we usurp the role of God in our life. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the absolutes and realities that flow from our Creator by his grace and will. He alone knows what we are capable of comprehending and benefiting from for his higher purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the discoveries found through exploring God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our selfish desires and understanding…because on our own, we can only claim to discover the dead-end that waits for our arrival! Life awaits all who trust God’s sure ways and perfect will. But God created us with a choice to choose? Do not let futility rule your life.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)
Being told you have a lot of promise to run the race doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does guarantee victory in the race either. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name, nor the victory for a race we have not run.
Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.
The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s lifetime of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.
I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.
Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.
Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way because he has run the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorn the crown waiting for you.
For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.
In Sanctuary, my premier Southern mystery, readers are introduced to the quaint, time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. The story begins as Theo and his wife Liddy desire to relocate and retire back to their country roots, after investing four decades of their lives in the shadows of Atlanta. According to the story, it is Liddy who discovers an advertisement for a quaint Craftsman home that convinced her Shiloh would be a perfect fit for them.
But, it’s what readers sense early on as they arrive in Shiloh that draws them into the story? First of all, Shiloh’s reputation paints a serene picture about this time-lost town, but like its namesake from biblical lore, reputation and present reality are subject to the whims and shortcomings of men.
Like the Shiloh of old, Sanctuary reveals that the once proud Shiloh had lost its luster and position as the county seat decades earlier. Alexandria, like Jerusalem in biblical lore, surpassed Shiloh as the center of power and influence, leaving the proud people in Shiloh with their beautiful, antebellum courthouse on the town square a victim of progress. According to the story, Alexandria blossomed during the post-WWII boom and expansion in Georgia, while Shiloh stagnated and struggled, like many real-life small towns in South Georgia. Shiloh’s conciliation came in the preserving of its beloved courthouse as it received a facelift and became reconfigured into the town’s city hall. However, the facelift and remodeling of their sesquicentenary courthouse left the edifice’s skeleton of 19th Century hewn timbers and ornate woodwork intact. Decades later, their beloved historical courthouse would be razed to the ground and steal away the life of a town hero, who rescued others from the growing inferno.
Biblical Shiloh became the first seat of governance once Joshua and the nation of Israel completed their conquest of the Promised Land. The ark of the covenant and tabernacle that had traveled for forty years found a seemingly permanent resting place in Shiloh. Israel’s priests and judges (leaders) established Shiloh as the central seat in the Promised Land until Israel felt unsettled about the way Israel was governed, and desired to be like the other nations. Not long after Israel turned to the rule of king’s, rather than priests acting on God’s behalf, Shiloh fell victim to King David’s selection of Jerusalem as his site for his palace and the building of the new temple. A rival army burned and ransacked Shiloh not long before David ascended the throne as the second king of Israel. However, he turned his back on Shiloh and chose Jerusalem for his palace.
The name Shiloh to this day still paints a different picture than the historical reality which its namesakes have experienced. One of the bloodiest and decisive battles fought during the Civil War became known as the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee.
Even the Hebrew origin of the name Shiloh means “place of peace,” but as history revealed, “peace” requires the cooperation of men to live up to the expectation of maintaining peace in their community. Sanctuary and its sequel play on the dichotomy of Shiloh’s reputation and the reality of its present state as Theo and Liddy soon discover upon their arrival to Shiloh that there’s a rift in the tranquility of the community.
I’d love to connect with you and offer the latest on my book tour schedule and insight into this Southern author.
Please leave any comments or questions you may have about Sanctuary or about me. Also, feel free to ask other questions concerning the upcoming sequel, Testament, An Unexpected Return, coming out March 29, 2018.
All good fiction is deeply planted and nourished in the soil of truth and reality. The settings and characters in our novels do not spring up ex-nihilo (out of nothingness). Good novels blur the lines between what is fact and fiction allowing the reader to enjoy the totality of the story as though it is real. Nothing brings a smile quicker than to be asked, “Where is Shiloh, I want to go there.”
Words of Wisdom: Women, Beware the Beauty Beyond the Buttons and Bows
Moreover, the Lord says: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton (seductive) eyes, prancing and mincing about as they go, tinkling their ankle bracelets. Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalps of the daughters of Zion with a scab, and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will strip away the bravery of tinkling ornaments, cauls*, crescents, chains, bracelets, and mufflers (veils), headdresses, leg ornaments, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, signet rings, nose jewels, festive apparel, mantels (shawls), wimples (head and neck coverings), crisping pins (purses), hand glasses (mirrors), fine linen, hoods, and veils. It shall come to pass, instead of fragrant smells there will be putridness; instead of a girdle, a rent (torn cloth); instead of well-styled hair, baldness; instead of fine stomacher (decorative underclothing), sackcloth; branding (burn mark) instead of beauty. Your men will fall by the sword, your strength (might) in warfare. Then her gates will lament and mourn; desolate, she will sit on the ground. In that day seven women will take hold of one man, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own apparel, only let us be called by your name. Take away our reproach.” Isaiah 3:16-4:1
The Bible focuses so heavily upon man that sometimes women appear mostly neglected, mere innocent bystanders, except whenever women get portrayed as convenient scapegoats for the missteps of men. However, some significant passages warn women of their unique godly responsibilities. Isaiah offers one of those passages which also reveals the reasoning behind the attitude and attire of nuns in the Catholic Church. The passage contrasts the worldly view of women versus God’s ideal for women.
This passage provides a timely relevant message for all young women to ponder. And here are a few questions for the young ladies reading this passage: First, do you feel God made a mistake when he created you? Do you believe all those buttons and bows make you more attractive and appealing than you are? Do you think God prefers you all decked out and gussied up, rather than the way he created you? Why do you invest so much time creating an image that is not the natural you? Do you only feel beautiful by adorning and gussying yourself?
I believe this passage reveals that all the rogue, eyeliner, blush, and fuss fixing your hair does nothing for the condition of a young lady’s heart and soul. Of course, one’s vanity smiles and sashays when you adorn yourself just to draw attention. And, for what purposes? Is all your effort meant to appease Go, man, or self? From which of these can anyone gain lasting peace and security in life?
Since the earliest days, we know for a fact that women of ancient Egyptian and Sumerian cultures began to adorn themselves with jewelry, bangles, and fine apparel, and even paint their faces. Many millennia later, women in almost every culture continue this practice, so maybe history argues that God intended women to go through all the fuss of wearing fancy buttons and bows to attract the man of their desires. But, is that what God says is the most important thing a woman should place her focus?
If a woman’s vanity is focused upon her outer beauty to capture the hearts of men, has she abandoned her most significant relationship with God, her Creator? Will the man of her desires only see her for the contrived, temporal outer image, and then become disillusioned by what he discovers beneath the facade? Rather than trying to appeal to natural, sinful man, why not seek to be desirous according to God’s will, ways, and wisdom?
Remember, at the end of the day, long after you have captured the heart of any man, you must eventually remove the buttons and bows and wash your face. Will he still see your genuine, natural beauty that God gifted you? What kind of glamour will hold fast the relationship God intended between a man and a woman? God brings a man and woman together through the mutual desire of their hearts and souls uniting them as one, not all the fancy buttons and bows.
*caul (cowl) – (literally, helmeted head) is a piece of membrane that can cover a newborn’s head and face. Though rare and harmless, it is removed by the doctor or midwife upon delivery of the child. There are various types of cauls from a thin film to more of a cocoon-like covering of an infant.
In medieval times a caul on a newborn was an omen that the child was destined for greatness. The midwife would rub a sheet of paper across the baby’s head and face to remove the caul, and then presented to the mother as an heirloom. In early European folklore, a caul carried good fortune to the bearer. (Additional research into some of the renown literature of the 18th and 19th Centuries would reveal its place as a talisman of value.)
1. Better a dry morsel with quietness within than a house full of sacrifices with strife. 2. A servant who acts wisely shall rule over a son who causes shame and shall have part of the inheritance among the brothers. 3. A crucible (refining pot) is for silver, and the furnace (smelter) for gold, but the Lord tests hearts. 4. A wicked person (evildoer) gives heed to wicked (malicious) lips, and a liar (falsehood) gives an ear to a destructive tongue. 5. Whosoever mocks the poor taunts (rebukes) his Maker, and whosoever rejoices over calamities shall not go unpunished. 6. Children’s children are the crown of the elderly, and the glory (pride) of children are their fathers. Proverbs 17:1-6
If truth be told, our progeny (offspring) reflect who we were as parents. Children begin life as an empty sponge eager to sop up what they see and hear. Every child always looks to their parents as the guide for their life, even when the parent displays questionable behavior.
Sadly, this truth is easier to understand from the perspective of grandparenthood. The lasting impact of parents on their offspring is hard to grasp in the midst of raising our children. But, oh my, a grandparent’s perspective on this generational phenomenon is entirely different. So, whenever an elderly family member or close friend comes up and says, “You’re the spitting image of your father (or mother),” they may be referring to more than just appearance. Mannerisms, habits, and attitudes are learned and ingrained as children embody what they see and hear during their formative youth.
In simple terms: How parents choose to behave in front of their children matters. And, it is a choice. Every generation has the innate ability to alter their behavior and attitude as they mature. However, for many of us, the decision is not apparent until our children begin to exhibit traits that upset us. But, it is not until we recognize that our children are merely reflecting the mannerisms, habits, and attitudes we portrayed before them.
I wonder, does God allow us to catch a clear picture of our children’s likeness to stir within us a desire to change our destructive or malicious ways and attitudes? I believe, we all instinctively want to become a positive role model for our children? And we all pray in our hearts that our children will choose to behave rightly and not copy our faults.
Not only does God test our hearts, so do our children. God tests us to reveal our most significant needs of change. However, our children test our hearts to understand how they should behave and respond to others in this world. And it’s a fact: A wicked child will rejoice and take pride in being like his wicked father if that is all he sees from his father.
Grandparents have a decisive role to play in this cycle and afford a unique position and résumé of experience to identify their children in their grandchildren. So when, as parents, we get annoyed at our parents for seemingly butting in and giving us advice, understand they do it out of love, and often are trying to fix what they may have mistakenly left undone or unsaid when they reared the parent.
Let’s face it; God is our Maker. And, he wonderfully created each of us for his glory and purposes, but that does not mean we always may have done it right. God is also the author of “change.” We can choose to be transformed by God into what he intended from our birth. God likewise uses the gift of family to nurture the transformation process. Do not be angry when family members come to you and identify what they may see in us that may require change for the sake of our children or our children’s children. They are usually speaking out of the love of family! Our progeny reveals how we allowed God to transform us into his child.
Take time to scrutinize your children. See if you find yourself looking back. Does that produce a grin or a grimace? Is what you see pleasing to your heavenly Father? If so, your children should affirm that blessing through their actions and attitudes.
The one who is truly lazy in his work is a brother to a vandal. The name of the Lord is a strong tower (sanctuary); the righteous run to it and are protected. A rich man’s wealth is his fortified city; in his imagination, it is like a high wall. Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but before honor comes humility. The one who gives an answer before he listens – this is foolishness and disgrace for him. A man’s spirit can endure sickness, but who can survive a broken spirit? Prov 18:9-14 (HCSB)
Whether at school, at work, the community, or in the church, there are people we meet almost every day who are in the wall building business. You might even be in that same enterprise. Our insecurities about life, and about whom we believe we are, demand us to protect ourselves by establishing walls to keep others out. But, why would we want to build barriers and walls to exclude and divide? The wisdom of God’s Word indeed reveals there are walls created out of insecurity, and then there are the walls offering genuine security that humility provides.
The insecure person constructs impregnable barriers to isolate themselves from others to prevent others from ever knowing the truth about some shadowy aspect of their lives. These ever-growing walls are meant to keep others at a safe distance. Always far enough, so they never focus on the insecurities and fears of the person cowering behind the walls built ever higher and broader throughout their lifetime. However, the walls are just an illusion, preventing the person cowering behind the walls from ever seeing that their fears isolate them from ever establishing genuine relationships. They have severed themselves from real friendships and love for one another as God had intended. Their pride justifies their insecurity; they exist in a relationship of one – their “self.” What a pathetic, lonely existence we opt to endure when our fears rule over us.
The truly humble person has a high tower that they can run into, but the walls of this refuge are of God’s design. This secure place is a lofty refuge, a sanctuary from the tough times in life, but it is never intended to keep you there. It is where a humble heart seeks rest and restoration before confidently re-engaging life with its many relationship demands. God’s sanctuary also does not isolate nor exclude others from entering when they likewise require God’s peace and mercy. The Lord’s high tower helps all to see their proper place in life and re-focuses them on what is most important, which is not your-“self.” Lasting relationships are encouraged in this safe-place so that you can live confidently in the real world. It is a place where fears are relieved through the love found shared by others because where love thrives, fear cannot. The only price for entry into God’s sanctuary is our “self”! Humility is the currency God offers to pay the price for peace.
Decide for yourself, which leads to genuine life, and which locks you out from genuine life. Seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom and the answer may become clear.
Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding grain together: one will be taken, and the other left. [Two will be in a field: one will be taken, and the other will be left.] Luke 17:33-36 (HCSB)
In January, an updated edition of SANCTUARY – A Legacy of Memories will be available – featuring a revised introduction, an epilogue, and the addition of a sub-title. (Palmetto Publishing Group, Charleston, SC has partnered to provide some needed edits and revisions to improve the first edition of Sanctuary, and provide a bridge in the storyline to its upcoming sequel.)
TESTAMENT – An Unexpected Return, arrives in March. The sequel picks up the story at the beginning of the following July. There’s a noticeable change in Pete’s and Harold’s characters. Mary’s got a life-altering decision to make. Liddy weighs a position that will get her out of the house. The Archer family face more challenges as events unfold. Wedding bells ring while more than one unexpected return keeps you turning page after page. All the while, foreboding, ominous storms from Shiloh’s past rattle its present and reshape its future.
Visit my new Author Website or my Facebook Author page for more news on the book front from Shiloh in the coming days. In the meantime. enjoy family, food, football, and of course, reading a good novel beside the fireplace as we celebrate New Years 2018. Think y’all will like what the sequel has in store for you…
May God grant you and yours a safe and prosperous 2018!
The holiday season has crept up upon us, and the number of shopping days are whittling down faster with each setting sun. May I remind you, the days are gettin’ shorter and shorter too. Simply put, the pressure is rising to get goin’ on fillin’ your Christmas shopping list for your friends, family members, and co-workers, ‘specially them that are booklovers.
So how do you know which book is best suited as a gift this holiday season? Will you simply judge the bookcover or a couple of well-scripted blurbs meant to grab your dollar before you’ve actually checked out the book?
I’d like to help you. First, checkout the LATEST Amazon reviews for Sanctuary, a Southern flavored small-town mystery that introduces Shiloh preparing for Christmas throughout the story, while the main characters are digging up the truth about scandals and dark secrets haunting their community. However, nothing can deter Shiloh from thier busy preparations for their annual slate of “Christmas in Shiloh” festivities, including the lighting of the town’s giant Christmas tree and festive parade.
How about a taste of a “Christmas in Shiloh” portion of the story? Follow the link to a video preview of Theo and Liddy busying themselves as they prepare for their family’s arrival for Christmas in Shiloh. Click the picture of Jolly Old St. Nick and me…
Otherwise, here’s my LIMITED TIME OFFER: Send me your name and email address by commenting at the bottom of this post or email me directly at email@example.com, and I’ll send you by return email right away a 33-page preview of Sanctuary. See for yourself if it’ll make a good Chrisitmas gift for your loved ones and friends this season, or possibly you’ll order a copy for yourself too. Hundreds have invested in Sanctuary – how about you for yourself and the book-lovers on your holiday list?
I’m wagering, between taking a minute to see what others have said about Sanctuary, and reading the opening chapters, you’ll get hooked and will order one or more copies for your bookloving family and friends, and of course your own reading pleasure.
Although I am a huge supporter of all my independent book retailers, read about Sanctuary on Amazon and peruse all the reviews.
Paperback and Kindle!
Merry Christmas! From my family to yours.
T. M. “Mike” Brown
You can also reach me on Facebook @TMBrownauthor
Remember, Testament, the sequel to Sanctuary will be out in early 2018 too! Stay connected for details on its launch date. T. M. Brown’s Shiloh stories continue…
Y’all Southern mystery lovers, Sanctuary is the holiday read you’ll enjoy this year. Here is a sneak-peek to whet your appetite so you’ll be sure to get your copy.
Click on my photo and I will present some images that reflect Theo’s and Liddy’s first morning in Shiloh, a time-lost South Georgia town they have chosen to reconnect with their roots. However, they end up wrestling with far more excitement and adventures than they bargained for after they arrive.
In Chapter 2 they awaken to the new sounds and sights that draw them back to their earlier days before college, marriage, and a career that kept them in the shadows of Atlanta for the past forty years.
Get your copy of Sanctuary. Checkout the links on the sidebar of my page, or contact me directly for your own personalized, signed edition.
NOTE: Testament, the sequel due out early 2018! Stay tuned for more details soon.
Enjoy this short sneak-peek into Sanctuary’s story, then click on the video links on the side panel to learn even more.
After [enjoying our first meal in Shiloh], we decided to stretch our legs and venture into the center of town. On the town square, Liddy found a bench next to the walkway and admired the unique architecture of Shiloh Baptist Church across the street. My interest fell upon the bronze statue we saw earlier.
Spotlights highlighted the young man’s chiseled face. He wore a collared polo shirt with a “SHS” monogram above a fleur-de-lis over his heart. A coach’s whistle hung from his neck, and a Bible rested in one hand while the other pointed upward. The life-like detail monopolized my attention until my eyes drifted to the plaque at the base:
JESSIE MASTERSON, BELOVED COACH AND TEACHER, SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SAVING THE LIVES OF TWO OTHERS THE NIGHT THE ORIGINAL COURTHOUSE BURNED DOWN, DECEMBER 8, 2010.
I stood with my arms crossed while my instincts conjured the possible story behind those two dozen words.
Here’s the first of several “Sneak peeks” at Sanctuary. In this scene, Theo and Liddy have packed up and left the shadows of Atlanta in their rearview mirror. They in the midst of their drive south to their new home in Shiloh…
On the outskirts of Albany, Liddy stirred and wiped her eyes as the late afternoon sunlight glistened between the tree tops. She cleared her throat, lowered her sunglasses from the top of her head, and surveyed the passing scenery before she asked with a drawn-out sigh, “Where are we?” I pointed to a well-timed road sign. “Albany’s 30 more miles. Looks like we’ll arrive in Shiloh a little before six.”
We soon turned onto the Flint River Highway, the homestretch leg of our journey. The amber glow grew darker as the sun disappeared below the distant treetops. Liddy bit her lower lip and clenched my hand. “Do you think we did right? I mean … buying this house and leaving Peachtree?”
My wink and affirming grin brought a smile to Liddy’s relieved lower lip. “You’re right,” she said. “But how well do you think we’ll fit in?” My smiling face bobbed up and down. “Trust me. A town like Shiloh won’t allow us to remain anonymous long.”
Liddy’s attention diverted to weathered barns and sheds with rusted tin roofs along the side of the road. “We must be getting close.”
* * * *
Though a contemporary mystery, its colorful characters are timeless and reflect values and traditions governed by their reluctance toward change.
Come join Theo and Liddy Phillips as their story unfolds after they arrive in lil’ ol’ Shiloh expecting a peaceful retirement in a town much like they grew up in decades beforehand, only to discover Theo’s curiosity about a tragic event does not receive a warm and welcome response by everyone in their new rustic town.
Click the image below and visit Amazon to purchase your copy of Sanctuary. Available in paperback or Kindle editions.
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