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.
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.”
The greatest threat to any Sanctuary, where hope, peace and the presence of God’s embrace reside, is the pervasive cancer of sex, violence and vulgarity.
According to recent statistics, novels replete with explicit sex, violence, and vulgarity continue to thrive as the flavor of the month in book sales. However, should authors kowtow to earthy content to increase book numbers?
Good writers engage their audience so well, scenes calling for sex, violence, or vulgarity communicate through the actions and attitudes of the characters. Thus, allowing the story to unfold without explicitly necessitating every sordid detail.
I believe an author’s responsibility is not only to entertain but also engage readers, so they sense they are witnessing the story as it unfolds.
What images race through your mind that depicts anger and rage? Do you picture contorted faces and threatening gestures, or do you need to be explicitly told? Consider this scene from my book Sanctuary:
Hank gritted his teeth as the veins on his neck swelled, and his eyes glared through me. “Well, I think you’re putting your nose into places you’ve no business being.” He uncrossed his arms and pointed at my chest. “I’m warning you. Stay away from me and my wife!”
“Hank, I’m sorry if I’ve said or done anything to upset you. Have you spoken to your father?”
“This is between you and me. Stay out of our lives.” Hank’s effort to be more composed fell apart.
… Hank pressed his finger into my sternum. “This is all I’m going to say to you about Jessie or John…” He thumped his finger against my chest adding emphasis to each word. “I’m truly sorry about what happened to Jessie, but John got what he deserved. And you can quote me on that. Now back off! I’m warning you.”
Pete stepped out from the shadows, unceremoniously interrupting Hank’s exchange with me.
“Mister P, is everything okay?” Pete asked as he glared at Hank. “Hank, who’re you warning about what?”
Hank surveyed Pete and the four remaining shadows just out of the light. His finger fell to his side, but his distended veins on his neck swelled even more. “Pete, this has nothing to do with you or any of you guys!”
…Pete extended his finger just shy of Hank’s chest. “How in the blue blazes do you know it don’t involve us? If you think you can flex your muscles and intimidate one of my friends, you just made it my business.” His stern warning and unflinching stare froze Hank.
Granted a few expletives could’ve been exchanged, but did the scene work anyway?
John Grisham achieved his decades-long success capitalizing on his uncanny knack of drawing his audience’s attention upon his colorful characters and settings. Doing so, he exited scenes involving sex, violence or vulgarity using innuendo. In fact, Grisham’s Theodore Boone YA mysteries found a broad new audience without much of an adjustment in his storytelling to do so. Neither should we to reach a wider audience to sell more books.
Sanctuary, a Southern mystery novel that celebrates small-town life dealing with 21st Century challenges while trying to move beyond scandal and dark secrets holding the idyllic, time-lost town of Shiloh hostage as Theo Phillips and his wife, Liddy arrive in town to retire. For more information – TM Brown FB Author Page or CoachBrown.org
Here is a tragedy I have observed under the sun, and it weighs heavily on humanity: God gives a man riches, wealth, and honor so that he lacks nothing of all he desires for himself, but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a sickening tragedy. A man may father a hundred children and live many years. No matter how long he lives, if he is not satisfied by good things and does not even have a proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness. Though a stillborn child does not see the sun and is not conscious, it has more rest than he. And if he lives a thousand years twice, but does not experience happiness, do not both go to the same place? All man’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied.
Eccl 6:1-7 (HCSB)
Why do bad things happen to people? Why do events cause people to lose what they have worked hard to achieve for themselves? Is God the architect for evil or for good in our lives? These are hard questions that men have asked over the millennia, and many have used the question to argue against God’s existence or involvement in this world. Even the wisest teacher remains befuddled by what he the tragedies of life. God blesses man with“riches, wealth, and honor” to fulfill man’s desires only to allow circumstances to unfold whereby man cannot enjoy them. Well, is that man’s or God’s perspective?
When we focus on the here and now, we tend to value life by the stuff we have and the status we have achieved. However, we have valued fleeting accomplishments, or things that matter little to God. If that is your value system, consider the wise teacher’s premise: …that a stillborn child is better off than he; for he comes in futility and he goes in darkness, and his name is shrouded in darkness.
In this world we cannot control nor cling to things that do not belong to us but to this world. The truth is we lose what we claim as ours and we discover what we fought to attain never satisfies our desires as we first hoped they would, and we futilely struggle and stumble seeking more things to fill the dark abyss within us. In contrast to that cycle of futility, a still-born child rejoices never having faced such folly, frustration and futility. It is the living who miss out on what truly matters in this world – and it has nothing to do with things!
Happiness can never be bought or earned. Happiness is a blessing from God. It is the only source of true contentment. Happiness is a reward that flows through us when we live seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Happiness can only be realized through proper relationships, attitudes and actions where ultimately contentment resides in this life. As long as we believe that “All man’s labor is for his stomach, yet the appetite is never satisfied,” we are no better off than someone who never lived at all, but a choice remains: pursue our values or God’s values… God leaves the choice to us.
Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. Eccl 5:18-20 (HCSB)
One of the causes for man’s problem is his insatiable desire for what he or she deems as the good things in life. We seem to never have enough money buy enough of the latest “stuff” that already saturates our daily life. We seem to never be satisfied with our current relationships, so we are always looking for growing the number of relationships we claim to have. We seem to never be content with our careers and are always looking for something better or different. Even before our latest vacation is over, we already have begun anticipating the next vacation.
Why can’t we just be content? Why do we always feel unsettled, always seeking something more than we already have, our just reward? Funny, even when we get what we want, we still want more. Talk about futility…
However, the good life as God intended it is the life that embraces the fruits of the present. The good life makes the most of what is and not dwells upon what isn’t. It capitalizes on the time, talents, and treasures that exist in the present, finding satisfaction and joy from the who, what, and where of those present opportunities and relationships the good life offers. The good life trusts God to provide the abundant life without all the fuss and stress. God knows best what we can responsibly handle and He blesses us according to our attitude in handling it.
When we focus on what we have rather than upon what we do not have, we discover the real treasures of the good life: contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment. Who knows us better than our Creator? Who loves us more than our Heavenly Father? Why then do we think we can find contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment on our own?
If you are tired of trying to experience a sense of satisfaction in your life; a sense of fulfillment or genuine contentment on your own and your tired of always grasping at the wind, then God offers a solution for you. He says seek me first and I will meet your needs and fill your desires in the life he has planned for you. The journey begins by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. He will reveal the rewards he has for you when you look at your present life as the good life. Once you learn to truly enjoy what you have, God will smile more blessings upon you as you are ready to handle more.
(Note: if only America understood this basic truth, then our economy would not be in the shape it has been and our country would not burdened with so much debt! God, not our government is our hope for a better today and tomorrow.)
For the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will choose Israel again. He will settle them on their own land. The foreigner will join them and be united with the house of Jacob. The nations will escort Israel and bring it to its homeland. Then the house of Israel will possess them as male and female slaves in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and will rule over their oppressors. Isaiah 14:1-2 (HCSB)
How do we interpret this passage? It sounds like revenge exacted upon our enemies? Yet, if we examine the Christian aspect we will see that it is not what it appears. It is a glorious promise that our enemies will be just like us, and that they too will be received with open arms into God’s family, because they too will be freed from their bonds of selfish living, and now are captive to the new life they have found by surrendering to the Lord.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” [2 Cor 3:17 (HCSB)]
Even when we turnover our lives to the Lord and seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom that does not mean we do not have freedom. Quite to the contrary, we now understand genuine freedom is found by surrendering to the Lord. His loving kindness frees us from all the aspects and influences of living to our “self!” Avarice, envy, greed, haughtiness, arrogance and any attitude that haunted our lives in the past and kept us separated from the Lord are swept away. Their grasp upon us is torn away. A new influence upon our lives is discovered once we surrender – the Spirit of God. This Spirit fills the void in our heart and our soul is soothed from the emptiness that we have tried to fill through all the wrong means. Genuine contentment is found for the very first time in our life.
In the days of Isaiah, those who were strangers to the Lord and enemies to his people discovered the Lord’s loving-kindness through the witness of those they enslaved. The Lord’s people dealt with all the trials and tribulations that their enemies forced them to endure. The pagan kings and their people learned about the Lord through the testimonies of God’s people who were forced to live in their lands as slaves and servants. Even after the pagans felt compelled to help God’s people to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem, many surrendered their lives over to the Lord and joined in the rebuilding of the Lord’s House. They became captive and a servant to the Lord’s will, ways, and wisdom, just as all the rest of the Lord’s people were. The captor became the captive! Yet in doing so they became the real victors, not the victims as many would believe. They found the contentment that only God’s presence in their lives could bring.
How would you evaluate your own life? Are you the victim or the victor? Do you understand that as the servant to the Lord you are the captive, yet the victor! Think about it. It is not about winning and losing, but overcoming to become what God has intended for you.
God’s greatest gift to us is the knowledge of true contentment in our lives.
Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving (fussing and fighting over what you don’t have) and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (Ps. 46:8-11)