Enjoy this short video that my wife took during my opening as I shared insights and a reading from the beginning chapter of Sanctuary. Sorry it cuts out as Theo and Liddy arrive into Shiloh, but guess you’ll need to get your own copy of Sanctuary for the rest of the story…
Please support your local independent bookstore. Walk in and ask them for a copy of Sanctuary by T. M. Brown. If they don’t have it on the shelf, they can easily order you a copy. (Yes, you can get your Kindle or paperback from Amazon too, but why not support the bricks and mortar retailer investing in their community?)
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
What advantage then does the wise man have over the fool? What [advantage] is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 6:8-9 (HCSB)
Often we identify success by material rewards. Even in the biblical era, the Hebrews held the common belief that wealth was a sign of divine approval and reward. If that was so, then Solomon must have been nearly perfect according to earthly standards. His wealth was unrivaled in his day, yet he struggled in life and by his own admission he understood the futility of pursuing the elusive wind.
The wise person experiences dreams like anyone else, and the wise person desires to better their conditions in life like anyone else, but the wise person understands how to live rightly in their present circumstances and find contentment in doing so.
When we constantly seek what we do not have, contentment becomes equally elusive. When we continually grow anxious about what we do not have, we feel cheated, shortchanged by life. We become bitter and dream only of what could be, rather than what exists. We become the fool pursuing the wind.
Futility reigns whenever we seek to live the life we do not possess. We buy through borrowing what we have not yet earned and cannot afford, pretending to possess what we really do not own so that we can identify ourselves with what we are not, all the while struggling with the reality of who we truly are. This is the futility that has led our country into near economic collapse. Our nation continues to write checks that cannot be paid without borrowing more money we do not have, transferring the costs of wanting what we believe we deserve onto future generations.
We mortgage wisdom for the sake of wealth, and pass on the consequences of our foolish, futile choices to future generations.
Our Nation will never turn this futility around until we accept our own limits and live contently with what we have, and not seek to live beyond our means. Corporate America grows daily promoting a lifestyle beyond our means because they know how to prey upon this weakness in all of us. They justify their actions by declaring that by borrowing to purchase what we cannot afford helps America to be strong. They dispel the notion that our country is being sold a bill of goods that declares, in the 21st Century we have the technology to pursue the wind and we can one day grasp it!
Who’s the fool now? The elusive wind will always remain just beyond our grasp and serves only to stir dreams and make fools out of those who pursue it outside of our dreams.
Our only hope is to remember who makes the elusive wind blow. May we seek to understand the author of the wind rather than try to possess it by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom once again. How different life would be when we truly trust what God has allowed us to possess and to be content in that before we chase what we do not have. We just might be surprised by what blessings will follow in that wisdom.
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. Yet, lets 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 own ways. God clearly stated that 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 own ways.
Just look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave certain 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 own never ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given man an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. Yet, 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, which may be perceived as new to us, but is not new to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – Nothing new can be created outside the will, ways and wisdom of our Creator God.
So what must we do? 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 own mind, we assume the role of God. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the truths 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 greater purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the new discoveries that reveal God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our own 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?
I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. Eccl 2:1-3 (HCSB)
The focal point for most of us is our leisure time – that special time to do what we want for mere pleasure. Yet, what pleasure do we actually get from our leisure time? We certainly crave our leisure time! We even work extra hard to save up for it. But, how much pleasure do we achieve really? Solomon with his great wisdom decided that he would engage in all forms of pleasure and determine what good and practical purpose there was in pursuing pleasure. He first defined pleasure as the reward from doing whatever is good and brings you joy above all other things. Then he identified pleasure as a futile pursuit in this temporal lifetime. He declared it as “madness,” questioning what good does it really accomplish in mankind’s short life span?
I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the re-energizing benefit when we retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon focused on the foolhardy pursuit of insatiable “pleasure seeking activities.” Even 3000 years after the days of Solomon, wine and other alcoholic libations freely flow to dull our senses, but for what purpose? What pleasure thrives when we are not in control of our own faculties? Is pleasure being found the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol or some other numbing potion? What lasting pleasure can be garnished through such artificial, mindless adventures? After the euphoric effects wear off, reality returns and a headache and stomachache linger from the pleasure. Would genuine pleasure provide such awful after-affects to detract from the joy it was intended to provide? That paradox is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!
There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to provide rest and relaxation for our bodies and minds; recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation provides rest our bodies and minds desire to revive and re-energize us for another day. Retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, engaging in recreational leisure offers far more lasting benefits than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer or popping pills. And, the aftereffects are far less harmful to your mind and body.
The only time God promotes the use of alcohol is when no hope remains and wickedness has entrapped someone into a life of endless misery and pain, and death is knocking on the door. Then indulging in wine or alcohol to dull the senses is deemed an act of mercy.
Think carefully about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. Is your pursuit of pleasure aimed at meaningless folly and madness, as Solomon points out? Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking through artificial means. Which best serves and seeks after God’s will, ways, and wisdom?
What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring not only a smile on your face during and after the experience but on the faces of your loved ones and friends in this world. When you consider their needs and desires, you witness the joy of pleasing of others that God intended for you. Learn the wisdom of rightly seeking His purposes, not selfishly your desires. Is the pursuit of pleasure in this lifetime of greater value than the genuine happiness God intends for you?