Sanctuary Has a Pervasive 21st Century Enemy

Premier Southern mystery in the Shiloh series of stories by T. M. Brown

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

The Source of My Inspiration – Family!

What You Fear Causes You to Stumble

People will always throw stones onto your path. How you see them will change your life.
People will always throw stones onto your path. How you see them will change your life.

What You Fear Causes You to Stumble

For this is what the Lord said to me with great power, to keep me from going the way of this people: Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified. You are to regard only the Lord of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe. He will be a sanctuary; but for the two houses of Israel, He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over these; they will fall and be broken; they will be snared and captured. Bind up the testimony. Seal up the instruction among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob. I will wait for Him. Isaiah 8:11-17 (HCSB)

Is there a true sanctuary that removes your fears and offers hope? Fear is a natural response God created into each of us for our own good. Fear causes us to either stand our ground and fight with all our strength or to flee with all the stamina and speed we can muster. Self-preservation is at the root of our fears. Fear increases our adrenaline level to better cope with stressful and dangerous situations. However, there are times when we realize that our fear response is not enough to conquer or escape our fears and we seek help to manage our fears.

Mankind has relied upon alliances believing that when forces are combined you can better stand up to your fears. Sadly, we only learn misery loves company! Most alliances are temporary deterrents when dealing with our fears. Fears often cause you and your ally to turn on one another in the middle of the battle because in the end self-preservation overrides common preservation. Friends turn on friends when their own lives are at risk.

In this passage from Isaiah, The northern tribes of Israel believed an alliance with Aram (Syria) was sufficient to defeat their fears; Judah allied itself with a weakened Egypt. However, neither escaped the Assyrians and later the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians). Both neglected the small print in their covenant with God – the” if, then” clause that would have saved them from their fears.

God is the undefeated champion for his people. God sought Isaiah to warn those who claimed to be God’s people to start acting like his people and stop relying upon their own alliances. Those who resist the temptation to rely upon their own alliances and trust God discover genuine protection, preservation, and provision that arrests their fears and anxieties. (Checkout Matthew 6:33) All the Lord requires: trust him and stop trying to deal with the fears that threaten our lives daily on your own. God declares that our fears can become stumbling stones or stepping stones.

There is only one genuine “fear” that every person faces that is common to all mankind – the fear of death. The choice is whether we will choose to make that fear a stumbling stone or stepping stone in our relationship with God. Fact: no earthly alliance can defeat the fear of death.

Oh, how history would have been changed if Israel and Judah repented and returned to the Lord as His people? How about your own history? How will you be remembered? Will your life encourage or discourage the next generation about the fears of this life?

Coach

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (necessities of life to overcome our fears and anxieties) will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33

Hope Beyond Oppression

Sometimes tears are the only salve to soothe the pain?
Sometimes tears are the only salve to soothe the pain?

Hope Beyond Oppression

Again, I observed all the acts of oppression being done under the sun. Look at the tears of those who are oppressed; they have no one to comfort them. Power is with those who oppress them; they have no one to comfort them. So I admired the dead, who have already died, more than the living, who are still alive. But better than either of them is the one who has not yet existed, who has not seen the evil activity that is done under the sun. Eccl 4:1-3 (HCSB)

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. How many places and how many ways does oppression afflict people? We can read or listen to stories of political oppression, religious oppression, financial oppression, and racial oppression every single day. Wherever oppression is identified, there must always be someone exercising authority and power to cause the oppression. Wherever oppression resides an oppressor must also exist. Whenever the oppressed can identify the oppressor blame for the burdensome, cruel, or unjust circumstances can be directed. When the oppressed senses no hope in their present circumstances depression results. When depression swoops down upon the oppressed, their growing dark feelings of helplessness and hopelessness stir up relentless whining, begging someone, anyone, to rescue them. Many resort to woeful prayers because they sense God turned his back on their life and he ultimately is to blame for the oppression crushing their spirit. Yes, sadly but true, history records people since the dawn of civilization have even offered up God as the scapegoat for their oppression. Why should we be any different?

So where does hope reside? Before, during or after our oppression. According to the author of today’s passage, little hope resides during oppression. Tears offer little comfort as the oppression morphs into deeper and darker states of depression and the heart is squeezed dry of hope. As all hope escapes through the final tears, the oppressed recognizes only the dead can escape the unrelenting oppression they are under. Even if a miracle occurs and the oppressed find relief from a helping hand, the scarred survivors tremble for fear the return of oppression.

What about the unborn? Each new born enters the world naïve to oppression, but also hope. How can anyone understand the value of hope if there exists no need for it?

I believe, in every circumstance we are called to face in this life, a choice exists: We can trust the authority and power within us to resist the threats of oppression. We are only become a victim of oppression when we choose to abdicate our authority and power and become a victim. Our eternal hope that strengthens each off us is God-given. That hope flows through us as long as we live trusting God’s will, walking in God’s ways, and seeking God’s wisdom. That vibrant hope feeds our confidence to face all circumstances that may rise against us because we the source of our hope is our refuge and redeemer. Of course, I also believe that God undoubtedly and most assuredly orchestrates his will and purpose through the choices we make as circumstances arise intended to strengthen our faith, the anchor and life-blood of our hope. What prevents fear in the face of oppression? We know God’s love, compassion and mercy is always in reach.

When we place our faith in God, it matters not what threat oppression poses today. If hope reigns within you, no worldly authority or power can coerce us to become a helpless victim, a slave to the oppression of others. A helpless victim relents; a victor resists. The victor embraces by faith the hope that resides within our hearts — a golden gift from God. The victor confidently walks through life, no matter the circumstances and challenges, confronting oppression when it threatens as an opportunity to earn God’s smile.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #226-10EC