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!

Seek God Before Life Fades

Sooner or later, we discover God

Seek God Before Life Fades

So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain; on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly, and the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint. Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, and the caper berry has no effect; for man is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well; and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile.” Eccl 12:1-8 (HCSB)

Most decisions about one’s relationship with God originate during one’s childhood, before the age of accountability. An innocent time before a child leaves the safety and security of their home. This fact impacted me many years ago but also continues to serve as a primary motivation for my desire to teach and write at my stage of life.

The Bible offers a strong emphasis on the proper rearing of our children. Parents have a divine mandate passed down through the ages, generation to generation, to teach their children about God. Beyond the setting of the home, parents expose their children to a church’s children or youth ministry, even though the parents may not even attend that church?

I am not declaring that everyone who has received the biblical message taught in the church will ultimately live out all the teachings they received, all the time. Each of us must travel through various stages during our life-long journey with God. Many, if not most, mature their faith as they grow beyond mere blind acceptance to a maturing, questioning of what and why we believe about God. However, each of us experiences a desire to connect with our Creator. Hopefully, we receive our initial introduction to God during our formable youth, long before the stresses of life have choked most of our receptivity to God away from us!

It is also a fact, most teenagers, especially after they leave the house, will wander testing their abilities and understandings about life for an extended period as young adults. Many will listen to others question God’s reality and existence, and hear differing opinions about the authenticity of the biblical writings in academic circles. Freedom of thought and self-understanding are important stages in each person’s life. I believe, God allows us to challenge our faith.

For those who received a solid grounding during their youth about God, the challenges in life will draw them closer to God again, with a stronger relevant understanding and conviction than ever before. I believe, the parable of the prodigal son reveals this to be true. You see, people in pursuit of all the options life affords them, sooner or later, come to the reality that no acceptable option exists beyond our faith in God. Some may try to live in denial of God, but even in fighting against the reality of God one struggles with the origin of God’s gifts in their life.

There is no greater, more unequivocal evidence regarding God’s existence than the fact people around the world believe in God. Even scientists, doctors, engineers, architects, and philosophers admit their journeys of discovery almost always conclude with them staring at God for the answers they seek about life. From a worldview, all the religions found across our planet may never fully agree about God, but they all exist because of man’s desire to connect with and understand God.

Why is this so important? In life, times of trials and tribulation will happen that will be beyond our abilities to cope and survive. They will cause each of us to acknowledge we cannot make it without our faith in God. God allows such formidable challenges to nurture our faith in God as we grow older with God. Yes, our life-long journey with God may falter from time-to-time, but, sooner or later, most all of us return to seeking out God’s will, ways, and wisdom as the cornerstone of our life. God enjoys receiving each person who realizes that life without God risks an end whereby the laughter of children fades, the colors of the seasons fail to change, the clouds become swallowed by darkness, and the wind offers no relief at our last gasp of breath. What happens next rests with God…

Coach

Words of Wisdom #255-39EC

Celebrate Before It’s Too Late

Old Testament Burial
Old Testament Burial

Celebrate Before It’s Too Late

Go, eat your bread with pleasure, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for God has already accepted your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and never let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun. Whatever your hands find to do, do with [all] your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in  Sheol where you are going. Eccl 9:7-10 (HCSB)

Sheol to the Hebrews, especially in days of Solomon, represented the destination for the dead – both the wicked and the righteous. God reigned as Lord over Sheol and the dead could be ransomed from the grave where darkness and nothingness swallowed all hope. However, we are encouraged to realize that God knows the condition of our heart, soul and mind so intimately our future destiny is pre-determined.

Because of God’s omniscience, we are encouraged to rejoice during our present lifetime. Celebrate in our limited days anticipating our future destiny. We are either celebrating the expectant joy of being ransomed by God into his dwelling place, or condemned to eternal darkness and separation from God. Either way, celebrate now while you can. Take joy in our marriage, our family, and even our career. Take nothing for granted and embrace every opportunity to enjoy life’s pleasures. Not an excuse for hedonistic pleasure but a plea to not waste the gift of life in the present, because no one knows when their life will end. Our destiny is in God’s hands, whether for good or bad.

Since the days of Jesus, mankind has learned God’s message of love, mercy and justice. Jesus revealed God’s will, ways, and wisdom alone – and not our will, ways or wisdom – offers eternal life with him to all who acknowledge this fact. Sheol has no hold on us in the present; we have the ever-present God, our heavenly Father, as shared and exemplified by Jesus.

We certainly have good reason to celebrate life to the fullest, enjoying to the fullest the light of his way, truth and life.

Was Solomon saved? I don’t know, but you can know about your destiny…

Coach

Words of Wisdom #246-30EC

As We Come, So We Will Go

Have we learned anything about life after death over the centuries?
Have we learned anything about life after death over the centuries?

As We Come, So We Will Go

There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does he gain who struggles for the wind? What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger. Eccl 5:13-17 (HCSB)

In ancient Egypt the great pharaohs entered elaborate, ornate tombs, known to us as the pyramids. Their carefully preserved bodies entered these pyramids with their worldly wealth and even a few unfortunate servants to meet their ongoing needs in death. They believed the afterlife offered a reward for the righteous. If their heart arrived without sin, they would be able to continue in the lifestyle they had enjoyed on earth. However, grave robbers, archaeologists and museums testify a different reality. What does this revelation tell us about trying to build great storehouses of treasures in this lifetime as we prepare for the end of our days? Have we learned anything over the centuries?

Not the first newborn has ever arrived into this world sporting a diamond ring or toting a purse of gold from out of the womb. As our passage declares, we enter this world naked and empty handed, just as we will also exit this world. Then why does man work so feverishly at pursuing riches in this lifetime? Why hoard wealth? What does having more money than you can spend in a lifetime mean in the big scheme of things?

Fact: the top 5% of society controls 80% of all the wealth of the world. The pyramid schematic to reflect the direction of the “distribution of wealth” is a very shallow pyramid. 95% of the population scrambles daily for the remaining 20% of all the world’s wealth as the top 5% seek to swell their control on even more wealth. Wealth seems to defy gravity and flows inward and upward, not outward and downward. What actually trickles down is a pittance of what pours upward.

Outside of a fancier coffin, does our fate with death change the fact that our wealth accumulated in this world, whether little or much, is inevitably left behind for others to squander and squirrel away? The real tragedy though lies in how focused we humans have become upon material things, yet how futile that pursuit actually fits into the big picture, the grand purpose of one’s lifetime.

For those who trust God’s will, ways, and wisdom there is hope for something far more precious than treasures valued on this earth. It is truly the “something” that one can take with them beyond the grave; a personal relationship with the Lord of life, temporal and eternal. The Lord promises us in this temporal life there may be various trials and tribulations, but in good times and in bad he will be there and will make sure our needs are met in this lifetime. Our Creator knows what we truly need, and what we are responsible enough to care for properly. Wealth and our accumulation of it is not evil, but the lustful pursuit of it is! When our passion for valuing relationships with others and God succumbs to our growing lust for accumulating wealth and status in this lifetime then evil hardens and invades our heart. God certainly blesses some people with wealth but they have a heart for the need of others and they use their wealth and its influence in a manner that pleases the Lord; their generosity inspires, not conspires.

In the stories of the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or Frank Capra’s Its a Wonderful Life this message resonates. Maybe thats why we are inspired year in and year out to watch them. The stories of Ebeneezer Scrooge and George Bailey remind us of the price we can pay when we forget “as we come, so we will go” in this lifetime, but redemption lies within a genuine change of heart.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #231-15EC

Futility of Death

Why is it we hardly ever see the gravedigger?
Why is it we hardly ever see the gravedigger?

Futility of Death

I also observed under the sun: there is wickedness at the place of judgment and there is wickedness at the place of righteousness. I said to myself, “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, since there is a time for every activity and every work.” I said to myself, “This happens concerning people, so that God may test them and they may see for themselves that they are like animals.” For the fate of people and the fate of animals is the same. As one dies, so dies the other; they all have the same breath. People have no advantage over animals, for everything is futile. All are going to the same place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. Who knows if the spirit of people rises upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? I have seen that there is nothing better than for a person to enjoy his activities, because that is his reward. For who can enable him to see what will happen after he dies? Eccl 3:16-22 (HCSB)

The question at the end of this passage reveals the difference of those who know God and those facing death alone. Outside of faith, is it possible for anyone to factually know for certain what happens after death. Certainly there is a lot of speculation and there’s been much research since Socrates poisoned himself in the pursuit of the truth about death.

Are we unlike the animals, who we believe are born and eventually die in some simplistic, beneficial cycle of life on earth? Can we dismiss their death so casually as if God does not care about the animals he created? How can we truly know what happens to animals after death? As the Teacher in the passage above proclaims, mankind shares the same breath of life, and death arrives to man and beast when that same shared breath ceases to sustain life in either man or beast.

The Teacher reveals the futility of understanding death beyond this life. He, like so many today, reckons what he does not know for certain does not affect him. Life now is all that matters. There is no understanding beyond this life.

However, if that were so, what would be the purpose of living rightly in this life?

When we choose to live life guided solely by our own limited understanding and wisdom, we espouse the philosophy of hedonism, the pursuit of self-serving pleasure as life’s main motivation.

However, if that was true, then why don’t the animals reflect the same motivation in their lives, if there really is no difference between man and beast? Animals are instinctive in their life choices.They will defend themselves to preserve their life and they will even put their own lives at risk to protect the lives of their offspring, but what they fight to preserve is their present right to life. Man however is more than an instinctive, reactive thinker as he or she makes choices in this life. Man is endowed with a conscience revealing what are good or bad choices. As a result, there are times when our life choices reveal our life motivation transcends mere survival instincts like the animals. Man recognizes their connection to God and this temporal life maybe finite, but the life that God created for us is eternal and mortal death merely is the divide between the two.

On the other hand, what happens for certain to animals beyond death, only God knows that answer? We have no gained no insight from God on the matter. Yet, we have received plenty of firsthand assurances from God about the prospects of our future beyond death. Even long before the days of the biblical testimony man believed a time of judgment between the wicked and the righteous awaited all of mankind. But, throughout history the struggle has been in defining what about our life makes us righteous before God. Is it our heritage or bloodline? Is it our deemed righteousness or wickedness a personal, a family, or a communal accountability before God? The biblical testimony declares that we all will stand individually before God, accountable for our own life choices. Those who live in denial that there will be such an accounting for our righteous and wicked choices by God seem to prefer to believe there exists no difference between man and the animals beyond the grave. Sadly, there is a difference. Animals made their instinctive choices in life because that’s how God made them, but man was created with a conscience by God to rationalize and dream to direct his or her life choices.

Therefore, I believe when we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom, not selectively seeking what appeals and dismissing the rest, then little doubt should remain as to how we should strive to live this life, impacting our life choices that are rooted in the belief God awaits beyond the grave.

Thank you Lord God for the heritage of your word entrenched in the biblical testimony, because it clearly guides us in the making right life choices in this lifetime to realize your blessing on that day when all of us will humbly stand before you.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #225-9EC