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!

Avoid Conflict at the Crossroads

Your first Love will guide your crossroad choices. Choose wisely to avoid conflict.

Avoid Conflict at the Crossroads

Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait… Philippians 3:17-20

Many love the promise of God’s heavenly kingdom, but few are willing to bear the burden of conflict at the crossroads along the journey. Many desire comfort, but few accept the tribulation that waits beyond the crossroads. Many companions seek to dine at God’s table, but few are unwilling to fast to be closer to him. Who willingly pursues labor and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst; often lacking shelter and proper clothing to reach the heavenly destination?

Many desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer for him – or with him. We quickly forget that God promised that through our suffering, our comfort awaits. Many acknowledge their weaknesses before they discover their God-given strengths. As a result, many find consolation in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in other pressures of life?

It has been given to us on behalf of Jesus not only to take heart in his example but also to struggle and suffer for and with him. However, do many understand what that means or are they merely words we claim?

Many follow the example of Jesus into the breaking of bread, seeking fellowship with him, but few willingly strive to share the cup of his suffering. Many revere and desire God’s blessings, but few choose to share in the humiliation of suffering. Many profess to love God, so long as adversities do not happen in their lives. Many praise him, so long as they receive comfort from him. However, if God abides in us and then seems to leave us for even a little while, how many start complaining or become depressed?

How powerful can our love for God be when mixed with self-interest or self-love? Those of us who love God for who God is and do not seek some personal comfort of our own – they are the few who bless God amidst the heartache, tribulation, and anguish of real life. There is no difference in their love manifested in a state of perfect comfort and peace. However, many always seek after the blessing of comfort and thus should be called a “mercenary,” because they only reveal their association with God when they receive their expected compensation. They are lovers of themselves, not God? They only desire to profit and take advantage of the relationship.

Who is willing to serve God seeking nothing in return? Is that not what God’s love with us reveals? Is that the example we learned from Jesus? It is rare that anyone becomes so spiritually disciplined that they willingly release their “white knuckle grasp” upon their worldly treasures. Consider how hard it is to find the truly poor in spirit, those free from the world’s afflictions and influences. Such a person would surrender all their material wealth and possessions as if they were nothing. This individual would still sense in their heart that all they have would never be enough. That same person would desire all knowledge and yet realize how little they know and far removed they are from ever knowing God. They may live an exemplary virtuous life and be fervently devoted, yet lack much because such a life would recognize one most necessary thing is missing. What is that one thing? Be willing to surrender everything, forsaking even ourselves. Turn completely away from our desires. Cling to nothing out of self-love. Release our “white knuckle grasp” on what pleases us and seek first and foremost God’s will, ways, and wisdom.

When we have accomplished all that needs to be done, so far as we know, and are able, consider it as having done nothing at all. At that point, we will realize that no one will be richer, no one more powerful, and no one freer because we can freely disregard all worldly things of value, humble ourselves, and rejoice in God, who exalts us with his blessings of comfort and peace.

My daily prayer: Lord God, I seek to understand the joy and discover the contentment found in knowing you for your sake, not for my sake. I rejoice in the blessings that flow from walking alongside you each day, no matter the conflict going on around me. May all I say and do honor and praise you. I lay all my worries and concerns that will affect my family and me that I have little control over. Direct my steps according to your perfect, good and pleasing will. Lord, may my life inspire my family and others to seek you to lead their lives as well. Amen

For additional reading: 2 Corinthians 1:5; 11:27; 12:10; Philippians 1:29-30; 2:21; Luke 9:14; 17:10; 18:14; 22:41-42; Mark 10:38; Matthew 16:24-25

Coach

My Lord is within Me!

Old Bucket and StairsMy Lord is within Me!

On that day you will say: “I will praise You, Lord, although You were angry with me. Your anger has turned away, and You have had compassion on me. Indeed, God is my salvation. I will trust [Him] and not be afraid. Because Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my song, He has become my salvation.” You will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation, and on that day you will say: “Give thanks to the Lord; proclaim His name! Celebrate His deeds among the peoples. Declare that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things. Let this be known throughout the earth. Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in [His] greatness.” Isaiah 12:1-6 (HCSB)

What a glorious proclamation of one’s deliverance from the crucible of life to find the Lord’s love, grace and mercy waiting upon you, although you had walked away from him! Sometimes in our difficult and challenging life choices we walked intentionally away from the Lord because we wanted our way and not his way. We may even have cursed him and blamed him for the difficulties we have faced in life. However, his love is stronger than our acts of rebellion and rejection. His love is a Father’s love. He patiently waits for the opportunity for you and me to open our eyes and recognize the state of our life when we have walked away from the source of life. He perseveres through our outbursts of anger and even when he only sees the backside of our head because we have turned away from him. He waits for us to recognize the love he has for us.

Consider why this is true: The strongest declarations of God’s love come from those who have tried to survive without his love. Once we have found our way back to his protection and loving kindness there is no other way to respond but with loud proclamations of praise. The greatest hymn sung in and out of the church, “Amazing Grace” was written as a testimony by a former slave ship captain who came to the point in his life where he recognized his rejection of God’s love and how he returned to the Lord and experienced the true meaning of God’s grace – the presence of God’s love in one’s life. He turned his new found deliverance from his life of sin and misery to one of praise by becoming a preacher and song writer. He turned London upside down through his preaching and sharing the good news he had experienced through God’s grace.

Never believe that you are so far gone down the road of sin that you cannot return and claim God’s grace and mercy. He loves all of us, no matter how far we tried to run away from Him. Your debt has already been forgiven in full for whatever sin that controls your life. All he asks is you turn back to him and become freed from your old life. No questions asked – your past will remain in the past with the Lord. If you seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom, you will find God’s love waiting for you. He created you to be who you are and wants you to seek his face to discover his smile. He will introduce you to the peace that surpasses all understanding and change the direction of your daily walk – you will know the Lord lives within you, just as he lives within all of us.

Coach

Are You Just Going Through the Motions?

WRONG-WORSHIP

Are You Just Going Through the Motions?

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you [this] trampling of My courts? Stop bringing useless offerings. I despise [your] incense. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with [them]. When you lift up your hands [in prayer], I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” Isaiah 1:10-15 (HCSB)

God will not be mocked! God seeks fidelity and sincerity in our worship and in all our relationships.

If we say we love and cherish someone, then our actions should testify to it. However, history has proven repeatedly that we (mankind) have tried to go through the motions to gain the benefits of a relationship without really committing to or investing in the relationship.

Why worship God if you are only committing or investing in your own needs? If you were God, how would you feel when it is clear our hearts and minds were focused solely upon being seen or heard. In our own family relationships, how would you feel if you expressed a sincere “I love you” to your son or daughter and in return all you got back was a contrived and almost rehearsed, “Yeah, I love you too! Can I have the car keys?”

Our lives can reveal a glorious, passionate relationship with God and others, or it can reveal a very lonely, self-centered, orchestrated and artificial existence. God provides us with many stories of the desolation that comes to lives pretending to be one of God’s chosen ones. They are the sad examples of those who gladly desire the benefits of God’s covenant protection and provision, but are more focused on the benefits rather than the relationship with God. They feel entitled to the benefits without investing in the relationship. If you were God how would you feel in such a relationship? Would you grow weary of such a one-sided arrangement?

God created us to be in relationships. Loners do not survive in this world without causing controversy, chaos or conflict. However, we are selfish by nature. However, God knows how we were created and shares His love unconditionally to demonstrate how to love others, as He loves us — but God also declares, genuine love only comes from making a choice. Love does not come naturally, but is necessary for our well-being. However, love cannot be contrived or rehearsed. It must come from within and not merely be an outward action to elicit a self-serving response.

Is your love relationship with God sincere or are you going through the motions? If you are sincere, you understand what God’s ways, God’s will, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word is all about in your life. Worshiping God is not to be an outward action but an outpouring of love that comes from within our hearts, minds and souls.

Coach