Listen, [my] sons, to a father’s discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding, for I am giving you good instruction. Don’t abandon my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother, he taught me and said: Your heart must hold on to my words. Keep my commands and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.” Prov 4:1-9 (HCSB)
What our country needs today is more fathers involved and engaged in their families. Sons need strong role models to guide them as they grow and mature in the important stages of their life. However, sadly, many families today are forced to develop without a father active in the daily lives of the children. Mothers are left alone to raise the children and are overwhelmed and ill-equipped to provide the father’s role to their children. The results are children who grow up without the solid foundation of parental support that God intended from the beginning of time.
Isn’t it interesting that long before governments and nations were established, God ordained marriage and the raising of families as the foundation of society? Even the earliest nations were nothing more than extended families supporting one another for their common good and security. However, as government and religious institutions were established the pressure for power, prestige, and pleasure within these man-made institutions became far more important than maintaining God’s intended role of parents in the family setting. Society lost the connection of how a proper perspective on the power (influence and authority), prestige, and pleasure that the family relationship was intended to provide. Instead, men sacrificed their parental roles and responsibilities for the pursuit of the benefits of fleeting power, prestige, and pleasure that they believed come from climbing social and secular ladders. The applause of men became more important than the applause of their family members.
Additionally, in recent decades women have been included in the same pursuits as men and fallen prey to the social and secular pursuit of power, prestige, and pleasure that comes outside of the family. The definition of true success and the family has been further crippled as a result. The children have become the victims and paid the price, as mothers and fathers have shuffled their parental and familial responsibilities onto the shoulders of schools and churches and other social activities.
Speaking primarily to the fathers, you have a responsibility designed and established by God to be the role model for your sons (and daughters) to promote God’s will, ways, and wisdom found in His Word. Children desire and deserve the applause of their fathers. Your most important applause should come from the eager response of your children seeking our approval for what they do, say, and achieve.
America, what made us strong for many formidable decades was our agricultural family base, where multiple generations lived together on the farm supporting and encouraging each other. Everyone in the family shared in safeguarding the common good and security of the family members.
However, as America prospered and became more successful as an industrial society, families moved into the cities for the “so-called better life,” the traditional family structure suffered. Add the information age we currently are in, and now we find our children engaged in social networks looking for their acceptance and applause. Their role models are celebrities in sports, music, and movies, and not their fathers or mothers.
Why? The answer is simpler than we realize: Our children need approval and guidance and are seeking it from convenient and welcoming connections outside of their family, such as social media because their parental role models are too busy pursuing their own lives.
Let us be reminded what God wants us to remember: When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother, he taught me and said: Your heart must hold on to my words. Keep my commands and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord because this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. And fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:1-4 (HCSB)
Visit TMBrownAuthor.com and check out the Shiloh Mystery Series now that Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest released to complete the saga. In the third and final novel, the concept of fatherhood plays a central role as an orphaned teenager arrives in little old Shiloh.
…the kindness of God leads you to repentance… Romans 2:4b
It is funny, once a child of God experiences the personal joy of God’s kindness in his or her life, that joy is shared with someone else by acts of kindness in return. In sharing the joy of God by acts of kindness, God’s purpose is realized. Only His children can receive His joy, and only His children can share His joy with others through sincere acts of kindness…that is how God works through us to reach those in the greatest need of receiving His joy. Once those in need of God’s joy in their life receive joy from one of God’s children through some act of kindness and they recognize the source of that joy there can be but one response: repentance, or turning from a life of sorrow and strife towards a life of hope, optimism, and peace only found through receiving God’s joy in their life.
Right now in our community, there is a lot of bad news touching lives, and families are struggling as parents are at risk of losing jobs and homes. Our community needs to sense of joy through many acts of kindness that leads them to have a real sense of hope, optimism, and peace. The only stimulus plan that will last is the plan God has for us not what man can deliver. God’s resources are unlimited whereas man’s are certainly limited and cannot last. Share with someone today the hope of God through an act of kindness and see how it can stimulate joy in others.
(This devotion was originally written to a host of students, teachers, and friends caught up in the financial crisis of 2009. Our current crisis is not the same but the challenges and fears of uncertainty are the same as before. Kindness remains a gift of God that will save lives from despair and destruction. Whose life will you impact by your acts of compassion and kindness today and tomorrow?)
Visit TMBrownAuthor.com for stories that reflect the value of kindness in times of crisis in the Shiloh stories.
“Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” — Exodus 25:8, NIV
Until three years ago, the former Adams County Courthouse had proudly stood since the Civil War as the landmark in Shiloh. After the powers-to-be transferred the county seat to Alexandria during the Depression, the majestic edifice underwent renovation to appease the folks in Shiloh and became the town’s city hall. The elegant lady had worn her nostalgic brick and stone exterior well, but the makeover had been superficial.
Questions have lingered since city officials reported the fire as accidental, cause unknown.
A prolonged Indian summer gripped Georgia. Though already the first Sunday of November, hot and humid weather more suitable for early September caused sweat to trickle unabated down my neck dampening the collar of the fresh cotton polo I had just yanked over my head. The moving truck had pulled away while Liddy patiently watched from her passenger window. I walked up the sidewalk one last time and locked the front door of the colonial brick suburban house we had called home for the past seven years.
I jumped into the driver’s seat, buckled up, squeezed the hand of my wife of forty years, and then reached for the gear shift. “Any regrets?”
Liddy raised her window and turned her gaze straight ahead as a silly smirk appeared. “Nope, Let’s roll! We’ve got a moving truck to meet in Shiloh tomorrow.”
My foot slid from the brake to the accelerator, and our Expedition jolted forward with the packed trailer in tow. Liddy stared straight ahead for the first few minutes. She caressed the manila envelope stuffed with photos, brochures, and paperwork about the house we contracted to purchase for our retirement, but soon dozed off after we turned south onto US Highway 19. I settled in for the long afternoon drive to our destination an hour below Albany.
The all-too-familiar gated communities and shopping centers under Atlanta’s ever-present shadow faded in my rearview mirror. I snapped a farewell salute as we passed Cornerstone Books where I served as chief publishing editor until one week ago. The historic highway narrowed as the scenic panorama of autumn colors revealed more and more farms, fields and forests along the landmark route.
Liddy stirred long enough to adjust her position and place a small pillow between her head and the window. Glancing at her as she fell back to sleep jogged my memory of the first day my eyes fell upon her on the Athens campus forty years ago. My smile over the memory faded when I glanced at the stranger in the rearview mirror. Gray had infiltrated my dirty blonde hair, and crow’s feet pointed to sagging eyelids. After an extended sigh, I reminded myself that I no longer was that spirited undergrad Liddy first met, but a second glance at Liddy returned a grin to my wrinkled face.
When Liddy first suggested early retirement, I turned a deaf ear. Undeterred, she persisted. “Theo Phillips, it’s high time you realized that you can afford to do what you’ve always wanted. Walk away from that job you’ve grown to resent and invest the time to write your own stories as you’ve always envisioned?”
Once my hard head embraced the idea, Liddy wasted little time. She arranged the sale of our home, scoured a mountain of listings, made countless phone calls, and endured long day trips, while I fulfilled my promise to my boss and worked until the end of October. Liddy strutted about the day our home landed an eager buyer, and the following evening methodically spread a collection of photos on the kitchen table of a picturesque, historic home located in a South Georgia town aptly named Shiloh. Not far from our childhood hometowns, the pictures brought back fond memories for both of us. We both felt God had answered our prayers when a day later we received acceptance of our cash offer.
On the outskirts of Albany, Liddy stirred and wiped her eyes as the late afternoon sunlight glistened between the treetops. She cleared her throat and lowered her sunglasses from the top of her head. Surveying the passing scenery, she asked with a drawn-out sigh. “Where are we?”
I pointed to a well-timed road sign. “Albany’s 30 more miles. Reckon we’ll arrive in Shiloh a little before six.” The news earned a smile as she stared back out the window.
Liddy soon turned with a curious grin. “What were you thinking about while I was asleep?”
Without losing my focus on the road, I said, “How lucky I was to have stolen the heart of the prettiest girl that ever graced the Athens campus.”
Liddy giggled. “I feel the same about you.”
We soon turned onto the Flint River Highway, the homestretch leg of our journey. The amber glow grew darker as the sun disappeared below the distant treetops.
Liddy bit her lower lip and clenched my hand. “Do you think we did right? I mean… buying this house and leaving Peachtree?”
A chuckle erupted first. “Hun, I’ve no doubt that the vetting process you orchestrated selecting this house removed any reservations I might have clung onto about my retirement or our decision to pack up and move to Shiloh.”
Her cheeks glowed. “Me neither, but I wanted to be certain you weren’t merely trying to appease me. I’m truly looking forward to sinking deep roots and making a slew of friends.”
My wink brought a smile to Liddy’s relieved lower lip. “You’re right,” she said. “But how well do you think we’ll fit in?”
“Trust me. A town like Shiloh won’t allow us to remain anonymous long.”
Liddy laughed and agreed that Shiloh would be like the small towns we remembered growing up, where even strangers passing through town were addressed as “friend” or “neighbor,” and names were exchanged during a hearty handshake or hug.
Liddy eyed a distant weathered barn donning a rusted tin roof. “We must be getting close.”
She begged me to stop when we passed an abandoned mansion with discolored columns and rickety shutters no longer protecting shattered windows. With critters and termites likely the only tenants, I convinced her we should save a close-up inspection for another day. Plantation oaks with dangling moss lined the rest of the way into Shiloh. The Expedition’s automatic headlamps attacked the growing dark shadows and distant lights welcomed us into town.
On Main Street, Liddy urged me to slow well below the speed limit as we drove into the center of town. She pointed out the quaint drugstore, barbershop, and the other storefronts surrounding the town square. We reminisced about fifty-cent Saturday matinees as we rolled past the movie theater with its illuminated marquee. In fact, Shiloh revealed family-owned shops and businesses, a fading memory in most small towns throughout the South.
The Chamber of Commerce brochure depicted a majestic, antebellum, red-brick courthouse anchoring the center of Shiloh. Instead, we discovered a newly constructed brick and granite city hall with a grand portico and well-lit main entrance. Decorative red-brick walkways cut through manicured lawn and meticulous gardens. As we crept along, Liddy pointed to an illuminated, life-like bronze statue of a young man at one corner of the town square.
“I wonder who he was?” Liddy asked. “He looks so young. There’s nothing in the literature about it.”
I managed a shrug as I searched for the street that led to our house. The word SOLD stood out on the Arians Real Estate sign in the front yard of our corner property. Liddy left little doubt about her eagerness to show me more of the house, but darkness, the growl of our stomachs and fatigue begged otherwise. A couple of blocks further into the quiet neighborhood, Liddy exchanged smiles with two red-haired girls playing out front of one of the elegant mansions among other comparable homes at that end of Calvary Street.
Shiloh’s unified school complex at the southern end of town brought back memories of our school days. The buildings and grounds appeared recently renovated. The football stadium and athletic fields behind the school appeared larger than one would expect for a town of Shiloh’s size.
Once I turned back onto Main Street, flickering yellow and blue neon lights identified our destination for the night, the Shiloh Motel. “Thank goodness! I’m so ready to crawl out from under this steering wheel. Not to mention, I’m famished.”
Liddy lowered her window. “Hey, look next door, Bubba’s BBQ. Sure smells good too.”
Inside the motel office, a silver-haired woman dressed in a blue and white flowered frock eyed us as she slurped down the last of her drink, managing a warm smile at the same time. She yanked off her makeshift paper towel bib, dabbed her cheeks, moments before she wriggled out of her armchair. A sauce-stained, white porcelain platter next to her chair held remnants of her dinner, a couple of ketchup ladened fries alongside a neat stack of sucked-clean rib bones. With a flick of her remote, she muted Aunt Bea from Andy of Mayberry. She adjusted her dress as she approached with contagious smile that made us respond likewise, but her shrill greeting we’d never forget.
“Welcome, folks to Shiloh. Y’all mus’ be Mista an’ Missus Phillips. We’ve been expectin’ y’all.”
Liddy froze but managed an abbreviated nod. I continued up to the counter, choking off an escalating chuckle. Instead, I feigned a cough before greeting the jovial hostess with a suitable grin.
“I’m Barb, Barb Patterson. Me and my husband Bubba are the proud owners of the best motel and barbecue restaurant in Shiloh.” Her cheeks flushed as her fingers sought to stifle her cackle.“Oh, me. Oh, my. The truth is, we own the only motel and barbecue restaurant in town.” A burst of self-indulgent belly laughter followed.
“Well, Barb, thanks for such a pleasant greeting,” I managed to say after snickering at first. “We’re glad to be here after our long drive.” I nudged Liddy. “I’m Theo, Theo Phillips, and this is Liddy, my wife. I believe the two of you spoke this morning.”
“Y’all mus’ be plum tuckered out.” Her fingers flitted in the direction of my hand reaching for my wallet. “You can keep your wallet in your pants pocket for now.” She slid a registration form and pen in front of me. “Please sign right here. We’ve got our best room reserved for you. We’ll deal with the formalities in the morning.”
I pointed to our name and new address already filled in as I slid the signed form back to her. “Thanks, but how’d you know?”
Barb muffled another high-pitched cackle. “Honey, Mista Nick is not just the realtor in town but also a dear friend and regular customer. He stopped by for lunch and told us all about you and that y’all are buying Miss Betty Priestly’s old home.” She stared at Liddy’s raised brow. “Hun, everyone in Shiloh knows the Priestly house. Y’all sure are getting a mighty special home.” She pulled the form from the counter. “Will you need one or two keys.”
I showed her one finger and received a brass key with the number 10 stamped on it.
Liddy’s composure returned. She reached out to thank our capricious but jovial hostess. Barb received Liddy’s hand. “Hun, if you need anything, just dial the desk. It’s a genuine pleasure to be the first to welcome y’all to Shiloh.”
“Thank you, Miss Barb. We’re glad to be here too.” After Barb released Liddy’s hand, Liddy asked, “How late is the restaurant open?”
“Just hold one second.” Barb lifted the receiver of her yellow rotary phone, dialed and tapped her cherry red fingernails on the counter. “Cecil? The Phillips just checked in, and they’s mighty hungry. Will you take special care of ‘em? Maybe seat ‘em at one of the winda’ tables? …Thanks, Ceec. You’re a doll.” Barb hung up and looked at Liddy. “Miss Liddy, y’all are all set. Hope y’all are hungry. Bubba’s ribs are ‘specially good tonight.”
Liddy smiled and glanced at Barb’s empty platter. “Thank you, Barb. We’ll be sure to give those ribs a try. We haven’t eaten since we left Peachtree.”
A tall, silver-haired African-American gentleman approached us with a broad, toothy grin as soon as we walked into Bubba’s BBQ. His white bib apron wrapped comfortably around his slim frame allowing him to tie it in the front. A damp towel draped over his shoulder and provided clear evidence of his busy day.
“Y’all mus’ be the Phillips. Welcome to Bubba’s. My name’s Cecil, and that’s Bubba over there.”
Cecil then turned his head and yelled. “Bob, say hello to the newest folks in town, the couple Mista’ Nick spoke about this afta’noon.”
Bubba, a rotund man with graying dark hair, raised his free hand and shared a sweaty smile but returned to tending the carousel of meat rotating over the smoke pit.
The table Cecil offered us provided a clear view of Main Street. Liddy and I handed the menus right back without opening them.
“Barb recommended Bubba’s ribs. How about two platters with sweet tea?”
Cecil affirmed our choice with an appreciative nod before he headed towards the kitchen and yelled, “Two more ribs.”
Liddy and I soon were ready to bust and shoved our near empty plates aside. When Cecil inquired about dessert, Liddy raised her hands and shook her head.
After we paid for the meal and expressed our appreciation to Cecil and Bubba, we decided to stretch our legs and walked into the center of town. Liddy found a bench next to the brick walkway and admired the unique architecture of Shiloh Baptist Church across the street. My interest fell upon the illuminated bronze statue we saw earlier.
JESSIE MASTERSON, BELOVED COACH AND TEACHER, SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SAVING THE LIVES OF TWO OTHERS THE NIGHT OUR HISTORIC COURTHOUSE BURNED TO THE GROUND, DECEMBER 8, 2010.
I stood arms crossed allowing my thoughts to conjure the possible bigger story that earned this young hero such recognition. Liddy walked up and clutched my elbow, disrupting my thoughts. Her weary eyes told me it was time to head back to the motel. Before we left, I peered over my shoulder at Jessie Masterson and then said, “I was thinking… what a tragic tale that memorial represents. My instincts tell me I should try to learn more about that young man. What do you think?”
Liddy squeezed my hand and winked.
Begin the journey to Shiloh with Theo & Liddy; get your copy of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories, go to: T. M. Brown’s Bookstore
Please allow me to begin this story by sharing that over the many centuries, since the beginning of what we now celebrate as Christmas, our societies have painted a much different picture of the Christmas story. We have gotten sidetracked from the real story.
In each of our homes, a simple manger scene might be tucked away on a shelf or tabletop somewhere, symbolically placed without any real fanfare or notice. It has become just another ornament or decoration in our home already filled with lights, candles, bows, and assorted Christmas ornamentation. There is far more interest upon the gaily wrapped gifts under the tree, and we wonder, “What is under the tree for me?” Our attention turns to preparing and sharing scrumptious candy, cookies, and cakes with family and friends gathering while that Christmas manger depicts the real story and magic of Christmas.
Is it wrong to think about all the other wonderful treats and gifts and ornamentation that now identify with Christmas? Is it wrong to sing Jingle Bells and Grandma Got Run Over By the Reindeer on Christmas Eve? Is it wrong to talk about Santa Claus, the North Pole, and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer? Is it wrong to watch the myriad of Christmas stories Hollywood has created that we seem to enjoy each Christmas season? No, all are a by-product of how Christmas has become shaped by our modern society.
However, for some of us, we embrace our heritage and the family traditions passed down to us as our way to celebrate the “Spirit of Christmas.” Though there are more and more outside influences competing to shape the Christmas traditions our children and grandchildren are allowing into their homes, we faithfully pass on the heritage and traditions as they grow up and raise their our family.
Just maybe, if we stop and pull aside all the shiny trimmings and colorful decorations, and mute more of the commercialized messages of Christmas, we might avoid missing out on the true meaning and joy of Christmas. But, if we allow ourselves to fall prey to all the glitz, glitter, and glamour, the real reason for the season might fade totally away; we might as well follow suit with the rest of the world and stop calling it CHRISTmas, as many in the world would prefer we do.
Why does the world want to avoid the real reason for CHRISTmas? Is it because if they join us in celebrating Christmas (the CHRIST MASS, as it originally was called), they will hear the true message and the story represented by the manger scene resting on a shelf somewhere? The celebration of Jesus’s birth is so we may acknowledge God’s love. In the confusing, chaotic and combative time we live in today, there has never been a greater time for the world to grasp ahold of the real meaning of Christmas.
That very first Christmas Eve, though the term we now embrace as Christmas would not be known for decades, was a genuine, historical event involving real people; its story passed from generation to generation and recorded over the centuries so it could endure the test of time and become the anchor of our faith that God’s love was, is, and forever will remain available to us.
The Bible records that the Apostle Paul saw the Christ child event as significant because it reflected God’s deliberate act to demonstrate His love for us by introducing Himself through what would become the life and legacy of Jesus, born into this world just as we too are born into this world. In writing to the early churches, decades after the birth, Paul wrote the WHAT and WHY of that first Christmas Eve.
WHAT: But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Galatians 4:4-5 The Message
The timing of Jesus’ birth was not arbitrary. It was established by key events and came directed by the providential hand of God for His good purposes.
WHY: Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of an intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave (a nobody), but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:6-7 The Message
The why is much more important! Until this point in history, the people of God had lost contact with the personal God who led His them from slavery in Egypt and delivered them to a better place, a better life. Like many of us today, they had taken God’s goodness and love for granted and alienated themselves from God for over 500 years. In fact, many suffered exile and were driven into foreign lands – a reminder of what being a slave, a nobody felt like again. Even those who continued to live in the lands we know as Israel today, and those scattered throughout the known world at that time, faced Roman rule, no longer able to experience a “King” of their own to lead them from the oppression they endured. But, many clung to God’s promises of a Messiah, a Deliverer, to rescue them once again. They yearned for the relationship and inheritance they once trusted in because they were God’s children. Each day they prayed and hoped that “today would be that day” – and then it happened. God answered their prayers, and that first Christmas Eve unfolded into history.
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiance, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. Luke 2:1-7 The Message
This brief passage and a couple of equally short passages in the Gospel accounts of the Bible reveal the story. Today, we hear those timeless words at church and in the embedded lyrics of Christmas songs and carols, such as Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, etc. Though many churches still perform manger recreations, how you personally respond to the story matters.
How about you and your family, will you take the time to share and reflect upon the story and message of that first Christmas Eve? Will you allow that manger scene in your home to be treasured above all the other Christmas decorations and symbols of today’s Christmas season?
Also, rather than read the cute but created story about “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to your (grand)children, maybe this year read them the real, God-inspired true story about “The Night that Brought Christmas into the World! Below is how Hershel Hobbs wrote about that special night, recorded in his Illustrated Life of Jesus.
In faraway Rome, Augustus Caesar ruled his vast empire with an iron hand. True to Roman fashion he was primarily concerned that his subjects should keep the peace and pay their taxes. In 8 B.C. he had inaugurated a periodical census every fourteen years in order to enroll his people for taxation. According to Tacitus (Roman Historian) even the regna, the independent kingdoms under the Roman Empire, were included in this census.
Probably two years later this census was carried out in Palestine. Herod, the vassal king, would not think of disobeying Augustus. Yet, knowing the Jew’s aversion to paying taxes to Rome, he delayed it as long as he dared. Even then he sought to placate the Jews by adhering to their customs in dealing with them along tribal lines. So when the order for enrollment was finally given, it called for every Jew to be enrolled at the place where the tribal register was kept.
Thus Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, for they were descendants of David and members of the tribe of Judah. Though they were peasants (poor, everyday common folks), royal blood flowed in their veins. By this time Mary was great with child (in her final days of pregnancy) and this journey of approximately 100 miles worked a great hardship on her. Nevertheless, Caesar’s decree must be obeyed.
However, she and Joseph moved under a greater word (inspiration) than that of the Roman emperor, for God had said that His Son, the Messiah, should be born in Bethlehem. Augustus knew nothing of this prophecy and cared less. But unknowingly he was an instrument in God’s hands, as his decree like an invisible cord drew the virgin mother toward her destiny.
After several days of travel, late in the afternoon, these weary travelers climbed the last rocky, steep ascent leading into Bethlehem. The streets were crowded with hundreds of other men and women bent on the same mission. Clouds of dust boiled up from the stirring of the hundreds of feet of men and animals. A bedlam of noise characteristic of such a scene filled the ears of the weary couple from Nazareth as laboriously they made their way to the village inn. But it was already filled to overflowing.
So because there was no lodging to be had, Joseph bedded his wife down in the area provided for the animals. Here Mary “gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a manger (animal feed trough)” Luke 2:7.
Thus the Son of God was born – not in a king’s palace or in a home of the wealthy or mighty, but to a peasant mother whose delivery room was a stable. No physician stood by to assist. Only the gnarled hands of a village carpenter came to her aid, but they were hands made tender by a conquering love and a devotion to God. As the newborn babe slept through the night, He was under the watchful eyes of His mother and Joseph, but most of all He was secure under the never-failing gaze of His Heavenly Father.
The next morning, Bethlehem roused from her sleep. It was business as usual as the bazaars rang with the noise of commerce. The enrollment was finished, and the crowds moved out to return to their homes. Caesar’s bidding had been done, and the village of David returned to normal. Only a few simple folks knew that on that night in the little village there had transpired the greatest event in the history of the world.
…Jesus’ birth was largely unnoticed by the world. Outside of the Bible, no ancient historian took note of the event. They were so bent on the recording the affairs of men and nations that they failed to recognize God’s history within history, whereby in the person of His Son He entered into the arena of time to answer the universal cry of men’s hearts. But it did not occur without recognition by those whose hearts were prepared to receive it.
Heaven itself rejoiced over the glorious event. For the angelic hosts burst asunder the barrier of invisibility to proclaim the Savior’s birth and to sing the Christian anthem dedicated to His praise. For their audience, they had a handful of lowly shepherds, the simple folk who counted for little in the tides of history whichever beat upon the shores of time. But their hearts were firmly fixed in God’s promises upon which they meditated in the quiet hours of the night. In Bethlehem’s fields where Ruth had gleaned in the fields of Boaz, later to become his bride and the Moabite ancestress of the Savior; where David had tended his sheep, all the while contemplating God’s glory and on Him who was to be born; there the shepherds first heard the glad tidings that unto them had been born a Savior, Christ the Lord.
The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem to find it as the angels had said. They found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. God in a cradle! Upon hearing from the shepherds about the heavenly declaration, Mary placed the event alongside the message of Gabriel, pondering them in her heart. And she knew that God had fulfilled His promise. The shepherds returned to their work, carrying back into their mundane sphere the memory of an experience which would forever cast an aura of glory about them and about all others who in humble trust some to Him who fills the universe with His presence, yet who for a little while was contained in a baby’s impromptu cradle – a manger!
Hope you’ll visit my TMBrownAuthor.com page and discover “Christmas in Shiloh” attempts to exemplify a grandfather’s love for sharing Christmas with his grandchildren.
Let us not become weary when doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
When things are going well we should feel like nothing can stop us from continuing to do good. But, what happens when doing what is right and good becomes hard, and others are watching? Will you remain steadfast and NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT or buckle under the burden?
What happens to our enthusiasm when we receive the recognition we feel we deserve for doing good?
What about when choosing to do good means you may be the only one doing it?
No matter what, we are encouraged to stay the course, choosing to do what is right and good. There is a promise connected to staying the course, but the reward may be merely getting to see the fruit of our efforts – a changed life although nothing materially changes for us.
If such is our reward, will you continue to choose to do good? That is the test that God may place before you. Will you stay the course no matter what?
Please know doing what is right and good can be a challenge, taxing our willpower, but we also have a stronger power than our willpower — God’s spiritual power within us. Make sure God’s spiritual power empowers our willpower. Then you will NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT doing what is right and good!
My Shiloh Mystery Series carries this message. The first two books in the series are currently celebrating their anniversary. They are both available in paperback and Kindle, and Audible (coming this Summer).
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2018) T. M. Brown (9781641110730)
Testament, An Unexpected Return (2018) T. M. Brown (9781641110846)
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Coming 2020) T. M. Brown
Visit the T. M. Brown Author page for more about my fiction stories and quick links to upcoming author events and how to order.
The paperback editions can be purchased through your local bookstore. For your convenience follow the link to IndieBound.org to locate your nearest bookstore.
The memorable characters in Shiloh will make you ask these two questions:
Would you trust God when the choice you have to make conflicts with what may be in our personal best interest and cost more than we think we can afford?
What price do you place on doing what is right and good?
Will you post your comments on my author webpage after you have read one or both books? Leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or my Facebook Author Page appreciated. You can also find me on Instagram.
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 uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life that is well-traveled and well-marked by many before us, and many more will follow us on this same road. The choice you get to make is how you walk this road of life among all the others on it with you. Yet, let it be clear, there are no new paths to take, just dead-ends should you choose to wander onto your own ways. God has clearly stated that there is but one way to follow Him, and all other ways are futile and paths of destruction for those who decide to walk in their own ways.
Are there genuinely unique new ways?
Just look at the world around us and see how His creation is marked in a similar way. The winds blow and waters flow certain ways, and the stars, planets, and heavens above all guide their ways through the evening sky the same way for centuries without change either. The creatures in the forests and oceans and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in the never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given man the inquisitive mind, and pursuing the unknown and the new is an instinct of challenge that we have, but when we do not check with the Creator first along the way, we allow our eyes and ears to be filled with the prospects of things we perceive as new, but in consulting God we learn that what is new to us is not new to Him. Nothing new can be created outside the will, ways and wisdom of the Creator God.
So what must we do?
A new understanding is a part of our maturity, but we should realize just because it is new to us, an astounding revelation of eternal truth and magnitude, it is not new to God. The moment we assume something to be of original thought, a revelation of our own mind, we assume the role of God.
Our life is to be a life in pursuit of new thoughts and revelations that flow from the Creator, and He alone knows what we are capable of understanding and benefiting from for His greater purposes. Therefore, as we walk along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and comprehend God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word! Trust in Him alone, and never unto our own understanding – because its destination is a dead-end! Life eternal is God’s purpose for us. Which do you choose?
If you are a creative writer, how can this understanding influence your work? Do we really write unique stories?
A Cradle, Cross, and Crown: Christmas Gifts from Heaven
For as many of you, having been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise (God’s Covenant). Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. In the same way, we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted. Galatians 4:1-11
The origin of Christmas: Just over 2000 years ago, on this day – 2 days before Jesus was born – a young girl, in the fullness of her time to give birth to her child, and her husband, in the midst of a long, endured an uphill journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip of 100 miles or so. The way was difficult, but there was little to fear along the way since Roman legions were stationed throughout the land to keep the peace, and to police the highways against robbers and thieves. However, imagine the fear of a young teenage girl expecting her first child, having to handle the long walk, knowing any day she would give birth to what God had promised was to be the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah – the Christ.
Their journey was orchestrated by God through history. Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census registration for tax purposes, and King Herod and the Roman governor decided to have everyone to register in their family hometown, which was Bethlehem for both Mary and Joseph. Both of them, though common people of the day, had royal blood in their veins. They both were from the lineage of King David, who was also from Bethlehem. It is also interesting to note, Bethlehem means “house of bread”, and it is there God had chosen long before that His Son, the Messiah would be born there – and during in His ministry, He would proclaim that He is the Bread of Life!
Why did God choose to become incarnate through the womb of a woman as a defenseless newborn child? Why not just arrive into history as a manifestation of God before men? How would a cradle serve as an appropriate throne for the promised Prince of Peace? There would be no royal processions with heralds announcing their arrival into Bethlehem. Rather, God chose to have the mother of His Son walk in the footsteps of common man, sharing the same dust along the way with her husband, Joseph, whom God had hand-picked to be the step-father to His Son. However, through the drudgery of the journey, the echoes of Gabriel’s (God’s messenger angel) message to both Mary and Joseph kept them at peace. Mary certainly would have sensed that God would not have His Son born at just any time, but rather at His chosen, right time – in a place selected for His Son to be born – of God’s choosing, not man’s.
The people had long-awaited the arrival of the Messiah, but they were looking in all the wrong places. They sought a royal birth in a royal palace to a royal family. They expected a worldly prince to come and be born, and to rise up to become the Savior King of His people. They looked to a Savior who would carry a sword and ride a great stead into battle against the enemies that ruled over them. But, God had another plan, because beyond the Cradle there would have to be a Cross to bear long before the Crown could be worn and He assume His rightful place as the King of kings, Lord of Lords, the Savior of the World. Any one aspect without the other would not provide a complete picture of who Christ was: the Son of God.
The Cradle represented the incarnation of God – Jesus was born of a woman and became a man to share God’s love message to mankind.
The Cross represented the presentation of God of the perfect, only sacrifice that would save men from his sinful nature. No sacrifice presented by man could ever live up to standards of holiness that God demanded – therefore, God offered His own Son, perfect as God is perfect to make the sacrifice acceptable to God, according to the Covenant that God made with Abraham centuries before.
Likewise, the Crown represented the coronation of God, which symbolized the source of power and authority that no kingdom or empire on earth could overcome. Despite their best efforts, even the Great King Herod could stop His birth; not even the Roman Empire and its legions could prevent Christ from fulfilling His purpose – they even were unknowing participants and pawns of God’s divine plan for man.
Christ through His death and resurrection ascended to the right hand of the Father as our perfect advocate, so that our sinful life would not have to face the divine judgment of God. If we were to stand before God on our judgment day all alone, having to present our life to Him and give our own account for all we did or failed to do, then we would have no hope. But, through the Cradle, Cross, and Crown stages of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we can know by faith that our sins are forgiven, and He will be there when we stand in judgment before God and will be welcomed as joint heirs into His kingdom.
When we think about the next few days as each of us prepares for Christmas, consider how the story might have turned out if Mary and Joseph were not obedient to God, and their storied-faith in His promises had wavered. Would they have traveled on that difficult journey knowing Mary was about to give birth? But their story unfolded with God mounted upon the wings of history dispatching heavenly and worldly heralds onto the stage announcing the birth of a child that would reshape the world…
More coming about the night before His birth in Bethlehem.
My daily prayer: Lord Jesus, it is in Your holy name that we can now enter into the throne of grace in our prayers, and share our heartfelt praises and petitions before God. It is through Your name that we know we have the Spirit of God residing within us to communicate our utterances to a Holy, Almighty Creator God. My faith is anchored in You, Your birth, Your death, and Your Resurrection – all orchestrated by God so that we may walk in the newness of life as He intended since Creation. Thank You, my Lord, and my Savior… Amen.
My son, IF you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; IF you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding; IF you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure; THEN you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His loyal followers. THEN you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity — every good path. For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil– from the one who says perverse things, [from] those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, [from] those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversity, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious. Prov 2:1-15 (HCSB)
A key fact about us humans: We have an innate instinct of distrust designed into us. Therefore, the most challenging obstacle for anyone to overcome is accepting the benefit of surrendering one’s personal will, ways, and (perceived) wisdom to the perfect, pleasing, and good will of our Lord God. We prefer to trust our decision-making even when it causes us to falter and stumble. However, sooner or later, the scrapes, sores, and bruises overwhelm us. Only then we seem receptive to the fate of our shortfalls, ignorance bordering foolishness, and we begin to accept the sin (selfish shortcomings) within us that causes us to stumble and fail.
For some of us, our lack of faith continues to blind us from acknowledging God’s Wisdom. We reach out to other palatable sources of advice and counsel in our life. However, sooner or later we recognize that we are the captive of our own sin, but now also the slave to others as well. The fact remains: Even after all the detours and delays we have chosen to experience in life, God’s grace remains steadfast. He patiently waits for us to recognize our willful stubbornness is our stumbling block.
Yet, God will not manipulate us to accept His wisdom. He chose not to coerce us in any way. Of course, God certainly provides us with ample reasons to draw our focus toward Him. All we need to do is open our hearts, minds, and souls to what God freely offers us. The Book of Proverbs offers a good start to recognize the “IF and THEN” outcomes of our misguided past versus a life seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
This passage, and others throughout Proverbs, clearly testifies to the conditions of making the right choices God desires so we may realize the blessings or favorable consequences we deserve as His faithful children. Re-read this passage. Carefully identify the keywords that may spur you to make the life-changing decision to alter the future course of your life. Accepting God’s wisdom allows you to discover His ways according to His wonderful will for you.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB)
NOTE: Throughout my Southern Novel series, my overriding message is God’s providential guidance requires our acceptance and recognition that the circumstances in our life have a greater purpose that may require uncomfortable changes and hard decisions, but IF we trust God, THEN we will see God’s grace played out through our impact upon others.
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (Jan 2018, ISBN 9781641110730)
Testament, An Unexpected Return (Mar 2018, ISBN 9781641110846)
In Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, God defines a Sanctuary.
The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone; the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each gate made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a sanctuary in it because the Lord God the Almighty is its sanctuary.
What defines a sanctuary? Is it what people take pride in – their wealth in gold and precious stones? However, God declares such things will be nothing more than building materials where he resides? The most valuable thing will be who not what is revered. There the Lord’s light surrounds those who seek sanctuary in him (a clear metaphor for the revelation of wisdom and truth).
Where do you invest your hope in life? Where do you invest your time and energy? Your retirement portfolio might be the envy of your peers, but what good is your grand portfolio at the end of your days?
Unlike Disney and Universal Studios where fantasies are promised to come true, there is a cost to enter their gates. However, God’s sanctuary requires only an affirming, sincere smile to enter and discover God’s invaluable, immeasurable grace.
What is the focus of your life? What relationships are more important, financial or spiritual ones? Remember, Jesus declared, You cannot serve God and money equally? One will influence your interest in the other.
This message rests within the pages of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories. Discover how the notion of Sanctuary galvanized the folks in lil’ ol’ Shiloh after Theo Phillips arrives in town and sheds light upon the dark secrets, scandal, and tragedy for all to confront. TMBrownAuthor.com
The pursuit of Wisdom is a most worthy and desirable journey. These facts remain true about the pursuit of it.
There will always be those wiser than ourselves. Conversely, this should become true too, others will see us as wise to them.
Wisdom is the application of goodness, righteousness, and justice, ergo godliness, in all choices of life.
Wisdom can never be fully reached in one’s lifetime, but its pursuit remains a worthy destination. The further one travels acquiring and understanding it, one’s relationship with God grows.
Wisdom defines one’s spiritual maturity.
Sadly, each of us recognizes wisdom residing in others long before we recognize it in ourselves.
I believe before one can truly attain wisdom one must grasp the dichotomies in the possible consequences for choices we make in life: Goodness against evil. Righteousness opposed to wickedness. Justice in contrast to injustice.
Yes, my younger friends, the pursuit of wisdom is a most worthy goal in life, and as you likely have recognized some degree of wisdom in others, others will look up to you as you look to your far wiser friends.
Wisdom should be a cherished destination in one’s life; the pursuit reveals God. The further you progress along the way of wisdom fading regrets will lose their grasp; any notions of retreat dissipate; all reserve left behind.
Again, no one attains wisdom, but the pursuit makes you wiser. Embrace the quest it takes you for the rest of your life.
After many years studying God’s Word, I wrote my Shiloh novels about a time-lost South Georgia town with colorful, realistic characters dealing with choices and consequences in life, and the response of others to our choices. I pray my grandchildren will eventually grasp the lessons that reside in the stories and become wiser as a result, and hopefully long before I discovered the value of wisdom in one’s life.
If you choose to read any of my inspirational Southern mysteries, please let me know what lessons you found within the twists and turns between the covers of each story.
Three things are stately in their stride; even four are stately in their walk: a lion, which is mightiest among beasts and doesn’t retreat before anything, a strutting rooster, a goat, and a king at the head of his army. If you have been foolish by exalting yourself, or if you’ve been scheming, put your hand over your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, and twisting a nose draws blood, and stirring up anger produces strife. Prov 30:29-33 (HCSB)
There is a difference between “strutting your stuff” before the victory and after the victory. In one case you are standing tall in confidence after the convincing victory has been won. The other is cocky swagger attempting to ward off any challenges that you may not be able to overcome. This passage has the imagery of the animal kingdom whereby confidence comes from experience, not from fear or intimidation.
To be “stately” means to be walk majestically in full confidence knowing who you are and what you truly are capable of achieving in life. You have been crowned the champion and are recognized and acknowledged as such because of your accomplishments. Such confidence comes also when you know you have worked hard and walk onto the field of competition with the best trainer and coach also on your side. In life, we can realize that confidence when we allow God to guide and direct our lives, because he promises us the crown of victory, if we do not give up and persevere in the struggles we face.
In stark contrast, there are those who “strut their stuff” only to pretend to be what they know deep inside they are not. They may dress the part, and may even appear intimidating, however their strut is founded upon their fear of failure; their fear of being exposed for what they really are! Their bark is loud; their threats fierce, but they will do about anything to not actually engage in the contest. They are more of the fool exalting one’s self and the schemer trying to get away with more than they are capable of actually accomplishing. However, all they manage to accomplish is to agitate and stir up others and to create strife.
A real champion walks in humble confidence because he or she has nothing to prove, and their reputation precedes them. All the challengers know who is on his or her side, and little needs to be said – no boasting, bragging; scheming or deception. A Christian anchored in God’s will, ways, and wisdom can realize the same confidence in life. As Paul said to Timothy:
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for, the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:7-10 (HCSB)
Exude the confidence of the Lion of Judah! When we have total faith, all fear is gone; our faith contributes to our confidence as we persevere through this life wearing the crown of victory which God promised. Do not be deceived by those who strut their own stuff, even within the Church. There are some who claim to be Christians; they openly boast and brag, even foolishly scheme in hopes they will be seen to be what they are not. But, strife and anger usually follow in their wake. Time adn trials reveal their fear, not their brandished faith.
Which are you? Humbly confident or foolishly arrogant? In the end, it matters only that God knows who the real victors are!
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: the ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; locusts have no king, yet all of them march in ranks; a lizard can be caught in your hands, yet it lives in kings’ palaces. Prov 30:24-28 (HCSB)
Around my house one can find an ant, a rabbit (cousin to the hyrax), a locust, and no doubt a lizard. Each one on their own is but an amusement or curiosity, but one fact of interest is that each is a member of a larger group that can demonstrate how they find safety and security in their numbers. All four of these creatures that God has placed upon our earth has demonstrated their propensity for survival that is more independent than that of man. Even when they are not obvious to us, they thrive because they understand how to survive in even the harshest environments.
Ants understand the importance of saving and storing food for the period of the year when they disappear deep into the ground during the extended cold days of winter. Long after man has been removed from the land, the ant will scurry across the landscape, because God created them with their instinct to survive by planning ahead and taking nothing for granted.
Hyraxes are rabbit-like rodents, actually more akin to the elephant, because they are hooved-animals that burrow in the cliffs of the Middle-Eastern world. They are common;y found in colonies of 50 or more. Yet, they understand for their security that they must find a safe place, a refuge from predators and the elements. The hyrax knows that to wander from the safety of the cliffs or their burrows means almost certain death. No matter how curious they become, they remain ever vigilant and close to the safety of their homes.
Locusts move in huge groups foraging for food. A single locust is a novelty, but when a horde of locusts appears, watch out! Unlike other groups of insects that have a queen or king, locusts travel in mutual cooperation with one another. Their survival rests solely upon their numbers working together for their common good.
Lizard are survivors. They adapt to their environment, changing colors, blending into the rocks or foiliage they call home. They are easy prey when found; harmless when caught, yet they thrive in many out of the way places; anywhere they can camoflage themselves to survive through adaptability. They attempt not to stand out or make themselves obvious to predators or their prey.
Each of these creatures is almost insignificant in of themselves but when we take the time to learn about their ways, God has sent us a message about our own survival. There is a lesson from each about how to live our lives successfully. And, the most important difference between them and us is this: We can know our Creator by seeking His will, ways, and wisdom, and discover a relationship that secures our life far safer than any man-made or natural scheme we may devise on our own.
God is our faithful Rock, Refuge, and Shield.
Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great! Luke 6:46-49 (HCSB)
In my Shiloh Mystery series, Theo clings to time with God with uncertainty envelops him as he and his wife Liddy realize thay must expose the scandals and dark secrets haunting their new community. TMBrownAuthor.com
Family memories inspire the most believable stories…
T. M. Brown, Southern & Inspirational Author
Folks have asked about my Christmas in Shiloh backstory timeline and how family plays such a key role in the story of Sanctuary. Here’s a kernel of inspiration that came from one of my grandsons performing in front of the Christmas tree when he was but five. These are the moments to be treasured and worthy of inclusion in my stories of Theo and Liddy Phillips overcoming their fears as they unravel mysteries in Shiloh. Their love of family is the fiber that binds their courage as they confront scandals and uncover dark secrets in their new small-town community.
Click the book cover images below to order your copy of Sanctuary or Testament today. Buy an extra copy or two as gifts for your book-loving family or friends.
Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family.
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.
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. Let us 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 ways. God declares 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 ways.
Look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave specific 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 never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given mankind an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. 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, we tend to perceive them as new to us, but is not nascent to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – nothing exists outside Creator God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
So what must we do? Is futility a trait of maturity? 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 mind, we usurp the role of God in our life. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the absolutes 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 higher purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the discoveries found through exploring God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our 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? Do not let futility rule your life.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)
Being told you have a lot of promise to run the race doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does guarantee victory in the race either. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name, nor the victory for a race we have not run.
Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.
The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s lifetime of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.
I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.
Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.
Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way because he has run the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorn the crown waiting for you.
For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.
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.”
Love is patient; love is kind; love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth; bears all things; hopes in all things; endures all things. Love never ends… Now, these three things remain faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
Lovedesires to be free and separated from all worldly attachments so that its inward sight will not be obstructed and it will not be entangled by any temporal prosperity or conquered by any adversity. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth, for love is of God and can rest only in God, who is above all created things.
Those who love, fly, run and rejoice – are free and cannot be restrained. Those who lovegive all and have all in all because they rest in the one who is highest above and, from all good comes. Those who love do not esteem gifts but turn themselves above all things to the giver.
Love knows no limit and is fervent beyond measure. Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, does not complain about impossibility, for it thinks all things lawful for itself, and all things possible.
Loveis able to undertake all things and complete many of them and cause them to take effect – where the person who does not love would faint and give up.
Love is watchful and alert even when it is dormant. When weary it is not tired, when pressured it is not stressed, when alarmed it is not confused, but like a living flame and burning torch it forces its way upward and securely passes through everything.
Anyone who loves knows the cry of the voice. For the ardent affection of the soul is a loud cry in the ears of God when it says, “My God, mylove, you are all mine and I am all yours.!”
Love is swift, sincere, affectionate, pleasant, amiable, courageous, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, and never seeks its own. For in whatever circumstances when we seek ourselves (our own interests) there we fall from love.
Love is circumspect, humble and upright. It does not give in easily, act frivolous, or pay attention to meaningless things, but it is sober, chaste, steady, quiet, and guard all its senses.
Love submits to its superiors and obeys them, but is unkind and contemptuous toward itself. It is devoted and thankful to God, and trusts and hopes always in Him – even when God does not impart sweetness to it, for without sorrow no one lives in love.
Those who are not prepared to suffer all things, and to submit to the will of their beloved are not worthy to be called lovers of God. A lover should willingly embrace all that is hard and distasteful for the sake of God, and not turn away from Him because of adversities.
My daily prayer: Lord God, my Savior, my Salvation, my Strength, the Spirit of Truth and Life that dwells within me, I humbly come before you to share that I love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I am completely yours, and I believe in my heart you love me, and nothing else in this life I live matters otherwise. I pray likewise that I am able to love others, beginning in my family with the kind of love that you exemplify within me, so that they may discover your love for themselves and surrender their lives to you as well. Thank you, my Lord and Savior, my Heavenly Father for the greatest gift of love that defines what love truly is: Yourself for me so that I can share that love with you. You are truly an awesome God, you are my God, and if all other things in my life were lost, I know your love will remain.
Lord, as Thomas a’ Kempis prayed, so do I pray these words and thoughts to you as well: Increase my love so that with the inward mouth of my heart, I may taste how sweet it is to love, to meet and bathe myself in your love. Let love possess me so that I rise up above myself in exceeding fervor and admiration. Let me sing the song of love; let my soul lose itself in your praise, rejoicing in love. Let me love you more than myself and not love myself but for your sake, and in you let me love all those who truly love you as the law of love that shines out you’re your commands. Amen
For additional reading: Romans 8:19; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Mark 12:30
The one who is truly lazy in his work is a brother to a vandal. The name of the Lord is a strong tower (sanctuary); the righteous run to it and are protected. A rich man’s wealth is his fortified city; in his imagination, it is like a high wall. Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but before honor comes humility. The one who gives an answer before he listens – this is foolishness and disgrace for him. A man’s spirit can endure sickness, but who can survive a broken spirit? Prov 18:9-14 (HCSB)
Whether at school, at work, the community, or in the church, there are people we meet almost every day who are in the wall building business. You might even be in that same enterprise. Our insecurities about life, and about whom we believe we are, demand us to protect ourselves by establishing walls to keep others out. But, why would we want to build barriers and walls to exclude and divide? The wisdom of God’s Word indeed reveals there are walls created out of insecurity, and then there are the walls offering genuine security that humility provides.
The insecure person constructs impregnable barriers to isolate themselves from others to prevent others from ever knowing the truth about some shadowy aspect of their lives. These ever-growing walls are meant to keep others at a safe distance. Always far enough, so they never focus on the insecurities and fears of the person cowering behind the walls built ever higher and broader throughout their lifetime. However, the walls are just an illusion, preventing the person cowering behind the walls from ever seeing that their fears isolate them from ever establishing genuine relationships. They have severed themselves from real friendships and love for one another as God had intended. Their pride justifies their insecurity; they exist in a relationship of one – their “self.” What a pathetic, lonely existence we opt to endure when our fears rule over us.
The truly humble person has a high tower that they can run into, but the walls of this refuge are of God’s design. This secure place is a lofty refuge, a sanctuary from the tough times in life, but it is never intended to keep you there. It is where a humble heart seeks rest and restoration before confidently re-engaging life with its many relationship demands. God’s sanctuary also does not isolate nor exclude others from entering when they likewise require God’s peace and mercy. The Lord’s high tower helps all to see their proper place in life and re-focuses them on what is most important, which is not your-“self.” Lasting relationships are encouraged in this safe-place so that you can live confidently in the real world. It is a place where fears are relieved through the love found shared by others because where love thrives, fear cannot. The only price for entry into God’s sanctuary is our “self”! Humility is the currency God offers to pay the price for peace.
Decide for yourself, which leads to genuine life, and which locks you out from genuine life. Seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom and the answer may become clear.
Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two will be in one bed: one will be taken, and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding grain together: one will be taken, and the other left. [Two will be in a field: one will be taken, and the other will be left.] Luke 17:33-36 (HCSB)
In January, an updated edition of SANCTUARY – A Legacy of Memories will be available – featuring a revised introduction, an epilogue, and the addition of a sub-title. (Palmetto Publishing Group, Charleston, SC has partnered to provide some needed edits and revisions to improve the first edition of Sanctuary, and provide a bridge in the storyline to its upcoming sequel.)
TESTAMENT – An Unexpected Return, arrives in March. The sequel picks up the story at the beginning of the following July. There’s a noticeable change in Pete’s and Harold’s characters. Mary’s got a life-altering decision to make. Liddy weighs a position that will get her out of the house. The Archer family face more challenges as events unfold. Wedding bells ring while more than one unexpected return keeps you turning page after page. All the while, foreboding, ominous storms from Shiloh’s past rattle its present and reshape its future.
Visit my new Author Website or my Facebook Author page for more news on the book front from Shiloh in the coming days. In the meantime. enjoy family, food, football, and of course, reading a good novel beside the fireplace as we celebrate New Years 2018. Think y’all will like what the sequel has in store for you…
May God grant you and yours a safe and prosperous 2018!
The holiday season has crept up upon us, and the number of shopping days are whittling down faster with each setting sun. May I remind you, the days are gettin’ shorter and shorter too. Simply put, the pressure is rising to get goin’ on fillin’ your Christmas shopping list for your friends, family members, and co-workers, ‘specially them that are booklovers.
So how do you know which book is best suited as a gift this holiday season? Will you simply judge the bookcover or a couple of well-scripted blurbs meant to grab your dollar before you’ve actually checked out the book?
I’d like to help you. First, checkout the LATEST Amazon reviews for Sanctuary, a Southern flavored small-town mystery that introduces Shiloh preparing for Christmas throughout the story, while the main characters are digging up the truth about scandals and dark secrets haunting their community. However, nothing can deter Shiloh from thier busy preparations for their annual slate of “Christmas in Shiloh” festivities, including the lighting of the town’s giant Christmas tree and festive parade.
How about a taste of a “Christmas in Shiloh” portion of the story? Follow the link to a video preview of Theo and Liddy busying themselves as they prepare for their family’s arrival for Christmas in Shiloh. Click the picture of Jolly Old St. Nick and me…
Otherwise, here’s my LIMITED TIME OFFER: Send me your name and email address by commenting at the bottom of this post or email me directly at email@example.com, and I’ll send you by return email right away a 33-page preview of Sanctuary. See for yourself if it’ll make a good Chrisitmas gift for your loved ones and friends this season, or possibly you’ll order a copy for yourself too. Hundreds have invested in Sanctuary – how about you for yourself and the book-lovers on your holiday list?
I’m wagering, between taking a minute to see what others have said about Sanctuary, and reading the opening chapters, you’ll get hooked and will order one or more copies for your bookloving family and friends, and of course your own reading pleasure.
Although I am a huge supporter of all my independent book retailers, read about Sanctuary on Amazon and peruse all the reviews.
Paperback and Kindle!
Merry Christmas! From my family to yours.
T. M. “Mike” Brown
You can also reach me on Facebook @TMBrownauthor
Remember, Testament, the sequel to Sanctuary will be out in early 2018 too! Stay connected for details on its launch date. T. M. Brown’s Shiloh stories continue…
Y’all Southern mystery lovers, Sanctuary is the holiday read you’ll enjoy this year. Here is a sneak-peek to whet your appetite so you’ll be sure to get your copy.
Click on my photo and I will present some images that reflect Theo’s and Liddy’s first morning in Shiloh, a time-lost South Georgia town they have chosen to reconnect with their roots. However, they end up wrestling with far more excitement and adventures than they bargained for after they arrive.
In Chapter 2 they awaken to the new sounds and sights that draw them back to their earlier days before college, marriage, and a career that kept them in the shadows of Atlanta for the past forty years.
Get your copy of Sanctuary. Checkout the links on the sidebar of my page, or contact me directly for your own personalized, signed edition.
NOTE: Testament, the sequel due out early 2018! Stay tuned for more details soon.
Enjoy this short sneak-peek into Sanctuary’s story, then click on the video links on the side panel to learn even more.
After [enjoying our first meal in Shiloh], we decided to stretch our legs and venture into the center of town. On the town square, Liddy found a bench next to the walkway and admired the unique architecture of Shiloh Baptist Church across the street. My interest fell upon the bronze statue we saw earlier.
Spotlights highlighted the young man’s chiseled face. He wore a collared polo shirt with a “SHS” monogram above a fleur-de-lis over his heart. A coach’s whistle hung from his neck, and a Bible rested in one hand while the other pointed upward. The life-like detail monopolized my attention until my eyes drifted to the plaque at the base:
JESSIE MASTERSON, BELOVED COACH AND TEACHER, SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SAVING THE LIVES OF TWO OTHERS THE NIGHT THE ORIGINAL COURTHOUSE BURNED DOWN, DECEMBER 8, 2010.
I stood with my arms crossed while my instincts conjured the possible story behind those two dozen words.
Here’s the first of several “Sneak peeks” at Sanctuary. In this scene, Theo and Liddy have packed up and left the shadows of Atlanta in their rearview mirror. They in the midst of their drive south to their new home in Shiloh…
On the outskirts of Albany, Liddy stirred and wiped her eyes as the late afternoon sunlight glistened between the tree tops. She cleared her throat, lowered her sunglasses from the top of her head, and surveyed the passing scenery before she asked with a drawn-out sigh, “Where are we?” I pointed to a well-timed road sign. “Albany’s 30 more miles. Looks like we’ll arrive in Shiloh a little before six.”
We soon turned onto the Flint River Highway, the homestretch leg of our journey. The amber glow grew darker as the sun disappeared below the distant treetops. Liddy bit her lower lip and clenched my hand. “Do you think we did right? I mean … buying this house and leaving Peachtree?”
My wink and affirming grin brought a smile to Liddy’s relieved lower lip. “You’re right,” she said. “But how well do you think we’ll fit in?” My smiling face bobbed up and down. “Trust me. A town like Shiloh won’t allow us to remain anonymous long.”
Liddy’s attention diverted to weathered barns and sheds with rusted tin roofs along the side of the road. “We must be getting close.”
* * * *
Though a contemporary mystery, its colorful characters are timeless and reflect values and traditions governed by their reluctance toward change.
Come join Theo and Liddy Phillips as their story unfolds after they arrive in lil’ ol’ Shiloh expecting a peaceful retirement in a town much like they grew up in decades beforehand, only to discover Theo’s curiosity about a tragic event does not receive a warm and welcome response by everyone in their new rustic town.
Click the image below and visit Amazon to purchase your copy of Sanctuary. Available in paperback or Kindle editions.
Would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or question.
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?)