Why Shiloh for my Story’s Setting?

 

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 in tact. 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.

All that remains of biblical Shiloh in modern Israel.

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.

Darley’s Painting of the Battle of Shiloh, 1862

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.

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Hope you will read more here and then head over to T. M. Brown, Facebook Author page. I’d love to connect with you and offer the latest on my book tour schedule and insight into this Southern author.

Take it from this Southern boy, you won’t want to lay Sanctuary down…

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 early 2018 release.

 

Sanctuary Has a Pervasive 21st Century Enemy

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

The greatest threat to any Sanctuary, where hope, peace and the presence of God’s embrace reside, is the pervasive cancer of sex, violence and vulgarity.

According to recent statistics, novels replete with explicit sex, violence, and vulgarity continue to thrive as the flavor of the month in book sales. However, should authors kowtow to earthy content to increase book numbers?

Good writers engage their audience so well, scenes calling for sex, violence, or vulgarity communicate through the actions and attitudes of the characters. Thus, allowing the story to unfold without explicitly necessitating every sordid detail.

I believe an author’s responsibility is not only to entertain but also engage readers, so they sense they are witnessing the story as it unfolds.

What images race through your mind that depicts anger and rage? Do you picture contorted faces and threatening gestures, or do you need to be explicitly told? Consider this scene from my book Sanctuary:

Hank gritted his teeth as the veins on his neck swelled, and his eyes glared through me. “Well, I think you’re putting your nose into places you’ve no business being.” He uncrossed his arms and pointed at my chest. “I’m warning you. Stay away from me and my wife!”

“Hank, I’m sorry if I’ve said or done anything to upset you. Have you spoken to your father?”

“This is between you and me. Stay out of our lives.” Hank’s effort to be more composed fell apart.

… Hank pressed his finger into my sternum. “This is all I’m going to say to you about Jessie or John…” He thumped his finger against my chest adding emphasis to each word. “I’m truly sorry about what happened to Jessie, but John got what he deserved. And you can quote me on that. Now back off! I’m warning you.”

Pete stepped out from the shadows, unceremoniously interrupting Hank’s exchange with me. 

“Mister P, is everything okay?” Pete asked as he glared at Hank. “Hank, who’re you warning about what?”

Hank surveyed Pete and the four remaining shadows just out of the light. His finger fell to his side, but his distended veins on his neck swelled even more. “Pete, this has nothing to do with you or any of you guys!”

…Pete extended his finger just shy of Hank’s chest. “How in the blue blazes do you know it don’t involve us? If you think you can flex your muscles and intimidate one of my friends, you just made it my business.” His stern warning and unflinching stare froze Hank.

Granted a few expletives could’ve been exchanged, but did the scene work anyway?

John Grisham achieved his decades-long success capitalizing on his uncanny knack of drawing his audience’s attention upon his colorful characters and settings. Doing so, he exited scenes involving sex, violence or vulgarity using innuendo. In fact, Grisham’s Theodore Boone YA mysteries found a broad new audience without much of an adjustment in his storytelling to do so. Neither should we to reach a wider audience to sell more books.

Sanctuary, a Southern mystery novel that celebrates small-town life dealing with 21st Century challenges while trying to move beyond scandal and dark secrets holding the idyllic, time-lost town of Shiloh hostage as Theo Phillips and his wife, Liddy arrive in town to retire. For more information – TM Brown FB Author Page or CoachBrown.org

The Source of My Inspiration – Family!

At the End GOD Waits

At the end of our journey, God waits

At the End, GOD Waits

In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl 12:9-14 (HCSB)

Why do so many people desire to read a myriad of motivational books? Why do so many people pursue a regiment of religious writings for encouragement in their lives? What benefit is there in reading all that has been written based on various proverbs, parables, and other renown passages of wisdom? Will an end ever come to man’s attempts to expound upon, interpret, and translate all the ancient writings regarding God’s relationship with humanity?

Why do I write what I believe God has inspired me to share? Well, simply put, because, just maybe, someone else needs to hear the same message that God has placed upon my heart. Besides, I have discovered over the past decade, or so, writing and sharing my systematic Bible-based expositions, I have benefited the most! As I prayerfully pondered each passage and wrote, and often re-wrote, a relevant message, I grew closer to God. The feedback I have received has also provided affirmation and encouragement to my ongoing regiment. However, the greatest blessing has been a feeling of God’s smiling approval every so often.

Am I wise? Certainly not! There are far more knowledgeable people that have crossed my path. Am I a good teacher? Not as good as I desire to be. There are far better educators that I have met in my life. So what validation can I offer for what I have shared all these years with family, friends, and those I may never meet? The only validation that matters at theend is GOD’s inspiration and confirmation that someone might receive after reading what I have written.

Is what I have written new and unique? No! There is nothing new under the sun, as the Teacher in Ecclesiastes shared. What I merely tried to do is translate the wisdom I found in each passage into a real and relevant application for our present life circumstances. So that we all may live in a better relationship with others, in a manner pleasing to God, and reflects God’s will, ways, and wisdom.

Beyond our full and fast paced lives, at the end of all things, the wisest thing we can hope to know is that God waits patiently for us. All our actions, attitudes, and thoughts, whether spoken and written, will record how we lived our life before God.

What will be your record say about you when you stand before God? What relationships can you claim earned God’s smile?

I pray what I have been able to share with you has helped you to reflect more on your life and with all your relationships and most importantly with God as your daily guide.
Coach

Words of Wisdom #256-40EC

Wisdom Destroys Our Chains

It is the invisible chains that bind us to fear and ignorance in this imperfect world.
It is the invisible chains that bind us to fear and ignorance in this imperfect world.

Wisdom Destroys Our Chains

Who is like the wise person, and who knows the interpretation of a matter? A man’s wisdom brightens his face, and the sternness of his face is changed…For every activity there is a right time and procedure, even though man’s troubles are heavy on him. Yet no one knows what will happen, because who can tell him what will happen? No one has authority over the wind to restrain it, and there is no authority over the day of death; there is no furlough in battle, and wickedness will not allow those who practice it to escape. All this I have seen, applying my mind to all the work that is done under the sun, at a time when one man has authority over another to his harm. In such circumstances, I saw the wicked buried…This too is futile. (excerpted from Eccl 8:1-13 (HCSB)

We shall never fully understand all the reasons under the sun why some evil people seem to prosper while innocent people suffer. Yet, God’s wisdom teaches us to be patient, to persevere, and to persist in the face of such futility because wisdom is not dispensed like candy from a vending machine or doled out like a side dish in a buffet line. God alone has sovereignty over wisdom and the dispensing of it to each person.

I believe there are times and reasons when God guards us by withholding wisdom on certain matters, because we would fail to comprehend God’s greater purpose(s) that allows evil to exist. Whenever wickedness or calamities appear to thwart God’s purposes, God reveals his mercy and compassion amidst the ashes and rubble.

Arrogant, self-aggrandizing authority figures abound, but God has allowed them to rule for a season of time for His grand purpose which leads to our greater good. Therefore, while they flaunt their power and authority, we are told to prayerfully persevere under their tyrannical yoke, because in God’s promises we will witness His blessings by remaining faithful. His wisdom will destroy the chains that bind us. There will always be wicked who walk among us, but they will discover in God’s timing that they cannot escape Scot-free their self-serving attitudes and actions. They will be held accountable, and despite their best efforts, God’s justice will not be forestalled or softened.

The faithful pursue God’s will, ways, and discover the wisdom needed to recognize the wrong and wicked ways of this world, and receive the patience and endurance to persevere through all their difficult and disastrous times. Christian courage enables the faithful to walk in this world recognizing the existence of evil and that bad things happen to innocent people. For a season, bad people may appear to get away with their wicked schemes, but in the midst of those horrendous times, God reveals sufficient wisdom to destroy the chains that bind us to ignorance and fear.

Without darkness and evil that lurks within, how would we know the sovereignty of God’s light and goodness? There resides the beginning of Godly wisdom for us to thrive in this unpredictable and imperfect world.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #243-27EC

Honesty Inspires Humility

Wisdom reveals how honesty inspires humility
Wisdom reveals how honesty inspires humility

Honesty Inspires Humility

Wisdom makes the wise man stronger than ten rulers of a city. There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does “good” and never sins. Don’t pay attention to everything people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you; for you know that many times you yourself have cursed others. Eccl 7:19-22 (HCSB)

Wisdom exceeds knowledge. Wisdom acknowledges our limits, especially when interacting with others. Wisdom knows the power of silence. Wisdom pursues honesty rather than applause. Wisdom pursues a humility nurtured in the honesty of imperfections and shortcomings.

Wisdom is a powerful, God-given gift accessible to all. However, it can never be fully acquired in one’s lifetime. In fact, to some degree we all have acquired a measure of wisdom. Even the fool stumbled across a bit of wisdom along his bumbling ways, just not enough to recognize what he still lacks, but enough to believe he has attained it.

The fruit of wisdom is honesty and humility. Therefore, the more wisdom one acquires, the more one is inspired to pursue it. In the pursuit of wisdom, goodness and sin, right ands wrong, righteousness and evil, co-exist to expose the other. The further one pursues wisdom, the more one understands the eternal value of honesty and humility that wisdom reveals, because apart from God’s forgiveness, only a fool claims to be righteous on their own.

Have you invested time each day pursuing God’s will, ways, and wisdom? How can you know if you are becoming wiser? Do the attitudes and actions of others affect you like they used to? Are you embracing honesty and humility? Finally, whose approval and applause do you seek? The wise person seeks first and foremost the acclamation from the author of wisdom, because in the end our relationship with God matters. But, wisdom also reveals that along the journey of life, we reveal our honesty and humility before others God sends our way. He does not hold us responsible for how others relate to us, rather how we relate to them. God offers each of us with the wisdom we need in even the most difficult relationships and circumstances of life, because through them we discover honesty inspires humility in the truly wise.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #241-25EC

Wisdom Versus Wealth?

Wealth or wisdom? Which masters the other.
Wealth or wisdom? Which masters the other.

Wisdom Versus Wealth?

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance, and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection as money is protection, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of its owner. Consider the work of God; for who can straighten out what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: without question, God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him. Eccl 7:11-14 (HCSB)

Consider the value of wisdom versus wealth. Which of the two is more valuable and enduring? Which of the two once obtained cannot be taken away? Which has only increasing value and does not fluctuate unless not used properly by the owner?

All the treasures of the world cannot guarantee happiness and contentment. Wealth consumes and can never satisfies what resides inside a man. Power, prestige and position may be bought with gold and silver, but can wealth satiate the lusts within man’s heart? Wealth stirs envy in others and lures the thief and robber to steal the possessions we claimed with wealth. And, before we brag, one thief exists no one can prevent from distributing our wealth to others: Death! What wealth exists beyond the grave?

Now, consider wisdom. Wisdom continues to grow as we nurture and reap the fruit it bears while we mature through life nourished by wisdom. Yet how does anyone gain wisdom? The seed of wisdom is a gift from God. It is the only investment man can profit from through time and faith. If we seek God’s will, ways, and wisdom each day and apply what we learn from God, wisdom sprouts within us and changes our lives.

Wisdom and knowledge are commodities always in high demand, but short on supply. Thus, in the end, wealth migrates to the wise who understands that wealth has short-term, relative value. A wise man understands what absolute value wisdom offers, because God alone is the alpha and omega of all knowledge and wisdom.

The wise man never frets as worldly wealth ebbs and flows because he understands God brings both good times and bad times for a purpose. Ultimately, all things work to the good for those who love and trust God – no matter the circumstances they find themselves facing in life. (The Story of Job sits as a book of Wisdom for this reason.)

Wealth ebbs and flows, but wisdom from God never loses it value. However, be careful not to mistake man’s wisdom for God’s wisdom. One is absolute, the other relative and unreliable. Always identify the wisdom you desire. Filter the wisdom you discover against God’s Wisdom, if what you claim is from God it will offer unshakable truth. Otherwise, it is from man. Likewise, time always increases the value of wisdom that flows from God. That is the final test of God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom.

Choose wisely between wisdom versus wealth. Wealth comes fraught with risks, wisdom overcomes all risks. Final thought: Only one can master the other. Choose wisely.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #239-23EC

Creation Versus Creator

Absolute-knowledge-is

Creation Versus Creator

Whatever exists was given its name long ago, and who man is, is known. But he is not able to contend with the One stronger than he. For when there are many words, they increase futility. What is the advantage for man? For who knows what is good for man in life, in the few days of his futile life that he spends like a shadow? Who can tell man what will happen after him under the sun? Eccl 6:10-12 (HCSB)

Okay, let’s face the fact that we are the creation; God is the Creator. Everything we know and will ever know is by God’s grace and grant. Does that mean we will someday know what God knows? Of course not! As I used to tell my sons: I’ll teach you everything you need to know, but you’ll never know everything I know. Some things you must learn about through time and experience.

Then, if that is true, why do we struggle so hard to control what we can never fully understand? Why do we fight for what we can never fully possess?

There is no originality that man can truly claim in this world, except who we choose to become – yet, we were created to become as we uniquely are at this present moment by the will of God, our Creator. With that said, why does man strive to have dominion over everything and everybody else? Is the Created seeking to usurp the Creator? As the Teacher asks, “What advantage do we have in such a struggle?” Our Creator does give us the choice to seek after the wisdom we need from him, or choose to rely on our own abilities in a world that can never be possessed by mankind. Even the things that man tries to grasp, he cannot hold onto nor fully understand. Like a vapor, every Created Being leaves this world in the same fashion he arrived, empty handed and alone.

Why would anyone try to walk in this life on their own understanding, or try to accept another man’s understanding as their guide? Was man with the Creator when he was created? Which man helped God create this world?

Every attempt man has made to understand creation is but a shadow of truth, because man can only speculate about what he does not know, nor will he ever know for certain in his finite lifetime. Man’s own biblical testimony poses this quandary – “Who has gone to heaven and returned to share the truth about God?” The Bible also says that “no man has seen God as He is and lived.” Created Man has not earned the right to stand before his Creator — the temporal creation would be consumed by the Creator’s eternal glory. Only by His grace and mercy will we receive His invitation to reside with Him after our temporal life has come to an end, and we have come to the point in our life that we have surrendered our selfish lives to God’s will, ways and wisdom. Only then we will begin our eternal journey to understand the Creator and His love for all Creation.

For those who desire to walk in the light of their own understanding, I pray you will come to the point when you will realize what you assume to be truth and knowledge is but a fleeting shadow that keeps you from knowing the truth and the author of truth.

Madness of man’s desire to possess wisdom and knowledge: The more we think we know, the more we understand how much we actually don’t know. Absolute wisdom and knowledge only rests with the Author and Creator of it.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #235-19EC

Wisdom Values the Elusive Wind

Why are we so enamored by Don Quixote's quest?
Why are we so enamored by Don Quixote’s quest?

Wisdom Values the Elusive Wind

What advantage then does the wise man have over the fool? What [advantage] is there for the poor person who knows how to conduct himself before others? Better what the eyes see than wandering desire. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 6:8-9 (HCSB)

Often we identify success by material rewards. Even in the biblical era, the Hebrews held the common belief that wealth was a sign of divine approval and reward. If that was so, then Solomon must have been nearly perfect according to earthly standards. His wealth was unrivaled in his day, yet he struggled in life and by his own admission he understood the futility of pursuing the elusive wind.

The wise person experiences dreams like anyone else, and the wise person desires to better their conditions in life like anyone else, but the wise person understands how to live rightly in their present circumstances and find contentment in doing so.

When we constantly seek what we do not have, contentment becomes equally elusive. When we continually grow anxious about what we do not have, we feel cheated, shortchanged by life. We become bitter and dream only of what could be, rather than what exists. We become the fool pursuing the wind.

Futility reigns whenever we seek to live the life we do not possess. We buy through borrowing what we have not yet earned and cannot afford, pretending to possess what we really do not own so that we can identify ourselves with what we are not, all the while struggling with the reality of who we truly are. This is the futility that has led our country into near economic collapse. Our nation continues to write checks that cannot be paid without borrowing more money we do not have, transferring the costs of wanting what we believe we deserve onto future generations.

We mortgage wisdom for the sake of wealth, and pass on the consequences of our foolish, futile choices to future generations.

Our Nation will never turn this futility around until we accept our own limits and live contently with what we have, and not seek to live beyond our means. Corporate America grows daily promoting a lifestyle beyond our means because they know how to prey upon this weakness in all of us. They justify their actions by declaring that by borrowing to purchase what we cannot afford helps America to be strong. They dispel the notion that our country is being sold a bill of goods that declares, in the 21st Century we have the technology to pursue the wind and we can one day grasp it!

Who’s the fool now? The elusive wind will always remain just beyond our grasp and serves only to stir dreams and make fools out of those who pursue it outside of our dreams.

Our only hope is to remember who makes the elusive wind blow. May we seek to understand the author of the wind rather than try to possess it by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom once again. How different life would be when we truly trust what God has allowed us to possess and to be content in that before we chase what we do not have. We just might be surprised by what blessings will follow in that wisdom.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #234-18EC

The Wiseman, the Madman, and the Fool

Do you which is the wiseman, the madman, the fool?
Do you which is the wiseman, the madman, the fool?

The Wiseman, the Madman, and the Fool

Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness.

The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.

Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:12-17 (HCSB)

Consider the differences between the wise person, the mad man, and the fool. At the same busy street corner, the wise person will look both ways before proceeding across the street, making certain there is no oncoming traffic. The mad man will look as he begins walking across the intersection even though he sees oncoming traffic but in his estimation he can walk safely across without being hit. The fool, well, he starts walking without hesitation assuming no one would certainly hit him, and never bothers to look either way for oncoming traffic. Which of the three will likely live longer or at worst avoid injury? Yet, which will likely avoid death all together? The answer is clear:The wise man may out live the other two, while the mad man likely will out live the fool, but all have the same destiny with death! So, should then choose to live the life of the fool or the mad man, and not bother to walk in the light of the wisdom that God offers us?

There are many people in this world that you may know who are like the mad man or fool; they walk through life at a brisker and riskier pace, throwing caution to the wind. They believe they are invincible, only to discover after it is too late that such a reckless lifestyle eventually comes at a price. So, why do we espouse that life is too boring and mundane without some inherent risk? If God’s wisdom is so good for us, why do we opt not to apply it to our own lives? Why walk like the madman and the fool, turning from the pursuit of God’s wisdom? Why prefer the thrill of walking on the brink of danger at every intersection of life? Do we prefer the madness or folly, or have we been turned off by the drab notion that God desires us to only choose a totally safe and cautious lifestyle? Actually, I believe the Bible testifies otherwise. One can be wise yet still walk boldly and with confidence in the face of danger, if it is for the right purpose.

When we walk in the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom, we discover times when God sets before us a mission that will take us out of our comfort zone. However, when on mission from God, though we may very well face inherent risks and imminent danger, we are never alone. When we walk daily with the Lord’s guidance, we are never alone, especially when latent dangers lurk among the shadows of death along the journey. The Lord promises to comfort, guide and protect us whenever we follow his will, ways and wisdom. There lies the difference between a godly wise man, the mad man and the fool.

Solomon recognized the folly in trying to avoid the risks and dangers in life, because in the end, we all face the same inevitable death. However, when we walk with the Lord in His will, ways and wisdom in this lifetime, death is nothing more than a portal to a much greater eternal mission. The mad man and fool are blinded and thus lost as to their destiny beyond death, and even the wise man who seeks his own will and ways sooner or later discovers the folly of his choices.

Are we chasing the wind, or being guided through life by it?

Coach

Words of Wisdom #221-5EC

Futility of Expecting Something New

What can possibly be new?
What can possibly be new?

Futility of Expecting Something New

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, [it returns] to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again. All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no memory of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no memory among those who follow [them]. Eccl 1:1-11 (HCSB)

We all want to be different, or at the least, uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life the well-traveled and well-marked road of life prodded by many long before us, and many more will assuredly follow us on this same road. The choice we get to make is how we navigate this road of life among all the others who share the road with us. Yet, lets be clear, there are no new paths to choose, just enticing highways with dead-ends should any of us choose to wander off onto our own ways. God clearly stated that there is but one way to follow him. All other ways are futile and paths of destruction for any of us who decide to navigate our own ways.

Just look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave certain ways, just as the stars and planets have predictably paraded in the heavens as reliable guides for millennia without deviation. The living creatures on land, in the waters, and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in their own never ending cycle of life as well.

However, God has given man an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. Yet, when we fail to check with the Creator along the way, our eyes and ears become preoccupied with the prospects of the new, the uncharted paths, which may be perceived as new to us, but is not new to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – Nothing new can be created outside the will, ways and wisdom of our Creator God.

So what must we do? We mature as we realize just because something appears new to us, nothing is new to God. The moment we assume we have captured an original idea, a uniquely created revelation of some truth within our own mind, we assume the role of God. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the truths and realities that flow from our Creator by his grace and will. He alone knows what we are capable of comprehending and benefiting from for his greater purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the new discoveries that reveal God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our own selfish desires and understanding…because on our own, we can only claim to discover the dead-end that waits for our arrival! Life awaits all who trust God’s sure ways and perfect will. But God created us with a choice to choose?

Words of Wisdom #217-01EC

The Futile Pursuit

Ecclesiastes1_14

The Futile Pursuit

I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. Eccl 1:12-18 (HCSB)

God created each one of us uniquely, yet we all carry a similar insatiable desire to understand and master our individual lives. However, the harder one pursues knowledge and understanding, the mysteries of life reveal their unfathomable depths. Exploring an ocean floor abyss or the depth of a black hole in space is man’s ultimate but finite quest to understand infinite God and eternity, and frustration awaits. Knowledge is neither finite or infinite – ultimately absolute knowledge defines what is temporal and eternal, fathomable and unfathomable. Ultimate knowledge reveals itself as dynamic, ever-changing and expanding. No matter what level of knowledge man can attain, there is always more to learn, more to understand. Absolute knowledge is reserved for God. When King Solomon pursued the gift of wisdom from God, he learned this lesson from God: Be careful what you ask for, as knowledge increases, grief increases.

Wisdom is the proper understanding and application of the knowledge we have attained. The pursuit of more knowledge comes with the responsibility of rightly applying it wisely. No matter how smart we believe ourselves to be, God ultimately holds us accountable on how we apply what he has allowed us to understand. Ultimately, wisdom reveals the frustration, sorrow and grief of selfishly pursuing what we all seek after – understanding and mastering our own lives. Wisdom reveals the price we pay for that ultimate pursuit.

As God’s creation, we should be receptive to growing in all knowledge, but pray for God’s guidance for its proper application in our own lives and the world around us. Living the abundant life promised by God provides contentment in our life. Yes, we should be open to new knowledge and opportunities God orchestrates into our lives. We should welcome the change knowledge affords us to experience. Our daily growth should inspire us to know God and his Creation more intimately, but that pursuit should not be the totality of our desires. Life does offer immutable truths from God, such as the ones the Teacher in today’s passage shares: What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. No matter how wise, how knowledgable, we become, we cannot change or create what is in God’s control.
There is but one Author of absolute knowledge. We are His creation and thus limited to acknowledging what is and what is not comprehendible in this life. There just are far too many things that God has chosen to make crooked because He had a purpose in doing so. There are far too many things God has chosen to place a limit upon, because where there are no limits, eternity resides. It is not ours to understand the mind of the Creator, but to accept the limits of our own mind in this life.

How deep is your understanding about the things of God? To what depths to you desire to know him? Are you in pursuit of God’s will, ways, and wisdom? That is all God asks of us. God will do the rest. Ponder the wondrous creation of God, but do not stop living within God’s plan and purpose for your life.

Coach

Words of Wisdom #218-2EC

The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure

Futility found in the pursuit of pleasure
Futility found in the pursuit of pleasure

The Futility of Our Pursuit of Pleasure

I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure and enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile. I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?” I explored with my mind how to let my body enjoy life with wine and how to grasp folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—until I could see what is good for  people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. Eccl 2:1-3 (HCSB)

The focal point for most of us is our leisure time – that special time to do what we want for mere pleasure. Yet, what pleasure do we actually get from our leisure time? We certainly crave our leisure time! We even work extra hard to save up for it. But, how much pleasure do we achieve really? Solomon with his great wisdom decided that he would engage in all forms of pleasure and determine what good and practical purpose there was in pursuing pleasure. He first defined pleasure as the reward from doing whatever is good and brings you joy above all other things. Then he identified pleasure as a futile pursuit in this temporal lifetime. He declared it as “madness,” questioning what good does it really accomplish in mankind’s short life span?

I believe God allows us the joy of laughter and the re-energizing benefit when we retreat from the fast pace of life, but Solomon focused on the foolhardy pursuit of insatiable “pleasure seeking activities.” Even 3000 years after the days of Solomon, wine and other alcoholic libations freely flow to dull our senses, but for what purpose? What pleasure thrives when we are not in control of our own faculties? Is pleasure being found the fool in the midst of his folly while under the influence of alcohol or some other numbing potion? What lasting pleasure can be garnished through such artificial, mindless adventures? After the euphoric effects wear off, reality returns and a headache and stomachache linger from the pleasure. Would genuine pleasure provide such awful after-affects to detract from the joy it was intended to provide? That paradox is why Solomon called the pursuit of pleasure: madness!

There is a purpose that God promotes that serves to provide rest and relaxation for our bodies and minds; recreation, or (re)creation. Recreation provides rest our bodies and minds desire to revive and re-energize us for another day. Retreating from the harsh pace and realities of the world, engaging in recreational leisure offers far more lasting benefits than hoisting a bottle of wine or mug of beer or popping pills. And, the aftereffects are far less harmful to your mind and body.

The only time God promotes the use of alcohol is when no hope remains and wickedness has entrapped someone into a life of endless misery and pain, and death is knocking on the door. Then indulging in wine or alcohol to dull the senses is deemed an act of mercy.

Think carefully about why you do what you do in the pursuit of pleasure. Is your pursuit of pleasure aimed at meaningless folly and madness, as Solomon points out? Think about the difference of re-creation versus the folly of pleasure seeking through artificial means. Which best serves and seeks after God’s will, ways, and wisdom?

What is true pleasure are actions and attitudes that bring not only a smile on your face during and after the experience but on the faces of your loved ones and friends in this world. When you consider their needs and desires, you witness the joy of pleasing of others that God intended for you. Learn the wisdom of rightly seeking His purposes, not selfishly your desires. Is the pursuit of pleasure in this lifetime of greater value than the genuine happiness God intends for you?

Coach

Words of Wisdom # 219-3