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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Myridian Constellation Reader Art!

Received a very encouraging email from a young writer / artist who has read and enjoyed many of my books. He's particularly enthusiastic about The Myridian Constellation series and sent along some fantastic artwork. See if you recognize the MC story aspects Noah captured!








Sunday, June 05, 2022

What is YOUR Heresy?

 



What is YOUR Heresy?


My pastor began a sermon series this morning based on a book by a popular Christian author. This prolific author, who shall not be named, writes Christian Living, Theology, Devotional, Inspiration, etc. I’ve read a couple of his books and found them very thought-provoking and encouraging. I recall being so profoundly struck by one particular passage in one of his books that I took to social media to share the encouraging perspective. A few days later, I was very discouraged when someone commented that this author was a heretic. Or maybe the commenter said the author had “heretical beliefs.” Normally, I blow such comments off because well, it’s social media and… haters gonna hate. But the person who commented was not a stranger to me and cited several articles that I went and looked up, read, and found pretty solid. And yet…


The author in question has had (and continues to this day to have) an incalculably powerful impact, drawing people to Jesus. I am one of them. I am the first to admit that I am not the most spiritually touchy-feely, but I know that I have felt my soul tweaked by this author’s writings. I fully believe the Holy Spirit is at work in this author’s life and teachings. Multiple thousands of reviews offer similar support. As Paul might transition, “So what are we to say, brothers?” Can a genuine Christian have a heresy? Can an otherwise devoted follower of Jesus have a heretical belief or perhaps more than one? And, if so, does that invalidate everything else that person is or does? 


My conclusions are as follows—first question: yes; second question: absolutely not. At this point, some of you are probably deciding that I am a heretic. Or maybe your being nice and saying, “Yikes, he has a heretical belief.” That’s both okay and not okay. It’s okay, because, like as not, I’m probably guilty as charged. If the heresy isn’t the point I’m making in this message, then, I am quite certain there is something else in my theology that qualifies. 


I once went on a trip with one of my best friends, a person I also consider to be one of the most learned Christians I’ve ever met. We had been friends for many years, ten at least, and I thought we pretty much had the same biblical belief systems. In an unguarded moment, when I was already in a bit of a mental maelstrom, my friend admitted a tenet of his Christian theology that gutted me. It was the antithesis to a major belief upon which I had pretty much hung my eternity. I was crushed and admitted such. I very nearly ditched the trip and drove home. One thing stopped me. My friend, learning my intentions to leave, said, “That’s not Jesus.”


On a book tour with several Christian fantasy authors in the early 2000s, we attended a huge homeschool gathering that might have led to another, even more massive opportunity with a substantially larger homeschooling group. The authors had all FedExed copies of our flagship books to the president of the group. Unfortunately, this woman, a Christian leader, told us not to bother coming but that she was in fact, grateful to have screened our books, particularly my book, The Door Within. She called it a “tool of the devil” and promised to warn every other Christian homeschool association to avoid us and our evil books. Now, occasionally, I might accurately be described as a “tool.” But… “a tool of the devil?” Sheesh, I sure hope not.


Another writer I know has a very peculiar Christian belief that permeates his life and, to a detectable degree at times, his writings. It’s a belief so uncommon among American Christians and so personally troubling to me that for a season, I had to cut ties with this person. And yet, I know this man and his writings have led many thousands to Jesus. I’ve witnessed testimonials of young people who turned away from suicide to the hope of the Lord due to this man’s stories. And, I have witness the love of Jesus in this man, time and time again. For about a year, God started nudging me, okay, poking me. Well, if you really must know, slapping me upside the head, so that I would restore fellowship with this man. Thankfully, he was receptive and I can again call him friend. 


These are just a few of the anecdotes of one man’s Christian experience. I suspect you have several of your own, events or discoveries about people, even friends or family members that caused you to question the sincerity of their faith or even whether the person ever had genuine faith in the authentic Jesus at all. Here is where the title question “What is your heresy” reveals its depth. Do you have a heresy? Do you believe a heretical belief? Are you honestly convinced that you know the bible well enough and God well enough that you can say with complete assurance that you have no dangerous false beliefs? 


Whatever your answer to that series of questions, consider these: Are there certain beliefs that you immediately notice in other Christians and call into serious question, maybe even thinking the “H” word? What about certain sins? What if in all other ways, a person seems to be glowing in the dark with the love of Jesus, but there’s one certain sin they are committing and it doesn’t seem to bother them? How quickly do words like “pagan,” “abomination,” “heretic,” or “blasphemer” come to your lips or even to your mind? What about falsely accusing someone of heresy? Surely, that would be sin, but does it undermine the Gospel enough to also be a heresy?


I raise these questions because I think that a lot of us go through the Christian life, picking up tidbits of theology all over the place. We might learn a foundation from parents or family or a certain church, but surely other leaders, friends, or important faith figures will add influence. Of course, a big source of our private theologies is our own private research and study of the bible. Along with those potentially credible sources, however, come a motley crew of other “moralistic” beliefs, axioms, and gut feelings that we seldom examine with due caution. In that great mixture, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth, but we also have, if we’re honest, a kind of knee-jerk pride that leads us to believe we don’t have to clear the planks from our own eyes before addressing the splinters found elsewhere.


To quote the prophet J.R.R. Tolkien, as spoken through the priestly wizard Gandalf, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”


To that end, I add, leave room for God to work on people. If my understanding of scripture is accurate, discipleship is a process, holiness, a journey. If you see the fruit of the Spirit is someone’s life, don’t go a’hunting for the peach pit. Rather, ask God to gently reveal our own “peach pits” and gracefully help us learn and grow. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Microdecisions. Be careful. You've been down that road. You know exactly where it ends.

 Something about this scene from The Matrix continues to resonate with me year after year. Without rehashing the whole plot, there's a scene where Neo waits in the rain until picked up by Trinity and friends. Threatened at gunpoint by the character called Switch, Neo opens the car door to leave.

Trinity tells Neo to wait. "You've been down that road before, Neo. You know exactly where it ends, and I know that's not where you want to be." In the middle of that dialogue, the camera shows us a rainy, forlorn dark city street. Neo decides to stay.
All hail the might of the microdecision. In a high-concept science fiction action flick, that decision seems awfully small, but it's actually very potent.
Neo knows that the reality he's been sold is wrong, somehow less than it should be. He doesn't know what Trinity knows, but he knows that she's offering hope. He also knows, perhaps with a hollow ache, that going back down that same old road is a very dead end.
Every day, we are faced with dozens of these microdecisions, but we rarely recognize what's at stake. For example, I worked a full day today, teaching middle schoolers a variety of subjects. Teaching is exhausting work. Fulfilling, but draining. When I came home, I made dinner, thinking that I need to get some writing done tonight. After eating, I was tired. I flopped down on my bed and started meandering on my phone. This scene from The Matrix kept coming to mind. I realized with crystalline clarity that I could easily call it a night. The bed is comfortable, the covers warm, and I have a pile of TBR books calling my name. But I know that road. I know exactly how it ends. I'll read for an hour, maybe two. Then I'll fall asleep, and the day will be gone... like tears in rain.
I bounced out of bed, and here I am at the keyboard. I'm opening up Scrivener to write. I believe it was Stephen King who said, "If God has given you something that you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?" Sometimes, we're lulled to sleep by the matrix and we don't even realize the decision we're making. It's greater than we think. Stay frosty, my friends. The thing that you do will not get done unless you do it.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Have You Been Tested?

Have you ever heard of the Solomon Test? 


Living in the era of pandemics, we are probably all a little tired of getting tested, but the Solomon Test is something we should consider “getting over with––and sooner rather than later.”

King Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s son, has been described in the Bible and elsewhere as the wisest man who ever lived. He was also one of the wealthiest, most prolific, most epicurean, and most vexed. The Book of Ecclesiastes records Solomon’s trial and error discovery of what, from here on out, we’ll refer to as the Solomon Test. Here’s the basic structure of the test:

Step 1: As a human being, recognize that you need “something” to give meaning to your life.

Step 2: Try every earthly solution you have access to or can work hard enough to obtain to see if it/they can finally fulfill you. 

Two steps. That’s it. Seems innocent enough but beware! If you aren’t careful, you can spend your entire life taking and retaking the Solomon Test. And in the end, find your soul… vexed.




In the dieting world, we are often advised to “fail fast.” I know something about this theory because I’ve tried just about every diet under the sun. The theory proposes that dieting is a very individualized experience. There is no one-size-fits-all diet because human beings are so unique. Therefore, if you try a diet, it is best to “fail fast,” ie: to discover, “Hey, this doesn’t work for me.” Why waste a year of your life to discover that the diet just isn’t for you when you could instead… fail fast.

I think Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes is trying very hard to help us all to fail fast, or maybe even take some good advice and avoid the fail altogether. He tells us all about HIS “Solomon Test.” As King, Solomon had every earthly desire and goal at his fingertips. He decided to put all things to the test to see if anything could provide meaning. Spoiler Alert: Solomon discovered that there is nothing new under the sun and that all is vanity. 

Solomon tried to find meaning in wisdom. He tried to find meaning in work. He tried to find meaning in physical pleasure. He tried to find meaning in food and drink. He tried to find meaning in money and possessions. His conclusion: it’s all like chasing after the wind. As soon as you reach out to grasp it, you’ve lost it. Solomon is honest. The things he tried did fulfill him… for a time. For a very fleeting time. Those pleasures and riches were fun, but the fulfillment came and went. 

It reminds me of the rock concerts I went to in my late teens and early twenties. I had my favorite bands and became so excited to see them live in concert. The day arrives. The show begins. Euphoria! Especially when the band does some of your favorite songs. Then, the lights come up. The band leaves the stage. And you join the thousands stuck in traffic as you try to depart the arena. The aftermath of the concert can leave you with a warm glow for a little while. You feel spent but satisfied. For a time. A few days later, the concert is little more than a fond memory, the satisfaction is mostly gone. Vanished. 

In Chapter 1, Verse 2, Solomon tells us the conclusions of ALL of his research: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Did you know the word “vanity” and the word “vanish” come from the same root, meaning empty, idle, or futile? That connection makes sense if you think it through. The vain person who spends his life on himself will ultimately come to nothing, will ultimately… vanish from meaning. Ouch. That stings a little, at least, to me it does. If I’m honest, I’ve tried the Solomon Test. In fact, I’ve taken the test and failed. And yet, I still sign up and take the test again. I think I’m a prime example of what Solomon was trying to warn us about: we can waste our entire lives pursuing self. 

We can take the Solomon Test over and over and over again. Even the band Loverboy knew about this human tendency. We learn to work for the weekend. Or we learn to work for the vacation. Or we learn to work for… fill in the blank. And it all seems fun and satisfying until it doesn’t. It’s time that’s the killer. So very many things in life can feel meaningful. But over time, it all loses its luster. You can win the Super Bowl, you can write the bestseller, you can marry the pretty girl, you can get the big house, you can have a lovely family, you can eat the best foods, drink the $15 cocktails, and you can even live to a spritely, ripe old age, but time will burn it all down. We all die. Solomon wasn’t being morbid. He was being realistic. He thought it through and realized he could amass the greatest fortune, the greatest kingdom, and the greatest stockpile of “anything people want,” and in the end, someone who comes after him will get it all. 

At least Solomon had the wisdom to recognize this dynamic and the courage to admit it. If anyone is like me, we don’t usually sit around and think, “You know what? I’m going to live my life all about food.” And yet at times, functionally, I have lived that way. If it’s not food, it’s likely to be something else, but it’s the same dynamic. We seek meaning, sometimes unconsciously, through anything and everything under the sun, but if it’s under the sun, then it is bound by time and decay. It is fleeting. It is vanity. It will vanish. 

Feeling depressed yet? By God’s grace, Solomon had a chapter 12 at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes. If everything time-based, everything under the sun can never satisfy us or give meaning to our lives, what can we turn to? Must we despair or medicate until time turns us to dust? Solomon tells us emphatically, no. The opening and closing verses of Chapter 12 offer us a hope and a strategy. In verse 1, Solomon says, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them.” If time-based pursuits are vanity, like chasing the wind, we must seek something outside of time, something that doesn’t decay or die. God. Seek Him now. Invest all of those other pursuits in Him, but let your meaning come from Him not the activities. Do not make an idol of work, but make work an avenue to serve God. Do not make food and drink into idols of temporary satiation, but rather give thanks to God for every morsel, every dram. 

In verse 13 at the end of Chapter 12, Solomon summarizes, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” In this case, fear does not mean run around in stark terror but rather to give God His due respect and due thanks. Spend your efforts and investments on this Earth in the context of loving God, loving people, being obedient, and giving thanks. Only then, can we infuse the temporal, the time-based pursuits of life, with the eternal. His eternal. 

I don’t know what it is about human nature that some of us so easily discard the advice of “people who have been there, done that.” Those who traveled this path before us, like Solomon, often offer us a window to hard-earned wisdom. And yet, we often have to “learn things the hard way,” ie: learning things ourselves through experience. If that’s the case, fellow travelers, go ahead, take the Solomon Test. But fail fast. Fail fast, turn to God, and live for Him.   



   

 

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Myridian Constellation Continues to Grow, thanks to YOU.

30 years ago, even before The Door Within, I had an idea for a fantasy story centered around an assassin seeking redemption from a haunting past. The story began with "A Sword in the Stars." Here's a peek at the new cover concept.


The story begun with "A Sword in the Stars" continued to reveal itself to me with a reluctant young king, trying to live up to expectations and struggling to avoid his father's mistakes. Before I knew it, there was a really nasty red dragon and a devastating unexpected invasion. A sneak peek of "The Errant King" cover concept is below.



From the very beginning the Dark Sea series (now The Myridian Constellation), had 7 books outlined. Book 3, however, took me by surprise when it became such a behemoth that Amazon wouldn't even publish it in paperback at its size. It became clear that there were two very unique story arcs, and so I made the decision to split the third book into book 3 and book 4. I never imagined how much work and time it would take to re craft those tales into individual books of the series. "The Forsaken Continent" became book 3 and took nearly 5 years to complete. Here's a peek at the new cover concept for TFC:



"Mirror of Souls" was going to be book 3, but I quickly realized that too much needed to happen to lay the groundwork for what I think has become the turning point of the series. Here's a peek at the full cover of Book 4, Mirror of Souls. Release date is August 9th!
Author's Note: Thank you, readers for the opportunity to write for an audience. I'm no Tolkien or Rowlings, but you've all been so very kind to make it clear that these books have an audience. God made my dream come true and gave me a mission, but I'd get nowhere fast without knights and swordmaidens like you. I'm forever grateful.




Saturday, May 29, 2021

Paying it Forward: Ads for Your Book in Mirror of Souls

 When my first book, The Door Within, was knee-deep in production prior to release, it came time to start promoting. Fortunately, my agent, then Gregg Wooding (Miss you, man!), had done some promotional work with Josh McDowell––the "More Than A Carpenter," Josh McDowell. Mr. McDowell was absolutely gracious and kind enough to write a promotional blurb for The Door Within. I also had wonderful endorsements from Donita K. Paul, Christopher Hopper, Bryan Davis, Booklist, School Library Journal, and several others. 



Please understand the kindness of these talented people. No one in the world knew me or my books from Adam. So for these already-busy folks to give me a little leg up in the early going of my writing career was absolutely path changing.

Since then, I've worked hard to try to return the favor, to pay it forward, so to speak for other authors. To continue in that way, I'm offering a full page ad for your book to be included in both digital ebook and paperback versions of Mirror of Souls, the fourth coming Myridian Constellation novel, due out in early July this summer. The cost is $25 for the full page ad. That will help me pay for the interior design for the book, as well as, contribute to the cover art and design. If you are interested in an ad, here's what I need from you:

• a roughly 6X9 ad for your book(s) that can work in color and grayscale B&W. Email the ad to: batguy21784 (at) yahoo (dot) com

•  $25 sent to us via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle.

Paypal: mdbatfam@yahoo.com

Venmo: @mdbatfam

Zelle: 4102457998

• Ads and payment due by June 10th. 


Friday, February 26, 2021

Quiet Desperation...

 Poet, philosopher, naturalists, etc., Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." I think his observation is both brilliant and woefully short-sighted. He might have an escape clause, if by "men" he meant the "mankind" all-of-humanity kind of men. I would argue we all live lives of quiet desperation. We can only deaden the ache so much, for no matter how much food, alcohol, and pleasurable company we may procure, the ache still remains.


CS Lewis calls it the "inconsolable longing" for something we've smelled, heard, tasted, or felt from an agonizing distance. We find some comfort in structure, in routine, in "what I ought to be doing," but we can't help but feel that, in the end, we know we're in "The Matrix." We know that something isn't right. We know that we're incomplete. We know that we're missing out...on something.

Most of us succumb to the idea that...if I could just get, become, achieve, or acquire "the next thing," then, all will be well. I think somewhere deep down, we all at least suspect that, even if we do get the greatest thing, find the most loving person, or reach the highest heights...we'll still be left with that nagging ache. Movie stars, rock stars, lottery winners, super bowl winning teams, and billionaires have shown us over the years that whatever earthly height we can imagine will never be quite high enough.

I'm an English and Reading teacher, but somehow, over the last several years, I've been teaching middle school students about careers. In that study, we take an in-depth look at careers over the years, how historical events, technology, and culture influence careers. Studying history can be very revealing. One of the aspects of history that I've noticed is this: as affluence and privilege increase, so does immorality. Don't get me wrong. I am not shaking a judgmental finger, as if I somehow know better than all of humanity. I'm likely just as immoral as any other person on the planet. Honestly, the older I get, the more I feel like we human beings really ought to be cutting each other a little bit more slack.

Honestly, beyond lives of quiet desperation, I'd argue that we're all just stubborn, needy, desperate souls throwing shit at the walls and hoping...praying that something sticks. Why are we pushing up against any and every cultural norm? Why are we searching for alternate identities? Why are we starting to try to identify as things we are not? Why are we aggrandizing sexuality to the point that it is all we identify with? I believe it's because we're all hoping beyond hope that we'll find "something to make sense of it all," whatever "it all" is.

It's at about this time that you expect me to start preaching, right? Batson is one of those born again Christian folk. Of course, he's going to say, turn to Jesus, right?

To be quite honest, Jesus is my ultimate conclusion, but I wouldn't dare to presume upon your lives. I will urge you, however, to be more purposeful searchers. This is no joke. Life, this day-after-day thing that adds up to a lifetime is the most vital thing we have. Invest it in the "finding out." I've done my homework. I've researched science. I've researched world religions. I've investigated claims. I explored my own psyche. In the end, I can't get past God. I can't fathom a world of ten trillion trillion intricacies...that didn't have a lucid cause. Of all the world religions, only one speaks of grace. Only one offers a Christ who would go through all the hell on earth that we're all going through and then cap it all by being tortured and murdered...for me. Only one rose from the dead. But...that's my conclusion. I've done my homework. I am satisfied.

And yet...the ache remains.

I once believed and, for a long, long time, stubbornly held on to the idea that once I became a Christian, my life would all come together. The ache would be so satiated by Jesus that I would never long for more. Here I tread dangerous ground because I'm sure there are many believers who would say unequivocally that Jesus fulfills their each and every need. With all due respect, I salute those contented beings and...I say, "well, that is not my experience." My experience is much more of what the bible describes. "In this world, you will have trouble." Yes, I have Jesus, but I'm living in decay. Yes, I have Jesus, but it still hurts when my children are sick. It still makes me weep when I watch the news. It still feels like everything has gone terribly, horribly wrong. I'm just being honest about my experience. Sue me.




Jesus once said to the woman at the well, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." In my experience, the thirst comes back. Some might argue that I never really "drank the water that Jesus gives." Maybe I never really believed. Maybe I lost my salvation. Maybe...or maybe not. Maybe what is shortsighted is the popular understanding of the type of thirst Jesus was talking about here. There's physical thirst when our bodies actually need physical water or...we'll dehydrate and die. And then, there's felt thirst. We might not be on the verge of death, or even remotely close to dehydration, but we still want something to drink. In my experience, in whatever version of Christianity I've lived into, Jesus has satiated the physical-need thirst. I have an anchor in my soul that is steadfast, ironclad, trustworthy, and loving. But this isn't heaven. I still want things to drink.

And here, to me, is the difference that Jesus makes. I am hard-pressed, but not crushed; I am perplexed, but not in despair; I am persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. My thirst has been quenched, but I am still thirsty. The wound that causes the ache has been ultimately healed, but like the phantom pain of an amputee, I still feel the ache. But, for the last time, these are my conclusions after almost 50 years of searching. I've done my homework. I am content to live with the ache.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Dr. King's "The Fierce Urgency of Now," Reflections.

 "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation."


Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.

One year later, to the day, Dr. King was shot and killed.

I've always been a "seize the day" kind of guy. Ask my students over the years, and they'll tell you that I preach to them, somewhat ad nauseum, that time is our most precious commodity. Dr. King's words declaring "the fierce urgency of now" resonates so deeply with me and in so many different ways that I don't know where to start. I do know, however, where I want to end.

Of all the myriad aspects of life for which God might judge us, I suspect that how we spent the time given us will be accounted quite heavily. Time is an unknown, finite quantity for each of us. Since we don't know how much time, we ought to recognize every minute as it approaches, as precious. The Lord has given each of us gifts, but gifts not to clutch, cover up, or spend on ourselves only. These are gifts to share. God gave me imagination, worlds to create, and hope to spread. As I look back over my life, I'm convicted that if I hadn't wasted so much time, I might have doubled the number of books I've written. But the past is not the way. (Thanks, Mando)

There is only now, only the way forward. What is your gift? Use it. Use it now. The "moving finger" continues to write. What do I want it to write? In the end, I hope it writes, "Well done, good and faithful servant."



Sunday, January 03, 2021

For the World-Weary and Heavily Burdened...

 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”


I don't know if there are any verses in scripture more comforting than these. And, at least for me personally, I'm not sure if there are any verses in scripture that I've ignored more than these. 

True Confession: I am a card-carrying, senior member of the Burden Builders Club, no affiliation with the BBC, makers of fine British entertainment. (Have you seen Sherlock? Holy cow!) But, I digress. 




These verses from Matthew 11 are in red as a reminder that JESUS SAID THIS. And yet, how many times have we said, "Nah, no thanks, Lord. I think these burdens look great on my shoulders. In fact, there are a few more heavy ones over there I'm going to go pick up."???

Part of my problem is that I'm a control freak. Yes, there's horrendous crap going on in my life, but if I've got hold of the steering wheel, I'm certain I can fix it. And part of that problem is a lack of faith. "Lord, I don't really believe you will fix this, so I guess I'll jump in." And part of THAT problem is me thinking I'm smarter than God. "Lord, there's this problem in life, and well, it's been going on for a while. I'm not sure why, but you don't seem inclined to fix it. Clearly, an error on your part. So, I guess I'll take up the slack and attempt to do what you ought to be doing."

Do you see the chain of errors there? Do you have any idea how HEAVY that chain is to bear? I can hear Jacob Marley screaming at me right now, 




Bearing the burdens in life that are beyond our control, beyond our ability to fix—or even change—is indeed a ponderous chain. Bearing these burdens makes us weary. It's exhausting. And...it's pointless. 

There's a reason the "Serenity Prayer" is so popular. 




When we hear the Serenity Prayer, we are suddenly confronted with our lunacy. How insane it is to allow ourselves to dwell upon, to mentally and emotionally toil over, things in life that we cannot change? Coronavirus, Racism, Corruption in Politics, Cultural Depravity, Getting Old, Changing the Behaviors of other people (Got you with that last one, didn't I? I am so guilty of that)...these burdens, and an infinitely long list of other concerns, are far bigger than us, far deeper than us, and far beyond our ability to change.

Please don't misunderstand me. We can wear our masks. We can each do our part to love others regardless of our differences. We can do our homework, vote faithfully and intelligently. We can support redeeming behaviors. We can take our vitamins and go to the gym. We most definitely can do our best to change the things we can change, but bearing the weight of any those things categorically is madness. 

Start at the micro level, the personal level. There's someone in your life, probably someone very dear to you. You can see that there's something very harmful in that person or in that person's life. What can you do? You can love, support, offer a good example, offer advice, etc. But you can NEVER take responsibility for someone else's change. There's the whole free will thing, remember? With parents this can be particularly burdensome. We raise our children the best we can, but ultimately, they are going to make their own decisions. As my good friend Christopher Hopper is fond of saying, "You are responsible TO your children, not FOR them." You do your best and then let go. {Cue Frozen song, preferably the heavy metal version.}

Here's a link: HEAVY METAL VERSION of "LET IT GO."

Intellectually, on some level, I think we all know this, but we don't want to acknowledge it. We are stubborn and foolish. And the result? We are so bone-weary it can be hard to get out of bed. 

Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."  

Here's where a lot of messages would end, saying, "Amen. May it ever be so."

[Side note: does it drive anyone else CRAZY when sermons, devotions, or even whole books spend 90% of the content harping on the problem, only to gloss over the solutions? We already know about the problem. We need some help here. Throw us a fricken' bone!] Rant over.

How? How do we release the burdens? How do we stop picking up new burdens? How do we stop exhausting ourselves with heavy weights we were: Never. Meant. To. Bear?

Fortunately, Jesus tells us how. He says, "Come to Me." Recognize that you are carrying stuff that you cannot possibly handle, and go to Jesus. That might mean go to Him in prayer. That might mean take a walk on the beach and go to Him. That might mean listen to music that takes you to Him. This might even mean, locking yourself in a (hopefully, sort of soundproof) room and screaming, "LORD, I can't take this anymore. You take this GIANT BALL OF CRAP off of my shoulders, please!"

Note that this is not a passive step. This is an imperative, active movement of our will and possibly physical action, as well. "Come to me." If you're carrying the weight of the world, go directly to Jesus, any way that you can. Maybe it sounds too easy, but be honest, how often in the midst of being burdened, do you actually, actively, and repeatedly, go to Jesus? And when you're with Jesus, how often do you actually cast off all that junk with the full recognition that you cannot possibly fix it yourself? Not just lip service either. There's a Polish proverb that I've come to love, and it surges to mind here: "Not my circus. Not my monkeys." 




The phrasing of this proverb makes me smile, but the truth within is a holy 2 X 4 that we need to get smacked with repeatedly. Say it with me, "Not my circus. Not my monkeys." We need to recognize that we've done what we CAN do, but the rest is in YOUR hands, Lord."

I'm not belittling physiological anxiety in the least. I understand that burden from personal experience. Some of us have predilections to anxiety and have compounded such physiological chemical problems by wearing a deep rut in our minds. The needle on our spinning record keeps finding that rut and falling into it. And we fret and we worry and we consume ourselves with the impossibility of the task without recognizing the impossibility of the task. We need to ask God to create a new rut. Better? Ask God to create a New Groove. The Lord's New Groove.

{I'm hearing Kronk saying, "Riiii-iiiight."}

That "new groove" is the second and third imperative in this pivotal scripture passage: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me..." This is also part of the HOW. Many of us have been bearing burdens for so long that it has become a daily habit like putting on shoes, brushing teeth, or...breathing. We cannot just chuck our burdens on Jesus because our sinful flesh shoulders are burden magnets. No sooner will we dump "the future" on Jesus than "the past" will hop right onto our backs. We have to replace the burden with something else. Jesus's yoke.  




See that wooden harness-thingy in the drawing above? That's a yoke. Brannon Diebert of Christianity.com defines a yoke in this way: "Essentially, a yoke was a harness used by oxen and other animals to ease the work of hauling a load. It was also meant as a designation of servitude and carrying the burden of a task or mission." Jesus tells us to take His yoke upon us, and yes, IMHO, in the metaphor, we are the dumb steer who need...er, steering.

How do we take that yoke, His yoke, upon us? There are certain elements that are common to all of us: learn Jesus's way. Watch the Master work in scripture and in life. And submit. Part of giving up the burden is submission. We need to realize that God is the only one who has the power to change things that are impossible for us to change. Likewise, {and this stings a little} He is the only one smart enough to know how and when, or even if, something needs to be changed. Who among us have known the mind of the Lord that we should be His tutor? Ehrm...not me, but that hasn't kept me in my vanity from functionally presuming that role. 

Just as I wasn't there when God tossed all the stars into their places, I don't really know which evils of the world need changing or what my "perceived" solution would cause in the world. Why did God allow a certain tragedy to occur? That is way WAY above my pay grade. I don't want it to be. I want to point fingers. I want to blame God. But that is utter insanity. I am finite. He is not. I cannot see with an eternal perspective. He can. As Gandalf says, "Not even the very wise can see all ends," but God can. So we must submit to the Lord.

"Jesus, please let me wear Your yoke." Whatever that looks like, I want it. Similar to defining "coming to Him," I think that "wearing His yoke" can be a highly customizable act. What has God called you to do? Teach? Write? Cook? Plant? Paint? Code? Run? Build? The list is endless. Whatever you do, do unto the glory of the Lord. The thing is, you've got to own it. I am doing X for God's glory. Lord, please put Your yoke on my shoulders and steer me wherever you like. 

Jesus says His burden is light. His yoke is light. But isn't it an incredibly heavy burden to be God's ambassadors on Earth? Is it really? Think it through. Why is that such a burden? Could it be that we are (once again) weighing ourselves down with faulty expectations? Can a human being convert another human being? Are we responsible for generations believing in Jesus? No. No, we cannot and no, we are not. God saves. God recreates. God wields the power over life, death, time, salvation, and everything else! Imagine doing some gardening with a young child. You might give the little one a spade to dig a crude hole. Or maybe you sprinkle a few seeds in that tiny hand so that he can push them into the loose soil. As the adult in the scenario, you give the child what he/she can handle and you do the rest. Even more so is this true of God. He gives us all kinds of things to go out and do, but He doesn't expect us to do what only He can do. 

At this point, we may sheepishly look at our burdens and our foolishness and feel too ashamed to bring all this junk to Jesus, but He tells us He is gentle and humble in heart. He's not glowering at us scornfully as we carry our sacks of filth into His sterile throne room. He comes leaping from the throne to take hold of those sacks, to gently relieve us of the crushing weight they represent. Why should we ever doubt this? He's already humbled Himself by putting on human flesh and living in our conditions. He's already humbled Himself by taking on the most hideous, weighty burdens of all: our sin. He already carried all that evil junk off and buried it. How much more then would He now be willing to take on our worldly burdens? 

And what does Jesus offer in exchange for tons of exhausting, anxiety-producing crap? Rest. "Here, let Me take that for you. There, there, that's better now, isn't it? Of course, you're spent. Time for a nap. Rest." 



Monday, December 28, 2020

Logo Contest for The Myridian Constellation Series

Calling all clever and talented graphic artists!


Announcing the Myridian Constellation Logo Contest!

I’m looking for a seriously crafty artist to design a logo for my 7-book epic fantasy series called "The Myridian Constellation."

Here’s the concept: since stars and constellations figure prominently in the books, I’m looking for a full logo for book covers and merch. This logo would show a seven star constellation and the text “The Myridian Constellation” is some kind of epic fantasy composition. A small version of the logo would appear on the covers of each of the seven books.




Here’s the trick: the logo would need to be able to be subdivided on the spine so that each book gets its own numerical star. IE: the first book “Sword in the Stars” would have the beginning of the constellation with the first star alight with the number 1 imposed over the star.

Then, when all seven books are placed on the shelf next to each other and spine-out, the entire 7-star constellation will show across the spines.

All entries are due by January 31st, 2021 (is that enough time?) The prize for the winning entry? PRIZES (plural!)

1) All seven books of The Myridian Constellation, signed by the author

2) Direct promotion for your graphic arts services via a FULL PAGE AD in all 7 books

3) HTML ads for your work on all my websites

4) Frequent social media promotions, etc.

5) Fair payment (negotiable, but keep in mind that, I too, am a starving artist).

If you are interested in entering, please send submissions in jpg, png, or tiff format to me via the email below:
batguy21784 (at) yahoo (dot) com