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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Edification from an Unexpected Source...

Sometimes man must stand on the brink of destruction before he will change.

Man is far less in control of life than he thinks he is.

There are powers beyond our imagination at work in this world.

People should be better stewards over the things they are given.

Sound like sermon topics to you? It might surprise you that these are very clear themes from the recently released remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I was itching to use my AMC Movie Gift Cards, you see. And well, I wanted to see something blockbusterish--a real special effects extravaganza.

So, I roped a good friend into going to see The Day the Earth Stood Still with me. I'd heard the reviews: most of them very iffy, if not altogether bad. So, I went in with relatively low expectations. All I can say is WOW. The movie was very cool! I like films that function on many levels. The story was interesting. The characters were sympathetic. The FX were righteous. But what really astounded me were the powerful messages.

Anyone else seen it? Any thoughts?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Wake Up Call, Part 3: Mysterious Melancholy

SO, did your living room ever look like this one after Christmas morning? Wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, boxes--thrown all over, and maybe a kid or two laying around in it? lol These are not my own cherubs by the way. But isn't it amazing how fast the actual day of Christmas goes by? Months of planning, countless hours shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and assembling and WHOOSH!! The day is over.

And for kids, you've seen it, haven't you? They come bouncing down the stairs and, giddy with joy, they tear into their presents. RIP.TEAR.GRAB.CRUMPLE. Present after present until…the last present is opened. Then, there's that momentary look on their faces. They look around. Maybe it's behind the tree? Under the couch. Hmmm...wait. That's all? There are no more presents? Have you ever seen that moment of "Awwww, it's over?" in their eyes?

Maybe it's not on Christmas Day. Maybe it's a week after when the luster of new toys wears off, that special gift looks strangely like other things in the toybox, and the candy's well, gone.

Some call it Post Christmas Blues. I call it the Mysterious Melancholy. I feel it myself, usually the day after Christmas. Certainly I feel it when we've just come home from vacation. And I often feel it when summer break's over, and I'm sitting in the first faculty meeting at my school. {SIGH!}

I know I'm not the only one who's felt this…am I? {CRICKETS} Ok, not funny. Christmas is an utterly joyous time of the year. There's so much to anticipate, so much to savor and enjoy. And let's face it, God has given us so much in this life to enjoy. But…

But have you ever noticed that no matter how good something's supposed to be, that it's never quite as good as we think it will be? It never completely satisfies you, not for very long, at any rate. In fact, I'll go so far as to throw big life achievements into the mix. We go through stages of accomplishments: graduation, first job, marriage, child birth, etc. It's SO great…for a little while. The real world rushes in. The job becomes a chore, the honeymoon ends, the kids want noserings, etc. It just never satisfies.

Speaking personally on the matter. My dream was to become a published author. I even wrote that in my high school senior yearbook. Guess what? I am a published author now. I've done countless signings. I've been on local and national radio, local and national TV. I've toured across the country. I've been on the bestseller list 12 times. I've had nice people write me or tell me in person how my books are so great, etc. But, to tell you the God's honest truth, I'm still not satisfied. And it's not because I'm an idiot. (I may be an idiot, but that's not the reason I'm not satisfied). I'm not satisfied because I'm a Christian, and I will never truly be satisfied in this broken world. We were never meant to be satisfied here.

The Bible tells us that we are strangers passing through, that we are citizens of another kingdom. The Bible tells us that all of creation is groaning for the day Jesus comes back and renews everything. So no wonder there's this mysterious melancholy that we all feel, a kind of letdown that things have come to an end or that the excitement has dulled, or that the accomplishment didn't really do for us what we thought it might.

And let me clarify, so far I've been talking about believers; folks who call Jesus "Lord" and who are seeking after Him. For nonbelievers, the mysterious melancholy is still there. In fact, it might be doubly powerful, perhaps dangerously powerful. But the danger for unbelievers is that they can dogmatically cling to the hope that something on this earth WILL satisfy completely. If I could just get that ________ fill in the blank, then I'd be truly happy. And worse still is when someone falls into the trap of finding something that satisfies, but only temporarily. And once found, the poor soul needs more and more and more of whatever it is to achieve that feeling once more. This is what we term addiction. The reality is, there is nothing that will satisfy the unbeliever until you meet Jesus. And once you meet Jesus, the world cannot satisfy you, so you will long for Heaven.

CS Lewis was on to this a long time ago. I should have just told you all to read his book, "The Weight of Glory" and saved myself the post. There's no way I can do this subject justice. So here's an excerpt from Lewis:

Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find… If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy. ...

In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

If you are visiting here, and you really haven't made up your mind about Jesus, I applaud you for searching in the first place. There can be no greater pursuit in this lifetime that finding out who we really are and why we're here. At a deep level we all know this. We know that there's more to this so-called life than what we see. We know that there's something really important that we ought to be looking for. We know that even the best things this life can offer: the Super Bowls, the TV appearances, the dreams come true--none of it can truly and lastingly satisfy. This feeling we feel when the Christmas presents are all gone…it's a longing for something more, something of God…something heavenly.

I believe we are all people meant to discover Jesus, believe and follow Him. I believe that once you believe, you will find a joy that satisfies you in a unique way--a peace that surpasses understanding. But even so, you will only just be getting your citizenship papers. Your far off country still waits. And there, you will be ultimately satisfied forever, for you will be with God.

I'd like to close with a very convicting quote from Lewis:

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Christmas Wake Up Call, Part Two: A Fool's Wager

Hopefully the cheek is still stinging from the recent sharp smack. Strangely enough, most who posted comments about the topic were thankful to receive such a smack. Hmmm...well, this next topic may or may not be so well received. Actually, it was my ten-year-old, Tommy who thought this up on his own. I was so amazed that the two of us talked about it for the last half hour of our drive home from Christmas shopping.

How do you feel about the topic of gambling? I know it's one of those things Christians should steer clear of, but I can't help but bring it up as an illustration. So, here goes. You've got to wager your house (or something else very dear to you). But you have a choice of the type of wager you're going to play. The first wager works like this: You must bet this valuable thing on one of two possible outcomes. If you pick the wrong outcome, you lose everything. If you are correct about the outcome, you win…nothing.

The second type of wager works like this: Once again, you have two possible outcomes to choose from. If you select the correct outcome, you not only win your house but unimaginable riches on top. If you select the wrong outcome, you lose…nothing.

So which type of wager would you like to place? If you're like me, you're screaming: "PICK B, PICK B!!" Why? Why so easy to decide which wager you'll attempt? Both of them are bets. There's a certain amount of uncertainty involved in either one, right? You could still lose, right? But the difference is in the potential consequences of either wager.

In the first wager, there's really nothing to be gained at all…and everything to lose. In the second wager, there's everything to be gained…and nothing at all to lose. Only a fool would attempt the first type of wager. Only a fool.

The tires made a steady thrump-ump on the highway. Intermittent streetlights flash through the windshield. It's quiet in the car. Then, Tommy says to me, "Dad, I don't get it. Why would anyone not go with Jesus? I mean, it's not like Jesus will hurt them or anything?" My son the next C.S. Lewis? I think so. {No bias here.} lol

I was blown away. What a brilliant question. What Tommy was asking was simply another form of the wager scenario I posed above. Person A needs to decide whether or not to believe in Jesus. Certainly there are compelling reasons to believe. There's more historical, archeological, and empiracle evidence for Christianity than any other faith. Jesus himself has more corroboration in history than most ancient leaders. The Bible manuscripts meet accuracy tests that would put ALL other ancient documents to shame. But this isn't really about apologetics. This is a wager. There are unknowns and there very definitely are consequences.

If Person A places a bet against Jesus, ie: there is no God -or- Jesus isn't who he said he is, so I'm just not going to believe in him. I choose to believe that we're all cosmic accidents and that there's nothing after death but nothing. If Person A is correct, then he wins absolutely nothing. He lives his life as he sees fit and dies and disappears. He'll never even know that he was right. But if Person A is wrong, then he loses EVERYTHING to a level beyond comprehension. First of all, he's lost everything he ever "owned" on earth. You cannot take it with you. The Pharoah's tried it, but guess what? It didn't work. But far worse than that, Person A must now face Almighty God and answer two questions: What did you do with your life? And what did you say to my Son whom I offered for you? Person A will have no answer that will satisfy. And Person A will experience eternal death, pain, separation…hell.

But if Person B places his bet to follow Jesus: I don't know everything about you, Jesus, but I'm willing to believe that you died for my sins and I place my faith in you. If Person B is wrong, he loses absolutely nothing*! Person B dies and disappears, never even knowing that he was wrong. But if Person B correct, and Jesus is who He said He is, then Person B wins everything. You win your life now which, though filled with the same struggles that are common to man, will give you an unwavering hope. But more than that Person B will gain eternity in heaven with God.

While Christmas shopping, have you looked at any of the scenic photo calendars? You should. Absolutely breathtaking images: mountain scapes, volcanic eruptions, sunrises over the ocean. Just stunning sights to be seen right here on planet earth. If God made the earth in seven days and has been working on Heaven ever since, there's a fair chance Heaven might be pretty cool. "I go there to prepare a place for you." Isn't that what Jesus said? Can you imagine what Heaven will be like? Nope, me either. Not that I don't try, but the Bible tells us it will be better than we can imagine. So try all you want. Heaven will still be better.

Did you note the asterisk (*) above? It's where I say that the follower of Jesus loses nothing if He's wrong. Well, yes and no. Paul says if the ressurrection is false then we Christians are above all men to be pitied. Jesus told us we would need to lose our life to follow Him. There is sacrifice involved. The thing is, if we're wrong, we'll never know it. If Christianity is false and after death there is nothing, then we die and poof. That's it.

But really, if you become a Christian and seriously follow Him, what do you really lose? Fun? If you think that being a Christian doesn't include fun, you've been sold a line. Any Christians out there in BLOGLAND who have fun? Post a comment and tell us about it.

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." Psalm 34:8

The only kind of so-called fun that Christianity prohibits is the kind of fun that most people regret. It's the kind of thing that ends up hurting you in the end.

Why would any person in this lifetime absolutely refuse Jesus? I don't know. It's a fool's wager.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas Wake Up Call, Part One: A Much Needed Smack in the Face

When is the last you were smacked? I mean an outta nowhere, open-palm wallop on skin? Chances are, if you ever have been smacked, you remember it. For me, I was about ten years old. My mom was taking me somewhere in the brown Gran Torino station wagon. (Kids: in the old days, station wagons wuz what had instead of minivans). I don't recall what we were talking about just before my mom pulled the car out of the driveway. But I must have said something really smart-mouthed because my mom's hand rose and fell like a lightning bolt-fly-swatter. She smacked my bare thigh just above the knee so hard she left a throbbing, red hand print. Ever been smacked like that?

There's something powerful about a smack like that. It brings with it a stinging, burning pain. But more than anything, it shocks us. I mean you could be doing or thinking just about anything and --SMACK-- you are abruptly brought to attention.

Right about now you are likely wondering what in the world this has to do with Christmas. You saw the tender manger scene above and thought, "Awwww, look at the baby Jesus. I bet this will be one of those tender Christmassy posts." Uh…not so much. Don't misunderstand me. I love Christmas as much as anyone. I love going out in the chilly air with my family to find just the right tree. I love baking (and eating) cookies. I love just sitting in the room with all the lights off except the tree's multicolored splendor. I love the decorations, the memories, and the nostalgia. I love singing the songs about little baby Jesus too.

But you know, I wonder if all the wonder of Christmas, along with the worldly commercialism of the day, has lulled us into a kind of a fuzzy ignorance. Much like frostbite causing its victim to feel a strange sleepy warmth…just before you freeze to death.

We drive around the neighborhoods and see the cute manger scene. We read the Christmastime Scriptures and sing, but like Charlie Brown, I ask "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?"

"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." Matt. 1: 20-24

This little child is GOD with US. The God of the universe--all powerful, all knowing, all good--God took on frail, aging, human flesh…our flesh. Let's say you have a good job--lots of bennies, great vacation, unbeatable salary. Would you willingly give up that job and take a volunteer position with the company if it mean everyone else would get a promotion and a pay raise? Not sure I would either. But God came into the world as a baby human. A baby human destined to be mocked, destined to be spat upon, destined to be whipped and scourged, destined to be ramrodded through a corrupt legal system, and destined to die on a criminal's cross. Have you thought of that lately? That little baby was on a mission, a tragic, sacrificial mission. SMACK. Can you feel it?

I may be in danger of losing some readers who don't believe or aren't sure they believe all this Christmas hooey anyway. But stick around. This is all about you. The other part of the verse above that I highlighted in red is that this little baby will save his people from their sins. Sin: the missing of the mark, the falling short, the willfully doing the wrong thing, the willfully neglecting to do the right thing. We're all guilty of it even by our own standard of good, right? I mean, don't you know that you've screwed up? Somewhere you said the wrong thing or did the wrong thing and felt some guilty twang in the pit of your stomach. Of course you have. So have I.

We've all broken our own standard. And Biblically speaking, our standard is flawed and far short of God's standard of good. That sin--ANY sin--is a death sentence. The Bible says, the wages of sin is death. But it's not just death of our flesh, the clock of life expiring, and we drift off into nothingness. I find that very few people, VERY FEW, hold to a belief that this life is all there is. Most people believe there's something after...that we humans are somehow transcendent beings. We are. All of us already have eternity. But we do not have the same eternity.

Have you ever had a bad day? No, I mean a REALLY bad day. From start to finish, just everything goes wrong. Those days stink, don't they? On such days, we long for a smile or some happy reprieve. What if it was more than a day? How would you feel about enduring a week, a month, or even a year? Maybe some of you are battling something chronic and you're right there, right now. You know the misery of things being bad for long periods of time. You know in a way that most of us cannot fathom. But in most cases, there is a reprieve. Sickness goes away. Vacations and holidays come. Friendly faces return.

Now, suppose things never got better.

When I was a kid, I rode my bike down to a local recreation center that happened to be near a volunteer fire house. I'd been there before and I'd seen the firemen bringing case after case of soda into the fire hall, and they just sat there in stacks near the soda machine. So, I decided to help myself to a 16 oz. bottle of Orange Crush. Bad move. One of the firemen caught me red-handed. He took me into his office, demanded my home phone number, and called my father. From the time the fireman hung up the phone to the time my father arrived, I sat and thought about what was going to happen. There was absolutely no escape. I was stuck there in that office, awaiting punishment that I absolutely deserved. And my father was coming. I couldn't imagine facing him…the shame and pain I'd bring him and his indignant anger over the shame I'd brought on myself and our whole family name. I will never forget the waiting and the inevitability of the coming punishment.

If you have rejected Jesus…if you sneer at the little baby Jesus and think you'll just take your chances or even that you might just save yourself through good behavior, you are totally where I was in the Fire Station. You've blown it. You have sinned. You're caught red-handed. There's nothing you can do to escape. And now, you're waiting. Whatever number of days you have left in your life are all you have. And this life is as good as it will ever get for you. But after that...

For those who reject Christ, eternity will be a horror beyond reckoning. There are differing opinions on what hell will actually be like. Some say that it is literal fire. Others say absolute isolation. In any case, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. The thing to remember is that we're talking about forever. There will be NO escape. It will go on and on and on and on. This is not some theory that I've concocted. This is what the Bible teaches. If you have sinned you are separated from God now. If you die, you will be eternally separated from God and from every one and every thing you've ever loved. It will be unimaginable suffering, and it will be never ending. SMACK.

It reminds me of Jacob Marley, Charles Dickens' character who comes to warn Ebeneezer Scrooge of the terrible fate that waits for him at death's door. "It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men! If it goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death! It is doomed to wander through the world! Oh, woe is me! And witness what it cannot share but MIGHT HAVE SHARED on Earth and turned to happiness!"

Marley tells us that he wears the chain he forged in life. He made it link by link and yard by yard. We ALL have such chains, and these links connect us to eternal horror. There is only ONE escape, and it's on this side of the grave. That little child in the first picture. Jesus.

He bore all the sins of all humanity when he went to the cross. He already paid the price for your eternal salvation. Rescue waits like a vast reservoir above you, waiting to wash you clean and carry you one day to heaven. The Bible tells us all we have to do is believe. Believe what?

Various sections on the Bible make it clear that we all must: 1) recognize the trouble you're in. 2) realize there's nothing you can do to save yourself 3) agree that Jesus is the Son of God who's death on the cross is enough to save you and 4) accept God's gift and thank Him.

Look, this life might seem long. You might be young and feel pretty close to invincible. I imagine a fair number of the 155,000 people who die every day probably feel that way too. The point is, you have no way of knowing which day will be your last. This life is not all there is. You are transcendent. You will spend forever somewhere. So remember Jesus--not for the little ruddy-cheeked baby in the manger scene. Remember Jesus for the one who willingly endured death on a cross to pay the debt that you could never repay. And thank Him this Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Motiv8 Blog Tour, Plus2: The Miller Brothers

The Miller brothers have had the distinct privilege of growing up in a CBA Bookstore. As children they learned first hand the value of faith-based stories while helping their parents operate several Christian bookstores and clubs for 30 years. As a result, Lumination delivers more than simply good stories, we bring passion to write and illustrate stories that inspire and illuminate the truth of God's Word in a fresh way.

Christopher & Allan are formally trained with a degree in Computer Animation. They have worked as animators for the popular CBA kids video series, Juniors Giants, and have recently written and illustrated the newly released book The Legend of Gid the Kid and the Black Bean Bandits, the first book in the Heroes of Promise Series (Warner Press Kids).

Okay, so that's the company line about the two authors in this week's blog tour. I got to know Alan and Chris Miller for just a couple of days while on our far northwestern leg of the Fantasy Fiction West Coast Tour. I can tell you they are two of the most amazingly creative folks I've ever met. And that's coming from a creative type! You should see their basement entertainment room. Full size movie posters of animated movie greats, life size Larry the Cucumber standups, and more DvDs than you can shake a ten meter electric cattle prod at!

They do their own digital animation and have a studio in their homes. I am SO jealous. I've done a fair amount of digital art, but never animated. Someday, maybe Alan and Chris will give me some pointers. LOL. But seriously, they do some cool stuff. They are also two of the most enthusiastic fellows you are likely to meet. Talk about sold out for the Lord and for the mission they believe He's called them to: Chris and Alan are absolutely on fire. They are a big part of the Christian Arts revolution that I pray is coming.
About their books...well, I really don't know. BUT, while you can't always judge a book by its cover (silly publishers sometimes don't let the authors have ANY input on the art that will cover their own books), you can for Chris and Alan. They have designed the cover and artwork for their books. And just take a look at these cool covers. I especially like the design below. It just screams: COOOL STUFFF CAN BE FOUND HERE!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are you kidding me???

Hi, all! No, I'm not messing with you. I have had some intensifying thoughts lately, prompting me to revisit The Realm. I'm considering writing a 50,000 word novella based on The Door Within Universe. I spent about 2 hours the other night jotting down the first possibilities, and I'm getting kind of psyched about them.

I have no contract for it yet. I haven't even mentioned it to my publisher. I have no idea whether it will be a reality or not. As you know, I'm hugely busy with two other books right now, so I have no idea when I could even find the time. I only know that God is faithful, and if He wants it written, the time will be there.

So...where do you come in? Well, I've created a poll in my sidebar to ask you for the direction you'd most like a Door Within 4 to go. Well, have at it. Please feel free to comment once you've cast your vote.

And as always, Never alone.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Motiv8 Blog Tour: Jonathan Rogers

The Man Behind the Feechies
Jonathan Rogers

It was a pleasure to meet Jonathan Rogers on the Motiv8 Tour this past October. I found him to be a real southern gentleman and a very talented writer. More on my personal impressions of the man behind the Feechies later. For now, please enjoy the contents of an interview that JR did with Incredibooks.

(Above: Jonathan, if full Fantasy Tour Garb, shakes hands with a young fan.)

Why did you choose fantasy to work with instead of some other genre?

My favorite thing about the fantasy genre—broadly defined—is that it gives a writer a lot of freedom to mash together things that don’t normally go together. As the Wilderking took shape in my mind, I knew I wanted to use the David story as a way of talking about wildness and the role of wildness in a boy’s growing up. I didn’t want to do historical fiction for several reasons, one being the fact that I wasn’t comfortable making up dialogue to put in the mouths of actual Bible characters. Free from the constraints of historical fiction, I thought a medieval-esque, knights-and-castles setting would be a fun way to tell the story. And while I was at it, I decided to indulge myself by making the physical setting look like the swamps and forests of South Georgia and Florida. By that point, I really had nowhere else to go but an imaginary world. So for this story, the fantasy genre made sense.

How do you make your characters seem like real people instead of just figures who move the plot along?

I spend a lot of time thinking about motives. I try to understand my characters well enough to know what would motivate them in a given situation. And I know my characters because I pay attention to the people around me. I’m forever asking myself what motivated a person to do this or that; I don’t so much mean the people I know as the people I don’t know. When you see a stranger do something unusual in public, all you have are the external facts: that guy is dressed in business attire and is sleeping on a bus bench. That’s interesting, of course, but more interesting is the game you play with yourself: Why is a guy in business attire sleeping on a bus bench? That’s where storytelling comes from. A good story is a constant back-and-forth between external facts and internal motivations: characters react to the external facts of their situations, characters change the external facts of their situations. Sometimes characters succeed in bringing their motivations to bear on a situation, and sometimes they don’t. When you think in those terms, character and plot begin to work hand-in-glove with one another.

(Above: JR reads from the Bark of the Bog Owl. You should hear him read a scene with Dobro Turtlebain--absolutely hysterical)

Who is your favorite character from all of your books so far, and why?

That’s an easy one: the main character in the Wilderking books is a boy named Aidan, but my favorite is a wild swamp boy named Dobro Turtlebane. When he’s on the scene, something wild and funny is going to happen. His behavior seems erratic—courting danger, fighting with people he actually likes, etc.—but if you can accept a few basic premises about his unusual worldview, his behavior is actually quite logical. Dobro is a great example of what I was saying in an earlier question about character driving plot. He’s a game-changer, for sure.

How do you work allegory or Christian themes into your books without it being blatantly obvious or sounding preachy or clich├ęd?

The gospel speaks to human yearnings that are universal. Everybody, Christian or not, knows what it is to feel that we are living in a world that stirs up more desires than it can fulfill. Even people who don’t talk about sin know what it is to feel that you are broken and unable to fix yourself. Everybody hopes that love is stronger than hate, even if they’re not sure it really is. In short, everybody knows they need grace. I hope my writing is always, always about grace, in many forms. And grace, almost by definition, doesn’t lend itself to preachiness. It suddenly doesn’t feel like grace anymore if it’s given to you ungracefully, unbeautifully. Fiction and grace were made for each other. Think of the parable of the prodigal son. That’s great fiction, and it gets inside you in a way that a sermon can’t. I like sermons too, but they work in a different way.

(Above: JR disagrees with Author LB Graham about the merits of the Jack-in-the-Box Bacon Cheeseburger. JR said it was nothing special. LB could only look away in disgust.)

Do you ever write something that you love, only to look at it later and discover it’s not as good as you thought?

Yes. Something similar happens in one of my recurring dreams. In this dream I tell a joke and it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I laugh and laugh, and everybody around me agrees that I’m the wittiest man they’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Then when I wake up, I realize not only that the joke wasn’t funny, but it didn’t even make sense—not even grammatical sense. I’ve never written anything that was quite as bad as that, but suspect the dream comes from the same fear your question touches on: how do you know you’ve written something that is really good? I’m learning to trust my judgment, though: if I think something is interesting and funny, there’s a good chance a lot of other people will think it’s interesting and funny too.

(Above: JR unsheathes his blade. Don't worry. After the stitches, the little boy was just fine. JK)

As you can read from the interview above, Jonathan has a way with words. I found him to be quite an eloquent and thoughtful writer. We had a great discussion over quesadillas late one night. Jonathan asked me why I chose to write a portal fantasy versus nonportal fantasy, and it really brought to light how important it is for a writer to know why he/she's making certain decisions. I did have good reasons for making The Door Within a portal fantasy, but I might not have. Jonathan impressed the importance of deciding which of the trappings of traditional fantasy belong in your story. Have a reason why you do what you do. There's no room for wasted words.

(Above: JR and author Eric Reinhold enjoy booksigning by candlelight.)

As much as I could go on about Jonathan Rogers, I'd rather tell you about his books. The Wilderking Trilogy is one of those best books you may never have heard of types. The first book, Bark of the Bog Owl, came out in 2004. He had modest success, as did the sequels. But as is too often the case in the publishing world, the books weren't really given enough shelf life to really take off.

That is a ridiculous shame. The Wilderking books are extremely clever, witty, and well written. Best of all, the kind of fantasy Mr. Rogers has penned is very original. No elves, dwarves, or unicorns (not that I mind those things) but Mr. Rogers invents the COOLEST of COOL races of Feechie Folk. My sons LOVE this series. I totally enjoy reading them with my boys at bedtime.

I'd like to leave you with a review of Bark of the Bog Owl. The reviewer is Sally Apokedak. She's a tough cookie to impress and an incredibly skilled writer herself. See what she has to say about Mr. Rogers' books. And give yourself a Christmas Present: go pick up the Wilderking Trilogy!

Three cheers for Jonathan Rogers and Broadman and Holman.

Where to begin my praise for this book?

First of all there is a boy who is all boy--rough and tumble and longing for adventure. This is a boy who calls to our innermost beings, urging us to be good and noble and true without being stodgy and stiff and stuck-up. Aidan delights us with his humility, his appetite for fun, his courage, and his steadfast devotion to God and King.

Add to the mix a wild feechie boy--I won't even try to describe him because I can't do him justice. But you are sorely missing out if you don't buy this book and get acquainted with Dobro Turtlebane.

The pace never stills, the story never lags, and the children never stop begging for "just one more" chapter when you read it aloud.

And the children's plea is mine, also. "More, please, Mr. Rogers." I want to go back to the swamps and do some fishing and feasting. I want to follow Aidan to the caves as he flees from his king. I look forward to an honorable, deep love between Aidan and the king's son (I'm thinking Smike and Nicholas Nickleby).

I can't wait to see where this talented writer takes us next. What relationships will be forged, what sacrifices will be made, what honorable service will be rendered, all while we are romping through Aidan's world and laughing with him and loving him?

Not only was the story enthralling and the prose superb, the book came out in hardback with a well-thought-out cover design. Good for Broadman and Holman. The paper quality, the printing, and the pictures were still substandard but those are minor irritations considering the huge leap that this book makes in the Christian publishing industry.

If you or someone you know loves fantasy, buy this book. You will not be disappointed. Like Harry Potter, this one is going to be loved by adults as well as children.

And, no, I've never met the author and I don't work for Broadman and Holman. I just cannot contain my joy at seeing this kind of quality from Christian publishers. Hurray, hurray, hurray. Or perhaps that should read: Haawwweeee! --Sally Apokedak

Monday, December 01, 2008

Motiv8 Blog Tour: Eric Reinhold

Introducing Eric Reinhold
Eric Reinhold is the father of three—Kaylyn, Kara, and Kyler. While telling his kids bedtime tales, Eric developed the story of Ryann Watters. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Eric holds his B.S. in Economics from that institution and his Masters in Business Administration from the University of Baltimore. He is a Certified Financial Planner, having received such from the College of Financial Planning in Denver, Colorado. When not weaving his fantastical tales of supernatural adventure, Eric serves as President of Academy Wealth Management, a fee-based, financial planning firm utilizing Biblical principles. He and his wife,
Kim, make their home in Orlando, Florida where Kim home schools their three children. They are members of First Baptist Church Sweetwater in Longwood, Florida, where Eric teaches the Cross Trainers Bible Fellowship Group every Sunday morning.

To learn more about Eric and Ryann Watters, please visit

The picture you see below isn't really the most photogenic of our author, but it captures a bit of his servant's heart. The entire Fantasy Fiction West Coast Tour, Eric took it upon himself to be in charge of setting up and tearing down all of our banners and signs. He and LB took turns being in charge of stowing our swords and gear. He's a good guy through and through.

Eric is a big idea kind of guy. He does financial planning with all kinds of big wigs, including one of my all time favorite people, Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green. I have a hunch, we'll be seeing Eric's books do very, very well.

A little Q&A with Sir Eric the Author:

When did you first envision the world of Aeliana?
I first envisioned Aeliana in 1999. I grew up on fantasy novels like C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Science Fiction, and was an avid comic book collector. All of these resources merged in helping me create my own fantasy world.

Why did you decide to use Mount Dora, FL as the setting for your story?
At first I was going to make up a fictional town in the mountains of Georgia or North Carolina and then I visited Mount Dora, which is only 24 miles from my house. It was perfect! As I describe in the novel, Mount Dora has so much character, with Lake Dora, parks, quaint shops, interesting alleyways, an old fashioned railroad and so much more. I also remember reading a novel when I was growing up in Miami which used Miami as the setting. It was so interesting to read a fictional story with real locations I had been to that I wanted my readers to be able to enjoy the same experience.

You said it took seven years from when you had the idea of this story to the time it became a hardcover.

I first began outlining my story in 2000 and had actually outlined all twenty chapters and written ten chapters when I unexpectedly had to have open-heart surgery for a congenital birth defect that I was unaware of. This setback during the period of the 9-11 crisis and subsequently starting my own business, resulted in my putting my project on the shelf for five years, until I picked it up in 2007…

How did your publishing contract come about?
The Lord’s timing is amazing to reflect upon. I believe I was ahead of my time in 2000 when I first shopped my story idea around to Christian publishers. I believe I was the first to do so following the Harry Potter craze and Christian publishers weren’t ready for the concept. While I was building my financial planning practice from 2002-2006 I retained some amazing clients, one of which was Steve Strang, the President of Strang Communications, which the Creation House line falls under.

How old are your children now? Do you still tell them stories?
My children are 9, 12, and 15. The two younger ones are homeschooled and our oldest just started at a private Christian High School. The stories I used to tell the girls (12, 15) each night before I put them to bed were part of my inspiration for writing and alas they have moved on from dad’s stories, but still devour fantasy novels on a regular basis. I have started a new storyline for my son to try out some ideas.

You have an interesting background for an author, what is your desire in writing your novels?
I took a few creative writing classes in high school and of course at an engineering school like the Naval Academy, I had no writing courses. I was primarily self taught from books and took to heart the “show it don’t tell it” advice. I strongly believe that the people you know, the books you read, and the places you go have a significant influence on your life and have been a great impact on my writing.

You are President of a wealth management firm. Tell us a little about Academy Wealth. Who is it for and what services are provided?
The biblical principles on money are time-tested and have an influence on the advice I provide my clients in the areas of estate, tax, investment, insurance, and business planning. I have a unique investing process that is fee-based using exchange traded funds which is my primary service to clients – along with charitable planning strategies.

How did you come to know Jesus Christ?
I grew up in a Christian home and became a believer at the age of eight. I was a leader in my high school youth group at Old Cutler Presbyterian Church in Miami, FL and graduated from Westminster Christian High School. My wife and three children have attended First Baptist Sweetwater Church for the past thirteen years, where I am a Deacon, Adult Sunday School teacher, work with the High School Youth Group, and am on several committees.

The Annals of Aeliana is set to be a trilogy. How are you coming on the next book?
The series is based upon Ephesians 6 and the putting on the armor of God. Originally I was planning to make the series seven books based upon each piece of armor… and I still may; however the publisher suggested I start out as a trilogy. “You can always have a second trilogy.” I have outlined book two, “Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith” and plan to have it completed in 2008 for release in 2009.

If you're looking for a great Christmas gift for the young fantasy reader
you know, take a look at the works of Eric Reinhold!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Signed book for Christmas?

Happy Thanksgiving to all and an early Merry Christmas!

I have a lot to be thankful for. First, thanks to God that He's allowed me to do something I love for a living. And then, thanks to all of you who have read my books. In the past two years my books have appeared on Young Adult Fiction Bestseller lists seven times. What a dream come true!

I'd like to return the favor in some small way. I'd like to make sure your copy of The Door Within, Rise of the Wyrm Lord, The Final Storm, Isle of Swords, and Isle of Fire are personalized and signed copies.

Here's how:

This limited time offer is good for anyone who already has purchased my books OR for anyone who purchases books between now and December 7th, 2008.

1. If you have purchased a copy of any of my books in the past two years, email me your name and address and clearly indicate for whom I should sign the special edition bookplate stickers.


2. If you'd like to purchase copies of my books here at Amazon, use the links below to go directly to my Amazon book links. Then, email me your name and address and clearly indicate for whom I should sign the special edition bookplate stickers.

Then, I will sign the stickers and put them in the mail in time for Christmas!

Never alone.

-Wayne Thomas Batson

Is it in you?

Remember the Gatorade ad campaign where they show athletes sweating different color Gatorades? Is it in you? They ask. Author Eric Reinhold sent me the link for this cool video. Check it out.

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that Jesus lives in me. How about you?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Motiv8 Blog Tour: Christopher Hopper

Red Lion Inn, Denver, 2006: I entered the hotel lobby and sat down in a chair to wait for the shuttle to take me to the International Christian Retail Show, downtown. I noticed another fellow waiting. He looked kind of "authorly" so I asked if he was going to the show. He was. It was Aaron Thielman of Tsaba House publishing. He and I talked books and marketing and all kinds of stuff while we waited, but when I told him of my passion to write fantasy, he said, "Oh, man, you've got to meet a friend of mine at Tsaba House. He writes fantasy too!"

Fast forward to the ICRS floor. I'd finished a signing at the TN booth and decided to explore and see if I could find Tsaba House. I did, and there was Aaron, and he introduced me to a guy named Christpher Hopper. Funny thing was, we said hello, shook hands, and talked a bit, and I kept thinking I'd met Christopher somewhere before. In fact, I felt like I'd known him for years. It was a very strange thing, a Holy Spirit thing, I think.

Since then, Christopher and I have become best friends. So I thought I'd share just a little of what I've gotten to know about Sir Christopher. First, he's multitalented: singer, songwriter, artist, writer, internationally known speaker, film maker, etc. He's faithful. Clearly his wife Jennifer and their two children are primary in his life. He's kind. Most people upon meeting Christopher immediately recognize the kindness that flows out of him.
He's a visionary. God has SO impacted Christopher's life that he has sold out to pursue God in every way possible. Christopher wants to invade culture, to reclaim territory that Christians have lost, and to impact young people all over the world. He's a good listener. Heaven knows I put that to the test this past summer when I had more than a little on my mind. Once, he even answered the phone in a rather awkward place just because he knew I might need an ear. I'll let Christopher share that little detail if he wishes. lol

I've always admired the Inklings and the relationship between Tolkien and Lewis, and so years before I met Christopher, I began to pray that God would bring another Christian Fantasy writer into my life. Wow, did God ever answer that prayer! Christopher and I decided to get together for a writer's bootcamp weekend, half way between his stomping grounds in upstate NY and mine near Baltimore. So we met there and discovered that our writing styles were very similar. It was a great help to us both to be able to have the other to bounce ideas off of. And it was an absolute blast of fun.

We repeated the journey last winter, and again, found the writing experience (and the Banshee pub) as amazing as before. Fast forward to the present, and what do you know, God had in mind more of an artistic partnership than we'd imagined. Christopher and I are signed with Thomas Nelson to coauthor a two book fantasy series that is sure to thrill both our fan bases. More on that series in the near future. But in the meantime, Christopher and I are about 35,000 words into the first book and loving it. We write and correspond via iChat, an excellent way to discuss content and ideas since we live so far away.

Now, about Sir Christopher's books: Rise of the Dibor

A World untouched by evil and ignorant of temptation is quietly awakened to a wicked influence in its kingdom that threatens to destroy all life. At first any signs of change are subtle, but slowly even Creation itself heralds the impending doom that awaits.

Luik son of Lair embarks on an epic saga to protect his people and attempt to keep his world from following the fate of one that has gone before it. Earth. What some thought was merely a means to an end, others believe will be the birth of a legend. Luik and a brilliant cast of characters join together in this perfect world gone wrong, as it becomes the epicenter for a war of historic proportions.

Rise of the Dibor spans into some of the most essential questions of the Christian faith, including humanity's ability, or complete failure, to resist temptation and our inevitable need for a Savior.

What if life as you had known it ceased to exist? If surrounded by utter destruction, how would you even begin to rebuild? And where could you turn for help?

Luik, the son of a fallen Dionian king, finds himself injured and headed for Tontha in the north of a besieged Dionia. Here he sorts through the trauma of the recent past and attempts to piece together the whereabouts of the defeated Dibor and his friends Fane, Hadrian, and Princess Anorra.

As work begins on fortifying Mt. Dakka, now under his command, Luik journeys south to the wreckage of Adriel in hopes of discovering anything that might help him find his missing friends. The journey uncovers far more than he ever anticipated, and upon returning to Mt. Dakka he discovers more shocking clues about the secret order's the Knights of The Lion Vrie.

While hope is kindled by the discovery of many of his surviving countrymen, a deep foreboding takes root as Morgui's grip on Dionia tightens. Luik's path is plagued by mysterious encounters with the taken and haunted by the effects of evil upon Creation. But even more puzzling is the sudden reappearance of many rumored to be dead including the missing Hadrian.

When strange letters begin to demand his aid, Luik embarks on perilous missions to the far corners of his country, including a daring rescue attempt in Somahguard Islands, crossing through the deserted realm of Trennesol, even risking everything in search of the fabled City of Ot.

Will Luik be reunited with the Dibor, or will he find they have met a similar fate as Dionia's kings? Is there any hope for the land of Dionia? Is the army of Morgui too vast and overpowering for the remnant of battered Dionians?

In closing, I'd like to say something about Christopher the Christian. Jesus permeates this man's life. He's one of the living proofs of God's love in this crazy world, and he is to many people. The Holy Spirit through Christopher impacts so many people...even if they can only talk for just a few minutes. Just to give you a case in point. We're at a Waffle House near Richmond, Virginia on our way north while on the first Fantasy Tour. I'm about half way through my double hashbrowns, scattered, smothered, and covered. I look up and there's Christopher in a deep conversation with one of the waitresses. They ended up praying together. Amazing. Can you say the gift of evangelism?

I hope you'll visit the other Motiv8 author sites to learn more about my Swordbrother, Sir Christopher Hopper. Oh, and go buy some of his books, will you?! ;-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

Next time you talk to your evolutionist, prochoice friend, consider this:

Why is it that the very same people who believe that ALL life began with chemicals and molecules randomly coming together have such a hard time believing that human life begins at conception?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Event this Friday: McClean Bible Church

Hi, all! Just a quick blurb to let you know about a cool event coming up this Friday, November 14th. If you are anywhere in the Baltimore, Washington, Virginia region and would like to come hear some stirring dramatic readings and get some books signed, come out to McClean Bible Church.

The Holidays are quickly approaching, and signed books are unique gifts! Come on out and get a book or two. My mom says get seven! Join us Friday, November 14 at 7:30pm in Community Room C!

For McClean Bible Church's contact info, see below:

Front Desk Phone: 703/639-2000
V/TTY: 703/770-2939
MBC Fax: 703-639-5680
MBC TTY: 703/770-2939
Physical Address
McLean Bible Church
8925 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Motiv8 Blog Tour #4: Sharon Hinck & A Message for the Hurting

This segment of the Motiv8 Blog Tour will be quite different from the others. Yes, you will meet a terrific author, Sharon Hinck, but you will also get a look into a very serious that impacts people in unimaginably powerful ways. But first, let's meet:

Author Sharon Hinck

I first met Sharon Hinck online. I was a new fantasy author looking for ways to promote my books on the Net, and one of my searches led me to the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour page. Long story short, Sharon was one of the members of that supremely cool Blog Group. She was kind enough to do an interview for me and promote my books online. Once I discovered that she had a fantasy series, The Sword of Lyric, we began swapping tools of the trade, successes and failures, etc. I found Sharon to be one of those amazingly pure people, someone whose spirit reaches out to love everyone she meets.

And then came the first Fantasy Fiction Tour in the summer of 2007. Donita K. Paul (whom you'll meet in a few weeks) was originally slated to be one of the the Fantasy 4, as we called ourselves. But Donita couldn't make the event due to health issues. Donita suggested adding Sharon to our ranks. Christopher Hopper, Bryan Davis, and I agreed right away. I think we all got to know Sharon in one capacity or another over the previous year or two.

During the tour, I came to realize that Sharon was exactly the kind of person I thought she was. She was kind, had an easy laugh, and literally found conversations wherever we went and ministered powerfully with the love of Jesus. That tour was a great success and led to the 2008 West Coast tour.

You know, it's kind of funny in an ironic sort of way how God works things sometimes. When I just knew Sharon from our online correspondence, I sort of felt like she was someone I ought to protect. Maybe it was that she had shown me much kindness with promoting my books. Or maybe it was she was the lone "damsel" among three rogues on the first tour. Or maybe it was just because I'm a fellow author who wrestles with doubts about my ability to succeed in this profession. Not sure. All I know is that when someone flamed her book The Restorer with a very negative review, I just about went ballistic. I'd read The Restorer and loved it. So had my wife. This review was way WAY out of line, and I made it my mission to make sure the reviewer and Sharon knew that. Funny, I had no idea how the roles would reverse a year later.

In between those two tours, July of this past summer to be exact, I suffered an attack of some kind. Six years earlier, I'd had several similar attacks. They manifested like heart attacks: chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, tingling and or pain radiating down the left arm, strange pressures, even vision graying out as if I might faint. Six years ago, I went through a battery of cardiac test--I mean we checked everything short of opening me up and letting the docs poke around. Everything came back normal--thankfully, it didn't seem to be my heart. Paramedics suggested stress. I wondered about that. How could stress manifest itself in such physical symptoms? I had no idea.

Fast forward to this past summer. I had the worst episode yet. My wife took me to the ER and I was absolutely pannicky. I had horrible, scary thoughts running through my head. Thank God my pastor was available to come see me. He helped a lot. I stayed overnight, came home, felt sluggish for a day or two, but figured everything would go back to normal like it had six years ago. Well, two nights later, I suffered through the most overwhelming sense of dread, anxiety, and fear I'd ever felt in my life. It was like an unpleasant low-level electric current passing through my body continuously. At the same time, emotionally I felt an absolutely devastating mixture. It felt like I'd just been yelled at, scolded, blasted by someone I cared about. It felt like I'd done something terribly wrong but didn't know what. It felt like I'd just awakened in the middle of the night having heard the sound of a prowler downstairs. And it felt like some harm was coming to my kids but I could do nothing to prevent it. Imagine all those feelings combined. Well, that's what I felt that night. I'd heard about other Christians experiencing "The Dark Night of the Soul," but I'd really had no idea what it was like.

The next several days, I was a wreck. I felt like I was watching life through a thick glass but I could not touch it. Nothing felt right to me. The only emotion I could touch was fear. And here's where the irony comes in. I knew I needed help. I know a lot of guys (and gals) hesitate to share their troubles or to seek help. Not me. I'd never been through anything like this and was desperate to see if anyone knew anything about my situation.

My wife and kids were huge blessings, loving me even though they had no way to understand why I was so down and acting strangely. I had so many wonderful friends to talk to or visit with, and that was HUGE. But Sharon Hinck made a special difference, because she absolutely knew what I was going through. Over the next week or so, Sharon and I talked on the phone, and she really understood. She offered the truth of God's words, as opposed to my haywire feelings. She offered prayers, not quick fixes. And more than `anything, she just listened. Since then, I'm a lot better. Thank you, Jesus.

When I learned that Sharon Hinck was about to release a book called Stepping into Sunlight that in some ways dealt with anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder, I was thrilled. And now that I've read it, I feel this was a book that Christians (and others) all over the world need to read. If you've never gone through something like I described…it is terribly difficult to understand. It's so easy to just blow it off or throw out advice. If you read Stepping into Sunlight, not only will you get intermittent humor, engaging characters, and a captivating story, but you will get a window into the lives of people who need to be better understood.

To that end, I've invited Sharon to visit here at Enter the Door Within, in the hopes that she'd share about her books and offer a bit of hope and wisdom for others who are either experiencing anxiety or depression or living with someone who does.

WB: Hi, Sharon, thanks so much for taking the time to be here.

SH: It’s always a joy stopping by your ultra-cool blog! And thanks for your kind words about Stepping Into Sunlight! That means a lot.

WB: First, I wonder if you could tell a little bit about what depression is. I mean how is it different from someone who's feeling a little down because of a run of bad luck?

SH: Depression can be a complex web of factors, spiritual, emotional, physical, situational - which is why sometimes those struggling with it can feel a bit belittled or scolded or dismissed by folks who don’t understand it. Sometimes prayer, (that’s the first, best approach to every struggle!) “taking every thought captive,” and chatting with a counselor may provide speedy improvement. But just as with other health battles, sometimes God’s answer isn’t that simple or quick. I know it can be frustrating for family and friends who want their loved one to “snap out of it” and “just stop feeling that way.” But it’s even more frustrating for the person battling depression or anxiety who has TRIED to make the bad thoughts go away, who has prayed earnestly for a change of heart and mind, who is making responsible choices to foster healing—yet is still hurting. And while everyone understands having a blue day from time to time, depression can range into searing emotional pain and/or debilitating bleakness.

WB: With my anxiety, there were definite physical AND mental symptoms. Is that true also of depression?

SH: Absolutely. I’ve explained to friends that if they had a freshly broken leg, and someone told them, “you just need to try harder to walk on it and ignore the pain” we’d think they were cruel. Yet often people with serious depression or other emotional health issues are asked to rely on sheer will power to overcome physiological issues they can’t control – just as they can’t make their bone knit together instantly or stop throbbing. I’m not saying that when we battle depression or anxiety we no longer have personal responsibility. We still are called by God, I believe, to make the choices we are able to in His power and with His grace – which might mean lifestyle changes to promote healing, accepting the wisdom of counselors and doctors, identifying things that make it worse and avoiding that. But honestly, I know some saintly folks who do ALL the right things and still battle severe depression because things go wrong in their little brain neurons.

WB: I remember what you told me when I was going through the worst of it. Tell our readers.

SH: I probably said a whole bunch of silly things – but I ached for you, because I understood. I’ve had some serious bouts of depression in the past. I remember telling you that although the dark thoughts FELT very real and frightening, it was the anxiety talking . . . and there was a bigger, better truth, and after a little while, your mind and emotions would get past the tidal wave and you’d be able to grasp that truth again. And in the meantime, to let God carry you . . . to ride it out . . . and that even though it was incredibly difficult to believe, it WOULD be better one day soon.

WB: I just remembered clinging to the idea that it won't always be this bad...that I'd get through. That meant a lot because you'd been there and come through. We've discussed the physical and mental elements of these issues. Sharon, do believe there is a spiritual component to anxiety/depression?

SH: I think there is a spiritual component to everything! I think God made us to be amazing, complex creatures. When I say there is a spiritual component, though, that doesn’t mean every time someone battles anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, or whatever, that it’s because there is a direct sin choice in their lives…and if the sin could be just ferreted out, all the problems would leave. Of course, if someone is intentionally choosing a sinful course, then that should be addressed, because mental health doesn’t exist happily in a life of deliberate rebellion against God. BUT as I’ve said, some of the dearest saintly folks I know (who’ve repented of everything they can possibly think of) still battle these issues. In my book, Penny developed PTSD as a result of a violent experience she had, and some unusual life circumstances – not through any sinful choice.

WB: I agree. When I was in the thick of it, I felt like I couldn't even pray. It was worse than prayers bouncing off the walls. It was a feeling of negativity projecting back at me. I'd get a verse of Scripture half way out of my mouth, and BAM, it was cut off by some terrible thought. So when it's bad like that, what should a person do?

SH: Your experience highlights another element of anxiety and depression. Along with physical causes and effects, emotional and cognitive elements, and situational elements, we’re in a spiritual battle on this planet. I think that the enemy is quick to pounce any time we are down—to make an already tough experience even worse by slipping right in with his lies and trying to KEEP us from turning to God. Spiritual doubts and fears are one of the most vicious kinds of attacks. That’s where the Body of Christ is so vital. When I’ve had bouts of depression, friends have prayed for me and with me. They’ve gently continued to affirm the truth, even when my mind was confused or weary and my prayers felt hollow. I think it’s also vital to continue in the Word – even if we feel disconnected from it. I love the Psalms, because the various psalmists are so honest about their struggles, but still turn it around into proclaiming praise and trust for God. You get the sense the words are sometimes rung out of the deepest parts of them, against all that their circumstances, emotions, and thoughts are telling them. Yet they still whisper the words, “In Him will I put my trust.” Talk about a heroic and courageous battle!

WB: What promises of God do you find helpful in the down times?

SH: There are two post-it notes on my office wall right now, that have carried me through some discouraging physical illness this past year, and also help me on the days that depression tries to creep back in. Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.” And I Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself RESTORE you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”

WB: For those who know someone who might be going through clinical anxiety or depression, what should they do to help? What should they try to avoid doing?

SH: Be gentle with what you say, and think about how it might feel to someone whose emotions are already raw. For example, when I had a bad spell of serious depression about five years ago, a friend said, “well, you’ve been working too hard.” I heard that as a blaming or accusing sort of comment. I heard, “it’s your own fault. You deserve this,” even though that wasn’t what they intended. Be a compassionate listener. Don’t give your friend a “to do” list – no matter how tempting it is. (“Are you getting enough exercise? Why don’t you go do something fun with friends? Are you in the Word enough? Are you praying? Have you tried Omega-3 pills? Did you get your thyroid checked?”) It’s likely your friend is exhausted and overwhelmed just by getting out of bed and is doing the best they can. It’s also likely they’ve explored a variety of great ideas, but some may not have worked for them. They probably don’t need more information. They need someone willing to stand alongside, cry with them, care, pray, accept, and reassure.

WB: What about those well-meaning Christians and other folk (Tom Cruise) who denounce the use of medication to help with anxiety or depression?

SH: I’ve got a bit of leftover flower-child in me from my teen years. I love natural and simple, so I understand concerns that our culture is sometimes too quick to throw pills at any problem. HOWEVER, I also believe that God has given us the gift of a variety of tools to tackle the variety of elements that can be part of anxiety and depression. People with high-blood pressure can benefit from medications that reduce it. People with ulcers can benefit from a course of antibiotics. People with diabetes may need insulin. Are there life-style choices that can also contribute to health for these folks? Sure! Does that mean they are wrong to ALSO use medication? NO!

WB: Anything else on this topic you feel like readers would want to know?

SH: Wayne, you and I both know that a deep dark struggle with depression or anxiety can make a person feel unable, unworthy, or unwanted in serving God’s kingdom. But the opposite is true. God uses the weak to confound the strong. His grace is made perfect in our weakness. When we have nothing left in ourselves to lean on—we lean into Him in new ways. Sometimes as we call out to Him, He chooses to bring gracious and complete healing and then allow us to serve others who are hurting. Sometimes he gently says the total healing won’t come until heaven –but then He also promises His grace is sufficient. And it is. Both are miracles of His grace: immediate healing, or the strength to live with a chronic illness (physical and/or emotional). Both kinds of miracles give us opportunities to give glory to HIS name, and recognize our deep need for Him.

WB: Okay, cool. Let's switch gears a little. Stepping into Sunlight--Great Book! And I'm a guy who doesn't usually read "chick lit." lol. But your new book is not just "Chick-Lit" and it's not an "Issue" book. How would you describe it?

SH: It’s a contemporary women’s fiction novel, (although, of course, men read my books, too) J Like all my books, it’s a “story for the hero in all of us” – about a woman’s faith journey through some tough experiences. I write about ordinary characters who have to find depths of courage in the midst of difficult circumstances.

WB: The main character, Penny, is someone readers will really connect with, but your supporting cast was absolutely incredible. Did any of these fictional characters come to life because of real people you know?

SH: Not really. Honestly, I find that most of my characters are ninety per cent imagination and ten per cent tiny facets of myself magnified and distorted into some creative shapes. J At least that’s what I tell all my friends who think they see a little of themselves in a character. ;-)

WB: Why should readers get a copy of Stepping into Sunlight?

SH: It’s an entertaining story that is uplifting and, I hope, inspiring. There are real relationships, humor, drama, and heart. Readers can even join the character, Penny, in her project to do a kind act for a new person each day. But it’s also a book to read if you know anyone who has battled depression or anxiety and you want to understand the experience a little better. C.S. Lewis said “We read to know we aren’t alone.” For those of us who have battled emotional illness, reading about a character who walks through that valley can help us feel like someone understands. One woman wrote to me after reading the book. She read scenes of it to her husband and said, “This is what I’ve tried to explain about my experience, but couldn’t put into words. This is what it’s like.” I hope Penny Sullivan will give a little bit of a voice to the millions who are facing this battle as she steps into sunlight.

WB: Where can folks purchase Stepping into Sunlight?

SH: All major bookstores (if you don’t see it on the shelf, just ask – they can order it in for you if they’ve run out), or at my website:

OR if you want a signed and personalized copy for yourself or to give as a gift, you can order it at:

WB: Sharon, thanks so much for visiting with us and for being real.

SH: Just call me the Velveteen Rabbit. ;-) Thanks for initiating this rather brave chat, and being open about your experience.