Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Beware the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Jeremiah 6:13


For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.


It's a sad truth, but whenever a plate is passed around at church, my inner "doubting Thomas" comes out in force. Is the money for a good cause? Surely, for it's going to the church!

Or is it?

I've often been a little mistrustful of organizations and people that claim to help the needy, but who drive fancy cars and pull in extravagant salaries. Now, I'm not saying we should redistribute wealth, rather look at motive and drive. Is it a result of success? Or is it a result of greed?

So here's the question, to tie it back to Jeremiah: Is everyone greedy as he claims? Or is this hyperbole; meant to encourage reflection upon our own intentions?

Let's take it at the latter. We are all guilty of greed at some point: we tell white lies, we shift the goalposts when it suits us, and we sometimes deal a false card. That alone shouldn't send us directly to the boiling fires of hell, but we need to be aware. Be aware, admit, and ask for forgiveness.

Because what can happen is laid out in James... get too greedy and rich and fat on the backs of those we've pummeled:

James 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

So what about that collection? Am I fueling someone's greed or am I actually helping? It's a tough call, but would it be better to spend my money on a bowl full of ice cream or donate it to the charity in question? Even if the money never gets there, I've put that intention first; put myself second.

"Remember, I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together." -- Red Green

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Prologue to We Three Kings

The kings of Tarshish and the islands will pay him tribute. The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts


Psalm 72:10


Here they come....!


The final version of We Three Kings will not include a prologue or epilogue. While these little snippets were interesting, they did not necessarily move the story forward.

I am posting them here in the intent of generating interest. It's only September, I know!

As mentioned in the text, there was a Hill of Vaws. In ancient times the keepers of this Hill used it as a strategic base, atop which they would make a big fire to warn others of impending invasions.

Balaam had prophesied a Star that would herald the coming of the Christ, and so for many years people kept watch on the Hill of Vaws, hoping for the star. Well, on one night, the Star burst into life, and the rest is history.






H
e felt as old as the hill he climbed. The vaunted, once-strategic, and impossibly high Hill of Vaws challenged him daily to climb its height and worship at the temple atop its craggy summit. The mound in the desert had once been relevant; now it looked out over a wide, empty and sere desert. Atop the hill’s scrub-covered crust, an equally ancient temple clung barely to live, kept going only by the priest and his four apprentices. A joint popped and he reflected again on retiring. But a glance at the gilded star atop the shrine, its glittering outline, and the shadow it cast upon the hill reminded him of his purpose here. Chapped lips creaked open in a half smile.

The golden star was a beacon of sorts, a thing by which to herald the Liberator, Savior, Redeemer, or Protector as He was wont to be named. Though the star reflected light, it was said that it would glow like the sun should the Liberator come. The priest, the star, the pillar, the chapel, and even the hill itself waited patiently for the son of Man. “Glow like the sun,” the priest panted.

At one time there were twelve wise men who had kept constant vigil inside the chapel; they had long since passed on, leaving the old priest and his apprentices. Finding young men to devote their lives to a run-down building atop a barren hillside in the middle of nowhere was almost impossible—and he wasn’t sure how long these men would remain. The perils of youth.

The ancient priest put his head down and trudged up the remaining feet to the top of the hill. He was bent over with exhaustion and sore, tired muscles... it took an effort to straighten his frame, and with it a chorus of pops and snaps. The priest grimaced and gazed out at the brown and dusty desert that stretched on in seemingly endless directions all around the hill.

A few scrubby trees near the chapel provided shade and aromatic herb bushes imparted the area with a sweet and heady fragrance. Being the highest point in the area, the vantage provided a vast overview of... nothing. Far beyond his vision, behind a cloud of dust, the large city of Jerusalem hulked in its teeming of humanity. Jerusalem... the old priest sniffed at that word—he called it by another name entirely, Urušalimum, an ancient name for an ancient settlement.

The scholars from Chaldea and Inde had talked of a real star that would come and replace the gilt one that rotated slowly before him, though he himself was convinced that the prophecies and texts they relied upon were only meant to be allegorical. Deep in his soul, however, he hoped that the true Liberator would come, and that the star upon this hill would glow.
Previous failed prophecies had darkened their hearts and hopes of a hum
an savior were long abandoned. Yet the priest remained vigilant. Sighing, he made his way into the small chapel and sat upon a bench.

“Where are you now, oh Chaldea and Inde?” he wondered with a grating whisper. “Perhaps you will come when you see...”

Inside, the chapel was a mirror of its outside: Stone walls inlaid with thick timbers, three small windowless opening carved from the stone, a lightly peaked roof, and a small statue with a star atop it. The star inside the chapel did not spin and was dull with age. The old priest sat on a bench, his old knees long since retired from kneeling on the hard surface. Heaving another tired sigh, he gazed at the star on the altar, his lids soon became heavy, fluttered briefly, and finally closed.

***

He dreamed of one of the failed prophecies: Of Greeks and Chaldeans, convinced that the star prophesied the coming of the Messiah, of the true King of the world. Ezekias was the king’s name—he had made some outrageous claims about making the sun spin and move backward across the sky. Whether out of heat exhaustion or blind devotion, the Chaldeans and Greeks in his entourage saw something in the so-called miracle, lay before him numerous gifts, and prostrated themselves most obscenely before him. God was surely not happy at this turn of events, and in his dream of reminiscence, the priest saw the king racing with all haste to Babylonia, as if Hell itself was on his heels. Furthermore, the Chaldean and Greek astronomers had stated clearly that—
He awoke with a start and stared around the room. Night had fallen and the chapel was cloaked in darkness, the only light coming from a bare crescent of a moon. Every few seconds a tiny glimmer of light would reflect through the small openings in the chapel—moonbeams bouncing off the gilded star outside. But night could not have awoken him.

There had been a bright burst of light in his dream, and as he opened his eyes, he felt warmth on his lids. He closed them again, when an even brighter radiance lit up the backs of his eyelids and he snapped them open.

His head whipped around, aged and worn tendons creaking in agony. He stared at the once-dull statuette as it lit up with a bright white glow. The star! The star on the altar!

For only the barest of seconds, the room filled with the light of a hundred suns, and the warmth of a midnight bonfire. Eyes lined with the wear of many years sparkled with vibrancy, knees that had long been ground down with age and decay suddenly fell painlessly to the floor in reverence, sagging ears perked, and wrinkled lips curved upward in a gap-toothed grin of ecstasy.

In the time it took his ancient eyelids to open and close in the heavenly glow, the light sniffed out and he was once again alone in the dark. But his smile did not waver, and his tired knees held out for a few more moments as he relished a sense of peace and fulfillment.

The Chaldeans were right, a star was coming... but more than a star, deep in his soul he could feel a presence, a great, overpowering, and peaceful presence. Warmth filled his cheeks and his eyes watered. A man, a man was coming with the star. The Redeemer! At last, the Savior of Man! He could almost hear the tiny heartbeat, far off near Urušalimum. A baby was going to be born, a new king, the King, the King of Man, the Redeemer...

A fallow and hoarse voice cried out: “He comes. He comes!”

Monday, July 28, 2014

We Three Kings

We Three Kings


A few people have read Following Yonder Star. Well now that I'm working with Ellechor Publishing, we are changing the title to We Three Kings. I think it is a much better descriptive title, and it is quickly recognizable.

This could be considered historical fiction, although there is precious little that is known about the kings/wise men. I've kept true to the bible passage, and have relied on the earliest historical texts as best as possible. However, since we don't have a solid description of their history, we really don't know much about these mysterious men who visited the Son of Man.

My friends, the key message is one of sacrifice and dedication. A giving up of one's possessions to the true King; casting off that which glitters for that which truly matters; giving Christ your gifts versus hoarding them for yourself.

I will post updates as we go through the editing process. I think you will find this an exciting adventure that has a deep, moving message within.

*** We work so hard to find our own treasure, our own little trinkets and baubles. What if we we just as hard to give those treasures to others? ***







Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wise Men, Magi, Kings... or something else?

Just who were the three kings? Were they really kings, or wise men, magi, or just some dudes in fancy clothes.

I use king and wise men interchangeably, because history has done so. If we look at Matthew, the term “magi” is used specifically; but our collective understanding of these men is that they were also regal. Thus, they are portrayed as rulers/kings of whatever lands they had left. 

Another reason to portray them as kings is because it is a wonderful symbol: Three earthly rulers handing over their riches to the true King of the world. Ancient texts portray them thus, but also highlight them as wise men or magi.

The term magi derives from the Old Persian word maguŝ and is related to the religious caste of Zoroaster. Magi refers to the priestly sect of Zoroastrianism, and these priests were particularly well-versed in astrology. Some scholars argue that the men were astronomers, not astrologers, a notion which I hold dearer; they were definitely not sorcerers. Ancient man was quick to judge the new and unusual in a darker light, and three men arriving from a thousand miles away might give one the impression that some sort of magic was involved. It is sad that the early church writers had to paint such a picture of the Three Kings; in my opinion, it cheapens the experience and makes them seem less than they were.

In the upcoming book We Three Kings—appearing November 2014 from Ellechor—these mysterious men come alive in an epic tale. They are real human beings, with foibles and faults. Though they are kings, they are humble rulers; men who are deeply spiritual and seek truth and knowledge in all that they do. Deeply spiritual men, they seek a greater truth, they wait for the Son of Man with patience: they are not agents of evil (as much as the early Church writer Origen wanted us to believe.) When they are gathered together on an evening, a fateful star bursts into being in the western sky.

The three kings follow the star: And that is all that matters.

These rulers unburden themselves of their possessions, their wealth, and power. They simply follow where the star leads.

If you saw such a star in the sky, would you follow? Our own “stars” do not necessarily require us to fight the devil, negotiate with evil emperors, or forsake our homes forever, but they do require a sacrifice. In order to follow what is good and right, in order to do the most good for humankind, we have to suffer a little.

Could you give up your iPhone? Your iPad? X-Box? Television? Could you send that latte money to a charity? How about giving up that reality TV show and work in a soup kitchen on Mondays?

Your star is out there—and though it was very obvious to the three kings, sometimes God isn't so obvious with us. But if we pause all of the devices, still the wild running of our minds, and listen: We can hear what we are being called to do.

No matter the time of year, I encourage everyone to find their star and follow it. It will require some effort to follow, but the rewards will be great (though they will not be monetary.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day

Since I wasn't online yesterday, I will share this today. For all who serve, or who have served, God Bless. Especially those near and dear to us.


Friday, May 9, 2014

The First Thunderstorm

I have been through many Midwestern winters, living in this so-called tropical paradise of MN. This year was a doozy, however. We had a record number of below-zero days, the frost line went down to almost six feet, and we had a crap-ton of snow that never melted.

There were some silver linings, however. The cold supposedly killed the ash borer, my igloo never melted, and I got in three years' worth of XC skiing in one winter.

But yesterday morning, my ears thrummed with the most wonderful sound of spring: Thunder. Sparks of lightning lit up the early sky; they bolted down from behind a gorgeous half-formed shelf cloud. The smell of ozone was thick in the air, and I suddenly felt myself again.

It reminded me of why I put up with -29F just a few weeks ago. And people call us crazy, but sometimes I feel like the man in the following anecdote:

A man is continually beating himself with a hammer. When asked why he keeps doing it, he responds:

Because it feels so good when I stop!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I've Signed on with Ellechor!


I've Signed on With Ellechor!

I've landed a deal with Ellechor, a Christian Publishing House, for the three kings' books, and two more books as yet to be titled... I'm thinking of "Echoes of the Nativity" or something like that for the theme. One does not have to read all books in order, but they do relate to one another.

It is a very exciting time!

"Following Yonder Star" will likely be renamed to "We Three Kings," since the next book is "The Legacy of the Fourth King." From there we'll have a story of Zaccheaus, and the fourth book is still being conceptualized.