Friday, August 26, 2011

Heroes Among Us

We all heard the sad news a few months ago about the death of Mr. Frank Buckles, the last surviving veteran of World War One. He was truly an American hero. But someone I know, a friend of mine, posted a statement on Facebook that struck me the wrong way. And even though his statement was well intended, I'm afraid I took exception to it. His statement was that he wished there were more men like Mr. Buckles for our young people to look up to.

My contention is that there are more men like Mr. Buckles; more than we can possibly imagine. And not just men. We have numerous women standing in harm's way every day. Anyone brave enough to wear the American uniform and fight an enemy that can't be seen or even clearly identified certainly qualifies as an American hero.

Heroes aren’t born–they happen. Heroes emerge from situations. A combat soldier doesn’t go into battle with the intention of saving his friends from a fortified enemy. He doesn’t plan to risk his own life in an attempt to save fellow soldiers trapped in a crossfire of enemy bullets. No, heroes are not born. They rise from the shadows and background, and they risk everything in a single moment of selflessness for the benefit of others.

Let's not hang our hats on the memory of just one man. Let's honor that man. Let's respect his service. But at the same time, next time you see one of our men or women in uniform, take a moment to thank him or her for their sacrifice.

And while I'm venting, let me say one more thing about our military heroes. Not all heroes are still in uniform. We have veterans living among us that only wore the uniform for a few years but who stood the chance of paying the ultimate price of freedom. Many of them served in Viet Nam, then came home to disgraceful demonstrations with self-righteous knot-heads calling them all kinds of terrible names, and accusing them of unthinkable acts. Some of those veterans live on our city streets and sleep in our public parks, forgotten and abandoned by the very people (us) that they fought for. Look around you. Chance are there is a veteran within 100 yards of you right now.

Well, that's my vent for today. I'm not asking you to kiss a veteran, but I am asking you to respect the sacrifice they made. Whether they were wounded or not doesn't matter. It's the uniform that matters, and what that uniform stands for, which is greater than any single individual.


If you have young people in your home, or if you just like a good, clean, sci/fi adventure that will touch your heart and fire your imagination, I welcome you to read an excerpt from Escape to Destiny, the first book in our Galactic Axia young adult adventure series. Also, if you'll click on this cover, you can read an interview we did with Beyond Worlds magazine.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Message for Joe

In two weeks, a friend of mine, Joe Hazelwood, will take a missionary trip to the Philippines where he'll be ministering as part of Harvest House Ministries to poor people in Davao City on the island of Mindanao. He always asks me to speak a word of inspiration to him -- something that he can pass on to the Filipino people. I tried to give him a word today, but I don't think my spoken words were adequate, so I thought I'd try posting it to this blog. Maybe it will make more sense.

I tried to explain to Joe that I had a life-changing experience some time ago, a moment of pause; an epiphany – something that made me stop and think for a minute.

I had driven to the mall and had just parked in one of the many empty parking spots left vacant after the Black Friday shopping frenzy. There in the parking lot was a mall employee, a groundskeeper doing his job. He had a gas-powered leaf-blower slung over his shoulder and he was walking along the parameter of the parking lot blowing dead leaves away from the curbs and out into the street and parking lot.

I sat and watched the man for several minutes. He would blow the leaves away, but when he would walk away, the wind would blow the leaves right back against the curb. His actions, although he was gainfully employed, did not appear to serve a purpose, and he didn’t seem to care one way or the other. I’m sure he would be paid the same wages regardless where the leaves ended up. Cars passed by, scattering leaves in all directions. Some of the leaves would blow down the street only to end up against another curb, which the man would dutifully clear away with this blower.

I tried to relate this man’s efforts to my own life. Do I make a difference in the lives of other people or do I just aimlessly blow leaves from one place to another? Do I live with a purpose in mind or do I just go through the motions? Am I sowing seeds for a future harvest or am I just blowing leaves?

My life must count for something. I must be better focused than the man with the leaf-blower. I cannot be content with payday, just narrowly getting through life. I need to know when all is said and done that I made a difference somewhere along the way and that I’ve not left a lot of scattered leaves lying along the course of my life.

In the end, I watched the groundskeeper walk carelessly up the street looking for more leaves to blow, his leaf-blower running in idle. He would pause from time to time and clear away a section of curb, caring not where the leaves ended. His expression never changed, his purpose was still unclear. It was just another day on the job. He was probably scheduled to be out the next day to clear the same curbs again of the same dead leaves.

I don't know if these words will help Joe or not. My wife and I lived in the Philippines for two years (1975-1977) and I don't recall ever seeing a Filipino using a leaf blower, so they may not be able to relate to the image. But my point isn't the leaf blower as much as it is the point that for much of the time, the machine ran in idle while the worker ambled along the curb performing a meaningless, redundant task. Perhaps Joe can impress on those people that even though they are poor, their lives may seem meaningless and redundant, they can still count for something. They have talents and abilities that can be put to good use. Social status doesn't mean they must run in idle but can be productive citizens.

Let me finish this entry by quoting a poem I heard many years ago. I'm not much of a poetry reader, but his particular poem has stayed with me through the years. Although I'm not positive of its author, I heard it spoken by Mr. Lou Holtz, legendary head coach of the Notre Dame college football team. He was speaking at the annual convention of a direct sales company where people had gathered for inspiration. Lou said....

One day while walking through my home town
I saw a building being torn down.
With a heave and ho and a mighty yell
They swung a beam and a sidewall fell.
I asked the foreman, are these men skilled
The kind you would hire if you were going to build?
He laughed and said, oh no indeed
Common labor is all I need.
For these can tear down in a day or two
What it takes skilled men a year to do.
I asked myself as I walked away
Which of these roles do I want to play?

That's about all I have today. I hope this posting helps you, Joe. More importantly, I hope you will be able to pass inspiration on to the Filipino people in Davao City.

I would be remiss if I didn't invite you to visit my website to take a look at my books. After all, it's what I do, so I might as well try to make a living, right? I'm very excited about the release of my most recent book, The Apostle Murders, a suspense thriller that is available in paperback ($14.95), kindle, and nook ($2.99).

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Apostle Murders

Since this is my first attempt at blogging, I thought I'd start out with a bang by giving you a taste of my new suspense thriller, The Apostle Murders. If you like a fast-moving suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat, turning pages to the end, this is it. Available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook formats, you won't go wrong with this one.

Click on this cover to visit my website home page.

Excerpt from my new murder suspense novel The Apostle Murders:


Reverend Samuel “Preach” Preston was making good time. He’d pulled out of Denver at 4 o’clock Wednesday morning and reached Cheyenne, Wyoming in just under two hours before catching the I-80 west toward Utah. His Newmar Dutch Star motorhome was running perfectly after receiving her complete checkup and calibration, and he could not have asked for a better day to be about God’s business.

Interstate 80 was long, wide, and straight with very few curves or other distractions. But Preach’s mind wasn’t on the scenery. Instead, he thought about his mission and if he’d be able to complete the next sacrifice sooner than he’d originally scheduled. Would the Lord provide a suitable martyr this week, or would he make him wait for the second week of November which was three weeks away?

Preach thought about the other sacrifices he’d made over the last six months. He had biblical or historical precedence for all of them. He knew there were a few apostles later on his list whose deaths were not recorded in either the Bible or in history but he figured the Lord would provide the answers for those when he got to them. He only hoped the Lord would not find fault in his method of sacrifice, and he hoped his conscious would let him forget the pain and suffering he’d inflicted for the cause of Christ.

Now here it was October already. He thought back to August when he met Philip Carroll, a tenor traveling with a southern gospel quartet. He’d seen an advertisement about the group singing at a church in Hot Springs, Arkansas, not too far off the I-30 South on his way to Texarkana where he’d preached a night at a small country church before heading west to Abilene, Texas. He’d decided to stop and listen to the group and maybe hear some good old-time southern gospel music instead of the contemporary drivel his son’s worship center played in Denver. Preach knew Philip Carroll was God’s choice when the group’s leader introduced him and said he was originally from Bethesda, Maryland. Preach remembered thinking that it couldn’t be a coincidence.

Philip Carroll turned out to be an excellent sacrifice, and all of the pieces fell into place. Ancient church history confirmed that the Apostle Philip was originally from Bethsaida near the Sea of Galilee, and that he’d died by crucifixion at the sacred Greek city of Hierapolis, Turkey. As all biblical scholars know, Hierapolis gained its reputation as the city of health, or the city of healing because it sat on top of Turkey’s hot springs which was believed to contain miraculous healing powers.

And now Preach found himself listening to a man with very similar attributes to the original apostle in a location reminiscent of the biblical record. Surely God had provided this sacrifice and even the opportunity to abduct Philip Carroll after the concert when he’d been alone near their motor coach.

Sacrificing Philip had been a simple affair. He didn’t have time to explain his mission and to pray with Philip the way he’d done with his previous martyrs. But holding to tradition, he wanted to be authentic to history, so when he’d nailed Philip to a tree in a secluded area of Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas and crucified him, he believed the Lord accepted his sacrifice and would honor his mission. Even though the park is located in the city of Hot Springs, it had taken the Hot Springs police department two days to find Philip’s body, but by that time Preach was almost five-hundred miles away and had left no trace of his identity.

Nathan Bartholomew in September had been a completely different kind of sacrifice. According to church history, the Apostle Bartholomew had preached in Armenia with the Apostle Jude around 60-AD. The only record of the Apostle Bartholomew’s death was that he’d been flayed to death in 68-AD in Albanopolis, which is now called Derbend, on the west cost of the Caspian Sea. No other record of his ministry or death existed. With exception to a short missionary trip to Turkey and India, even a record of his early life is mysteriously absent from all historical documents. The only thing that qualified Nathan Bartholomew as an apostolic sacrifice was his name.

The death of Nathan Bartholomew still haunted Preach, which was why he detested the cat-of-nine-tails stored in his cargo compartment. The sound of the whip whistling through the air, and the slap of pain as the leather straps embedded with nails and glass ripped into Nathan’s flesh caused Preach many sleepless nights. He remembered the pieces of flesh, Nathan’s flesh, still embedded on the nails when he’d inspected his supplies a few days ago, and he could still hear the boy’s screams echo in the New Mexico desert night. He recalled Nathan’s body ripped to pieces by the terrible weapon, and the blood that soaked his own hands, arms, and clothing when the whip tore into the soft flesh of God’s martyr. And although history didn’t bear record to it, the boy had been in so much pain that Preach decided to stab him in the heart to help end his suffering and buried his body in the desert outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He hated what he’d done, but he loved God and was willing to do anything to fulfill his mission and to make his calling and election sure.

Preach thought about the road the Lord had set him on. He didn’t understand it but the vision and voice of God was clear. Why had the Lord chosen him out of the thousands of ministers preaching his word to recreate the martyrdom of the original apostles of Jesus Christ and to restore order and discipline to the modern church? Wouldn’t a man with a wide national or international audience have been a better choice? But God’s thoughts are not my thoughts, and God’s ways are not my ways. The mysteries of eternity will only be revealed in eternity.