Sometimes, we need to step out of our own peripheries to see that there are other things that matter and other people who matter more. It’s estimated that 90% of global goods are transported by sea. I was one of those who relied on the shipping industry for just about everything, yet hadn’t considered the human beings behind the vital vein we all depend on; the largely unseen individuals who toil hard and sacrifice greatly at mentally and physically taxing, and often spiritually challenging, high-risk jobs on ships at sea.
When this book, The Seafarer’s Mind: The Questions I’ve Always Wanted to Ask, popped up out of nowhere as I was busy doing something else, I glimpsed at the cover and knew I was meant to read it before understanding the context. Then I found the words inside gave deeper insight, as well as affirmed what the Lord had already spoken to me.
I am not a seafarer, but I am an intercessor, and many months ago, the Lord asked me to commit to praying and fasting for seafarers, as one part of a three-strand cord of intercession. At first, it seemed like a strange request from the Lord for little ole me in landlocked Tennessee, who has always feared water, to venture into my “prayer closet” for seafarers. But I didn’t question the assignment for long; the persuasion was strong. Besides, the Lord asks for obedience often when the big picture is not clear or understood. At the surface, with human eyes, my prayer cord doesn’t look as if the strands are related, and yet the Lord keeps assuring that they are connected, and I have to trust.
The aforementioned book is expertly crafted for the sake of seafarers. The impassioned testimonies are inspiring, the resources offer help and support for various challenges that many seafarers face. So if you work in the maritime industry, The Seafarer’s Mind is truly an anointed aid for thriving in your environment. And if you’re in a landbound profession, this is an expander of knowledge and understanding; should be read by all lest we forget the largely unseen individuals on whom we depend.
I’ve found that there is very little literature in the way of ministry to seafarers, and I appreciate this author, Rev. Martin Otto, who helped fill a gap. So I went on a recent binge-reading journey, as I felt like I was meant to read all of the following titles. The Lord asked me to be still, draw in, and absorb highlights of the seafaring world. I gained some clarity into visions I’d seen and dreams through which the Lord had already spoken. Sometimes what doesn’t have shape, form, or sense in the beginning, if you focus on God, filling your mind on things above, and with a heart full of lovingkindness and thanksgiving, eventually the fog will dissipate and you see what you before couldn’t; and comprehend what made little sense. And then sometimes, it’s a crash-course in faith-building, to believe though we can’t see.
As I am learning about and appreciating the crucial international community of mariners and their families, praying for their spiritual edification and encouragement, I’m also praying for those serving at ports in missions to seafarers, an area of ministry that still needs expanded.
Back at the start of this segment of my intercession, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that there are individuals who the Lord has planted a seed for specific ministry that is emerging from the oceans. Where cultural background, work experiences, and particular exposures lend to a uniqueness of testimony only God could orchestrate and use—for all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). But the devil has been especially hard on these ones in the past season, trying to trip up and discourage to thwart the call and birthing of ministry in service to others upon and between the waters. In some cases, mistakes in the flesh-vs-spirit barrages have almost caused a giving-up, a falsity propounding disqualification. The only perfection any of us has is Jesus’ perfection within us; we are holy as he is holy within us. Works and/or clean behavior can’t save us, but Jesus, who unconditionally loves us and by his grace forgives seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), each day renewed, can. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). We fall down; we get back up. Even when circumstances feel overwhelming, there are people who are praying, lifting weary arms like Aaron and Hur to Moses (Exodus 17:10-13). Appointed to pray healing and strengthening words, to intercede, instill hope and encouragement, stand as watchmen on the walls, and help battle principalities and strongholds. A company of Christians you’ve never met are called to your cause; I’m only one in the appointed mix. And an invisible force of angels has been assigned to your spiritual welfare to help carry you through your life’s purpose.
So this blog today is more than another book review, but these titles are spurring standouts. There is much to embrace within the pages. I highly recommend each one.
Choices make destinies. Destinies can also change.
A short story
In a year when thirty people jumped from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to commit suicide and succeeded, one person determined to join their throng.
Near light pole numbered sixty-nine, he swan-dives off the ledge, traveling at a velocity of eighty mph, free-falling 250 feet at low tide. Bound to converge on the despondent crowd of over 1,600 who preceded him in death since the majestic span erected in 1937, something shifts. Instant regret consumes him the second he unhands the viaduct. But the chance for survival after the four-second drop stands at less than one percent.
What if somewhere between his last contact with the steel bridge and the impact of the frigid, bone-crushing bay, hovers an alternative Courtroom in the Sky? A panel of Judges who reviews the motives in a person’s life.
Here enters Ralph “Specter” Specht, the famous frontman for the rock band, Ghosts of Fleas. In the eyes of the world, he led a good life; talented, successful, and spoiled. Nobody thought he could do such a thing, fling himself over the edge, even him. Not until the dark impulse.
The defendant on trial crosses the threshold into weighted proceedings. With a blooming change of mind, Ralph wonders if he will find a different sentence than what he first intended. His verdict awaits.
New book alert! Dark King’s Human Bride is available for preordering at select bookstores. Click the button below to reserve your copy of my latest dark fantasy of messianic proportions.
After its official release on January 24, 2022, the novel will be available in digital and/or print formats wherever books are sold.
“Never listen to your critics. They aren’t qualified to usurp the still, small, voice that speaks in the silence between your own thoughts.”—Russ Walden
It takes courage to write truths in fiction; write what hurts. To contextualize emotions, the struggles; tapping into the raw nature and grind of real life and transposing them into an altered universe. The result might not represent a true existence verbatim, but can harbor the angst, dilemmas, struggles, and sicknesses of hope-depleted hearts in order to instill hope in the end. It can be scary sometimes to release a story that holds a little more truth than you’d care to admit. Makes one feel vulnerable. But it’s always the still, small voice, a reminder that what’s written might be intended for one person only. And that one person to get it, feel moved and encouraged by your labor of love, washes over any potential collection of critics, large or small.
Writing with boldness, listening with care…
At last, I finished the first draft of one of my current works-in-progress. And this novel was a struggle. One of the biggest hurdles in my creative writing process, both in length and ethics. Took over a year to complete—a COVID-year, mind you, but still!
Normally, when I end a first draft, I want to celebrate. I’ve known colleagues to even crack open a bottle of bubbly at this early stage (with another after publication). The foodie that I am, I prefer grabbing one of my favorite meals: tacos, Thai, or t-t-t-t-t—spaghetti. Except, after I typed the last key yesterday, I was so spent that I nearly slid from my chair to the floor in an exhale, curled up, and sucked my thumb. Today, I feel like this Shaun the Sheep-ish depiction.
Standing alone in an amber space (sort of like a caution light between go and stop), nursing on a Binky, wide-eyed. Determining if the inner turmoil and opposition to completing this book was because of divine inspiration and the start of something new… or it’s crap. There’s a fine line there, ha!
Since I have other active stories, it’s time to rotate and finish another while this one ferments. Have to let the manuscript sit for a while until I can come back to it with fresh eyes.
This is just another friendly FYI post by your Shaun the Sheep-ish stand-in. Still standing, at least…
A reader asked, “Did that really happen to you?” after finishing one of my novels. I’ve heard this before, and the character-revolving question churns in my mind. It’s a great question. One for which I don’t always have a ready answer, because it’s rather loaded.
When I was a professional dancer, one of my fortes was Character Dance. I think this is where I first came to understand that, as an artist, I’m all my characters and none of my characters. I abandoned myself in a role, poured out blood, sweat, and tutus, until I became another persona. The interpretation was all mine (via the Lord’s inspiration and direction). After I hung up the costumes and retreated to the hotel or home for a cup of tea and a foot-soak, I was just me and nothing like the earlier identity on stage.
It’s the same with creating characters in books. Sometimes a reader will say, “I can relate to you,” when referencing the protagonist in a novel. I appreciate the response; it’s also interesting for me. While I can draw parallelisms, such as an incident or event that motivated the story, antics that aided a character’s development, or inject personal likes and dislikes, I’m not that person. Not even in my first novel, which is assumed in the industry to be every writer’s veiled autobiography. I'm just a vehicle to carry out another's story.
If I am my characters, then I’m also a human-flesh-eating imp, a war criminal, and a subterranean giant. I’m ALL of them (because creators invest in roles), and NONE of them (because I’m somebody else at the end of the day). Clear as mud? Lol. I'm inclined to think it's more the moral of the story that speaks (if anything does), which is sourced from a gracious God.
In hindsight, last year gave us the means to sharpen our vision for the future, to balance what is important, and find a better way to manage and appreciate life. The means to seek a clearer vision according to God’s perfect vision for us (his will, not ours) and be grateful for each day we have despite what storms around us.
We’ve been rocked—and not in a good way—by the pandemic and politics. We can’t help these things… or… can we? To some extent, we can. It’s our responses to these things that make the difference. I’m fond of the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Here’s another by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Our behavior should correspond with the root of our beliefs. So now, I’d like to address some of my fellow believers in Jesus.
Call this a heart’s cry, but I’m crushed by what I see. Most disheartening, the attitude and angry speech from quite a few of my Christian peers who are spouting steam worse than an old locomotive. How persuasive is the demonstration of anger and the spirit of hate, which is contrary to God’s spirit, when the entire world rolls in hate-hysteria? Where’s the differentiation? Where’s the hope and encouragement? What difference does political affiliation make in loving your neighbor? Some of us have lost sight, are losing sight. If there was, God forbid, a massive earthquake in your neighborhood and people were trapped under rubble, would you reach in there and offer a helping hand or would you stand by and say, “What’s your affiliation? Because I’m only helping you if it lines up with mine.”
If you’re one of those screaming about injustice, remember that Jesus, the one in whom you believe, suffered the greatest injustice of all. Yet, he went as a lamb to the slaughter--as a lamb—for the sake of us all; not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s coming back as a lion, but that time hasn’t come yet—and it’s his right to roar when it does. In the meantime, by his grace we’re commissioned to be examples of light, salts of the earth, human versions of God’s steadfast love. Instead, social media, especially, reeks of an old famous bar where everybody knows your name and has to prove a point, prove a point, prove a point! It’s a frenzy; it’s an addiction. Easy to get caught up in—but where is the higher standard if we do as the world does? Where are the lambs?
I hope that instead of heated tongue-wagging, name-calling, and other adverse reactions, we can create an element of infectious peace—even, and especially, if we don’t agree with the climate. If you think I’m saying that we need to strive much harder to live and lead by Jesus’ example, then you are absolutely right—and I’m speaking to myself first.
Finally, if the present affairs are just too ugly and you feel like a loner going against the whitewater current of popular hysteria, then find a nice quiet place to pray. Because in the Lord’s presence is peace. There, we can find the strength to hold higher, a shield of honor, emblazoned with the blood of Jesus, this scripture:
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” — Colossians 3:12-14
I might have done a strange thing as a child when I asked for wisdom... I’m not sure. I wasn’t around peers too much to find out if this is what they did too, since my formative years took place in the boonies. My only friends were animals, especially horses. It’s just the way things were. I don’t mind. I had a solid upbringing with loving parents and siblings, and I adored my lot of furry companions who didn’t seem to mind my quirky quests.
And I couldn’t say I understood what or who God was, although I’m quite certain of his presence. My mother was my primary spiritual teacher, and she’d tell me stories about important things—things I embrace even stronger today. Because I still hear her voice, though she has passed from this life into the next. Wisdom was something she spoke and sang of often, and her multi-layered lessons, like colors in paintings, enthralled me so much that I remember being not older than five, six, or seven years old and asking for Wisdom to grace my life in bright hues.
“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs is one of my favorite books, touching often on wisdom, and this verse comes from 4:6-7.
I’ve heard others use the expression, sometimes jokingly, that a person gains wisdom by making mistakes; the more mistakes made, the wiser you are. Is this what it means for something to cost all you have to gain? Well, when I, owning a catalog of cringeworthy mistakes, walk into any crowded room, all eyes should fall on me, and in unison the people cry out, “All hail the Wisest One of All.” But that never happens—thank God!
Circumstances beyond control cause a person to open their eyes, see reality for what it is instead of through a bubble (if there was a bubble to begin with). And choices. And mistakes. And results, as well as responses from others. If I knew then what I know now... You’ve heard the phrase. It goes along with the error of one’s ways.
All this to say, Wisdom is good; cherish her. One day, her benefits and nurturing rapport will shine through.
“Wisdom comes alone with suffering.”—Aeschylus
Okay, so it’s not so much about dilly-dallying, since I’m not really a procrastinator, but 2020 has presented many other challenges in the “D” grade. This includes Disruptions, Delays, Difficulties, and Derailments.
Unfortunately, I’ll not meet a few of my creative-writing deadlines this year. I’m truly sorry to those waiting for the next novel or sequel—and I thank you for your patience. I am so grateful for my readers and strive to do the very best for you with each project.
Since we’re all dealing with our own set of unique circumstances during this pandemic, I won’t burden you with the details of mine. But I will share that of the three books I was working on, two derailed. They’ve turned into something other than what I set out to do. I scrapped these manuscripts after having reached the halfway point and started again from the beginning. Right about the time I made this tough decision, I saw a relevant meme floating around social media:
With a sigh of relief, I can now laugh at myself and move along. I think these books needed to take on a different perspective and I’m treading, faithfully and prayerfully, towards completion. Unless more unforeseen demands (hey, another D-grade!) are looming, we can expect the launch of these titles in 2021. I’m just going to be an early bird on this one thing and say it now: Happy New Year!
May 2021 be your best year ever. 💝✌️