Crash: A Novel

The following is a SHORT synopsis (only 637 words) of my novel “Crash”…

Kyle Reynolds is a seventeen-year-old senior at St. Mark’s Academy in Seattle, Washington. Kyle grew up on the mission field and after his parents are killed in a plane crash, he is sent to live with his relatives. Kyle struggles with his loss and the fact that he can’t seem to get Misty Woods to notice him. It doesn’t help that Misty is the daughter of Governor Woods, the soon-to-be Vice President of the United States and the only senior at St. Mark’s who has a personal Secret Service bodyguard.

Seated at the back of an airliner on a return trip to Seattle from Anchorage with the rest of the school jazz band, Kyle’s thoughts are all put out of his mind when terrorists, under the command of a man Kyle comes to call “Mr. Tan Jacket”, hijack the plane. The terrorists ditch the plane into a lake, deep within the wilds of western Canada. Somehow, both Kyle and the airliner survive the crash.

As the terrorists evacuate the passengers into emergency rafts, it clicks in Kyle’s mind that Misty is the perfect star for a terror video. In a panic, he convinces her to bail out of the raft and escape with him into the woods where they pass a long, shivering night huddled together under a fallen tree. The next morning they barely escape down a cliff face, spend a second night in a lean-to and only just escape a terrorist after a hand-to-hand battle. Misty seriously twists her ankle so Kyle ends up nearly carrying her until they are forced to thread their way over top of a deep ravine on a log bridge. On the other side, Kyle manages to shake the log enough to throw one of their pursuers off the log and Mr. Tan Jacket is wounded when he slams into an exposed branch on the log.

Mr. Tan Jacket is seriously injured, but he manages to catch up with them. Since he is injured and Misty has a broken ankle, he forces Kyle to carry Misty back to his camp where another terrorist knocks Misty out with chloroform and Mr. Tan Jacket clubs Kyle in the head. Almost unconsciousness, Kyle overhears the terrorist’s plan to infect Misty and half of the passengers with a biological weapon.

A doctor injects Misty but Mr. Tan Jacket betrays him. There is a firefight, the doctor is mortally wounded and Mr. Tan Jacket barely escapes. Since the doctor is dying, he tells Kyle about information hidden in a storage locker Kyle can use to get even with the terrorists. He then forces Kyle at gunpoint to abandon Misty and slip out the back of the tent. He also tells Kyle, “Don’t trust Woods”.

Kyle is sick with guilt. He knows no one will suspect a biological weapon if half, but not all, of a group of hostages get sick after spending some wet days in the woods. The election is in less than three weeks and if the new President gets sick and dies after visiting poor Governor’s Woods daughter in the hospital…then Woods becomes President! Kyle is the only witness and no one is going to believe his conspiracy theory – especially if Governor Woods is behind it all.

Just as Kyle figures this out, camouflaged soldiers begin their assault on the camp. After the assault, someone from the American embassy confronts Kyle. He explains that Misty has already been evacuated and he wants to know what Kyle overheard.

But Kyle can’t trust anyone. He knows he’s in love with Misty and there’s a storage locker that has some answers in it. Kyle makes up his mind that nothing will keep him from getting there. He left Misty behind once before because he had no choice – but not this time.

End of Book One

Crash is available on Amazon Kindle in digital and print format at…

https://goo.gl/yE6T5F

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Nothing isn’t something

So many people today get emotional…well – very emotional….okay, sometimes irrationally enraged…whenever the subject of the existence of God comes up. You have to wonder why! I mean, it should be common sense that God exists (and if you’ll read to the END of this little blog I’ll explain why). But to recognize that means asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions like: okay, what is God like? How does His existence affect my life? And if He exists, why do penguins have such ridiculously short legs and what was He thinking when He invented hormones? Come on God – this is a BIG question that pretty much half the human population on this planet thinks about at least once every 28 days!

But the one question people REALLY don’t want to answer – if God exists, then does that give God any right to tell me what to do?

I think that that’s the big one. Folks want to do whatever they want to do and they don’t want anybody – even God – to have anything to say about it. Okay, okay, okay, I get it – no one wants human religious leaders who are themselves flawed (and that includes me) to have any power over their lives (and FYI, as a religious leader – I don’t want any power over your life. Some do, I don’t).

But God isn’t human – He’s God, the Creator, the Maker and we little humans still want what we want when we want it. We bristle and fuss and protest over even the hint that whatever lifestyle we are pursuing, whatever selfishness we are indulging in, is in any way – unacceptable. How dare anyone suggest that I am not the captain of my soul? How dare anyone imply that I am not the chief judge of what is good or acceptable?

So – it’s so much more convenient to grasp at straws about the existence of God (even in California where the secret straw police are likely currently planning raids on underground kindergarten apple juice sipping societies). It’s so much easier to throw up the hands in frustration – “there are so many religions, so none of them are right (but that’s arbitrary – they can’t all be right because they contradict but since truth is that thing which corresponds to what is real, then there can be one that corresponds – that’s at least possible)…No, no, no…there are so many unanswered questions so there can be no conclusions (but making this statement is, in itself, a conclusion so asserting it is self-defeating)…and besides, there’s not enough compelling evidence to believe in the existence of God.

Oh really?

Look, we can skip the arguments about someone’s scientific opinion of the bible, the Qur’an, the Vedas, or UFO’ology or whatever. We can ignore side issues like how old the earth is too. The bottom line – right at the very beginning, right down to the last dregs of rational discussion – is that you CAN’T GET SOMETHING FROM NOTHING.

This is the most proven, most obvious, most intuitive logical law of science known to humankind. More evidence supports this conclusion than for any other scientific law. Nothing cannot DO anything. Nothing cannot PRODUCE anything. Nothing cannot EXPLODE into something in a great Big Bang for no reason – and explosions do not produce order and complexity and specified, purposeful information and programming and planning and people. Explosions produce chaos…period…

No…the truth is = Nothing is nothing. No space, no time, no matter, no energy, no laws of physics, no laws of gravity or electromagnetism. No quantum dust, no uncertainty principles – NOTHING. Nothing at all. And from this state you can only get…wait for it…nothing. And that’s all you’ll ever get. If there was ever a state of true nothingness then all could only ever be…nothing. No…things (things are something)…

So how did we get everything? Physicists, astronomers, mathematicians…the conclusions are overwhelming and all actual evidence in the universe points backwards to a time when there was…nothing.

That means we either accept the idea that the most proven law understood in human thought – that nothing cannot produce anything – is somehow, someway, some inexplicably unobservable way – UNTRUE…or there is something (or someone) who is eternal – somone’s whose Necessary existence is beyond matter itself. The material universe cannot be eternal because it is breaking down, running out of steam, losing energy (the 2nd law of thermodynamics shows this)…

But someone eternal! Someone who does not owe His existence to anything or anyone. Someone truly eternal. From Him, everything can be formed, everything can be sustained. Such a Being would, by definition, be able to create it all. That makes sense.

And it’s common sense too.

I mean – if you hold a book in your hand (and this is Ray Comfort’s point) you would think it silly to imagine that all the colors simply fell from nowhere into the patterns you recognize as pictures. It would be ridiculous to think that random sprays of ink just happened to fall into coherent words (not to mention figuring out where the colors and the ink and the paper came from in the first place). You would think it stupid to imagine that all the elements simply fell into place – the pages, the binding, the words, the pictures…but the complexity of DNA and life is a trillion or more times more complicated than any book every written in any language. Even our most sophisticated computers cannot begin to devise the complex interaction of specified, purposeful information that interacts within DNA and between DNA and the epigenetic information encoded elsewhere in the cell to code for ants and apes and armadillos and aardvarks and antelope and…you!

Nothing cannot DO anything…YOU are anything except nothing…there is more information in your DNA than can be found in half a million pages of small print, a code more than three billion letters long all organized and perfectly folded and necessary for you to even have had a pimple when you were a teen.

So – yes…it’s common sense…common knowledge that you can’t get something from nothing…common sense to acknowledge that God exists.

We can talk about who He is…what He had to say, and how to know if He really said it on some other day. Just start at the beginning…

He exists…He just does…and you’re not an intellectual ninny to nod your head and say “it’s true”. You would be believing nonsense otherwise, believing that nothing can do everything…let’s just start there. We’ll get to Jesus by the by…

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Community Dis-service

Once upon a time – We started a church.

I’ve heard repeatedly about how noble an idea this was, about how delighted some people are with our “call to community service.” But I think some folks misunderstand our mission because as soon as I start talking about a radical personal commitment to Jesus the temperature in the room seems to drop an instant 20 degrees. It’s one thing to talk about 501(c)3 non-profit organizations that benefit the community and quite another to talk about our mission to teach people that Jesus is the only person in all of reality who is worthy of our full devotion. That’s just too radical.

Reminds me of the king of Egypt facing Moses. When the bad news came down he was quick to ask Moses for help – community service, community service, help us, help us, help us – and quick to offer the Hebrews a chance to worship their God…only “don’t go too far”. Yeah – you can worship your God, only do it IN the land. Don’t get too radical. We want your community service but this whole “Our God is the one and only true God” stuff – no – don’t go too far.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have an issue with community service. Moses didn’t either – which is why he prayed FOR the king of Egypt that the plagues would go away. But each time, as soon as the problem became a thing of the past – the king went back to his hardness of heart because he was more committed to his corruption than he was to his convictions. So, just doing community service doesn’t necessarily really make a difference unless the hearts of anyone being served are changed.

Think about it…

If we successfully help the poor, radically alter their lives for the better and help them out of misery and degradation…only for them to lose their souls for eternity – what have we really achieved? Well, I guess we can feel pretty good about ourselves that we did “thus and so” for the poor – but isn’t that self-serving? And in the moment the poor may get some relief. But if we fail to point people to the need for a total heart change, if our service does nothing toward leading them into a radical, real relationship with the one and only true and living God that leads to eternal life – then we’ve done nothing.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do community service – we do! But we won’t apologize for linking that service to our message. Some time back, the city in which we operate reached out to us asking for community service – but they made it clear we were not allowed to talk about Jesus, not allowed to say anything about the message we preach. They assumed our whole purpose for existence was community service – just don’t go too far.

We turned them down.

From our perspective community service is a vehicle for the message, not the message itself. We don’t send missionaries to Haiti just to help the poor – because helping the poor with a handout for a day only helps them for a day, but changing hearts changes lives forever and a whole country can be transformed over time. To do this we work with a group called “True Shepherd” in Haiti that builds long term relationships with the poor – not just community service, not just handouts. True Shepherd and the churches we work with in Haiti teach the heart-changing message of a radical commitment to Jesus. They have a cool program where a poor family can raise a sheep from the True Shepherd herd – they don’t own the sheep, they only raise it. When it’s grown, the sheep is bred and the first lamb goes back to the True Shepherd flock, the second goes to the family, the third to the flock, the fourth to the family and so on. A family that is connected in relationship with the church can benefit from the program. A family that is committed to the teachings of Jesus can be part of it – and long term, a poor family can build a flock that feeds, clothes and provides an income for them over time. It’s not a handout, it’s a program that changes hearts. Without the message of Jesus, without the relationship, there would be no change of heart, no long term benefit.

This year, in January, we plan to provide the income needed to put a roof on the Colas Church in northern Haiti that is connected to True Shepherd. It is more than a roof, much more than community service. It is a place where the message of Jesus Christ is being given to families in the process of being lifted out of extreme poverty. And we get to be a part of it.

That’s community service.

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It’s My Birthday, I’ll cry if I want to…

Okay – so I don’t want to cry, but that old 60’s song is ringing in my ears. I’ve got NOTHING to cry about – unless it’s tears of joy. No, seriously – I’m so blessed I should walk around in a perpetual state of awe 24/7. I feel like a character in a 60’s musical – just have to burst out in 3-part harmony even though there is only one person on the screen! Go figure that one out…

“I’m singing in the…phoenix heat…”

So – 51 years ago today, at about 3:03 in the afternoon, I came hollering into this world, naked, cold and wondering where to find a good café mocha (hint, I like a 1 pump tall mocha, no whip at Starbucks. You probably didn’t NEED to know that – but I need to know that!). It’s been a series of fortunate events for me ever since – I’m still breathing, there are some folks that like me, I like them, I’ve got a great job that makes an eternal difference (I’m a pastor) and I’ve got a great second job (I get to teach both at Veritas University and whenever someone asks me to come to their church).

I’ve got this incredibly, awesome wife. Maybe you’ve heard of her…No?…well, let me tell you about my Melissa – she reminds me of Shamu…(Pause…shock & dismay. I can’t believe he wrote THAT…now everyone laughs, some people get scandalized) NO, seriously – She’s my SHAMU EFFECT. When Shamu leaps up with all that glory and power and beauty – she’s magnificent and resplendent and dazzling and Melissa is magnificent and resplendent and dazzling too… then she slams into the water and sprays everybody – and it is an awesome wonder…the Shamu effect. I get sprayed with the cool loveliness and elegance and charisma that Melissa has flowing out of her like a spiritual energy all the time, and so does everyone around me, everybody knows how gorgeous and charming she is – and her glory and power and beauty are just plain breathtaking…I really mean that…

Sigh…I am WAY blessed…

And my kids – oh man…I know, I know, I know – everybody raves about their kids, everybody says they’re the greatest and everybody reading just sort of skips over this sort of paragraph. But think about it – God has allowed me to carry on the spark of His divine creative act in five different, eternal, immortal, matchless, exceptional beings. I get to be part of a miracle, the miracle of life, the miracle of seeing the image of the uncaused, First Cause of all reality passed on through me. I get to be so much a part of that that my kids look a little like me, but not exactly. Unique and priceless and special and I get to hear their secrets, their fears, their hopes, their dreams. I get to be part of helping them become what God wants them to become. What an honor. What a joy. What an awesome, overwhelming responsibility that makes me shake in my shoes with the seriousness of it.

Yep – pretty awfully blessed I am…

Want to know another old 60’s tune that I just love? The Righteous Brothers, “You’ve lost that loving feeling”. Whenever that one comes on, I just belt it out and the song is older than me.

Staying power baby…

You know, I’ve been to Haiti where I’ve seen people living in mud huts and unimaginable poverty – but I get to live in a nice home with a pool and a tiled floor and it even has a grass area for my dogs to poop in (better than in the house)…I’ve been to Mexico to work building a two room little shed that the locals we were helping were thrilled to get the keys too and call home – because it’s better than living in a burned out old car, which is what they had the day before we showed up – but I get to go to an air conditioned office every day, I get to drink water that isn’t more likely to give me Cholera than not, I get to eat food that won’t give me hepatitis, I get to enjoy an education and reading and TV and movies and hot dogs (don’t tell Mom I had one) and drum corps shows and…

Wow – I’m staggeringly blessed…

I love all y’all (very Texas of me write that – been hanging around Texas people lately)…I really do…you’re part of my blessing…

I just wanted you to think about it all too. It’s so easy to focus on what’s wrong, what we don’t have, how so-n-so said such-n-such and it hurt our wee little feelings. Let’s not be so full of ourselves, shall we? On my birthday, thinking about all the good, I realize how easy it would be to miss all this. I realize how what you see – it really is what you get. If you decide to focus your attention on everything that’s wrong, then everything’s going to feel wrong.

Remember that Righteous Brothers tune? Why did she lose that loving feeling? Because she quit believing in what was good, got caught up in all that negative so now, her loving feeling – now it’s gone, gone, gone…

So, don’t lose that loving feeling my friends…fix your eyes on the good stuff and you won’t…

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The Devil is not in the Solution business!

“But the Magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts” (Ex 7:22)…So – God worked through Moses to demonstrate His great power by turning the waters of the Nile into blood. And the magicians take a little clean water and also turn it into blood, so the heart of the king was hardened. Of course, any decent magician can use slight of hand to make something “appear” – that doesn’t prove anything. A real miracle would have been the magicians turning the waters of the Nile back into clean water.

In fact, that’s the point. The Devil and his servants have never been in the business of solving anyone’s problems. That’s just not part of his plan. Whatever the enemy does, it just creates more blood. For example, it was God who invented sex – and invented the pleasure that goes along with it. And God made it clear, from the beginning, that sex was to be between a man and his wife exclusively. So, the enemy take something as beautiful and clear and refreshing as that (like clear water), waves his little magic wand and says, “look at this – you can have all the pleasure without the commitment.” But the truth is, it’s a deception – it just creates more problems, not solutions – just blood. Unwanted pregnancy, STD’S, broken hearts, relationship destruction – and death…just more blood.

In the same way, whatever God is leading you to change or do will only ever lead to a SOLUTION. Jesus said He came that we might have life and that more abundantly. He promised that if we did things His way he would give us clear, clean, living water that would bubble up within us – not more blood. It may be tempting to think that whatever God is leading you to do is not a big deal except that God never majors in minors. Whatever God is leading – for you – it IS a big deal. And whatever He leads, He will always equip you to get it done too.

Just remember: the answer isn’t, “Okay God, when you give me what I need, then I’ll do it.” No, the answer of faith is to simply get on with it and then God will provide what you need as you move forward.

Don’t wait!

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Got Motivation?

Motivation isn’t magic – it’s an intentional, freewill choice to act (or not act). We so often think that motivation is linked to feelings – but that is only true if you DECIDE to link your motivation to your feelings. So many people make that choice, and make it so often, that it seems like motivation is a feeling. That’s deceptive. And the proof is that many of the heroes we admire are heroes because they motivated themselves to do something extraordinary despite feelings of hopelessness or defeat or confusion. So their motivation did not come from their feelings but in spite of them.

This truth can be seen in little things as well as the epic and courageous. I may feel lethargic and disinterested in the mundane tasks I have to get done but that doesn’t mean I have no choice except to let those feelings affect my motivation to get things done anyway. I often do – I just don’t have to! Knowing that, reflecting on that, praying about that – is the first step toward motivating myself PAST my lethargy and disinterest into being productive, even on yet another boring Monday.

In my own, admittedly limited experience, I’ve also found that an awesome, heroic motivation to do something is usually the result of a thousand smaller motivational choices along the way. It’s not usually one mighty leap – which is probably why heroes are few and far between. I wonder if so many of us, and I do include myself, are so busy allowing self-interested feelings to keep us from making small motivational choices that we are not in the habit of making good motivational choices – there is no build up, no exercise, no motivational muscle building…so when the epic choice comes suddenly upon us, we’re weak in motivational skills. The one who has made so many smaller, seemingly insignificant motivational choices is motivationally healthy with bulging intentionality muscles, ready and able to make that big, powerful choice in the moment of crisis.

So – want to be a hero someday? Start with intentionally motivating yourself to get past whatever self-interested feeling you’re allowing to keep you from doing that little task – and intentionally…simply…DO IT. I’ve discovered that a good way to do this is “one little task at a time”. Sounds silly, even trite, even ridiculous…it’s just true. Stephen King was asked how he wrote his novels and he responded, “One word at a time”. He wasn’t being silly – he admitted that sometimes just asking himself “what happened next”, and answering that question with just one more word – can be a real task, an effort of motivation. But you don’t write 100’s of thousands of words by accident or magic or even waiting for a feeling – because often you just feel like putting your fist through your monitor (trust me, I’m a writer too). You do it one word at a time. In the same way, intentionally choosing to ignore that feeling of “I just don’t want to do that – it’s boring or tedious and besides, it’s a little thing anyway” – and choosing to go past it, simply doing the next task whether you want to or not – can build up your motivational muscles so you’re ready to be the hero in the moment. Let’s be heroes…one task at a time…

 

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Enrich your soul!

I admit that I’ve NOT gotten over my heart attack back on June 9, 2017. I’ve gotten over it physically – got the clean bill of health, 3 functioning stints and a disinterested Cardiac doctor who just says “you’re fine” whenever I show up in his office.  I’ve gotten over leaps of fear every time I feel even the slightest twinge in my upper back or chest. I’ve gotten over wondering if I’ll wake up the next day…but I’m not over “IT”! It’s still on my mind. The implications of what happened, the staring contest I had with my own mortality, my sudden and unexpected serious examination of the sum of my entire life up to this point – THAT I’m not over. Not even close!

Of course, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that in the grand scheme of things – nobody cares! Oh sure, my family and many of my friends cared on June 9th, 2017 and I know they would care if it happened again today (especially if it becomes my last day). I did feel a whole lot of love that day – made me feel pretty special…no…really special and that is something that does choke me up (if you were one of those folks that day that dropped by – all I can say is, thank you). No…That’s not what I mean. I mean, every one of the 8 billion or so people on this planet are going to face their mortality eventually – so reading about one guy and his experience on June 9, 2017 doesn’t make the slightest blip on the radar of the big picture. After all, on June 9, 2017 – 151, 600 folks DID die…I just wasn’t one of them.

What’s getting me…what’s on my mind…what’s keeping me up at nights (and I admit I’m not sleeping well) – is wanting to make certain…absolutely certain…that what I do with the 86,400 seconds per day I may get to live over the next 24 hours… matters. Jesus said, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”

I just think, maybe, losing your soul may be a lot deeper than just figuring out you need to trust Jesus in order to go to heaven. That’s the big point, sure…but I think maybe you can miss a whole lot in this life, a whole lot that might diminish your soul even if you’ve got your theology right! I think you can trust Jesus to save your soul – but forget to enrich it now that it’s safe.

Because you know what else He said, in the same chapter? He said, “Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.”

That’s what really matters. The meaning of life is not about the monuments you leave behind, it’s the quality of the life you build along the way. That’s what matters to the Creator.

So…

Even if I “waste” time by sitting and contemplating the clouds on a blustery day – it’s not a waste if it fills my soul with the wonder of my Maker, and in that contemplation, in that solitude, I connect with Him all the more. The meaning of life is not about tasks and achievements and awards and name recognition. If you and I can remain faithful, even in a “little” life that doesn’t necessarily produce a longer lasting cell phone battery or otherwise change the course of human history – then we won’t diminish our souls.

Okay…now…just stop – and look at those clouds. Be still from time to time. Just KNOW that God is God….

Hug your daughter (I did about an hour ago and I’ve still got the glow to show for it)…

Give your best friend a little shove on the shoulder to remind him you think he’s a great guy….

Kiss your wife and mean it…No really, slap a lip lock on her and don’t come up for air until you start turning BLUE…

Do something that makes your co-workers feel good about themselves…

Pray…

Listen to Led Zeppelin on the radio and sing like you were on the stage (gotta give Robert Plant a little help from time to time). Quit worrying about what the others driver’s think – they’re just jealous

Practice joy…

LIVE…live well…Live in a way that remembers, every moment, that in the end it’s the quality of your deeds in the eyes of the Creator that matters in the end. Enrich your soul…

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