Monday, March 28, 2016

Where Christians Find Peace After Tragedy in Brussels

The late Zig Ziggler spoke of being asked how 9-11 changed his life. In response he spoke of God's protection, saying no one could touch him without it being God's will. He went on to say that if as part of His will God permitted someone to touch him, the entire army would not be able to protect him. Remembering this statement of faith reminds me that life is not random. God is in control. His children can draw peace from Him in any situation.

I pray for Brussels, Belgium. I pray for those who were injured in last week's attack. I pray for those who lost loved ones. I pray for those who do not know the peace that comes with being one of God's children.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What I Am Reading: In Golden Splendor

Whatever happened to Seamus Hanley? Seamus was introduced in Flight of the Earls as one many who left Ireland in hopes of finding a better life in the United States. His sister Clare, who traveled with Seamus, overcame many obstacles including a devious plot by their crooked uncle. Seamus was forced into exile after attempting to double cross this same uncle. In In Golden Splendor we join Seamus on the run, leading to a story that is even more engaging than its predecessor.

Like the first book in the "Heirs of Ireland" series, In Golden Splendor is a work of historical fiction, taking us back to the time of the Gold Rush and the San Francisco fire of 1849. Author Michael K. Reynolds gives us a mix of old and new characters who are every bit as compelling as the historical events to which we are given a front row seat. These characters work with history to build an entertaining, unpredictable and at times tragic story with reminders that being an immigrant to the U. S. was often very difficult.

As with the first book of the series, characters are well developed, not coming across as if they are forced fit into their historical backdrop. In support of those characters Reynolds does a good job of weaving a story that can stand on its own while seamlessly connecting to the first book. The characters that carry over into this story grow without becoming stale. New characters add to and compliment, helping the reader see new dimensions in the lives those who are the focus of the story.

There is an art to telling a good story. In the first two books of the series Reynolds has proved his value as a growing artist. I recommend both books and look forward to reading the final installment.

For more on In Golden Splendor and the Heirs of Ireland series see Follow Michael K. Reynolds on twitter: @M_K_Reynolds.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Do You Open Spiritual Spam?

There it was: the warning that my antivirus program had not been renewed. The email address looked official, like it could have come from the company that sales the program I use. The date showed the email was sent around the time when my new subscription should have started. And there, maybe two lines below that email, was another with the same company name. This older email acknowledged the fact that my program subscription had in fact been renewed.
I can only guess at what the sender of the spam email was attempting to do. I deleted without opening, sparing myself any possibility of falling prey to an attempt at fishing. Most likely I would have deleted even if I did not have the older email. Having confirmation of the renewal allowed me to hit delete with confidence. If only I had this confidence when dealing with spam as it comes from the spiritual realm.

Like my conflicting emails, Christians receive conflicting messages on a daily basis. On one hand we have the Bible full of truth and wisdom, given to instruct us on how to live godly lives. On the other hand we have the messages that come from the world, often speaking against biblical teaching. We see both and must decide which to follow.

Spiritual spam is attractive, giving the impression of offering more than we might get by obeying God. It pops up leaving us with a choice while causing doubt about the validity of what we read in the Bible. And just like email spam, spiritual spam (better known as temptation) can become a link to all sorts of hidden destruction.

We know the truth. Yet so often we choose the lie. So here is a challenge for every believer. Choose the truth. Stay far away from the spam. In Christ this is possible. Are you willing?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Why I Stopped Blogging and Why I Started Again

Public Domain
I was once a regular blogger: sharing childhood stories, commenting on current events, digging up history, and of course talking about my faith. My time at the keyboard was fun and relaxing, bringing a level of fulfillment I have not found in other endeavors. Between writing and connecting with other bloggers, my hobby continued to grow, encouraging me to try my hand at getting paid for an article ("The History of the Flashlight" published in History Magazine.)

For a while success bred success as I watched my page views grow. Along with that came an increase in comments from which I learned much about my audience. With each interaction I tweaked the scope of my message, priding myself on doing what I thought would keep readers coming back for more. Unfortunately giving people what they wanted did not always mean giving my best and as my numbers grew so did the number of posts with a certain political bent.

I found myself doing what I could to fit in, even if it meant compromising what I believed just to score page views. With each compromise my writing became less real. My blog, the very place where people should have been able to find me, became just an online facade. (This was especially amusing considering one of my posts was about destroying facades.) And as my facade grew, my readers gradually stopped coming. The few remaining visitors generally came looking for arguments: looking to cut me down even as I fought to prove myself.

I stopped blogging because fighting from behind a facade stopped being fun. Now I have a new reason for writing and for returning to the world of blogging. Recognizing that the work involved in being a writer was never an issue, I look to answer what I believe to be my calling. This time I come to the keyboard with a better focus and without the feeling that I am defined by the number of page views. Now it's about the message and about sharing with you, the audience. Now it’s about the challenge of doing things the right way. I know it will be a lot of work but it will also be a lot of fun.