Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

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A tiny part of Paul resented everyone, even his mother, for simply being able to move on. Why was it so hard to let go? More importantly, why was it so easy for everyone else to let go? Didn’t they love Bill? 

Paul realized the principal was about to call Jordan’s name. He scanned the other graduates as he waited.

“Jordan Bieliel,” the principal said. 

Jordan stood just as Paul found him. Paul offered a loud shout that he hoped conveyed that he was happy for his friend even if he wasn’t actually happy in general. 

“Jordan has been accepted into the applied physics program at Carnegie in Pittsburgh.” 

A smile bloomed on Paul’s face even as Jordan pointed at him and smiled. The smile seemed to say, “We’re still a team!”

Paul always worried that they’d drift apart. It was still a dirty trick to keep it a secret until graduation. Jordan had implied that he hadn’t had a lot of luck with the application process. Paul clapped for a few blissful seconds until he thought how everything was almost perfect.  

Was there a reality where Bill was alive? Paul was going to study at one of the top schools in the country. His best friend was going with him. They were decorated students. The single omission of Bill being there to see it seemed to make the absence even worse. Would he really feel better if none of it happened? 

Paul tried to be happy for his friend, and he could sort of do that. But every time he tried to be happy about anything he had in his life, his thoughts returned to the person who wasn’t there. That made him worry about losing Jordan, or worse, his mother. 

He couldn’t stop the mental loop he was trapped in. But what eventually ended was the list of students. The final student made his way across the stage, and that was the signal for the rest of the students to stand up. The class began to file into a large square section of the football field that had been designated for the final part of the ceremony. The students arranged themselves into rows as the school’s junior varsity band played Pomp and Circumstance. 

The song reached a crescendo, and the graduates, including Paul, snatched their caps and tossed them into the air. The PID on Paul’s wrist went crazy in vibration as people in attendance snapped photos that instantly transmitted to each other so long as the network identified who was in the picture. 

The moment marked the end of the ceremony, and Paul began the search for his best friend. As usual, Jordan found him. Jordan didn’t grow up so much as put on enough weight to ensure a stiff breeze probably would’t blast him away. 

Paul, however, grew into a large, square man that seemed an odd contrast to his academic performance. While his genetics made him one suited to physicality, Paul denied the hints about joining sports. Those things were too much like Paul’s biological father, and Paul didn’t want to be anything like that man.

So why can’t I let go of this anger? Anger and fear were the two key aspect of his biological father, and they were Paul’s core emotions too if he was being honest. 

The anger in Paul’s heart wasn’t always about the same thing, but there was always anger. Even as Paul recognized the irrationality of it, he couldn’t do a thing to change it. What he could do was sort of hide it under other things, usually. One such way was to spend time around his mother or Jordan, who smiled as he flung his arms around Paul.

“Had trouble with applications, huh?” Paul said as the quick, two-pat hug ended.

“It’s not a lie,” Jordan said. “Those applications were tough! I honestly think I got in because I put you as a reference. I feel sort of guilty riding your coat tails.”

Paul scoffed. “It’s not like you’re not helping. I told them how much you helped me during my interview.”

Jordan shrugged. “I guess I owe you.”

Paul froze, worried Jordan would ask about when they’d start working not he project again. He couldn’t. He couldn’t face those white boards. He couldn’t sit at that table. He couldn’t talk about it.

“So I was wondering.” Jordan looked away as he spoke. Oh no! Don’t ask! Please don’t make me think about it! “I know you’re super self conscious about things like this, but … “

Paul felt the anger and resentment building. Why would Jordan do this? Why would he ask about this now?

“Do you think I could take you and your mom out to dinner? I just want to hang out, and it’s been a while. Why are you laughing?”

Paul couldn’t stop to answer for a few moments. He wasn’t going to ask about the project. He was just trying to hang out. Of course he wouldn’t push Paul. Jordan always knew how to shift the topic. 

“Look man, you hate it when people try to do things for you,” Jordan said. “But dude, you helped me get through school, and you helped me get into a great college.”

“You were in the top ten of our class!” Paul said. 

“Because you helped me,” Jordan said. 

“We studied together, but it’s not like I took the tests for you or did your work for you,” Paul replied.

“True, but let me treat you and your mom, OK? Tonight?”

Paul thought about finding a polite way to say no. He had another appointment. Then he thought better of it. It was already clear Nobody always knew where to go, so it didn’t matter what Paul did. If Nobody said he’d appear tonight, it would happen.

“I think Mom would like that,” Paul said with a smile he hoped looked genuine. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 29

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 29

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April 2, 2027, 3:33 p.m. 

18 Years, 349 Days Ago

Paul plopped down from the wall behind his house and walked through the back door. Bill was there in the dining room. He turned to Paul in surprise.

“Why are you coming in through the back door?” he asked.

Paul froze. He wanted to rush up to Bill and start asking a million questions he’d had from the last time they’d spoken a few days ago. Bill had visited at least another two times since they first met, but this was the first time Bill was at the house before him. 

“It’s a shortcut,” Paul lied.

“No it isn’t,” Bill said. “You’d have to walk a block in the wrong direction to even get to that wall.”

Paul’s mouth froze open. His mother bought the lie when he’d used it, but his mother probably didn’t think about directions. She was happy if Paul was happy. Bill on the other hand, liked to understand things. In this case, the habit was pretty unfortunate.

Paul shrugged. “I just … “ Lying took a ton of effort. “Think it’s cool walking on the walls.”

Bill raised an eyebrow. “And the neighbors don’t mind? Doesn’t one of them have a dog?”

Why on earth does he ask so many questions? “No one’s ever asked me to stop.”

“So what brought this on?” Bill asked. “You were just walking home one day and thought, ‘Gee, I wonder what it would be like to walk on those walls over there?’”

“Sure,” Paul said. It was a lot easier to lie when someone gave you one to approve. 

Bill shook his head. “You’re not that sort of adventurous. What’s really going on?”

“What, you know me for, like, two weeks, and suddenly you know everything about me?” Paul shouted the question.

“Of course not.” Bill’s tone didn’t change a bit. He even kept a gentle smile on his face. 

“But you’re gonna interrogate me like you have some right to? Are you my dad now? You and Mom get married while I wasn’t looking?” The more Paul thought about the questions, the more justified he felt in shouting them.

“What is going on?” His mother’s question came out in a series of slow, emphasized words. She’d come from the kitchen and didn’t look too pleased.

Paul froze again. It was one thing to have a tirade against Bill. Actually, Bill didn’t deserve it either, but it still felt more wrong for his mother getting involved.

“Do you think Paul and I could talk?” Bill stood up from the wooden dinning room chair. Strangely, his tone only became more gentle. 

“It doesn’t sound like you’re talking. Paul, are you being rude?” His mother tried to look at Paul, but Bill used a pair of fingers to gently turn her chin back toward himself.

“Sweetheart, it is your right to discipline your son,” he said. “But I’m asking you to let me talk to him.”

Paul coked his head. Why did Bill talk like that? 

His mom let out a deep sigh. “I’m fine with you two talking.” She looked at Paul. “But if you raise your voice again, I’ll use my right to discipline you until you graduate college.”

Paul’s had sank in shame. “Yes, Mother.”

She backed out of the room as if taking every moment she could to observe Paul’s behavior. 

After she’d been gone a few seconds, Bill turned his attention back to Paul. Those brown eyes of his were so kind. Paul shouted at him, and he just kept that patient tone.

“Why are you so defensive about what you were doing?” Bill asked.

“I’m not defensive!” Paul said defensively. 

Bill smiled at him. “In my experience, I’m the most angry when I’m the most ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid.” 

Paul just stood there in front of the door. 

Bill narrowed his eyes. “If something is bothering you, I’d be honored if you trusted me enough to share it with me.”

Paul just looked down at his sneakers. 

“You’re a good young man,” Bill mused. He sounded like he was talking to himself, but he definitely wanted Paul to hear. “So I don’t imagine you’re ashamed or embarrassed. Besides, what would using the back door hide that you’d be ashamed or embarrassed about?”

“It’s this guy,” Paul muttered. 

Bill immediately stopped talking. He moved back to his chair and took a seat, offering Paul the one next to him. 

Paul sat. “He stands there or rushes out of his house to tell me all about how I’m going to Hell and … other things.”

Bill cocked his head in thought. “So he claims to be a religious person?”

“You’re religious,” Paul argued.

“I’m Christian, which is a religion, but not all religious people are Christian,” Bill explained. “What does he base his opinion of you on?”

Paul shrugged. “I went to his church once. It wasn’t fun.”

“What’s the name of his church?” Bill asked. 

“The Way,” Paul said. 

Bill grimaced. 

“You’ve heard of it?” Paul asked.

The only way Paul knew Bill was frustrated was the odd moment he spent thinking before he answered. “Yes,” Bill said. “What’s this man’s name?”

“Mr. Dorny,” Paul said. 

“And Mr. Dorny has you so worked up, you’ll use parkour to avoid him?” Bill asked. 

Paul shrugged. When Bill said it like that, it felt stupid. It felt cowardly. 

“He’s just super aggressive, and he won’t let me go. He doesn’t, like, touch me or grab me, but he gets in my way and makes it sound like I’m a bad person for not listening.”

Bill nodded. “He lives down the road, the one you’d use to come home from school?”

Paul nodded. 

“Mary!” Bill called her name, and she eventually returned from the kitchen. “I have to take Paul out for just a few moments. We should be back in about half an hour.”

“What’s going on?” she asked. 

“I’ll explain everything, but would you be OK if I waited until after we got back?” Bill asked.

“I’ll explain, too,” Paul chimed in. “It’s sort of a long story.”

Mary looked at Bill. “What are you going to do?” 

Paul looked at Bill. He’d be interested to hear the answer as well.

“We just have to talk to someone,” Bill said. “There’s a disagreement that needs to be resolved. It won’t take long.”

Paul’s mom shrugged and let out a deep breath. “I’ll just wait for the explanation. Just be home before dinner get’s cold.”

Bill nodded and started walking toward the front door. Paul darted after him. Bill seemed to be walking more quickly than normal. Paul had to move at a pace that was one step below a jog just to keep up. He glanced at Bill, whose lips were moving, but Paul couldn’t make out any words. Is he praying?

They moved purposefully out of the cul-de-sac in which Paul lived and came to Mr. Dorny’s house, which was right at the choke point of road. 

Mr. Dorny was outside, sitting in his chair. He saw Paul and smiled. 

“Well it’s certainly been a while,” he said. Something about his tone sounded smug. Paul already wanted to hit him.

“He’s not here to talk to you,” Bill said. “I am.”

“And who are you?” Mr. Dorny asked. He got up from his metal beach chair. The motion looked like a lion getting up after eating a fat zebra. 

Musings on Christianity 27

Musings on Christianity 27

You Find What You Seek; Your Focus is Your Destination

Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your eye on the ball. Look before you leap.

How many statements do we have out there that reveal the same simple truth? More importantly, why do we need to keep remind ourselves? Even as I type this, more and more come to mind.

While some people take those statements and apply them to businesses or weight loss or scholastic goals, people still sometimes seem determined to focus on the distractions.

If you indeed obtain what you focus on, why focus on fear? If you find what you seek, then one who fears the loss of his possessions or status will inevitably find those things. I’ve always been a driven individual. I have a very limited list of things I focus on. In truth, we should only focus on one thing:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

If one studies that segment (and a few others) more deeply, they all say the same thing. Keep your focus on God.

A God-focused individual may not appear very different in some respects. For instance, God commands us to be submissive and obedient. This means a God-focused individual will be diligent at work and hard working. He’ll be quick to do as he’s instructed. But there will be some differences. A God-focused man won’t participate in the water-cooler talk. A God-focused man won’t be quick to lose his temper or insist on his own way.

I won’t claim to be God-focused. That’s part of the reason I’m writing this. I currently state I have to work to be God-focused. I aspire to be God-focused. I think about God a lot, but I’d be lying if I said he was the focus of my every thought, and that is the problem. 

If I were to console myself, I’d say that when I truly realize I’m not focused on Him, I reorient myself. I just wish I didn’t have to stop course correcting so frequently in the day.

But what does it truly mean to be God-focused? Does a God-focused person just read the Bible all day and pray? Prayer isn’t the formal activity people make it out to be. Sure, I think every person should spend some time of each day kneeling in prayer, but that’s not the only way to do it. Prayer isn’t a posture or position of body; prayer is a mindset, and that mindset is what it means to be God focused.

First, a God-focused individual must passionately study God. A writer such as myself passionately reads and writes. A musician passionately studies his or her instrument. The key to being God-focused above all else is to passionately study God. The way we do this is reading the Bible.

For those who proclaim to be of the faith, consider this: How often do you read the Bible? If you’re a mechanic, you open a manual for a car pretty often. Journalists have to open the AP Style Book each time they proofread their work. A construction man will have to study the schematics for a building. So again, how often do you study the Bible?

If you’re expecting me to give you a “required” amount of study, I’m going to disappoint you. Salvation isn’t a checklist of deeds, it’s a gift of grace from God. What I will say is that if you only read the Bible when someone makes you, I can’t say I’d call you God-focused. A man who hates his job can still go to work. He’s not focused on his work; he’s focused on his status, appearance, or financial well being.

The heart speaks truth.

This is why studying God’s word is the first step. You can’t do what God wants if you don’t know what He wants. You can’t be focused on God if you don’t even know what things God wants you to fix your thoughts on. There’s a verse in the Bible where he literally tells you what to fix your thoughts on (Philippians 4:8). That list isn’t exclusive, but it is instructive.

Just sitting here thinking about things, I know I’m supposed to be loving (Mark 12:31 among others). I’m supposed to be wise (Proverbs). I know I’m supposed to be slow to anger (Numbers 14:18).

Ultimately, I’m supposed to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). The problem is that my sinful flesh makes that impossible. So how do I strive to do that? I focus and study God’s word, using it to guide my actions.

So the second thing a God-focused person must do is apply what he or she learns from the Bible. As one studies the Bible, one must apply the principles and obey the commands the Bible gives. The more one works at doing this, the more one finds ones self living a God-focused life.

I think that’s the battle. Sometimes it feels like every moment of every day is a battle between what I know the Bible tells me I should do and what I do. Like Paul, I too often find myself doing what I don’t want to do. I want to be a more patient man. I want to be a man who’s slow to speak, but my mouth flies open far too much, and I still don’t have a lick of patience. 

Working to improve is an example of being God-focused. Catching yourself doing something against the teachings of the Bible and adjusting your behavior is a great way to glorify God. I’m quite happy when I do this. I’d just prefer not to have to fix my thinking.

This is discipline. We discipline our actions and behavior according to God’s instruction, and the more we discipline ourselves, the more our thoughts will stay fixed on God.

The third thing a God-focused person must do is have a constant mindset of prayer. Again, we’re not telling you to kneel and pray every second of every day. I pray when one of my sons is acting up, and I know I should respond with patience and a calm demeanor rather than raise my voice. I don’t do it physically; I just think, “God, help me to lead my son to you.”

When there’s a disagreement at work, and I feel the old, prideful person I used to be start to get indignant, I think, “God, help me to be patient and kind. Help me to not insist on my own way.” 

Those are statements from 1 Corinthians 13.

When one incorporates scripture into prayer, it’s stronger. It shows your supplications are a request to do as God wants rather than a demand for God to do what you want. God is loving and generous. He gives such wonderful things to his children (Matthew 7:11). However, He’s not the servant; we are.

We use prayer to lament to God. We use prayer to praise God. We use prayer to offer supplications to God. We use prayer to seek God’s wisdom and will.

We are supposed to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This speaks to a mindset far more than it does a posture. However, one should be constantly comparing ones actions from a Biblical mindset and thinking about God throughout ones life.

That might take someone as legalistic as myself right back to a mindset of, “Then I should just read the Bible and pray all the time!”

Well if prayer is just focusing on God, then a God-focused person will do this instinctively.

It doesn’t mean everyone should strictly grow up to be a pastor. That’d be a fine life occupation indeed, but God didn’t have all 12 tribes of Israel become priests. God wants doctors and lawyers. God wants teachers and farmers. God, in his wisdom, knows what His people need, and He uses people to provide. God provides leaders and artists. God used people to write His spirit-driven words.

This means we need to study our profession. This means we need to do our jobs, whatever they are. Three months ago, who gave a second thought to a grocery store employee? Now we see how critical those people are. How about food service workers? How long will it be now before you throw a fit at a guy who prepared your food? You see, God raises the meek to humble the prideful (Matthew 23:12). 


A misguided person will focus too much on the works. However, if works aren’t what lead to salvation, that what you’re doing isn’t actually what matters. What matters is why. Why are you doing it? How is what you’re doing glorifying God? The doctor performing surgery because it will make him enough to buy a car I can’t spell the name of is lost. The doctor next to him performing surgery because he knows God has called him care for the ill has it right.

The teacher working on a lesson plan because that is what will help him earn a promotion is lost. The teacher next to him working because he knows God has chosen him to teach his little children has it right. 

There is another benefit to this.

You see, a God-focused person isn’t anxious. What does it profit a man to fear the loss of money or food? Will worry grow crops? Will concern in itself keep an illness from infecting you?

This fear-focused person isn’t doing anything for God. In truth, such a person is showing a lack of faith. And what does acting out of fear truly do?

A germophobe might never get sick, but he never gets to experience some of the wonderful things God has given him.

Again, this doesn’t mean, “Do what you want.”  That’s not God-focused. It simply means, do what God wants, trusting He will provide and care for you. He will.

Don’t be afraid for your life. I promise, you’ll die one day. But the saved will live again.

Don’t be afraid of poverty. You were born with nothing, and you can’t take any of your money or possessions with you after you die.

Instead, hold fast to God. He is enduring and everlasting. He will give you what you need.

This is a perfect time to fix your thoughts on God. This is a perfect time to look at your life and ask yourself if you’re really serving Him. This is a perfect time to glorify Him by being generous when others seek to horde for their own comfort. This is a perfect time to glorify Him by being grateful for what you have, even if it’s not that much.

Whatever you do, do it to honor Him.

For our panel: Even as teachers and preachers of the word, would you claim that God occupies your every thought and action? How do you reorient yourself if/when you realize you’re not focused on God in a certain moment? Is going to church “enough” Bible study? Is there more one should do to be God-focused? What verses are good to go to, to help one focus on God?

Musings on Christianity 26

Musings on Christianity 26

Should We Be Afraid?

I gave some thought to this chapter and how to go about it. As with most of my non-fiction, especially with this particular project, it usually becomes a free-flowing process. Where to start and what I’m trying to say are the only main issues of consideration.

In this chapter, I start with frightening news. As I type this, I am in the middle of a fourteen-day quarantine, as I had (or thought I had) been exposed to the Corona virus.

All those teenagers and young men and women refusing to practice social distancing or stay inside reflect my very own thoughts maybe as little as three years ago. I’ve been blessed to have a fairly illness-free life thus far, and, not too long ago, I was quite alright with the risk of being sick.

Now I have a wife. Now I have three children. I’d endure any illness. I’d happily welcome any misfortune if it kept my family safe. But how do I keep them safe from me? Also consider my family history. The very idea that I’m a threat to those I love harkens my own mind back to a life of an abusive biological father and an oath to never be a threat to my children. Now, this is different. I might be sick. I’m not in myself the threat, but I carry the threat in me. There’s something there perhaps to consider, but I set that thought aside to stay on the main point.

Believe me when I confess I have been afraid. Believe me when I say I was worried. But where does fear actually come from? Psychologists have studied this far more than I have, but whatever dictionary you use, that emotion is based by a danger or threat.

Non-believers can have every reason to be afraid. Their lives and their possessions are all they have. I would appreciate and sympathize with a non-believer who is afraid of dying or losing his wealth or getting sick. This is because the threat of the things a non-believer has represents the loss of something critical.

But Christians have something greater than all of those things. Does that mean that the things we have don’t matter or that they aren’t dear to us? Absolutely not. However, the first thing a Christian knows is that no possession, or person is more important than God. Here is where people might balk or lash out. Here is where people become indignant.

We need to refer back to the most important law:  “‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).’”

One may argue intellectually that love is infinite. It is. You can love many things all at once. But Jesus expanded on that command in Luke Chapter 14 verses 26-27.

“‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Readers, that is the line drawn in the sand. The choice to step over and stand with Christ is one I leave to you, but that is the line.

“Hate?” you may ask in outrage. “What sort of God wants me to hate at all?”

That word is a problem of translation. You see, the Greeks had three words for love. A better meaning (though less word-for-word literal) would be “Whoever doesn’t love Me more than … ”

Again, I would understand any parent saying, “I’ll never love anything more than my child!”

Again, readers, understand I’m not telling you what to do. I am, however, showing you the mindset of a true Christian, based on the word of God.

An angry parent may be angry because while I say “more than,” the parent hears “instead of.” Please review these words and realize that is not the case.

Indeed, we are to love others as we would love ourselves. That is the other half of the law Christ gave as the most important. So we are to love others sacrificially. Love endlessly. However, when we love, we love God most.   

I have to express this thought because I can’t show you why you have no reason to fear if you still value things more than God. The love of God, valuing Him more than anything or anyone is the reason we have nothing to fear.

Neither I nor God’s word are telling you not to love anyone. But when you love God most and value Him most, you’ve placed God, the infinite, all powerful, and unchanging source of all things, on His proper throne.

And if you have Him, nothing can harm you.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword (Romans 8:31-35)?”

Again, fear comes when something important to you is threatened. But what happens when the most important thing in your life is the infinite, immortal, unchanging God? What’s anyone going to do to Him?

“What about our Earthly things?” you may ask. “They matter to me?” Of course they do. I love my family. I love all the wonderful gifts God’s given me. I love my life. I love my home. I love my job. I love my health (more on that later). But these are the gifts, and I’ll never put them (any of them) above the one who gave them to me.

Again, you may balk at this. You may have this mental image of me shunning my children and my wife. But to do so would violate the law of God. I can’t frustrate my children or be unloving to my wife for God’s sake without violating that very same God’s commandment. If you read these words in outrage and indignation, it’s only because you see these words as an either-or situation.

I want to give my children to God. Not in a psychopathic heretical sense, but in the same Christian, holy sense I and my wife have given ourselves to God. If I’m doing anything I’m giving the children I love to Him just as He gave up His son only son for me. I don’t want my children to worship me any more than I’m not going to start worshiping them. And that is what one does if they make the child the center of their universe.

A thing I’ve learned over the years is you can’t worship the child. Are love and worship synonyms?  Only in as far as you elevate one thing you love above another. I love cookies, but I’d never eat a cookie again if I had to choose between them and my sons. However, if my sons demanded to have only cookies for every meal, I could obey them if I choose to worship them. However, I love them, and I don’t want them to die of some sugar-related malady. The love I have for my children does not mean they control my actions.

However, the love I have for God means He does have control of my actions. This is the distinction to loving Him more than my family. There may even be some times when a choice may have to be made, but that would distract from the point of this chapter, and it’s just so much more rare a situation than one need consider when it comes to reasons for fear.

So at this point, you can choose to accept my words or (more importantly) the words of the Bible or not. I had to explain them in order to provide the comfort God brings.

If I give my life, my family, my home, my well being, over to God, then I am His. He can (and will) do whatever He wants to me.

The reasons that means I have no need to fear are many:

God is good (1 Chronicles 16:34).

God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth (Exodus 34:6).

God is upright (Psalm 25:8).

God is righteous (Psalm 92:15).

God is a stronghold in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7).

God is mighty (Deuteronomy 10:17).

God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9)

God is love (1 John 4:7).

What need is there to fear when God is in control of your life?

You see, Christ himself told us to be anxious for nothing; don’t be afraid of anything (Matthew 6:25-34).

God will always provide. We’ll never fail to get what we need (Psalm 23).

Yet even knowing this in my flesh, there are times when I fear. This is the subject I discussed with my children the day before I typed this very chapter. I spoke to my children about the faithfulness of God.

When we fear, believers have God to turn to. This, is comfort.

It’s comfort because I know the almighty, all-knowing, loving God of the universe is in charge, and His plan is perfect. Yes, I will be sad, but I can take comfort in knowing what happens is part of his plan.

Yes, readers, even this disease is part of His plan. Whether He sent this virus in his Holy judgement or He’s using Satan’s attempt to thwart that plan, it’s all part of that plan. I’m not particularly enjoying this part of the plan, but I trust it.

So my sons and I sat down and read several Psalms. I let them find chapters that speak about God’s faithfulness. They chose Psalm 2, 3, and 18. They read those chapters, and we talked about what they mean. We didn’t ask, “what do you think that means?”  I hesitate to endorse that sort of self-centered reading. Rather, we considered the literal meaning of the words (this is basic hermeneutics).

After discussing it, I asked my sons what they’re afraid of. They each gave a list (they were very worried their Dad had COVID-19). Then, we used those Psalms as examples. 

I asked my sons, “What do Christians do when the are afraid.”

They answered, “Go to God.”

“How?” I asked.

After a moment or two of thought, they said, “Pray!”

So we prayed together. Each son named his fear and asked God for help.

Minutes later, I got a text. The individual who I had come in contact with and been exposed to COVID-19, had just got his test results back. Negative.

Just like that, more than a week of concern and worry melted away. We’re still going to complete the fourteen-day quarantine as an added measure, but I sometimes marvel at how quickly God works in my life.

I don’t expect God to immediately give me whatever I pray for. I prayed for some 20-something years before I met Julie. God answers in His time in accordance to His plan.

However, in this tiny, glorious example, I offer this to you to say that we can always have faith and trust. We need not fear.

But what if that test came back positive? What if I get sick tomorrow?

My faith isn’t based on God giving me what I want. My faith is based on the list I gave above. I trust God. If I face death, I face it knowing I’m returning home to Him. If I face hardship, I face it knowing he’ll provide for me. And when I feel fear approach, I know I have God to turn to. I can tell him my fears and (as those Psalms all did) praise Him, reminding myself of his characteristics.

Does this mean I’m going to go licking toilets or jumping off buildings? No! Why? Because there’s a big difference between faith and challenge. We’re commanded not to put the LORD our God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). 

What it does mean is I can obediently (in accordance to his command) do as I should and have courage because I know He is with me, and He is with you too if you are indeed among his redeemed.

For our panel: What verses do you turn to when you are afraid? What are some distinctions between lack fear and lack of wisdom? How would you explain loving God most? How would you describe fear? What scripture would you have someone turn to if they were struggling with fear?



I have a confession:

I’m afraid.  I’m afraid all the time.

I’m afraid I’ll never be a better author, so I’m writing at midnight.

11411687_10152795626552142_8556923609387053801_oI’m afraid my family will never truly understand how much I love them, so I drop  everything I’m doing to pick up the phone when they call or spend time with them when they ask.


150922-N-PJ310-002I’m afraid I’ll never be a good enough teacher, so I spend every day at work looking at
every mistake my students make and consider them my own.  I look at them and try to find a way to be better.

I’m afraid the mentors in my life will never know how much of an impact they’ve had on my life, so I mentor everyone who asks me what I think, and I do everything in my power to help them be better.

13450200_10207558565216811_3399308763271495402_nThat makes me afraid I’ll never be a good enough mentor, so I pick up the phone every time one of “my Sailors” sends a text, sends a message or calls.

I’m even afraid I’ll never find that one person I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, so I have this rule to go out at least once a week because barring God’s extremely kind will, the likelihood of her delivering my next pizza is extremely low.

I’m afraid that the crew members aboard the H.M.S. Slush Brain have welcomed me to their crew and I’m not good enough to be among them.  I’m afraid they’ve asked me to contribute to their anthology and I’m not going to measure up.

12118869_10153070475562385_5683470808026635644_nI’m afraid my friends will never know how important they are to me, so I never let them go.  Even if we don’t speak for days, months or years, I remember them, and I make it a point to be there when they need.  I’m afraid they’ll need me, and I won’t be there, so sometimes I just check in on them.

I’m afraid I’ll never sell a thousand books, so I plan to write 1,000 of them and sell at least one of each.  I’ve only published one book, and I’m already 200 sales ahead of my plan.

I have another confession:

I hope none of these fears go away.  (Well, actually I could do with a few of those being resolved, but I promise I have a point.)

I do hope I never stop being afraid because – fuck fear.

I’m up today writing at 12:30 a.m. because I’m afraid of never taking the chance to be better, and if I ever wake up one day feeling like a great author, where do I go from there?

I’m afraid every day and I use my fear as a target to pursue that which I feel is impossible.

This is for you.  I don’t know who you are, but if you’re reading this, and you think I’m talking to you – I am.  I am, and I love you because you’re afraid, and it’s okay.  I know I love you, because I’ve dropped all the other things I’m afraid of so that I can tell you it’s okay to be afraid.

Use your fear.  Use that fear to chase away everything you’ve ever been afraid of.

I’m afraid there are people out there who I have loved and will love my whole life that perhaps don’t even remember me, so I wrote a book to create a universe that reminds me nothing can break apart that which love has connected.

I’m afraid of being afraid, so I wrote another book about people who find superpowers in facing their fears.

street-sign-141396_960_720I do the things I’m afraid to do because if we never dare to try the impossible, we never achieve the impossible.  I do the things I’m afraid to do because if we never face our fears, fear wins.  I understand the paradox I’ve created.  It’s true.  Ultimately, I do the things I fear most because of my innate fear of failure.  So I’m fighting a battle I’ve already lost.

Fuck fear.

There are battles worth fighting, and I’ve come to believe that some of those battles must be fought even if those fighting already know they’ve lost.  These battles are so critical that the result means less than the need to fight.  I imagine people who fight what they see as loosing battles are terrified, but they fight, and every now and then, they win – even when they shouldn’t.

Use your fear to seek out that which you want most in life.  What is the thing you won’t give up anything else for?  For me, it comes down to three things.  My family, my students and my writing.   I’ve been told I’d be happier if I gave up teaching.  I’ve been told I’d be happier if I gave up writing.  No one’s ever been moronic enough to imply I should give up my family, so that’s something.

I would be more comfortable.  I’d be less afraid if I just let fear keep me from trying to do the things I’ve wanted to do, but I’m afraid of being a hypocrite.

I tell my students a lot of things.  I’m afraid they don’t hear me, so I say it over and over again, and I find different approaches to let them know all of these things I’m afraid they’ll never learn if I don’t make it a point to show them or teach them.

Fuck fear.

There’s one thing I say that’s the most important thing I tell my students, nieces, nephews, and everyone else I can.  I share it with you now.

I don’t care WHAT you want in life.  Just WANT SOMETHING!

Want something more than you’ve ever wanted something before in your life and don’t let anything else get in your way.  I don’t CARE what it is.  I just want you to find it and chase it until it’s yours.  Then I want you to hold tight to it because you’re too afraid to let it go.

accomplish-1136863_960_720One of those other things I say a lot is, “I hear with my eyeballs.”   I invite you to try the same tactic.  Look at your life.  What’s the thing you do no matter how tired you are?  Who are the people you make time for no matter how busy you are?  This doesn’t diminish the existence of other people or other things, it simply shows you what you’re really putting your time into.  If the things you want aren’t the things you’re doing, then aren’t you afraid you’ll never get the time to do the things you’ve always wanted?

Fuck fear.

Do those things.

My family loves me.  My friends love me.  They love me so much they worry over how hard I push myself.  I’m afraid some of them don’t understand what I’m really afraid of.  I’m afraid that God will call me home (or to Judgement) before I’ve had a chance to ask The Junior if she knows how much I love her. (NOTE:  The Junior is one of my nieces.)  Years ago I invented a game with her.  I’d ask her if she knew how much I love her.  She replies, “There’s no limit to how much you love me,” and I tell her, “Don’t you forget it.”

I push myself because I’m afraid my life will end before I write the best book I’ve ever written, and I’m always afraid the next book I write will be better than the next.  I’m afraid my students won’t get the information they need or the feedback they need.

Of all my fears, death isn’t one of them because as scary as death is, I won’t allow myself to die without doing everything I can to be the man I’m afraid I’ll never be.

It’s okay to be afraid.  Just, please, don’t let fear be that which prevents you from trying.  I don’t care if you’re trying to fly , and you were born without legs.  I don’t care.  Build wings, and take flight.  I don’t care if you’ve been told it’s impossible.  For those like me who are people of faith, only God determines what it is we can and can not do.  For those who do not believe in god, explain to me how we continue to do that which the laws of science once said was impossible.

Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I’m afraid to give up.

Maybe there’s a better balance, and I’m afraid I’ll never find it.

I’m going to keep trying, and I want you to as well.  You’re scared, and I’m afraid you’ll live your whole life afraid without ever once realizing that we’re all afraid.  I’m afraid of living without the courage to do those things I’m afraid of doing.

Fuck fear.

I have one more confession:

cat-1551794_960_720I’m exhausted.  I wake up at 6:30 and work until 6:30.  I go home, and I spend time with my niece (I have quite a few of those) and sister (and even more of those) because I’m afraid they’ll leave, and they won’t know how much I love them.  I spend time with them until they go to bed because I’m afraid to miss one moment with them.  Then I go downstairs and I write because I’m afraid I’ll never finish revisions on Caught, and that makes me afraid I’ll never start working on Sojourn in Despair.  I’m so afraid that I write as I’m writing now at 1:15 a.m.

I’m not afraid of being tired.  I’m afraid of never taking the time to do all the things I’ve always wanted to spend my life doing.  I’m afraid of waking up well rested one day and realizing that thing I wanted was just one hour away.

Sometimes I lose.  Fear wins every now and again, but fear is my rival.  Fear is my nemesis, and I’m afraid if I slow down for one moment, I’ll fail, and I’m afraid to fail.

I’m going home soon, and I’ll spend every moment I can with everyone I can and I’m afraid there aren’t enough hours in the day to account for all the people I want to spend my time with.  How amazingly blessed I am to have that sort of problem.  This makes me afraid that I’ll wake up one day with one less person in my life I want to spend that time with.  I don’t fear exhaustion.

This is for you, my wonderful dreamers, because I’m just a man with a silly little dream.  It’s mine and no one else’s, but no one else needs my dream.  I want you to dream your dream, and of all the things it’s okay to be afraid of, please don’t be afraid to dream.  Please don’t be afraid to try.

Try.  Dream.  Fight.  In those moments of your life when you’re afraid you’ll never win, and no one is on your side, remember me.  Remember me and my silly little dream to do just any random thing that makes others feel it’s okay to dream.  I’m here.

I’m here for my family, and I’ll be here for them as long as God allows.

I’m here for my students, and I’ll be there whenever they need me.

I’m here for my proteges, and I’ll be there as often as they want me.

I’m here for you.  And on the way home from a writers’ group meeting I was nearly overcome by the fear that you didn’t know.

Fuck fear.