The second book in the City of Words series is finished. I’m calling it “Mountain of Shadows.”
Now starts the months of editing, artwork, reediting, planning, continued editing, crying (for joy) when it’s finally ready to be released to the world. But as of right now, the newly finished second book in the “City of Words” series is still in the awkward draft stages, like the adolescence of book writing.
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Add Mountain of Shadows to your Goodreads to-read list.
So excited to receive a great review by Angie’s Epic Reads vlog:
“If you enjoyed the Maze Runner series, I think you will really like this book… even if you did not enjoy the Maze Runner series, you should still definitely give this a go.” -Angie’s Epic Reads
REDLANDS, CA — About a month ago, my wife and I were vacationing in Paris: we saw the tourist sites, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower; we ate at the same romantic, picturesque cafe for two nights in a row; we even spent a day at Disneyland Paris, the happiest place on earth, or so I’m told. And two weeks after we return, we watch the news as a mass, terrorist shooting, wastes the lives of 130 completely innocent people; and the entirely understandable, human response goes through my head, “I’m glad we got out in time. I’m glad we weren’t there when it happened.”
Although, it’s easier to feel safe while watching the news coverage from half-way around the world. It might be reconciled in your mind, to think that Paris is somehow different from where you live. I know I’ve thought that. Paris was a “high-profile” target. It’s a large city, geographically connected to the parts of the world where terrorism seems to breed without impediment. It’s a connected city, where potential attackers can travel in and out of the surrounding countries, because of the European Union’s open border policy. It had warnings of this, when a gunman was stopped on a train just a few months prior. And somehow, behind the protective television screen, the place where you live might feel safer: tiny, and disconnected, and a sleepy town, that would never be on any terrorist’s shortlist of targets.
But these thoughts neglect the one, joining factor in all these recent terrorists’, murderous rampages: the human heart. It interconnects each of us. It transcends borders, and nationalities, and ethnicities. It crosses oceans, and can be darkened within any people group, or religion, or creed, or social-economic status. It does not discriminate based on location, environmental surroundings, or sex. As long as there are humans where you live, there can be terrorism. In the age of the internet, and the constant deluge of social media, something that is believed in a village in Syria, can be transmitted into the heart of a man or woman in any middle-American town. We are not impervious to terrorism based on distance, because the distance between passivity and radicalization is the same everywhere; it is the distance between the ears and the brain. It is the distance between human eyes that see a massacre in Paris and the human hearts that wish to see it played out again in their own town. Terrorism is words, and thoughts, and ideologies — the conduit is the same in all locations on earth, humanity.
But what do we do? Is there some way to defend against this terrorist ideology that seems to flow like water across the globe? I think that there might be, by building up walls around where terrorism settles: the heart.
The Redlands Police Station – December 3rd, 2015
I’ve seen a few hashtags tending since yesterday, #prayforSanBernardino and #prayforRedlands, and I think that’s a good place to start. Prayer is not only a means by which to ask God our questions, or to present to Him our requests, or to thank Him for his provision and intervention; it is also a means by which to slowly transform the human heart into a shape and structure that is more true to God’s heart, but only if we pray for things that are inline with God’s true desires.
Prayer by itself does not make for better people, for better human hearts. And I think we’ve all seen examples of this: people whom we know who might be very religious, but we would never want to be around them. For example, if we pray, religiously, for the death and murder of infidels, that would not make us good people. Instead, it would cement in our hearts the seeds of rage, and callousness, that would make for the type violent anger that would be needed for a person to storm into a building, and slaughter innocent men and women. Thus, indiscriminate prayer is not enough, and prayer as an action is not by its nature good or bad; it is simply an action, like chopping with an axe, which can be good if you are cutting wood to keep your family warm, or it can be evil, if you are chopping an axe to kill someone. So we must pray for good things, or not at all.
And if you are not sure what to pray, let me offer these few suggestions and the reasons for each:
We can pray for the wounded victims and the families of the dead, for comfort in these hard times, for steady healing, and eventual peace of mind. This, within the practice of pray, fosters sympathy in our hearts (aside from the fact that if God is God, then He can do all the things that we ask of Him, and so prayer is not pointless).
We can pray for the families of terrorist, who must obviously be wrestling with guilt and shame, for not having noticed the “warning signs.” We can also pray for any potential terrorist accomplices, that the seeds of evil will be rooted out of their hearts, that they will be transformed as people, and that they will turn themselves into the proper authorities to be judged by the courts. Prayers like this will force us to be forgiving, and might squelch perpetual hatred that could plague us our whole lives.
We can pray for the police and law enforcement officers, that they will be protected as they do their civic duties, and that they will be able to quickly find and prosecute any other suspects, or accomplices, if they exist. Prayers like these will help us to differentiate between good and evil within our hearts, and within society as a whole, to know that evil can not be winked at, but must be lawfully dealt with.
We can pray for people, globally, who might think that God wants them to kill non-believers, or infidels. We can pray that they will come to know God as He actually is. Prayers like these will help us not to think of other people, in other religions, or people who hold dangerous theologies, as being inhuman, or unloveable to God. It fosters compassion and empathy, and lets us see our enemies as having intrinsic worth and value as people, despite their wrong beliefs and evil thoughts, and terrible unpardonable actions which should be stopped.
In the recorded account of Jesus’ life, as told by one of his followers, Mark, there is an instance during which Jesus was asked, “What is the most important commandment of all?” — And Jesus answers this question, giving two commandments for those listening to follow. First, he said that you should love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And because that wasn’t enough, he gave a second commandment, as possibly a test by which you can know that you are really loving God, the true God. He said that you should “love your neighbor as yourself.” Which is fine to read about, but yesterday my neighbors, who lived less than a mile from my house, they shot and killed 14 people, and wounded 21 others. That is a different thing than loving the lovable, than loving a kindly old grandma, or your friend next door. And in a separate account, Jesus said that we should even “love our enemies.” Which goes one step beyond. Jesus said that we should “pray for them,” and his reasoning for this, because God himself “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This hurts. This is a painful sort of forgiveness, but it is the type of forgiveness that God demonstrates to us, and if we want to be like Him, then we should show it to others.
So what is the answer for a global theological ideology that says that “God wants us to kill those different from ourselves.” It is ultimately not bombs, or bullets. You cannot, in the end, conquer theological islamic radicalism with more firepower. You must use comparable weapons in the fight. You must fight the evil theology of terrorism with the right theology of peace and love. Of course we should defend ourselves and the innocents who are suffering, but we cannot defeat evil mindsets with bullets. In the same way that darkness cannot be destroyed with automatic weapons, nor can it be destroyed by smiling at it. Darkness can only be destroyed, and eradicated, by light. So too, good theology is the only ultimate weapon against evil theology, against the blackness that can pervade the human heart.