I am able


When Jesus asked his two disciples if they were ready to drink form the cup he drank from and to be baptized with the baptism he would be baptized with, they replied, “We are able.”

When I was in Junior High I was bullied by a group of boys so much so that I would have to race home to keep from being beat up. They called me names, and threatened me daily. Then one summer one of them confronted me while I was mowing a neighbor’s yard. He wanted to fight. I said, “No. Christians don’t fight.” He replied with a crass comment about Christ and before I could think. I had pushed him down and sat on top of him—my knees on his arms. I raised my fist and told him to leave me alone.

At that moment I was grabbed under the arms and hoisted to the fence. With my shirt bunched in the young man’s grasp and his fist held high, I gasped. It was the boy’s older brother—a Golden Glove winning boxer. He glared at me and yelled, “Say you are a wimp, and I’ll leave you alone!”

 I knew he would pound me to a pulp. It was gonna hurt really bad. So I ducked my head and whimpered, “I’m a wimp.” He made me say it again before he let me go. He picked up his little brother and they left me standing alone in my shame against the fence.

I have regretted it ever since. Whenever I shrink from a hard task, neglect doing things I know are important, or take the easy road to the battle, I am reminded of this one event.

Many times I answer the call to duty with the words, “I cannot” in my mind.

When it comes to writing, I still struggle with this. I am not good enough. In the movie “In the Heart of the Sea” Herman Melville tells a man, “I am not Nathaniel Hawthorne.” And I say, “I am not Herman Melville.” Someone may one day say, “I’m not as good as Jon Hopkins.” It is easy to discount reader’s praise for my work. But I just write and try my best to do it well.

In every life there are experiences of darkness. When we are put up against the fence-edge of dread the Master asks, “Are you able to follow me through this trial, this sacrifice, this mystery of pain?” We must remember that the greatest blessings of grace lie beyond this experience. He leads me. I am not able. I wimp out. But I follow the One who is able. Anyone can do the possible. He can do the impossible.

Today I will say to the raised fist, “Bring it.” And trust in God to lead the way.

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Writing in the Dark!

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Yesterday, I listened to an old Don Francisco song, “Balaam.” The lyrics include the line: “So when the Lord starts usin’ you don’t you pay it any mind. He ‘could have used the dog next door if He’d been so inclined.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbTAaBWmqsM

This year marks my forty-second year serving in various ministries always involving teens. I have been a Psychological Youth counselor, Youth minister, and school teacher. Now I call myself an “author.” I am surprised God has used me at all.

Last year, I made a spiritual goal to use my writing AS ministry. As part of that I gave a speech to a monthly meeting of the Heart of America Christians Writers Network. (HACWN) My topic? “Writing in the Dark.”

I shared that all of my published works came from deeply dark times in my life. I encouraged the attendees to also embrace the darkness—find God there—and share that with others.

I opened my heart and bled profusely before the crowded room. I talked about the time I forgave my alcoholic father, where the idea for my novel came from, how my wife died, and other tragedies that have been turned into stories in print. Only God knows how those things were used to comfort or encourage others in their dark times.

Then, I was asked to repeat the speech at HACWN’s yearly writer’s conference. And again at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s monthly writer’s meeting in Kansas City. I gave it my all hoping that it would affect writer’s lives for God. I felt like Balaam’s—uh—dog.

Surprisingly, I am privileged to repeat the talk at this year’s HACWN conference. Apparently they like to watch me bleed.

Unfortunately, we experience darkness in our own lives, in the lives of family, and friends and wonder how we even survive.  Each unexpected turn of events has a profound effect on our writing lives and our faith. We have asked the same question, “Where is God in the dark?”

Yet, as writers, we somewhere find the courage to pick up a pen or our computer and write stories of conflict, loss, and love with a hope of shedding God’s light in a dark world. It is in the storms, hardships, trials, and losses that we find our stories and tell others where God is.

Come hear a message of testimony, encouragement, and writing tips for “Writing in the Dark” from someone who uses his pen as a flashlight in the darkness. Information and registration is found on their website for the HACWN 2016 Conference. Embrace the Call October 20-22, 2016  http://www.hacwn.org/








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