Last Year at this time

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This is a poem I wrote last year at this time. Praise God He has brought me through it and has blessed me with so many things this year.

“A New Year’s Introspection”

I cannot stand outside my own house and look in my window.

When gazing inward there is no mirror to reflect what is real.

Phantoms of pains past haunt me.

Resolutions fall lifeless to the floor.

When I take the next step into darkness, what will I bring with me?

Scars. Memories. Consequences. Fears.

Moments I cling to like handfuls of smoke.

And grieves too heavy to bear.

Lord, speak to my heart and remind me of goodness.

Map out where you kept pace with me on the path.

Show me what could have been worse.

And where I strayed from you.

Help me walk away from the echo of my own regrets.

Weave meaning into memories on my guilt eaten soul.

Motivate my heart toward good today.

And give me the strength to venture on.

 

 

Blue Tennis shoes

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Writing the second book in my series The Long-aimed Blow, coauthored with my twin brother, is harder than I thought it would be. The first book talks about trauma. Book two is how the characters responded and deal with the trauma. It has brought back many memories and has thrown me into a deep depression. Let me explain. No, let me summarize….

As an identical twin, it is always difficult to get individual attention.

One day as a child, I was sick—and my brother wasn’t. He went on to school and I got to stay home. Mom brought me soup and put a cool rag on my forehead. I felt loved. It was not long before I had learned to fake being sick and would be sent home from school for more individual attention.

One day, waiting in the nurse’s office for mom to pick me up, I overheard the principal tell my mother, “He’s not really sick. We know that. But what can we do? It is such a shame, he has so much potential. If only he’d just stay in school.” I felt so ashamed. I thought that was the last day I would equate sickness with love.

I looked for the attention in other ways. I found that I could get praise for drawing and art and was kinda good at it. (so was my brother) I could sing and wanted the solo in the Christmas program, but some girl got the part. I failed at a spelling bee when I couldn’t spell the word “dirt.”

Much of the trauma from my fifth grade is seen in the Princes of Albion. I won’t take the time to tell that story now. I walked away with only the clothes on my back and a pair of blue Converse tennis shoes.

I was never good enough. Never as good as the other guys. Never strong enough. I once cried because I had little arms. In sixth grade, the other boys knocked me down on the playground, took my shoes off and my white socks, then lifted me up and paraded me around the school yard waving my socks like flags.

I intently watched the other boys and saw that they got attention from girls by saying something funny. I had been using my sense of humor to escape bad feelings for a long time and I started being a wise guy/clown in class. People laughed when I told a joke or a good pun. But the laughter never felt like love.

In high school they dumped my blue tennis shoes in the boys’ toilet, put a jock strap over my head, and a punctured can of Right Guard down my gym shorts. At the church youth group, I nominated myself for the Spiritual Council. I got one vote—mine. (They read the results out loud). I did art for the youth department and tried my best. I was in the ninth grade play… but forgot my lines.

But, I didn’t feel loved. I would look at myself in the mirror at home and tell myself how much I hated who I was—until I blacked out. My brother had a girlfriend, but I was too shy. No one loved me. Oh, mom did. But she was mom. I began to seek ways to commit suicide.

That summer the youth group was going to Old Mexico for a missionary trip. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and die. But my brother was going, so I reluctantly went. I remember stepping on the bus. I looked down at my worn out tennis shoes and said, “God, I’m so tired.” That trip we built a building from the foundation to the finished roof. It was hard work. We handed out Bibles in the afternoon. In the evenings we would hold meetings. I was asked to give my testimony. I made one up.

I met an old Mexican who spoke a little English. He asked my name and I told him.  He called me “Jaunisito.” I asked what that meant and he said, “Little Jon with love.” I gave a scoffing laugh and gave him a Bible.

By Thursday of that week I was exhausted. That evening–very late–the Youth Pastor gave a Mission’s message on God’s love for all mankind. I heard him say, “God loves you.” And I broke down. I did not believe him. He was very wrong. I walked to the back and fell to my knees and sobbed.

Then, in my despair, I somehow felt God’s arms enfold me and He whispered in my ear, “It is true. I do love you, Jon.”

…to be continued…

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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