June 9


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When I read the first draft of Benji’s Portal to my wife and son, they demanded a sequel.  So did my proofreaders, Kim and Candy.  The story demands it, really.  I had a vague idea for the next one, but wasn’t able to come up with a plot line.

After weeks of pondering, I think I finally have a plot!  As of today, the second book in the Travelers series is officially underway.  It’s called Madarach’s Secret, and it’s set two years later.  I’m not ready to divulge too many details yet, but Benji, Lisa, and Madarach come to the aid of the kids on the planet Zeblack.

Now comes the writing!

June 7

What’s Your Ministry?

By their fruits you shall know them. Do they gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? (Mt 7:16)

In the four Gospels, Jesus says many things.  The most common of these is, “love,” and second is “follow me.”  He feeds the poor, and instructs us to do likewise.  He blesses peacemakers, and compliments heathens on their faith.  He tells his disciples that to follow Jesus is to become a servant of all.

This isn’t unique to the Gospels.  The Old Testament is filled with instructions to love justice, help the poor, and be kind to those in need.  Ministry is a Christian word, but the concept of service to others is common also to Judaism and Islam.  In Hinduism, Vivekenanda founded a school of yoga based on finding God through serving those in need.  It is a universal concept.

There is so much need in the world, and many ways of providing service.  From helping an infirm person get groceries, to feeding people in our communities or around the world, to working to right injustice, to protecting this planet that sustains us all, to making peace, there is no shortage of ways to help.

There was a time when I tried to do all of these at once.  Needless to say, I did none of them well.

I also realized that, for me, it was not enough to pay for someone else to do the work.  For me, writing a check does not qualify as God’s work.

That led me to Sri Lanka in 1993, and into two war zones in 1998 and 1999.  It led me to become a member of a team that worked for peace, and which helped stop the shooting for a four year cease-fire.

We didn’t know how to end a war.  Traditional methods had failed.  One team member said, in 1999, “The guerrilla playbook was written forty years ago; the peace playbook hasn’t been written yet.”  We made it up as we went along, looking at what worked and what didn’t.

Later this year, I will return to Sri Lanka to write about what we did there.  We did not end the war, but we did enable the only cease-fire to last more than three months in that 26-year conflict.  Now it’s time to let others know what we did, what worked, what didn’t, and why peace didn’t last.  There are far too many conflicts in the world that have not been ended for us to “hide our light under a bushel.”

I hid from that work for ten years, tormented by nightmares of the things I had seen.  I can’t hide from it anymore.  We did something amazing, and it’s my job to tell the story.

If I may be so bold, my soul aches with the need to explore how what we did can be applied elsewhere.  This is my ministry.

My wife’s ministry is to help people, one at a time, with physical and emotional pain.  Hers is a ministry to individuals.  It is just as important as mine.

Ministry simply means doing for others what we are called or led to do.  It means listening to our hearts and risking doing what we think we can’t.  It means practicing faith by putting Jesus’ instruction into our daily lives.

What’s your ministry?

June 5

Writer’s Block

I’m told it happens to every writer.  You’re sitting at the keyboard, typing away, and the flow just stops.  There are no more words.

I was writing a story called Steve’s Grace.  Steve is an accountant with a wife and two kids.  He’s not a bad guy, but he’s not a good guy either.  He loves his family, but he also cheats on his wife.  Then a four-day “conference” in Las Vegas turns into a five-day debauch, most of which he doesn’t remember.  What he does remember shakes his confidence and threatens his self-identity.  For one thing, there’s no way to hide it from his wife.  Even as he realizes that getting caught is his greatest concern, he realizes how selfish that is.  For the first time in his adult life, he begins to seek a moral compass other than his own.  He hides a Bible under the seat of his car and reads it when he’s alone.  But the message he reads there is that he has strayed far from God’s intended path.

What follows is a slow slide into psychosis that lands him in a hospital with no memory of the past few weeks.  he recovers slowly at first, until treatment causes him to remember everything– including the shocking events that took place in Vegas, which his mind blocked in order to protect him.

That’s where it stopped, about two-thirds of the way through the story.  I know what needs to happen next.  I just can’t get it there.

This has happened before.  That’s why I have a half dozen partially-completed novels in my computer.

This one is particularly frustrating.  I worked on it for weeks.  I think the writing is good.  I think the story and the message are good.  I just can’t seem to finish it right now.

What does one do when they run out of words?  For now, I’ll put the story aside and work on something else.

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June 3

Benji’s Portal

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I wrote Benji’s Portal for my ten-year-old son.  He loved it!  So did my wife, my mother-in-law, and two adult friends.

Benji Haight comes from a gifted family. His parents intuitively know things, and his sister Lisa can sometimes read minds. Benji doesn’t seem to have a gift. But when he discovers an ancient well near their new home, he finds it is a portal to the universe that only he can access. As Benji and Lisa begin to explore, they make friends across the galaxy. They also uncover a family mystery: Are they related to a boy that used the portal a century earlier? Was the boy’s death an accident, or the result of a family feud as old as the town they live in? As the centuries-old feud threatens tragedy once again, Benji and Lisa turn to their parents for help, and exploration becomes a family adventure.

Benji’s Portal is now available in paperback on CreateSpace and Amazon, and in ebook on Smashwords and Kindle.  It’s been approved for wider distribution, and should be on other retailers soon.

P.S. Everyone is asking for a sequel, and I plan to oblige.

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March 29

What Is the Bible?

The Bible is a collection of books written by various authors. Some record in their own words what they experienced. Some recount stories handed down through generations. Some are historical in nature, recounting actual events, while others are allegorical, intended to teach us by example. Many recount spiritual experiences – experiences of God that by definition cannot be explained in mere words. Some of the writers were conservative, while many were more liberal. One of the most beautiful features of the Bible is its diversity of voices.

So it is that we have so many varying descriptions of God: Moses sees a burning bush; Elijah hears a still, small voice; Abraham and Sarah sit down with Him and have dinner. There is no single experience of God, and thus we should not expect our own experiences of Him to conform to those of anyone else.

Yet if the voices are diverse, the message is cohesive. The meaning of the Bible can be summed up in the words of Jesus himself, from Mathew 22:34-40:


When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


From this it is clear that the teaching of the Bible is love. If what you hear taught is not love, it’s not Christianity. If it’s not love, it’s not Jesus.

The diversity of voices suggests something else about the Bible. Some people read it as they would a novel, with a single plot-line. If that is true, then all of what is written leads up to its closing act, the Book of Revelation. Revelation happens to be one of the most frightening and difficult to understand books of the Bible. It appears to tell of the final battle between good and evil, and the end of the world as we know it. It is difficult to make sense of the Bible if the rest of the story exists only to lead to this final apocalypse. And it is difficult to conceive of a novel whose chapters were written by dozens of individual authors.

The Bible is more akin to a collection of short stories, all consistent with the larger theme, but each independent of the other. There are issues and plotlines that recur throughout, and many of the later works rely on the earlier ones. But taken as a whole, the Bible is not a single narrative. It is a collection of works written over the whole history of a people, each with its own point of view.

March 26

When A Friend Dies

Lynn Patterson (right) died suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday night.  He and his family run Red Acre Farm CSA in Cedar City, and we have worked closely with all of them over the years.  Lynn was an amazing man, always helping someone – sometimes us.

I spent yesterday with the family, who were still in shock.  There were plenty of people around, so I was as supportive as I could be, and I did my best to be useful.  I helped put their weekly farm shares together, moved heavy stuff, and went on an unsuccessful quest to find Lynn’s Sawz-all.  (“I can’t believe I can’t just call him up and ask him where he put it!” his wife Symbria said.)

Later, when I got home, my concerns shifted from the family to (as they too often do) myself.  Lynn was three years older than I am.  He never drank,  smoked, or drank coffee  He was thin and active, and ate an astoundingly healthy diet.

I can’t claim any of those attributes.

Recognizing my own mortality caused me to reflect on what I’m doing with my life.  What am I contributing?  Who am I helping?  Have I cleaned up my messes?  Who am I serving with my life?

The answers were unsatisfactory.  I’m an accountant, helping people to “render unto Caesar.”  No matter how you slice it, I help the government collect what people owe them.  Yes, often I am able to get someone a nice refund – but only in the context of the tax law, the purpose of which is to fund the government and its corporate buddies.  And no, I have not yet cleaned up all my messes.

What do I do with this new awareness?  I’m committed to tax work until April 15.  But today, I helped the Pattersons find their son, whose location has been unknown.  (He doesn’t know yet about his father.)  I made an amends that has been lingering for several years.  And I practiced playing “Amazing Grace” on the piano – not for the Pattersons, whose daughter plays piano better than I am ever likely to, but for myself, and if it’s not too corny, for God.

It is said that a person cannot serve two masters.  So long as I serve the government, I am not serving God.  But I have expressed my intention to find a “new employer,” and I believe that will work itself out over the next few months.

In the mean time, what can I do to serve God today?

(Donations for the Patterson family can be made here.)

March 22

The Bible & Me

When I was young, I attended my family’s Protestant church. I went to Sunday school for eight years. I learned the biblical stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus. My teachers were, without exception, kind and thoughtful men and women. They encouraged me to think of others, and to give of my time, energy, and money to help those in need.

As I became a teenager, I found that what I had learned at church offered little guidance. I struggled with issues of self-identity and the acceptance of my peers. I made a number of bad decisions, and entered a dark period of my life that lasted ten years.

When I began to resurface, I was taught to seek out God. At the time, I knew nothing of God. The lessons of my church seemed to make little sense to a young man living in a complex world. My search for answers took me from a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles to a Catholic church in Thailand. My quest led me to obtain a degree in Theological Studies. But even an intellectual understanding of the Bible was not enough to bring me peace.

I began to read the Bible with one question in mind: “What does this book mean for those of us living in the 21st century?” Finally, the answer began to be revealed.

I don’t believe the Bible can be understood without asking ourselves, “Who was this written for, and what was it intended to say to them?” A passage written for a farmer in 1,200 BC, or an exiled professional in 600 BC, or an impoverished and outcast Christian Jew in 75 AD, projects a message tuned to their time and circumstances. It’s not surprising, for example, that Matthew, who wrote to the Jews, has Jesus preaching the Beatitudes on the mountain, invoking the image of Moses. Luke, on the other hand, who was writing to the Greeks, has Jesus preaching the same sermon on the plain, invoking the image of equality. Both were trying to communicate the same Gospel message to a particular audience. Both chose imagery that would move that audience closer to faith. But the Jews and the Greeks had different frames of reference, so the authors used different imagery. Had Matthew written for us in the 21st century, instead of the Sermon on the Mount we might well be reading the Sermon at Bunker Hill!

If I want to understand the Bible, I must ask myself what it meant to the men and women who wrote it, and what they were telling their audience in its time and situation. Trying to take literally words written for shepherds of 3,000 years ago can lead to absurd results. But the message intended for those shepherds is meant equally for us. To find it, I need to look beyond the wording to the ideas and principles of that message.

In recent years, I have been struck by the increasing anger as people discuss the Bible’s role in our society. Some suggest that it must be taken literally, and should be adopted as a legal foundation. Others suggest it is outdated, fictional, and has no role at all in modern life.

Both views are extreme. I prefer a more middle path, based on what we know about the Bible, and a little common sense. If what I have written offends you, I apologize. My most sincere hope is that this book will bring new understanding to those who, like me, have struggled with what the Bible says and how it can work in our lives.

March 21

Now Mobile-Friendly!


I don’t know why people would read a blog from their phone.  Their eyes must be better then mine!  Nevertheless, Google wants all sites to be mobile-friendly, and what Google wants, Google gets.  So, as of today, my blog is mobile-friendly.