Monday, December 15, 2014

One Young Man at a Book Signing

This past Saturday, I had a book signing for my novel, The River Hideaway. It was a very good day. There were so many highlights in that first hectic two hours, that if I list them I will surely leave people out.

I signed many copies & in some cases below my name, I also signed them as, 'Coach.' Parents, and in one case a sister, bought my book for a Christmas present for men who I once coached in basketball, when they were boys, aged ten to twelve. One of my favorite players, Stephen Wolff, came in with his girl friend. He shared stories with my wife about what he recalls playing ball for me.


There was a lady that my family holds dear in our hearts, for all the love & care she gave to my mom in those last years consumed with dementia. Tiffany, you are an angel and you hold our families deepest thanks always.


My PR angels, Sharon & Wylene, for continually pushing this little story to everyone you can reach. Robbie, for showing up once again & taking pictures of the event as only you can.

My old friend, Gary Barbee, who came from Pinehurst. Thanks for providing the comedic relief. 

A teacher came that taught me typing in the ninth grade. The ninth grade was the first year I was bused to another school to achieve real integration. Several of my classmates of that time came by Saturday.

More times than not the books were purchased by people for Christmas presents. How do I value that? To be a part of Christmas in homes across the region.

I saw people I had not seen in nearly forty years. But there was one sale that day that resonates the deepest. A young man approached  the table & asked me very directly, "Why did you write this book?"

I shared with him my reasons...my inspirations.

He nodded and said, "I will buy one."

As I was preparing to sign it for him he offered, "I was in the parking lot & I heard two people talking about your book and I just felt like the Lord wanted me to come in here and see you."

He was looking at me eye to eye as he said this. I got goosebumps or as some of us refer to them, God-bumps. We talked a little while longer and I told him that the book has a spiritual theme in it & that it begins with an elderly man having a vision from God.

I thanked him for the encouragement he offered to a no name author, with a small press, struggling to get the word out for this story. I know God is with Julie and I, wherever this goes. But at times I also doubt, worry, & struggle with the things I can't control.

Maybe that is why God reminded me what he could do with one person.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Relections

Yesterday, as I watched a Christmas movie, the tree beautifully decorated by me. Okay, by Julie but I just wanted to see if you were with me. My peaceful, grateful state of mind and heart led me to pick up my phone and send the following text to Julie. Thank you for making Christmas time happy.

Christmas is a mixed bag of emotions isn't it? There have been many lonely, hurting Christmas times for me and probably for all of you. Some are experiencing it right now. The loss of loved ones. Broken relationships, dreams unfulfilled, heartache, & loneliness. All of these seemingly amplified for the season. There were many years that beginning with my birthday in early November I longed for the resources to be able to pack away to a isolated cabin in the mountains & not return till after New Years Day. The Christmas of excitement and anticipation of my youth had transitioned to a time of year I truly hated. Many years I put my energy into trying to persevere for a small child's sake. Some years the darkness of depression was so great that I came up woefully short.

This is a Christmas where two of my biggest dreams come to pass.  This is Julie & my third Christmas together. Our second as husband and wife, and so very much more. I use to dream and wonder will my novel be under someone's Christmas Tree next year. I will wonder no longer. That will happen in many homes. One thing I have understood long before I turned the wheel of my life over to my Father is that I know without question that it is the simple things in life that are truly what matters. It is not the mansion on the hill. It is not gifts of the latest fashion and technology trends.  It is what and who we hold dear in our hearts. My favorite scripture even during the years I rarely picked the Bible up has been and still is, Luke 12:34. For where your heart is... there lies your treasure as well.

Teaching the word is not something I am equipped to do. So forgive my uneducated interpretation of this scripture... Don't get bogged down in the things of this life that are just so much fluff. Hold on to what is dear. Those that you love. Those that you can encourage. Enjoy the simple things of life. They really are more than all things that glitter.

Yesterday, I met an older man at the gym. He shared with me that he was at a diner he often visits for breakfast. There was a young girl who often waits on him. He could tell she was upset and he asked why. He did not share all the details of their conversation but he did tell me that she told him that she has a small child and a husband in prison. He listened and he hugged her and told her he loved her. He showed her real Christianity.

I have a dear friend who has struggled gracefully with cancer this year. He is now cancer free. He was encouraged by many and he shared that being an encourager is the greatest gift of all.

So for many of us this is a great time of year. But many will be going through difficult times. If we truly believe that God resides inside of us, let us find some way to encourage those that are lonely, hurting, lost. Let's don't pass them by in search of the perfect gift that does not really exist.

I share this last thing with you not to brag on myself for a simple text. But I would be willing to wager that in the years to come that my wife might not recall the gifts I gave her this Christmas but I bet you she will remember the text I sent.

Think about it... 

Merry Christmas to all of you. May God bless and comfort you during this season. He really does loves you.





Sunday, October 26, 2014

7 Hour Coffee With Julie



Two years ago my life changed with a simple invitation for coffee. We had talked about getting together for coffee previously, but I never followed through. This woman I met at church was several years younger. She was 38 and I was one week shy of turning 56. I know. This is the part where you roll your eyes and say, "Sure, younger woman. That is just what all men want."

But to me this was a lot of age difference. Do you do what I often do? You doom things as a failure before you even get to the place to find out what is in store. Each time we talked the conversations were so easy. You know that feeling like you have talked for an hour when it seems not even ten minutes have passed? It was that way each time.

I told one person, my little sister Katie,  that I was meeting a young lady at Hugh MacRae Park for coffee. I followed this up with one of my astute questions.  "I don't know if coffee is just coffee or is it something else?" She lightened the mood with a quote from one of our favorite movies, Goodwill Hunting, by Matt Damon.

Great, or maybe we could get together and just eat a bunch of caramels. When you think about it, it's just as arbitrary as drinking coffee. 

I think after that she said, "Just go have coffee." I comforted myself by thinking that coffee was probably just coffee and someone wanting to talk about God with me. There is no way this young, pretty, genuine, warm, woman had an interest in me.



We met at the Park by the pond area. Early in the conversation she told me something from my Facebook Page. She had been snooping and I called her out on it. She smiled and said, "Yes, I did. I wanted to know what your friends said about you." Well, this was more than coffee or eating a bunch of caramels.

Three hours later she asked what time it was and I looked at my watch. It was one o'clock. We both thought that maybe thirty minutes had passed. Coffee led to lunch. It was near five that afternoon when we parted ways. Today it is referred to with a smile as the, "Seven hour coffee."

I had a lot of failed relationships in my past. Some that I walked away from and some that walked away from me. A couple of them hurt deeply. Horace Hilton once told me that rejected love was among the most difficult event one could know in this life. I'm certain that as a minister for decades he saw much of it.

Sometimes in the quiet of night as Julie sleeps soundly, I will look at her and I can't believe that God sent someone into my life that not only loves me when all is well. I have had that many times. She loves me when that dark hole starts pulling at me. She fights for me. She sees more good in me than I ever do. 

And as I whisper my thanks to God. I thank Him also for the broken relationships that I thought I needed so badly. I thank Him for the heartache, as difficult as it was. Because Julie, exceeds all the dreams I ever had in a woman. And that is no small feat.


Happy Anniversary Baby. October 26 means as much to me as April 6 does, maybe even more. I got out of the way and took a chance at coffee. I could not be happier with that decision.

Love,
Billy

I have become a fan of late of the music of Rascal Flatts. This one sums up this little blog better than I could.
















 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Raw Honesty

 Mark 9:24 "I do believe; help my unbelief."

This is a portion of one of my favorite scriptures. The man is requesting of Jesus to help his son. Imagine that for a moment. You want your faith to be strong but in that moment he is real, vulnerable, desperate, & most importantly, he is brutally honest. In one moment, he says he believes & then quickly contradicts that statement.

One word comes to mind for me when I read this passage. Raw. The man displays raw honesty to Jesus. Did he get criticized for a lack of faith?  Is there anything in the scriptures to show Jesus was even mildly disappointed in him? No, and Jesus delivered his son.

I believe that being honest with God, even if we are weak, angry, disillusioned- take your pick is what he desires of us. Besides, can any of us fool God? Can we hide where he can't see?

Anger has been such a part of my life for so long that while I have made strides there are times when I go back to what I know.Last week, our lives were interrupted with a Sunday, 3:31 a.m. phone call telling us Sydny, our beloved little black, chihuahua mix, had passed away after what was deemed a successful surgery. My wife, Julie, and I cried, we prayed, we sought answers, we grieved.  We still are grieving.

I had prayed so diligently over that little guy. I even anointed his little head with oil. Many others joined us in prayers. I spent a significant amount of money trying to ensure he would be with us a few more years. Just that morning he was chasing the annoying neighbor's cat off the porch. It was so hard to accept how quickly he went. We blamed ourselves. What if I would have taken him to the vet the first sign of him throwing up? Julie, was doing a side job for a friend. She blamed herself for not coming home sooner. In the end I believe there were other things going on with him that were not so evident at the time. In short, there was nothing we could have done.

It was around Day 3 that I became angry. I was angry at God for not hearing me. My wife needed me to console her. I tried but the problem is for so many years when pain comes I crawl inside of my pain and in my anger I shut the world out. It pains me to say this is who I am. As long as life is moving forward with the normal ups and downs I am pretty good. I keep my faith, my hope, but when I hurt deeply I revert back to what I know. 

It is not as if the anger fixes anything but it seems to pull me through. Lashing out at God both in loud and silent ways. The silent way was to forget morning devotion. Forget praying because my faith was spent. 

It has been both a blessing and a curse that I met Jesus on a dark road one night. He showed up unannounced & spoke. The blessing in that is that regardless of how far I ran away from him at times, I knew him to be real. There was no escaping what transpired that September night, in 1976. The curse is my life with him that began with such a powerful, supernatural moment, is I know there to be no limit to his power. So, I want him to use it more frequently.

One thing I am certain about in all this is that God is not angry at me because I was mad with him. I believe he would rather hear our raw honesty above all else. Now, he certainly wants me to break this behavior pattern and I do as well. But so far I have not been able to live the Casting Crowns song, Praise You in the Storm. 

"Praise You In This Storm"

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away 


Pain will surely come again to me. You can't protect yourself from it. I know because I have tried. I have a dug a grave for three dogs in my life and each time I feel like a part of me went down that hole with them. This was the first one in almost twenty years. My choice would be to never do it again. I made that decision when I buried Pete, my black lab mix, on Christmas Eve night, in 1994.


My hope one day in this walk is that when pain & heartache come that the first thing I will do is to praise him in the midst of it. I will press into him. I surely have a long way to go as evident by the last week.

Many of you have referenced the Rainbow Bridge, of our beloved pets crossing over. I sure hope that is the case. I can't be certain but I want to believe that Pete & Sydny are playing together, and I will see them again, this time forever.



















Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Life (with a portion of Jesus on the side)



 
Recently, I heard a minister say that we want to live our lives with a portion of Jesus on the side. Wow!

We choose, decide, live our life our way. We say our prayers at night, attend church when it fits in our schedule, make choices we know are wrong, while asking God to bless them, read the Bible on occasion & if we stumble across scriptures that don't coincide with our lifestyle we conveniently look for something a little more uplifting, or we try to change Jesus to a more modern version for our comfort. Cherry picking the scriptures is the term my wife often uses.


If I were to ask you what is the most important word in the scripture Matthew 6:33.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. What would be your answer?

The key word for me is first. I did not want to do that for most of my life & I surely fail to do it each day now.What I have learned & know to be true is God has no interest in being second place or less. It does not mean He does not love us, listen to us, but this behavior is as old as the most ancient scriptures. Idols in our life do not work. And I believe anything we place in front of Him is an idol. It does not have to be something evil. It could be a good thing that you care more about than God. Take your pick.

I am certainly no teacher of the scriptures. But you know what I believe is at the root of our living our life, asking God to bless us & grant us good things, while chasing what we desire? Cause deep down we don't think our Father desires good things for us. I was that way. But, God, I want this woman, this dream, this job, & you probably don't want me to have it. And you know that is probably right. He probably does not want us to have all our dreams and desires. Maybe, just maybe, He wants to give you different but better.

Last week I was interviewed on Dove Radio by Dale Miller. I shared that the two great desires of my heart were the right woman & a publishing contract. Last year both were granted within five months of each other but only after I let go of the wheel  the previous year & said, "Whatever the path You want me to walk I will do it." Dale followed this up with such powerful words. He said how we think if we do it God's way it will mean less when in all actuality it means more.

During a very depressed time in my life a doctor shared these scriptures. Matthew 7:9-11. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10“Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to 
those who ask Him! 

I  heard the words but I did not allow them to take root in my heart. There is still that part in most of us that struggle to believe our Father wants to lavish upon us. In all truthfulness, I am struggling right now with that. So many closed doors recently, while I try to find the patience to wait on God to open the right door.

Easy all the time this life is not. But regardless of our circumstances I am going to seek first the kingdom of God, & His righteousness, & when I fail, I will go back to this & start over.


"The Christian life is so difficult because we seek God's blessings while we live in our own will! We would be glad to live the Christian life according to our own liking."

Absolute Surrender  by Andrew Murrey.

  Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever



Sunday, August 3, 2014

God Smiling

I had one of those moments last night when you know God knows what it is in store for you & is probably smiling.



During a frustrating time for me this past week, my wife, Julie, shared what she thought I should be doing, & even shared the scriptures of Gideon & his story in the OT, (Judges). I was frustrated for doors that I thought surely would be open & have proven not to be. She told me I should rest and allow God to open the doors He chooses and that until I got out of the way & rested these doors would not open.

We went to Lifepoint Church yesterday evening & guess what the message was based on? The exact same thing my wife had been telling me all week. Guess what scriptures the message was based on? Gideon, Judges, I shook my head as my wife smiled beautifully at me, with the confidence that she was in tune with the Holy Spirit, even if her husband was not at that moment.

And then I heard my Father whisper something to me. I have told Julie I have not heard his voice this year that I know of. I mean that supernatural whisper where you know it is Him. I share this carefully & I am never one to say God said this. God told me to do this.

Let's be real. It is far to easy for us to want something so bad that we convince ourselves that God has spoken to us. I love reading Mark Batterson. He often alludes to the inverted gospel. The gospel where we chase and do what we want & then ask God to come in behind us & bless it.

I have surely done it. My life drastically changed when I began praying earnestly in any pursuit. God, open the doors you would have open & close the ones you would have closed. Regardless, of how much I desire them to be open.

God really does have our best interests at heart & it took me over five decades of life to trust that & even then as in last week I mess up. I want to force things to happen. Do it under my own steam.

So here I am God. I will rest & wait on you.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

They Gonna Hate Anyway

Recently, a friend told me how this person in their life talks down to them in the company of others, & behind their back. A third person noticed this behavior & asked my friend why this person would do that. My friend did not bash the offender. They handled the situation with grace & forgiveness.

I was lifting weights this morning and listening to Mary J. Blige. (yes i do on occasion) The song "Work That" was playing & the lyrics in bold below brought the conversation back to light. Don't we all have or have had people in our life that live these lyrics? It is really sad because most the time they lack the honesty to recognize their behavior.


Let em get mad
They gonna hate anyway
Don't you get that?
Doesn't matter if you're going on with their plan
They'll never be happy
Cause they're not happy with themselves 


People often quote John 8:32  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Obviously, Jesus is the truth. But a truth I believe we must reach is the ability to be honest with ourselves. Only then can we truly experience what God has for us. He surely will not force us. He sends whispers, people, maybe even bolts of lightning, but still it is our decision to look inside. We have to be willing, (gasp) to be wrong.

I have more faults than I have time in this life to write about. But I have something special inside of me I would not trade for silver or gold. I can look inside. I can be wrong. I can apologize when I am. Maybe I learned that in reverse from my dad.  

This morning, Julie & I, were praying before she went to work as we try to do everyday. I prayed about many things but I thanked God for our marriage. For the gift we have in each other. I thanked him specifically that we both apologize easily and grant forgiveness freely. I don't know in a marriage what could be more important.

Think about the lyrics to the song. Sometimes you just have to back away if possible. Maybe it is a work situation & you can't. Just try to recognize that it is more about them than it is anything to do with you.

I can get bogged down with people like this. But in time I make it back to being grateful for the people I have in my life who share any triumph I have as if it were their very own.

They'll never be happy
Cause they're not happy with themselves 


There is hope though for these people. They can be happy with themselves & others. Because the truth will indeed set us free. Make us new people. A new creation. I am getting close to 60 years of age. I have run the streets till dawn. Many high flying experiences. Done things that if I wrote the truth it would be considered fiction.

And the truth is I am happier right now than ever. More at peace than ever. It is not even close. Julie receives a lot of the credit from others & from me. And rightfully so. But it goes far deeper than her. If I would have not reached that moment where I looked inside truthfully and said, "God, I am tired. Tired of doing it my way. Chasing my dreams. I will walk the path you lay out." If not for that she would have never entered a relationship with me. She is a woman of God and he comes first. And I would have it no other way.

So when people can't be happy for you, or they need to prop themselves up by standing on the backs of others. Just realize it is not about you. It is about them.  And you can't fix it.





Monday, May 19, 2014

If Churches Meant the Songs They Sing

This past weekend we attended Beach Blast in Myrtle Beach. Our main reason for going was the four of us love the musical group, Jesus Culture. They did not disappoint. They don't just perform. They worship and with that worship they pull down the Holy Spirit.

One song in particular, Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here,  really made me think. Check these lyrics out.

 Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord


What if churches not only sang this song but literally meant it?


But I am pretty certain we must really mean we welcome the Holy Spirit, and not on our terms but God's. We might have to let go of ritual, tradition, and our comfort levels. What a concept if churches were led by the Holy Spirit and not just on occasion. Not your minister, elders, the ones that give the most money, the ones that complain the most, but a church really plugged in and willing to not only invite the Holy Spirit but to give free reign. Is it possible? I believe so but some hard truths would have to be dealt with. I can think of a few.

Church staff would have to trust God and not their salary provided by the church. That is tough. They have families to feed as well, right? What about music? The very way many of us express worship the most. Sadly, it is as big a divider in church as anything I can think of. The music is too loud. The music is too tame. I don't like hymns. I only want hymns. We have traditional and contemporary services because of music. In essence we create two churches within in one church. Is that really what Jesus wants for His church?

I love my church but I struggle with it. We talked about implementing changes years ago. I never forget one  person saying, "There are two types of churches, relevant and irrelevant. We have to decide what we want to be." Years later we still have not decided. Sadly, that is a decision in itself.

Many years ago I was told this joke.

It is Sunday morning and a man who had to much to drink the night before is sitting on the sidewalk. A nice car comes to a stop beside him and the man driving asks, "Sir, could you direct us to the Church of God?"

The man scratches his chin, deep in thought. "The Methodist Church is two blocks east, but the Jones' family owns that. The Baptist Church is one block west but the Smith family runs that. Mister, come to think of it I don't really know of a church God owns around here."

A long time ago the most spiritual man I ever knew, Horace Hilton, left a large church, to come Shepherd a church with fifty members. It was a traditional Presbyterian Church. He came with a message of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Pretty radical message for that time. I asked him once, "How many members left?"

He responded. "About half stayed and half left." The church grew dramatically because he was following the Holy Spirit. He did not get  hung up over people who got angry and left, and yes took their tithes with them. He trusted the vision that he was shown. Soon, that little church was the most relevant church in the area.  

Think about it.


 Holy Spirit you are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord










Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Foundation & Getting it Right

I am in my mid fifties and I have been married for a little over one year. Like many of us I had a string of failed relationships behind me. I had spent quite a bit of time alone in the past few years and I reached a place where I told God, "I don't want to be alone the rest of my life but if it is not something you are on board with I don't want any part of it because it will fail like all the others." I actually meant that when I said it. Because, let's be honest, don't we often charge down the path of our choosing and then ask God to bless it after the fact? I'm not saying he can't or won't, but it took me a long time to realize it is much wiser to bring him in earlier rather than later.



My wife, Julie, and I met at church where I jokingly say she barged across the front of the church and introduced herself and life was never the same. We had that wonderful initial mutual attraction where your emotions run wild and you miss that person the moment they depart. We even had a supernatural moment where we knew that God was on board if we chose to go forward. It was still our choice. We could have chosen to hang on to past hurts and future fears.

We prayed a lot together. We also shared unpleasant things about our past, about ourselves. That is hard isn't it? You are falling for this person and you don't want to give them pause. I often said to her. "Let's put all our chips on the table. Let's find out early if there is a deal breaker."

So that was our foundation. Honesty, not just about the good stuff we like to share, but the stuff we still have scars from. The things that we are still uncertain about.  By choosing to do this something almost as wonderful as falling in love with each other occurred.  By sharing those difficult things we found a safe place with each other and we helped heal each other of past hurts.

I am no one to counsel anyone. But even I know honesty is the only good way to build anything worthwhile. Push through that fear of hiding things, of ignoring that little voice in your spirit that keeps you from having peace.

I have written about a foundation, a beginning, so maybe many of you might think that this could not apply to you. I beg to differ, because I believe in a God of second chances. I believe you can choose to start over and not with someone else. You can choose to build the foundation fresh, even if it means first taking a sledgehammer to the previous foundation.

You have to be honest. You have to be able to handle truth. And the best advice I can give is when it feels like it is going astray, get down on your knees together and pray. God bless all of you.

 http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610091361




https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBillyBeasley





Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie, and one spoiled rotten black Chihuahua mix, Sydny. He has lived in this area of southeastern North Carolina his entire life and many years ago was among the very first students to be bused to another school to achieve real integration.
He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘hearts have no color’.
The River Hideaway is his first published work of fiction.



Saturday, May 3, 2014

Heaven is for Real


I saw Heaven is for Real last night and I continue to be encouraged with how well Christian based movies are doing at the box office. The theater was close to capacity last night, which considering it was beginning the third week I found impressive.

I enjoyed the movie and I won't play movie critic here, though we are all movie critics, aren't we? Some are just wise enough to get paid to do it.

The part that intrigued me the most was how the same people who prayed for the little boy's recovery, also found it difficult when he began speaking about visiting Heaven. I think it removed them from their comfort zones. It is easy for us to discount what we have not experienced personally. I have heard people say they are comfortable with their church, or their particular denomination, and its routine. I wonder did Jesus die on a cross so we could be comfortable?

It is also resonated with me with an event in my own life. I have shared previously about my Damascus Road bright light moment when I was a troubled young man. I was dramatically Born Again.

Many people questioned what happened, though my life turned immediately. A story like mine, turning from a life of drugs, alcohol abuse, crime, and promiscuity, I thought the church people would receive me with open arms, and some did. Many did not. They turned their nose up at me. They balked at a story of a young man walking a street one night, and hearing, and experiencing intimacy with God. His life changing with the blink of an eye. Maybe they did not understand because it did not happen to them. They questioned whether it was real. They questioned whether I was sincere. Maybe living on probation with a suspended sentence hanging over me, maybe, just maybe I was doing it to fool the law. Secretly, I was probably still distributing pounds of marijuana. 

Now, I always thought there was a God. I didn't believe until that night He met me as I walked gazing at the stars with no destination in mind. But in my worse days I would have never tried to involve God in a ruse like that. Justify my life, sure. But proclaim to be Born Again just to hide drug dealing. No, even I was not that bad. And, I was plenty bad.

They were uncomfortable with the change in my life. Just as many of the same people were uncomfortable with my Mom, who at the age of 53, a good church attending christian woman, also had her Damascus Road moment and was dramatically Born Again. They liked her better, were more comfortable with her being like them.

I was a young man then, and I did not realize how much courage it might have taken for a outstanding member in the church to say, "I never really knew Jesus Christ. I was too prideful. I thought I was better than other people." She changed as much as anyone I know. It did not matter that she did not have a bad life behind her to turn from. She went from a comfortable Sunday school teacher to being totally in love with a Savior. 


Maybe in hindsight it was not difficult for her to be that honest. Maybe she experienced something so powerful, so life rearranging, that she could not have kept quiet about it if she tried. She knew the voice she heard when she was so broken was real. Just as I knew it was Jesus Christ who met a lost young man on a street one night. And, yes, just as a little boy visited Heaven.

The world of Facebook has many drawbacks but one great thing is I have been blessed to reconnect with people of my youth. One in particular is Nicky Pipkin. I told him this story once of what occurred to me after we lost touch. He listened about how the good religious people reacted to my conversion. He said something that I have never forgotten.

"Maybe them not believing says more about their life than anything to do with yours."




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Saturday, April 12, 2014

One Last Time


 


It has been a long but productive week. The file has been sent in its entirety one and hopefully last time. I worked till 2 this morning, (I am a morning person these days but not that early). It was a great feeling to turn the page & see it blank. As in no more corrections or places to trim the story a bit as suggested by the Publisher, which helps trim the price a bit. Julie & I prayed over it one more time before I hit the send button. I hope this does not come off as egotistical. I have no illusions of being a tenth the writer of someone like Pat Conroy. (my personal favorite) But I do love the story of The River Hideaway. There are parts all these years later that I get emotional about while reading. Have to tune that out when you are editing though. 

I was asked before the Publisher offered a contract. Who will read this book? Good question. I think people who are interested in that era of civil issues, though I want this clear from the beginning this is not an historical fiction piece. People interested in racial division, which sadly still exists. People that don't mind a spiritual element in a story as long as they are not being preached at. (I am the last person qualified to preach to anyone.) People that love a good drama, with mystery and love in it, but neither being the dominant theme of the story. 

One more week and hopefully it will be available for order next Sunday on mom's birthday. I wish you could be here to witness it. But I have to believe that God is allowing  you to peak over the balcony. I miss you but I will see you again. And that is my promise.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Blog on Oak Tree Press (The River Hideaway)




The River Hideaway is a story that is based in the area of Wilmington, North Carolina. The time line is 1967. This is a work of fiction and all the characters exist only in my heart and mind. Still, I could not have written this story without growing up in the South during the time that I did.

I was a product of the first year of forced busing in our area to achieve real integration in our schools. My classmates and I left our predominately white junior high as eighth graders in 1971 armed with the knowledge that we would be the kings of our school after summer vacation. Shortly before our ninth grade began we were informed that we would be bused downtown to what had been two predominately black schools that now would serve as ninth grade centers. It was a clash of cultures that proved interesting to say the least.




Wilmington, NC, like much of the south was a place of much civil unrest during my youth. We were on national news when a curfew was installed because of rioting. There was also the famous Wilmington 10 trial. 
As a boy, I was very close with my Grandmother, Ruth Rogers, and had a more distant relationship with my Grandfather, Jack Rogers. They ran a local fish market until I was nine years old.
We were watching racial riots play out on television when my grandfather said something I hold dear to this day. He was not an educated man but looking back as we watched white and black fight over skin color he said a simple but very wise thing. "Good and bad and all. Good and bad in black. Good and bad in white." I did not realize then what gives me great pride today. My Grandfather delivered fish to black neighborhoods and sat and ate with his customers during a time that was not done. My mom said that she truly believed that Granddad saw no color. My grandparents have long ago departed this earth. But there was a time when I was in the work force as a young man and I would cross paths with an elderly black person and as we shared stories I would mention the fish market. It warms me to this day to recall the endearing voice used when someone would say, "Mr. Jack was your Granddaddy!"

I also recall during that time of unrest  recall sitting in the Southern Baptist Church my family attended and thinking shouldn't this be where we bring our differences? Isn't God's love what could heal all of this ugliness? I did not dare voice that. I knew I was in a place where they would rail against drinking a beer while telling racial jokes in the parking lot. My mom once shared a story that a choir from another area visited our church. The choir contained a black girl. People left and that included some of the deacons of the church.

The idea for the book came to me while watching one of my favorite movies, "A Time to Kill," with my best friend Jack Humphrey. At some point I said to him what if this rich white kid and a black kid meet on a basketball court back in the 60's and become best friends? Many years later here we are. 

One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Samuel 16:7. ...People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

One of my favorite characters in The River Hideaway has a belief that 'Hearts have no color.' I concur wholeheartedly.
It is safe to say racial issues have intrigued me for a long time. Next is a blurb of The River Hideaway. 
The year is 1967 and Wilmington, NC, like much of the nation is embedded in racial turmoil. Bret Marin and Money Wilkins, two boys on the cusp of manhood meet on a basketball court where each earns a measure of respect that leads to an improbable friendship.

Bret’s life is constructed around his love for his little brother Alex and hatred of their cruel wealthy father. Money Wilkins possesses no external luxuries but thanks to his proud black father, Clarence, a builder of houses and lives, he has the greater riches. When his beautiful sister Teke visits it sets off a series of events no one could foresee. The most chilling being the dark night the Klan appears. 



Monday, March 31, 2014

Content

Content is the word I woke too on this beautiful morning. It is very difficult for us to be content isn't it? I know it is for me. Maybe it is a complex situation we face, or maybe the desires of our heart are not being met in the time frame we think it should be.

Julie and I are approaching our one year anniversary. I was single for a long time, as she was and one of the fun things was merging two households into one. Even now I find myself longing not for any mansion but a slightly bigger house. That may never happen, or it might be a long time if it indeed does occur. How do I approach the issue today? Do I spend time longing for something down the road or do I accept and be thankful for where I am today? One thing is for certain and that is if I focus on the intangible things of tomorrow I will not enjoy and be fruitful today. 

There is always the possibility that it is not a bigger home we need but rather maybe we need to give away or discard items we have held on to for way too long. There was a period in my life that due to my poor choices my son and I moved four times in less than one year. I surely could not afford movers. Being forced to load and haul things multiple times sure did reduce the clutter in my life. There were many things that you realized were not worth the effort to hang on too.

I have a big date approaching and I have worked diligently on my end to ensure the project is complete on time. Still, I am wary that it will occur because other people are involved. Last night I came to the reality that I have wasted too much time worrying. It is time for me to be content. Maybe the date I had written in stone is not the best one. Maybe God has a better date. Maybe he just wants me to be a man of my word and release it fully to him. Am I the only one that says, "I release this problem, project, etc to you Father" and then start worrying about it moments later, therefore reclaiming it?

My goal in my walk with our Savior is to live Philippians 4: 11, 12.  

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

I researched definitions for the word content. I will share just one. It when the word is used as an adjective.

In a state of peaceful happiness I will take that over anything material this world has to offer.






Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Dream Never Changed

As I write this blog this morning there is one month to go until the release of The River Hideaway. There are tasks yet to be done. Choosing a book cover, one more read through for editing purposes.   I wonder how many times I have read, rewrote, and edited this book. Maybe twenty times, maybe twenty five over the years?

I guess I should be nervous. I have promotion tasks to carry out and I will have to address certain groups. Aw, public speaking, very excited about that. :( I sure hope the audience can understand extreme southern dialogue.

The truth is I am for the most part peaceful about it all. Don't get me wrong I have certainly had my moments of anxiety and sleepless nights during this process but it reaches a point where you have to believe and follow what you know to be true. I have to own the words that I speak. They can't be words derived only from my mouth but from my heart.

Many times I have lifted this book up to the King of Kings and said, "This book is yours."  I have to believe that just as I believe after all the years of pursuing this dream that this door was opened not by Oak Tree Press but from my Father. It didn't happen until I let go of the wheel of this life. He knew I meant it when I said, "I want this dream but if you are not walking through the door with me, close it."

The success of The River Hideaway will not be defined by how many books are sold. It would be great if it did well enough to open the doors for the four other manuscripts that reside on my computer, as well as others that right now are only an idea. I would love to write full time and never punch a clock again. But if it sells one thousand copies and that is all that ever happens with my writing I will earnestly say, "Thank you, God."

One of the people I shared the early news with was my nephew, little brother, and friend, Paul Atkinson. I knew he would understand how much it meant. He is a gifted musician, songwriter and he knows what art means to him and to others that have something in our hearts that we have to get out in some way shape or form. He also put it in a perspective that I had not yet thought of. He said the book was a piece of me that would be here long after I departed from this world. http://www.reverbnation.com/paulatkinson


This journey has never been about fame or fortune. My dream has not changed from the first day I went down this path in 1997 with an ill fated first draft of a story that will never be published in its original format but helped me learn how to put words on paper. It also served as tremendous therapy but that is another story for another day.

My dream has always been to be walking on the beach I love so dearly and see someone reading and enjoying a story crafted from my heart. It is that simple for me.