Redemption

redemption

“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:10

I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m a HUGE fan of shows like The Twilight Zone. I’m a sucker for stories that play with the mind, leave you guessing, or give a new twist to a common theme. One of those shows is The Outer Limits.

The theme of one particular episode of TOL was redemption. The story’s main character is a young man who is on the run from police, having just shot former co-workers at an office party and been wounded during a police shootout. The young man was upset at having been fired from his company and sent to prison for committing white-collar crime. While hiding in a diner, he is approached by a stranger who speaks to him about his past, getting him to reconsider what he’s done and to seek repentance. Both the main character and the viewer are left to speculate whether the stranger is from another world or is a guardian angel.

Toward the end of the episode, the stranger is able to show the error of the young man’s ways and how every selfish, criminal act – no mater how benign – has consequences that can drastically affect other people. The stranger then takes on the young man’s wound and identity, allowing the young man to escape the diner and begin a fresh start in life. The narrator closes the show with the following words: “Redemption. A second chance – begins not with a change in circumstance, but with a change of heart.”

I firmly believe that God is a God of second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. His grace is sufficient to overcome any burden or transgression, no matter how often repeated. All that’s needed is a change of heart by the redeemed. King David, no stranger to acts of sin, is “Exhibit A” in this regard.

How many of us have experienced redemptive moments? Spiritually, professionally, socially, have there been times in which you’ve undergone a change of heart?

As a writer, this is also something I’ve contemplated with my characters. Do they experience a changed heart? Do they long for a second chance? Or are they so far gone are they no longer capable of turning themselves around? How does their redemption or their attempted redemption affect other characters? Where does this now take the story?

Redemption is both the title and theme of my latest short story and has been added to my blog. I hope you enjoy it!

The Importance of Place

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There’s something impactful about place. A particular spot or location can have special meaning for us, stirring up our emotions and tugging at the fringes of our soul. And we experience this at an early age. For instance, did you ever have a favorite hiding spot as a child? Was there a particular place you retreated to when you got in trouble?

We never outgrow experiencing the impact of place. For me, it’s driving past the miniature golf course where my wife and I had our first date (yes, I was a big spender!) or the hospitals where my children were born. At each place I have to suppress the lump in my throat that quickly forms.

And when the end draws near, how many of us have experienced a loved one telling us they’re ready to go “home.” There’s an eternal place that calls to us, speaks to us, beckons us.

A college professor of mine, Dr. Ballard, took a group of folks on a tour of the Holy Land one summer. As the host organizer, he had to work closely with their Israeli tour guide, Benjamin. At each stop, Benjamin would give a detailed explanation of the historical and religious significance of each site on the bus and then discharge the group to venture out onto the grounds. However, Benjamin would always remain with the bus – never once accompanying the tour group onto the holy sites. When Dr. Ballard asked Benjamin why this was so, Benjamin replied that he didn’t believe in God and had no interest in any of the sites.

A few stops later, the tour group came to the Western Wall, the only remaining structure of the Temple Mount that housed the Lord’s Temple and arguably the most sacred site in the Jewish faith. Benjamin gave his customary explanation of the wall, and then discharged the group from the bus. This time, however, Dr. Ballard noticed Benjamin along the periphery of the crowd, making his way toward the wall where he stopped and bowed his head.

When they climbed back onto the bus, Dr. Ballard leaned over and said, “Benjamin, I noticed that you made your way to the wall and bowed your head. I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

Benjamin looked out the window and grew quiet for a moment. Finally, he said, “I don’t. But whenever I come to this place, I have my doubts.”

There’s something important about place. As a writer, I try to take into account the importance of place for each of my characters. How does a particular place affect them? Is it positive or negative? Does the place evoke a visceral reaction? Does the place help shape their decisions? Do the characters carry the memory of a certain place?

In your life, what place holds special significance for you?

Finishing Strong

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Have you heard the saying, “It’s not how you start the race, but how you finish that matters”?  If you’ve ever started a major project or initiative, whether in your professional or personal life, you’ve no doubt experienced that moment when you feel as though you’ve hit the proverbial wall. The limits of your talents, not to mention your physical and mental reservoirs, have not only been reached but completely drained. It’s usually at that precise moment when the tiny voice of doubt begins its whisper campaign, advocating compromise or, even worse, quitting. 

So, what do you do when you experience those moments? How do you push through that barrier of doubt and finish strong?

Two biblical characters, Saul and David, offer excellent examples. Saul started with every advantage – he was physically imposing, came from a respected family, and naturally commanded attention. He began his reign as king with zeal and courage. David, on the other hand, was the epitome of the self-made man: youngest child from a poor family of shepherds, he caught the attention of the king and climbed the ladder of success – ultimately succeeding Saul as the royal sovereign and taking the kingdom to new heights of prosperity. 

Yet, each king faced their moment of cruel doubt. Saul caved and sought compromise, establishing a pattern of seeking the path of least resistance. This left him a weak, vacillating leader incapable of finishing the work he’d been selected to accomplish. David, after suffering through a rebellion led by his own son and a public scandal regarding an affair and a murder cover-up, showed a different reaction. With tidal waves of doubt threatening to crumble his moral authority and leadership, David reached inward – he got back to the basics and trusted his Godly instincts. His sought the God of his youth, humbled himself, and relied on his faith to push onward.

So, when you’re at the crossroads of doubt, what do you rely upon? Which voice commands your attention? As you’re running to finish the work before you, what will you do to finish strong?