Coda: My Foreword

Coda: My Foreword

gangplankI’m at the edge of a gangplank once again, this time about to take the step of publishing The Hardness of the Heart.  Before I step off, I feel the need to publish a fitting farewell to The People of the Sign.

By definition a Coda must be distinct from the work that precedes it.  This Coda is, as it was the  intended foreword to the sequel, which by the way is creating waves, even before I take the proverbial step into the icy water below. As the blog at this link explains, I have been honored with a much better foreword, by Laura Urista, managing editor of the Plain Truth Magazine.

Naturally I hope you’ll pre-order The Hardness of the Heart, if you haven’t yet, but in the meantime, here is the Foreword I wrote that was left on the cutting room floor. With a small measure of pride, in that I was very pleased with the piece,  and gratefully, given the role music has played in my life and my work, I present it here, as a fitting Coda to The People of the Sign.  I hope you enjoy it.

Haydn's Sonata in G Major Coda

From time to time, the journey that began in The People of the Sign has covered events such as a miraculous end to a high-speed chase or divine healing: evidence, to me, of God’s existence and involvement in my life. Yet they are not presented as an attempt to convince the reader. Divine intervention is, in my opinion, a deeply personal matter, not intended as a sign to others.

God is not interested in wowing humanity with indisputable signs of His Sovereignty. His creation is enough! But if He were, He would choose other ways to do so than the personal experiences documented in this book.

Nor is it my expectation that you read this account without questioning what I’m saying. One reason I’ve included names, dates and places is to provide the reader with as many relevant facts as I can, without negatively impacting the flow and readability of the story. Still, as objective as I might try to be, I’m telling a story and have selected the events and presented them from my perspective.

In doing so, I have endeavored not to embellish or exaggerate at any point. I attest to both the integrity of the story as a whole and the essential truthfulness of each detail. Subjective observations or speculations are identified as such, to allow the reader to proceed with a minimum of incredulity. Perhaps the reader will be able to maintain an open mind in the face of what must sometimes seem like an unbelievable set of circumstances, and remain objective enough to form an educated opinion on whatever has kept them reading this far.

Whatever you may hold of my stories about the 120-mph car chase; the supernatural result of anointing; the long, (I believe) Spirit-led escape from an incurable DNA-based chronic and crippling disease; or even my golf hypnosis story, they are included because to me they were undeniably real. I questioned them as they were happening and validated their actuality to my doubting-Thomas-style satisfaction. 1

I did so with a healthy dose of skepticism, based in my belief that God not only allows but commands us to “prove me now herewith.” 2

1. Thomas doubted that Christ had risen, and asked to put his finger in the hole in his side. He was given the chance to do so.  The story is found in John 20:19-29.

2. Malachi 3:10.

 

A Relentless Search For Truth

A Relentless Search For Truth

Dear Reader,  I’m hereby announcing a delay on the publication of the sequel to the namesake of this blog, The Hardness of the Heart.

 The Hardness of the HeartWhat is taking me so long?

One reason is that it is painful work walking barefoot across the strewn rubble and glass created by the shattering of the WCG.  Yet this is needed in writing this volume, which I hope will appeal to anyone who views organized religion as generally hollow and corrupt.  Disagree with this assessment?  Give a listen to what retired episcipal Bishop, John Shelby Spong, has to say in this interview on youtube

And as I slog through revision upon revision, seeking to create a book which will adequately address the specific theological questions of interest to some, while writing a story compelling enough to interest the hordes who’s questions are less well defined, I have found myself repeatedly asking why?  Why do I torture myself in this way?  Why do I continue to put my thoughts and ideas forward, when skeptics and haters so frequently misunderstand, and even attack?

As one early reviewer put it, this author is on a relentless search for the truth.  I’ve found that the more I knock, the more I seek, and the more openly and publicly I raise the questions, the more clear and profound the answers become.  Even if others aren’t seeing things the way I am, or are not obtaining answers at the same time I am.

Layla and Majnu

Layla and Majnu

And what would a People of the Sign post be without a musical reference?  Have you ever wondered how Eric Clapton chose the name “Layla” for his signature song?  The name comes from the story of Layla and Majnun.  This enduring legend has inspired middle eastern poets and mystics throughout the ages.  It is the timeless story of a love so strong and so deep that it drives the lover to madness.  He loses all in a desperate search for the beloved.

For me this story took on a new significance when I realized that I, like Majnun, was searching in the dust for my beloved.  My beloved was God.  And the rubble of the WCG was the dust.  That and the long ago disintegrated manuscripts of what I considered the Word of God.

In a world full of error, lies and confusion, the search for truth can be like that.  And yet it’s not a search I’m willing to give up.  I hope you’ll join me in this madness.

American Exceptionalism vs. Putin

American Exceptionalism vs. Putin

Does Vladimir Putin have a point about American Exceptionalism?

The idea that all men are created equal is a founding principle of the United States. Is the belief in American Exceptionalism inherently contradictory—or even dangerous?

Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks so. In his recent New York Times op-ed piece, he wrote that American Exceptionalism is “extremely dangerous” and that “we must not forget that God created us equal.”

American Exceptionalism is the view that the United States has a special role to play on the world’s stage because of its national ethos and provenance. Within this country, this view is prevalent. It is also balanced with the other principles upon which this nation was founded. Our Constitution has stood for a progressive stance on individual rights. We have become a world leader, in part, by embracing a sense of fairness for all.

So our national identity faces a fundamental dilemma today.

Why would I venture into discussing this topic? The People of the Sign is a kind of literary memoir recounting my life, much of which I spent within the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). The WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong was prosperous and growing, with a global reach and an astounding influence. And it was built on the idea that its members were divinely exceptional.

But the WCG was ripped apart by an identity crisis that crystallized under new leadership. Is this the fate of our nation?

That remains to be seen, but we can draw an important lesson from the WCG about American Exceptionalism.

One of the church’s fatal flaws was the hubris of Herbert W. Armstrong, his lieutenants, and many of the church’s members. While faith is good, and the book of Hebrews states that God rewards those who diligently seek him, we need to beware the mindset of divine superiority. Pride comes before the fall.

I am not a supporter of Putin. I find his comments both insulting and insincere. I was in Leningrad in 1991 during a coup by hard-line communists, which included the kidnapping of Mikhail Gorbachev. Boris Yeltsin then came into power, signaling the end of the Soviet Union. At the time there was certainly no dearth of Russian Exceptionalism. Yet their hubris led to ignominy on the world stage, and ultimately to the implosion of their empire.

In the wake of that collapse, the U.S. has been largely unchecked on the global scene. Today, some of the problems that confronted the Soviet Union during its twilight are in evidence here. And Russia’s recent geopolitical coup on the subject of Syria, followed by Putin’s comments, indicate that Russia feels the time is right to challenge the U.S.

When it comes to geopolitics and political strategy, I share in a sentiment recently raised in the media about this issue: Russia plays chess and America plays monopoly. We’re playing two different games, and at least in this Syrian crisis, Putin’s chess is winning.

Historically, Russian leaders have been the masters of gray, whereas U.S. leaders continue to define things in black and white. But what’s black and what’s white is changing. A belief in American Exceptionalism can easily work against finesse and diplomacy, which are much needed in navigating this predicament and an increasingly integrated world.

I do not reject the idea that God has a special purpose for the United States. But what is important to realize, especially for those who believe as I do, is that God also has a special purpose for every person on the planet. That includes the aggregate political entities that they are a part of as well.

To hold the idea that we are exceptional can be healthy. I have a five- and a two-year old, and they respond well to verbal encouragement and high fives. Yet I’m aware that this type of motivation needs to be balanced out with the teaching of virtues and spiritual principles like love, kindness, humility, gentleness, and respect for others.

A balanced approach that includes spiritual qualities worthy of a nation that claims to reside “under God” will lead to an American Exceptionalism that can stand the test of time. And the jabs of our enemies, like Vladimir Putin.

 

American Exceptionalism - two boys salute their respective flags

The Russians love their exceptionalism too

The XZone

What a week it’s been since I formally launched this blog!  I had just finished explaining why I do this when several interview offers came my way.  This has led to a scramble, working with my Publishing Company, to create email notifications, podcasts, ways for people to find them on the site, and so much more.

Since that first interview, last Friday on Joe Messina’s “The Real Side” there have been a number of other Interviews, the Podcasts of which will soon be available right here on this site.

And tonight, as I type, I’m anticipating my biggest interview yet – an hour with Rob McConnell on “The ‘X’ Zone Radio Show”.  The ‘X’ Zone airs on 163 stations across the U.S. and my country of origin, Canada.  It’s an interesting program, and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

We’ve worked out an ‘X’ Zone exclusive offer in honor of this interview – a two-for-one autographed copy offer.  Anyone who buys a book (print or Kindle) from Amazon.com and sends an order confirmation screen shot, along with their mailing address, will receive an autographed copy of the book.  Don’t forget to put who to sign the book to in your email.  Send it to XZone@thepeopleofthesign.com and I’ll mail you a free autographed copy by media mail.

Cheers!
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