New Book Idea: Unlike my Norm; Chapter 1 – Mr. Malus.

1

I’m a grown man. I can’t be inducing these thoughts. These rifts of reality. I introduce them to my day, convinced that the fiber of realism can in fact be split and let in the light of the supernatural. Supernatural? Perhaps not. Perhaps this is the wrong word. Perhaps more the impossible. The surreal. Gosh, wouldn’t that make life more interesting.

I was driving through the cogs and sprawls of the city, making my way to either my next episode of escapism, or to my next work appointment. I can’t remember, but I’ll know when I get there. I will ascertain on the fly whether I must be a grounded, lucid, intellectual, conducting acquisitions for profit in the decaying streets, to which a disproportionately high value has been attributed. If focused eyes, and a winner’s grin, mixed with confidant manufactured happiness and well annunciated words is warranted, then I shall summon the energy to perform as always. If it is escapism, I am free. Free to not remember what my address is, what my mobile number is, which email I am diverting information to, and for what purpose. And why is my fax number still on my business card? Have I received an actual fax in the last two years?

The power lines along the highway have charred and burned the trees they hover over. Ever notice that? In a nice neat manicured line, the foliage – what is left of it in this city – starkly flips from a peaked green to a miserable rusty brown, which follows the power lines through the landscape perfectly. This energy we have plugged ourselves to, we answer to it, don’t we? It kills what’s below it, but that doesn’t stop us from blasting it throughout all discernable space, and running it through every living thing at high velocity. It is a wonder anything can legally be called organic.

When I arrive at my destination, I realize the nature of my visit. It is a mission to prepare for the coming dystopia. We must of course be ready. It is in fact my responsibility, is it not? What kind of a man would I be if I saw threats at the periphery, and did nothing. I’d be a coward, that’s what. Today I would speak again to Eugene, the leather shop owner. Oh the smell as you walk in, pure time travel. Yes, of course, certain modern accompaniments taint the experience. There is after all a Sky-Drive here, a constant influx of digital garbage the workers and patrons can barely take their eyes from. Roving holographic pictures projected amidst pale blue light. The lighting was modern, and the air conditioning robbed me of the sweat and grit that belongs in the 1800’s. But the bells on the door were real when I walked in. The smell is real. And the gun in my briefcase is real.

“Eugene, did you come up with a price yet?”

He adjusted his glasses, “Mr. Malus. Welcome back. I have been thinking about your proposition. Since you are putting me, technically, in the awkward position of knowing your intentions of carrying a firearm in the city limits, I have to work on this alone. It being illegal will make the price go up.”

“Placing a leather compartment in a leather bag isn’t in and of itself, illegal. But yes, I understand. To do it right, I had to tell you its purpose. I assume the extra expense will assure me that you will not talk about the job once it’s done?”

“Agreed. I’ll do it for a thousand.”

“Deal.” I had so many uncashed checks laying at home, and in my safety deposit box, and in my briefcase. My money didn’t get spent on the vices and trappings society continually programmed me to purchase. It allowed me liberties beyond that of my fellow man. A client might beam with delight as he showed me his new Lexus, popping that switchblade key and activating that chirping ignition notification at the same time they popped that Hollywood grin. $600 per month to go from A to B in comfort, knowing full well that if someone presented the flip and threat of a true switchblade, they would pee down the pant leg of their khaki slacks. Meanwhile, I had my hand on a weapon, and could safely maintain my day, my night, my territorial bubble. I could even protect khaki–piss-britches who would be no worse for wear, other than the fowl ammonia smell on the seat of his new car as he went home to lie a different story to his wife. This, of course, after he curiously did his own laundry for the first time since they said ‘I do’. My money would increase my capabilities, prepare me for the events of the surreal. I would walk tall through the unknown, without the much too comfortable poly-fab seats caressing my uselessly large ass. I’ll walk among them all, ready, and no one will know.

“Please step in back here, Mr. Malus. I’ll have to measure the size and dimensions of the weapon.” I stepped beyond the counter, and past the curious and scraggly employee. Once in the office, he shut the door. I drew my weapon from the friction holster, a 9MM Walther, expertly cared for, and unchambered. The uneasy knowledge of vulnerability as I disarm washes over me as I eject the magazine, and rack the slide to present the barrel as empty to the shop owner. The 1800’s are a dangerous place after all. Eugene made his measurements, and we shook hands. I reloaded, and put the holster in my waistband, pulling my untucked Oxford dress shirt over it, as my rugged leather briefcase had to stay. When I got it back, I would have the compartment I wanted, sitting waist high, invisible to everyone. A gunslinger walking in plain sight.

An espresso was in order. As a socialite walking among the decadence of a Bohemian lifestyle, it was important to project a slim and dignified demeaner. My phone rang as I stepped in to the coffee shop. “Hello?”

“Is this Richard Johnson with Optimum Realty?”

Perhaps an opportunity to liaise the hostile takeover of a business. What lives would be affected by this one phone call. Would families starve? Would someone lose hope? Would someone get taken advantage of? “Yes, it is. How can I help you?”

“Yeah, man. I need you to look at my property. I need a certain amount out of it, and like uh, I just need help selling it, you know? I have tried selling it on my own, and stuff, but I just think it needs advertising. I was gonna fix it up, but I think its best if I just get what I can out of it.”

I took the address. What empire was this that crumbled? It sounded dire. I wish this particular business mogul spoke in a wiser manner. He came off as ignorant. We move mountains here, sir! We control the collapse of commerce, of civility. Should he not revere it as thus with how he speaks. So unsophisticated, it almost ruins the game.

I told this gentleman, this lead, that I would have admin set something up immediately, and that I looked forward to helping with his objectives. I then responded as K.C. Malus, and CC’d myself on the email. K.C. is of course my office administrator. We must project professionalism, yes even in these uncertain times. I would meditate a moment, before sending an email out as her. I know, it’s weird, but you have to write different. K.C. is a strong independent woman. She is as knowledgeable as me, pleasant and graceful in tone, but does not appreciate being talked down to for being a woman. She knows her worth, and might add an appropriate amount of sass in correspondence if her boss Richard can’t afford the risk of sounding haughty. K.C.’s profile pic on the emails is so attractive, you might be surprised at what she gets away with. She of course has access to my calendar, and the meeting with the distinguished lead was set for later that day.

 

It was tough to pretend. The building was falling down. “How much did you say you needed out of it?” I asked. The gentleman I spoke to on the phone was now next to me, staring at this blight. He was perfectly bald on the crown of his head, with black straggly hair falling from the back and sides of his skull to his mid-back. He spoke with a head bobbing motion, as if he was mentally attending a constant party with a steady beat. His own type of escapism apparently, dreadfully inferior. Who would aspire to be simply grooving, and to what end? To achieve nothing other than avoiding despair.

“I gotta get like $90,000 for it man. I went in with my buddy, and we poured money into it, but then he bailed, and I came over here and no work had been done. Just demo work, man.” He chuckled at his misfortune, and continued to bob his dull head to the beat of some unheard song. I palmed the heel of my gun, just to entertain myself, knowing if things were dystopian, he’d not likely survive our meeting.

“Sir. The reality is, the land it sits on is the only attributable and quantifiable value it possesses. The appraised value of said land equals between $15,000 and $20,000. It is a small third acre, and this precludes its use from a national tenant perspective.” I wanted his head to explode. “Furthermore, it sits back from the main commercial corridor, approximately 200 feet. Not to mention we have this building on it, which is all but a shell, and most of which is hardly salvageable. The reality is, I could sell it for $15,000 minus the cost to demo the building, if you don’t do so yourself. After commissions are paid, you may walk with $7500, and I am guessing by that look on your face, that this scenario puts you far short of your break-even point.” Please throw up, please throw up. What a story to tell the networking group.

“Guys, you won’t believe what happened this week. I was summoned uptown to do an opinion of value on this whale of a client who was upside down and looking to liquidate some of his assets. I had to shoot him straight (make gun signs with fingers) and laid out the financial realities of his position. I can’t tell you who it is, but safe to say you know him. Anyway, he started getting really wobbly, and I kid you not, he turned and threw up all over his office. I jumped back, and he absolutely hosed down his desk and floor to ceiling windows.

“What did you say?!”

“What could I say? I tossed him the hanky from my breast pocket, and told him that wasn’t the trash can.” I’d grab my six pack abs and chortle. “Hey, that’s life in the big city.”

“Oh, man, you said that?! I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

The distinguished gentleman who needed $90,000 for his 3 and a half brick walls on a third acre shook my hand, and said thanks anyways. He would just have to let it die. “Hell with it, man,” he said. “’preciate you comin’ all the way out here though, man.” And just like that, he be-bopped his merry way up the road, and I never saw him again. He won’t survive the coming world. Luckily this one was made for him. Despite the glaring lack of street smarts, and pathetic attempts towards life management, this person would not miss a meal. He will sleep under a roof tonight, and most likely has someone that he can have sex with whenever he wants, guy, or girl. He will be coddled, and caressed, and cared for, and regardless of the self-destructive activities he performs on a body and a life that is forever treated as a rental, he will be guaranteed the world’s best healthcare, the world’s dankest weed, an endless supply of Natural Lite, innumerable opportunities to succeed, and no risk whatsoever to his life or lifestyle. He will survive, and he will vote. He will convince a pretty, and tragically wounded single woman who is way too good for him and doesn’t know it, that he is mysterious and artistic, and that if it wasn’t for bad luck, he would already have been a millionaire many times over. And she will invest herself in him, physically at first, then psychologically, until her potential degrades into dependence on him. And so it goes with millions. All but me. This society is unsustainable.

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Fundamentals, Heroes, and Rabbit Trails

As an author, sometimes, I get caught up in apologetics, and science. It can be a mentally stimulating distraction. But the truth is, though my writing and research may help fortify the faith of others, or raise good questions, or even give people confidence that there is someone out there who “actually” believes that the bible is still real, and relevant, in a world where the power of mankind is idolized, I don’t expect to change many hearts, if any. I dare say, that is not my job, and furthermore, I continue to work on my own as well, learning through study and regurgitating facts, bolstering my faith, wading through the perceived relative truth of the day. But as much as I enjoy learning and teaching, my heart remains… we will say… a work in progress.

One thing I noticed upon meeting some of the apologetic greats of our time, and that is, they had the fundamentals down. They seemed stoic and stable. These were not houses of cards ready to tumble at the first sign of strife. They were prayed up, and forged, soldiers bought by the blood of Christ. It wasn’t just knowledge, and facts, and answers. They loved what they did, and they love the Lord.

Each of us must prepare our hearts, in our own way for what’s to come, what is here, what we walk through. And I would go out on a limb and guess that each of us, despite the constant motion of our trudging actions towards goals, we internally and continually fight off doubt, search for meaning and purpose, and attempt to validate our existences in some form or another. For some it is sexual conquest. For others it is money, others power. But John Eldridge illustrates in his book, Wild at Heart, this common theme of validating ourselves through God, a theme I relate to in my mind, but struggle with in my heart. The bible supports this theme, through Solomon’s Ecclesiastical outlook on the vanity of all things not God, among other places.

But with so many barometers for success held in high esteem all around us, and so many desires in the human heart to chase what makes us happy, despite all morality or consequence, how hard is it to simply be satisfied with who you are in Christ. To present yourself to the world, damaged, and unafraid. Vulnerable. At home in Him. The truth is, the world would eat you up, and spit you out if you did this. Furthermore, I don’t have the strength to do it.

I’ve been in constant prayer as of late, not under the illusion that I will change God’s mind to conform to mine, but instead to search for His will in my life, and to ask for His will to be done in the lives of those I love. I realize I am not the solution, but He is. That I can’t heal myself or others, but He can. I can’t forgive myself, but He did forgive me.

I wanted so badly to be the hero of the love story. To be the one who changed hearts, and gave loved ones sanctuary, and to quell their fears. I wanted my book, my advice, my words, my caring, to be powerful forces in their journeys. I wanted credit in the form of affection for my effectiveness. I wanted the love that was “owed” to me because of all I had accomplished. I wanted to be enough. I am not.

After much prayer, the Lord has seen fit to grant me some perspective, some empathy, and to look at things from outside of the narrow, self-serving lens through which I view them. It is with this perspective that I sense the deep well of pain within others that I do not remove, and cannot touch, and upon which I have no affect. Who did I think I was? Simply the offering of a broken vessel when someone asks you to hold their water.

Furthermore, all the wise words I have collected, and studied, and regurgitated has not healed my own heart. Because my love is insufficient. You know the verse, made popular as a wedding day staple:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

It rolls out of us automatic, and we hear it and feel comforted as if those qualities are imbued to us because of our worth. But it is a command, and we fall short. It is a warning, and we fail. What’s more, the warning before it states plainly that my endeavors are simply a clanging instrument, fit for nothing but to annoy, if I do not first have this type of love. I do not.

I have not been patient. I am not kind. I am rude. I am envious and resentful. I struggle to endure, and I struggle to keep hope. How then, can I be anyone’s hero. I cannot save anybody.

I wanted so desperately to be the paladin. The knight that edified those I love. In trying, I engage, and re-engage, jealously coveting accolades and kudos meant for my thoughtfulness, and resenting achieved value obtained by vehicles other than myself. I beg for compliments to sustain my self-worth, and when they fade, I crave reassurance, like an addict. I force answers and demand change, because in my heart I think that I really ought to be enough. I am not.

Let us then let the truth shine.

I am the clanging cymbal. So, to all those to whom I have spoken with insufficient, imperfect love, I am sorry.

I am not light. Christ is.

I am not a sanctuary for anyone in my brokenness. Christ is.

My love is not sufficient to save anyone. Christ’s is.

I am no lion. Christ is. 

I am no one’s king. Christ is.

 

 

SES National Conference on Christian Apologetics

I just got back from the 2017 SES National Conference on Christian Apologetics which took place in Charlotte, at the Calvary Campus, and was for two days, home to some of the greatest apologetic minds of our day. It was a bit like going to Disney World for me. This was my Super Bowl.

I met the great Norman Geisler,

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Norman Geisler

and his son, and spoke with many great minds from different fields. There was not always agreement about theological interpretation, but all these men and women love the Lord, and it was wonderful to see the camaraderie and the shared mission of the speakers, to make disciples for Jesus Christ and the truth of the resurrection.

There was much to hear, I bought many new books, and of a most interesting conflict among the scholars was of course young verses old earth opinions. I may do a follow up article on that, as it was quite unique the way scholars who believe in the big bang theory have to explain themselves under the paradigm of a creator. They certainly have rebuttals and evidences all neatly decided upon, however, to me (though I am no astrophysicist), these explanations fall very short, and completely contradict what we find in God’s word. You can play interpretation games all day long, but as Ken Ham said quite correctly at the conference, you do not get the idea of millions of years from a simple reading of bible. It is a man-made worldview, which must then be shoehorned into the text to make it seem to fit.

There was a particularly potent and personal talk I attended, given by a neuroscience Doctor, a Dr. Camp. She (pictured above) was discussing specifically the tendency of Christians, within the social and secular construct of this world as a perfect storm, to be anxious and depressed, and why that is, rather than full of joy for Christ. Personally, this is something I struggle with, and so I attended her class away from my group, and learned a bit more about how our brains were wired. What I learned both comforted me, because there were solutions, one of which was knowledge, and also scared me, because of how are brains become hardwired to believe the lies we tell it.

There was an atheist vs God debate, based on things like philosophy, and the perceived tyrannical nature of God in the Old Testament. Dan Barker from the Freedom From Religion Foundation debated Dr Howe, and did very well. I commend him for braving the venue, and standing before all the Christians making a very direct and succinct case. It created a great many good topic questions for us later in groups, and his overall communication skill was terrific. Clearly he is passionate, though I disagree with his goals and conclusions. We discussed in groups questions like, can God commit murder? And, the importance of context when discussing bible stories/verses.

Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace were amazing, and I loved meeting Dr. Sanford who wrote Genetic Entropy, an excellent case against evolution from the observable degradation of the human genome.

All in all, it was a fantastic and mentally stimulating trip, and I’d love to make it a tradition. Honestly, I’d love to lock myself in there and just study and drink coffee for a year, however, that seems slightly impractical.