What’s It Going To Take?

Political upheaval in the form of an impeachment hearing back in January, and finally resolved in February, in time for the various state caucuses and primary elections to take place, started all the 2020 craziness.

Also in early February a spate of tornadoes took place. “Across the three-day outbreak, 37 tornadoes were confirmed, including several that were strong and long-tracked. In the pre-dawn hours of February 6, an EF1 tornado near Demopolis, Alabama killed one person. Total economic losses from the event exceeded $925 million” (Wikipedia)

A month later a pandemic that spread faster than anyone expected, reached the US and caused overcrowding in some hospitals, a shortage of ventilators, and a shocking number of deaths.

Panic buying followed. Sanitizer, rubber gloves, masks, bleach and other sterilizing agents, water and, for some unknown reason, toilet paper, all disappeared from store shelves. For about a week, so did canned foods and meat and cheese and fresh fruits.

No shortages, we were reassured, but because of high demand, the distribution grid was overloaded. Thankfully goods came back, but closures started. Schools, all but essential businesses, churches, restaurants and bars.

In March, the much anticipated college basketball tournament, fondly called March Madness, was cancelled. Soon after, professional sports came to a screeching halt.

Social distancing became the watch word, and incrementally the death rate of those contracting the deadly Covid virus, dropped, from 19 percent of those infected in the US, to the current rate of 5 percent.

In April, more Tornado events took place, the Easter storms lasting 2 days and hitting the southeastern part of the US. At the end of the month another collection of tornadoes hit parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

May came and an African American died while being arrested by police. His mistreatment is caught on camera and caused nationwide protests, even some in other countries. Many protests in the US quickly turned into riots. In Seattle a group of people took over a six-block area they declared to be a police-free zone. The city allowed the group to continue for weeks, breaking into businesses, looting, leaving waste and graffiti everywhere. Until there were several shooting incidents and a march on the mayor’s home.

As part of the riots, a number of statues were either defaced or torn down most of historical figures the rioters did not approve of, but also including one statue paid for by freed slaves to memorialize their freedom and one of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg.

Reports began to come in that rioters were paid participants, moving from city to city to foment unrest.

Meanwhile, the US economy pretty much tanked, a number of essential workers walked off the job because of unsafe conditions, and grocery stores and pharmacies all began requiring masks (at least in some states).

June saw more of the same. Then in July, the National Football League opened training camps all around the nation and Major League Baseball resumed, the pro basketball league began to hold their playoffs, in a bubble.

At the same time, the first of the California fires started, and a less reported fire in Colorado swept through several counties and soon became the largest in Colorado history.

Intermingled with all the rest have been the hurricanes. “So far, it [hurricane season] has featured a total of 24 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 23 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. With 23 named storms, it is the second most active Atlantic hurricane season on record” (Wikipedia).

In August, more shootings, riots, and fires. And now in September one of the Supreme Court Justices passed away. The fires in Oregon, Washington, and California continue. A protest that lasted for weeks in Portland finally ended. And the political animosity builds as we draw closer to the November election.

Believe it or not, these are only the high spots. The year 2020 has been . . . pick your adjective. Crazy, horrible, abnormal, abysmal, unprecedented.

The divisions in our nation are only becoming greater. There is the Cancel Culture movement and the dispute over wearing masks or not wearing masks, and the far left push for anarchy and socialism seems to have gained a foothold in the universities.

There is a #WalkAway movement that reports people walking away from the Democratic Party, often because they come to realize they have been lied to all along (Republicans are evil, hateful, bigots, racist, and so on, they have been told. And then they actually have occasion to talk to some Republicans).

Why have I taken so long to point out all the problems of 2020?

I want to make the point that what we are experiencing is not just like any other . . . sweeping illness or storm season or violence or fires or political unrest. For one thing, all these have happened all at the same time, within one calendar year.

The people who want to dismiss any or all of these as just something that happens, are wrong.

God moves through storms and riots and illness. Often these kinds of events, whether rooted in the sinfulness of humans or in natural events, comes for the very purpose of giving us a warning. Here’s what Jesus said about this exact situation:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

No, Jesus said, those who died didn’t “deserve it.” But their deaths are a warning that all who do not repent will suffer the same fate. The clear point is, REPENT.

I’m not sure why American Christians seem to be slow to see God’s warning. It feels as if He’s writing it in the smoke that hovers over our land, in the storms that crash onto our shores and rip apart our buildings. And of course in the social distancing and the funerals which result from the illness that still takes its toll on people.

Now is the time for repentance. Now is the time for the US, for the world, to turn back to God. His message through it all, is, at a minimum, this: I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Published in: on September 22, 2020 at 5:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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Backfires and Books

Those of you who watch the news probably know that Northern California has been coping with an incredible number of wild fires, some threatening areas known for their pristine landscape. Recently I saw a news piece about one effort to contain these fires. The method of choice was the backfire.

I remember when I was young hearing about firefighters intentionally setting fires, and I was somewhat horrified. The concept of fighting fire with fire didn’t register as particularly wise. Not to mention, that those backfires looked dangerously closer than the wildfire.

Of course I’ve learned since just what the purpose is for these backfires—to eat up the available fuel before the out-of-control conflagration reaches whatever line firefighters have determined must not be crossed.

What does any of this have to do with books?

As I’ve thought about some of the most successful books—Left Behind, Harry Potter, Shadowmancer, and now, The Shack—it seems to me there is often a wildfire feel about the books, with a backfire kind of response. The result appears to be more flames and more smoke. In the book business, this is all good because the smoke and the flames mean the book is getting noticed.

The thing about wildfires is, something has to ignite them, in ample dry tinder. Continuing with this as an analogy for book sales, I suggest the publicist might be considered an arsonist, intentionally sparking the fire. But fires also start because of lightning or downed electric wires or a cigarette tossed out a car window. They can start by the wind catching a spark from a campfire or a car backfire. These accidental, unpredictable, unexpected beginnings of forest fires catch us off guard.

But here’s where the analogy falters. In the book business, there does indeed seem to be a backfire response to some books that seem to be uncontainable, but the backfire itself adds to the flame and the smoke and seems to become a part of the conflagration, not something to eat up the available fuel.

I’ve said before, controversy sells books. But can controversy be manufactured? Maybe for a one book length of time a la Shadowmancer. But in the end, there has to be substance to the original fire, or the backfires simply aren’t necessary.

Much like natural fires, the progress of a book-fire is in the hands of God. I may not understand why one fire starts and is immediately snuffed out or why another takes off and burns thousands and thousands of acres.

However, I do think it’s important not to go around setting unnecessary backfires. And I think it’s important not to go around setting imitation fires. 😉

As an author, I want my book-fire to be as big and out of control as it can possibly be. There are some things I can dictate. Where I start the fire, the strength of the flame. But winds, humidity, firefighting resources, those are things beyond my control. Not beyond God’s.

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Two weeks to go before Donita K. Paul’s DragonLight blog tour. 😀

Published in: on July 7, 2008 at 10:59 am  Comments Off on Backfires and Books  
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