Kenneth Darter

Writing, Music, and Life

The Deep Faith

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (hereafter referred to as S, M, and A) were involved in one of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel.  Most everyone who went to Sunday School knows the story of the three men being thrown into a fiery furnace (not a fireplace mind you, a furnace intended for execution and heated up seven times hotter than normal) and the Lord saves them.  Then the king acknowledges the power and authority of the one true God that the Israelites worship.

There is a deeper meaning to the story that tends to get skimmed over to get to the miracle.  S, M, and A were young men in exile from their home.  The Israelites had lost the war against Babylon and were under the subjugation of King Nebuchadnezzar II.  Yet these men were willing to stand up to the King in whatever small way they could.  They refused to bow down to his idols because they had faith in the one true God, never mind the fact that God hadn’t kept them from losing to Babylon!

When the three are sentenced to death, they tell the King that their God COULD save them if He wanted to.  They also tell the King that if God doesn’t save them, they STILL won’t bow down to His idols (of course, they’ll be dead, but still it’s the thought that counts).

This is the kind of faith I want to have.  It’s not dependent upon on what God does or doesn’t choose to do; we don’t even come close to comprehending God’s reasons or methods.  The faith of Daniel’s young friends is the deep faith that holds you through the fires of life and keeps your head held up no matter what.  You see, the important message from S, M, and A is that they refused to forsake their God.  The miracle is almost an afterthought.

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The Smart King

I’ve been reading in the book of Daniel, but I’ll spare you my thoughts on what Daniel says about the end times.  The past few weeks have shown me that figuring out exactly what prophecy means isn’t the point.  I think most Christians understand that, but it’s the few that don’t understand it that get all the press (I guess they make better headlines, but check out this post by Seth Barnes for a more up-lifting outlook).

There are some wonderful stories in Daniel aside from the verses of prophecy.  One that intrigued me was the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 (in order to avoid spelling that name again, I’m going to call him the “Smart King”).  The Smart King has been having strange dreams and wants the “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers,” to tell him what they mean.  But the catch is that he won’t tell them anything about the dreams.  They have to first tell him what he dreamed and then tell him what the dream means.

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My guess is that this Smart King has been fed a lot of bull in the past from astrologers and the like.  This time he wanted to make sure that whoever interpreted his dream was telling him the truth (that’s what makes him a smart king).  Of course, no one could tell the Smart King what he dreamed so he just kills them all (he must have been really tired of the bull).

I used to work near a mall where several fortune tellers worked.  I wonder what they would have said if I sat down one day and said I would only pay them to interpret my dreams if they could first tell me what I dreamed about?  If they tried to make up something to get my money, I would be hard pressed to say whether or not it was truly something I had dreamed!  The King in Daniel though is certain about the dream he has been having and we see throughout the Bible that great rulers have important dreams about their empires.

Now, you might think that the sorcerers and astrologers couldn’t tell the Smart King his dream because they didn’t have any power.  But make no mistake, over and over again in the Old Testament, we see stories of sorcerers and astrologers having some sort of mystical power – it’s just never greater than the power of GOD and I believe this is still true today.

The end of the story is that Daniel is able to tell the King what he dreamed and what it meant because GOD reveals it to him.  This story shows that GOD’s adversary only has limited powers.  Just as I found in Job, it appears that GOD’s adversary needs permission before he can get in your head (kind of makes me think of vampires being stuck outside your house unless you invite them in).  If you don’t reveal your dreams, the adversary doesn’t know what they are, only GOD knows.

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Daniel Praying

Goals and Shortcuts

2011 is the year I’m hoping to start AND finish a novel.  It’s been something I’ve tried to do for some time now and this year I’ve made a commitment to myself to finish the job.

I’ve been working on the planning of this novel for some time now and finally started writing about two months ago.  It started off pretty well.  I set a realistic goal for myself with plenty of leeway built in to catch up if I fall behind.  I spent a lot of time last year working on short stories so I was pretty confidant in the number of pages I could write daily and the schedule that I have set.

But as you might have guessed already, the work hasn’t gone quite the way I had intended.  I’m a natural procrastinator so I’ll always find some reason to not work or worse yet, I’ll find a shortcut around the goals.

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The problem started when I printed the first 100 pages of the novel to start editing.  I realized that I needed to break up some of the chapters.  When I broke sections into separate chapters, my page count went up without my writing a word.  It was magic!!

Magic_wand

So the next day, I restructured the chapters again and then I did it again and again.  Now, I’m almost finished with my 500 page novel four months early!!!

(but each chapter is two sentences long).

Not really, but I did lose a few days messing around trying to up my page count.  I came up with several extraneous paragraphs at the end of every chapter just to kick the chapter over to the next page.  Those paragraphs will probably be tossed as soon as I start editing.

I’ve now made my daily and weekly goals word counts instead of page counts because it’s much harder to game the system that way.  (although I’m thinking about making all the characters Canadian so that every sentence of dialog ends with “eh”).

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(everyone’s favorite canadian, eh)

One last bit of good news before I get back to the grind – I’ve now written more on this novel than I have every written on any other novel that I started!  That should be worth at least one day off to write a blog post, right?

The Yearning of Job

It constantly amazes me to read the Old Testament.  As Christians who live under the covenant of the New Testament, I think we oftentimes dismiss or skim over the OT and many Christians begin and end their study of the scripture with the gospels (but that’s just my very unscientific assumption; I’d love to be proven wrong).  If we do skip over it or just skim it, then we miss the whole point of the scripture.  There is so much in the OT that needs to be unpacked and studied in order to truly understand what the NT says to us.

Think about how much you would miss if you read just The Return of the King and or just The Dark Tower and skipped the rest of the books in the series.  (Of course, no one but a dedicated scholar with a degree in Middle English history could read the Silmarillion, but the first ten minutes in the movie pretty much sums it up).

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(source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hand_of_Sauron.jpg)

In Job, there is a constant yearning for someone to intercede on man’s behalf.  Job is righteous – he has not wronged God, but God is too big for Job to approach on his own.  Job is seeking an arbitrator, an intercessor, a redeemer, or just a even just a friend.   (See Job 9:32-35, 16:18-21, 19:25-27)

Job 14: 15-17 says:

You will call and I will answer you

You will long for the creature your hands have made

Surely then you will count my steps

But not keep track of my sin

My offenses will be sealed up in a bag

You will cover over my sin

Job understood the creation and fall of man.  And though he was “blameless and upright”, he still knew he had sins that needed to be covered.  He was searching for the son of God who was also the son of Man, the bridge between God and man.

In the end of the book, after God speaks to Job from the storm, Job’s response is very simple and I believe this is the same response we should have in front of the cross:

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you

Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:5-6)

Blake Lord answering Job

The Boarder

My short story, The Boarder, has been published at kalkion, a literature and science fiction web magazine.  You can find the story at this link: http://www.kalkion.com/fiction/1139/boarder.

I was surprised by this today because I haven’t been working on short stories this year, I’ve been focused on finishing a novel by the end of the year so it was a nice confidence boost to get published on a story I submitted last year.

Check it out if you get a chance.

Gambling with God

The prologue in the Book of Job is truly amazing.  In it, we get one of the few small glimpses in the Bible of the heavenly realm through the eyes of the writer of the book, and what a truly remarkable place it is.

At center stage, we see God in His splendor observing all creation and celebrating the righteousness and goodness of his servant Job.

Enter from stage left, the Adversary (aka Satan).  The Adversary has a wager for God, he bets God that he can make Job curse God, that Job is not truly righteous but only acts that way in order to receive God’s blessings.

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Now, I don’t know about you, but personally, I would not gamble with someone who not only set all the stars in motion, but also knows the future as well as the past.  Psalm 147 says:

“He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name
Great is our Lord and mighty in power
His understanding has no limit”

Dice

So why did the Adversary make this wager against the creator of the universe?  I can think of a couple of reasons although there are probably more:

  • He wanted to be able to touch one of God’s servants, this could imply that he needs permission.
  • He really thought he could beat God, this could imply he’s not very smart.
  • Perhaps, it’s just his nature.  After all, the name of Satan is the word Adversary, implying that Satan is defined by being against God.  In the same way that antimatter is the opposite of matter, the Adversary is the opposite of God by definition.

These reasons tell us some very interesting things about God and the Adversary.  But they don’t tell us WHY God would let the Adversary attack Job in the way that he does – why did God accept the wager.

After all of the soul searching and seeking of wisdom is done, Job finally hears from God and his life is restored to him.  But God still doesn’t tell us the why.  It makes you wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, even though we get a glimpse of the heavenly realm through the book, we still can’t handle it in the here and now.  Perhaps, like Job, we don’t have to understand, we just have to say, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours will be thwarted” (Job 42:1).

Dialogue at a Funeral

Imagine a funeral where there’s only one family member grieving because the funeral is for his entire family – a catastrophic event destroyed the family and left only one survivor.  Unfortunately, there are all too many stories in the news these days that could create this horrible situation.

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The survivor’s friends have flown into town to be with him in his time of need.

But it’s uncomfortable in the funeral home, because this survivor has issues to deal with and he’s understandably very angry at God, the universe, and everything.  So he sits at the funeral home surrounded by his friends while he weeps, and then he looks at them and says he wishes he had never been born and that it would be better to be dead then to still be alive.

And his friend says, “Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty”

I think maybe that friend would be tossed out of the funeral home on his ear.  Would anybody really say this to a friend who had just lost everything he ever loved?

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In the book of Job this is what one of Job’s friends says after Job had lost everything and been afflicted by Satan.  In Job’s time of trial, four friends come to visit him.  They mourn and sit in silence with him for seven days.  Based on the very long speeches they give after that, maybe they should have just kept sitting quietly.

Job’s friends bring their intellectual understanding of God.  In the face of real life tragedy, their words are empty and meaningless.

Job says, “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all!  Will your long-winded speeches never end?”

Dig into the book of Job and you will find a man who not only lives by the words, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”, but also truly understands them.

New Directions

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for some time now.  I found myself cleaning the kitchen the other day instead of working on it.

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(not my kitchen, but you get the idea)

Several months ago, I left a job I had been at for over eleven years and started a new job where I could work from home most of the time.  Being at home has given me extra time to pursue some of my long term goals.

One goal was something I had been praying about for some time and felt like it was important to do and devote a great deal of time to it.  But then the door was shut in my face.  Some part of me was relieved that the decision was out of my hands, but a big part of me wanted to know why it wasn’t right for me to pursue it right now (if at all).

And here’s where the hard part comes in – I got the answer to my question.

God led me to two things that needed to be on my “to-do” list.  To some extent they were already there, but the whole experience has helped show me what my priorities should be.

The first thing was to “Drink Deeply”.  I have been working for some time to make reading the Bible a daily habit.  But reading is not enough, I need to drink of His word like a man starving in the desert – study it, understand it, and live it.  And then, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be wise enough to teach it to my children.   But perhaps there are also other things in my life that I need to “drink deeply” of?

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(I bet this guy drinks his fill whenever and wherever he wants to)

The second thing was to “Fulfill Commitments”.  When I think of commitments, my mind goes to the list of projects and chores I want to work on, especially the grandiose list that I made for 2011.  But I also have older projects that have been sitting idle for far too long and maybe there are other commitments in my life I need to pay attention to right now.  It’s time to clean house and work on finishing what I start, or at least, decide that it’s not something I’m going to do right now.

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(love this movie, still listen to the soundtrack)

So that’s where this blog comes in.  I’m going to document my journey in both of these areas on this blog.  This will help me maintain the direction that God is leading me in as well as help me fulfill one commitment which is this blog which has been ignored for sometime.

As always, I’m sure the journey will be fun and full of the unexpected.

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The Dawn Treader

My wife and I finally got to see the Dawn Treader in the movie theater.  I was a little nervous about how the movie producers were going to handle this book; if I had to pick one book that is my favorite in the Narnia series (and that’s a very hard thing to do for me) then it’s the wonderful Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”.

For those of you who don’t know me, I literally cut my teeth on the Narnia books and I can’t count how many times I’ve read them (I wish I had read the Bible as much as I read Lewis’ books).

All that being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Many critics have pointed out the shortcomings, but overall the movie succeeds (and my wife didn’t mind watching it at all because Ben Barnes – Prince Caspian is in it again).  While I’m a purist of the books and I would have enjoyed it very much if they had followed the book literally, I did not mind the changes and I can see that some of the changes made for a better movie.  A few praises and quibbles:

  • The world of Narnia is wonderfully created on the screen.  The film pushes you into the fantasy world and adventure and never lets you go until the ending.
  • The dufflepuds got the short shrift.  Read the book to get the true flavor of these crazy fellows.
  • The actor playing Eustace was superb and the animators creating the dragon were almost as good.
  • Reepicheep was everything he should have been, I just missed seeing him and Lucy playing chess.
  • Where were the mermaids?
  • Why didn’t they follow Caspian’s storyline in Narnia and show him hooking up with the star?

I hope that the filmmakers continue with the excellent work they are doing and look forward to the next installment featuring Eustace.  My wife, however, was disappointed to find out that in the next book, Caspian is a very old man!

Merry Christmas and a Random Blog Post

Please allow me to wish you a very merry Christmas.  I hope that your holiday season is sick-free as me and my house have thoughtfully soaked up all the germs floating around in Georgia.  Everyone of us is sick or has been sick or is working on their third or fourth round of being sick.

But what’s a holiday without an antibiotic cocktail right?

I had planned on a nice Christmas/New Year themed blog post but since I’m running a fever today, I’m just going to give you some random tidbits as me and mine prepare for 2011.  Hopefully, this won’t be quite as random and pointless as the last time I tried this:  The Meaning of Life.

Honestly, I tried putting off writing this post until I felt better but I ran out of things I could do while sitting in my chair today.  So here are my random thoughts for finishing up 2010 and opening up 2011:

  • Christmas time is wonderful, even when you’re sick.  I especially enjoyed my children watching the current crop of Christmas specials on TV and trying to tell Dora and the Wonder Pets that the true meaning of Christmas is Jesus Christ and not just being on Santa’s nice list.

Dora's meaning of Christmas - Reform Swiper

My kid's meaning of Christmas - Happy Birthday Jesus!

 

  • We let the kids pick out toys to give to Toys for Tots, but my youngest still thinks that it’s better to get presents than to give presents.
  • My wife tried to tell the kids that there might be something interesting under the tree after we wrapped their presents, but even though their presents were pulled out front, they still didn’t notice them and couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.  I don’t understand this because I was always a peeker when I was a kid.  To this day, my wife is astounded by my ability to immediately notice when something new appears under the tree.  To me the anticipation and guessing is the best part of gift giving and receiving.  I always try to give something that won’t be expected.
  • I just realized why my laptop wasn’t charging, the plug into the adapter had pulled out.  This may not concern you but it’s been bugging me for the past hour.

I’m working on a lot of resolutions for next year, but I’m fully aware that my track record for keeping resolutions is not good.  So why should I post them here  just to come back later and eat crow at the end of 2011?  Instead, let me tell you what’s not on my list of resolutions!

  • I have not resolved to post regularly here on this website; if it becomes a chore instead of fun, I will quit doing it altogether.
  • I have not resolved to change they way I think; I will go on being who I am, even more so if possible.
  • I have not resolved to work harder, I may work smarter and work more but I REFUSE to work any harder than I already do.
  • I have not resolved to keep an immaculate house – I like my house clean but lived in with a touch of chaos.
  • I have not resolved to quit drinking sweet tea.  I think I will drink it until the day I die,  I may cut out a lot of other foods or drinks, but never sweet tea.
  • Lastly, I have not resolved to quit my resolutions.  I have also not resolved to not quit my resolutions.  I may quit or I may not, either way – HAPPY NEW YEAR! and here’s to a 2011 that will be productive and unpredictable in every way.

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