Julie Golob is Wild at Heart

Julie Glob is Wild at Heart

This is the first design in a promotional tee shirt design called Wild at Heart with the superstar pro shooter, mother, veteran known as Julie Glob.  In this first rendition I chose someone I just know that is both a child of God and a multi-time world, a national shooting champion, an experienced shooting instructor, woman of the outdoors, proud US Army veteran, published author, wife and mom.

Here is how you can get one of these as a shirt or something else cool from our shop.

I got this idea to create action tee shirts based on the spirit of this ministry.  The Speak Life Church ministers to everyone seeking an honest relationship with God but we are focused on ones that live life to fullest.  For too many, churches today are reserved for the elderly or have become stagnant in dogma.  Religion is how we are comfortable in worshipping a Holy God.

I am looking forward to worshipping our Creator and the lover of our souls with others like me on the range, on the water, on two wheels and online.

Wild at Heart

I remember getting persecuted for being pro-gun in church too often as I grew in ministry.  At the same time, I know many gun owners, competition shooters, and hunters that love the Lord Jesus but don’t regularly attend church for more than one familiar reason.  I have been called to minister to God’s people regardless of what the brick and mortar churches are saying to them.

So true to form, I am back in the wilderness, where I am comfortable, using the internet to teach, preach and reach people for Christ.  I’m not alone.  God is with me.  He was in the wilderness a lot if you think about it.  He was with the Israelites, the prophets, Jesus, and John the Baptist in the wilderness.

If you would like to be considered for a tee shirt to made of you representing a follower of Jesus that is wild at heart, send me a high definition photo of you in action.

Collect all of them.  Inspire a design.  Join us.  Follow Christ.

Get Yours Here

 

Five Rookie Podcast Mistakes You Can Fix Today

Gardner Douglas is the host of the Oyster Ninja Podcast

As a content creator and editor of podcast, I have seen shows come and go. I have created over a dozen myself that have faded away into the ether. A friend of mine started a podcast based on his niche of being a professional oyster shucker. Before I met him, I didn’t even know that was a thing. I want to share some things Gardner Douglas also known as the Oyster Ninja has done right and identify some things you can do to fix or avoid the rookie mistakes all new podcasters make.

Let me share a little about Gardner.

He is a married US Army veteran and a devoted family man.  Gardner has been shucking oysters for ten years and can be found in the DC metropolitan area. Gardner learned the art of shucking from his father, and fellow oyster champion, Samuel “Sam Sam” Fisher. Gardner has shucked at the best raw bars in DC including Whaleys, Rappahannock River Oysters, The Local Oyster, and The Walrus & Ale Oyster bar. He has also shucked at DC’s most premier events include Chef for Equality, the DC oyster Festival, The St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival, Shuck-n-Suck, and The Oyster Riot at Dc’s Historical restaurant, Old Ebbits Grill. As a business owner, running his own oyster catering service and mobile raw bar, Gardner has shucked for some of DC’s most elite.

He is also a champion oyster shucker.

• Ranking 6th place in the 2016 National Oyster Shucking Championship.
• 2017’s Best Shucker in Philly,
• Ranked 2nd place at the 2016 Best Shucker in Baltimore and Baltimore Rotary Competition
• Ranked 5th place in the Boston Seafood Expo Shucking Competition.

Currently, Gardner can be heard sharing his knowledge about oysters and shucking skills with the world via his podcast The Oyster Ninja, which centers around oysters, oyster shuckers, farmers and other oyster related things. The Oyster Ninja can also be spotted in the Eating Oysters: Chesapeake Style a Maryland PBS documentary.

Whether on camera or behind an oyster bar, Gardner Douglas’ personality is infectious. He draws you into the art of oyster shucking as if you were watching a performance. Gardner Douglas’ shucking skills are a work of art. There is no wonder that they call him the Oyster Ninja, as his techniques make shucking oysters look as easy as eating them. The art of oyster shucking is lost on most until you decide to try opening an oyster yourself.  Gardner is a sought after expert that works with caterers, bars, parties, and special event to provide the seafood delicacies.

Oyster Ninja Podcast

How do you not screw up?

Here are are things to help you avoid making rookie mistakes in podcast. Everybody is selling something.  so you have to specialize in this crowded world in order to survive. Gardner’s niche is in the seafood industry. He prepares and presents oysters for bars, cocktail parties and high end events. He was born almost with a oyster knife in his hand. He learned from his father who passed an Eastern Shore tradition to him. Gardner is also concerned about the environment. His niche is as deep as the ocean. He has a lot of things to pull from, he just didn’t know it at first.

The first goal for a successful podcaster is preparation. You have to know where you want to go. You don’t have to have all the answers but you have to know that you are providing a service, or a reason for us to listen. How long is your show going to be? What persona are you going to portray? What does your album art look like? These are just a handful of questions that will frame your show before you even find a microphone you want to buy in Amazon. I suggested Gardner get a notebook and write his vision down. Something happens when you put it on paper. For me, its more concrete and fluid than coming from a keyboard. I am very proud of my brother Gardner. He actually listened to me on more than one occasion and is doing well.

The second goal is to figure out who wants what you are selling. In other words, you have to identify your target audience. This one takes a little time. Everybody does;t want what you have. Everybody won’t like your voice, your delivery, your accent, your graphics, or something. The good news is those that do, will love you to pieces. They might not look like you or live near you but the good news is, they are somewhere on this big blue marble. Your job is to find them, connect with them and deliver.

The third goal we all must take after we get going is to actually take action. It is easy to get a paralysis of analysis. There is always something else to buy. There is always something just not quite right. One of the great things about social media and tech today is that you fix it on the go. Gardner did that and has made connections already that he will use when the time is right. Yoda said it best, “Do or Do Not, There is No Try.”

The fourth thing you should be working on is to solve certain problems for specific people. When someone invest their time with you, do something for them. Teach them. Inspire them. Make them laugh, think, moan or cry. Whatever you do, just don’t be boring.

The fifth and final goal of this blogpost is to do what Gardner is doing well. Create a “tribe” and tap into a more loyal and highly engaged audience. Even though he isn’t creating a podcast episode every week he is still working on building his base. He is working social media and good old fashion networking to share what his show will be. He has enough episodes for newcomers to listen to and a lot of upcoming shucking events where he meets potential clients, guest and listeners. He is not resting even though you don’t hear him.

oyster ninja podcast knife gardner douglas Five Rookie Mistakes You Can Fix Today About Your Podcast
oyster ninja podcast knife by gardner douglas

The Oyster Ninja podcast is going to be successful. Right now, Gardner is being a good Christian father and husband so the podcast creation has not been as regular as maybe required to grow exponentially but he knows it. He chooses to do the right things, and I am positive that when the time is right, you’ll see and hear a lot more about and from the Oyster Ninja.  This is his new knife he created to get a buzz going.

If you can’t wait, you’ll find him on social media:

instagram: oysterninjapc
Facebook: The Oyster Ninja Podcast
Email: oysterninjapc@gmail.com

Remember there are five things you can do to avoid the rookie mistakes I made. Prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance. (plan) Figure out who your audience is going to be. After you get and idea of what your show is going to be — do it. To be successful, solve a problem. Have a reason for your show that is of more interest than you just being cute. Create a tribe from your identified audience and change the world; or why else do this?

The world is your oyster, shuck it! – Kenn Blanchard

The Surprisingly Simple Remedy for My Lukewarm Christian Life

Here’s an example of a podcaster using what is available in social media to reignite his passion for the Lord.  The tale of a project called Miracles & Atheists.  The surprisingly simple remedy for my lukewarm Christian life.

What do you mean, “when was I born again?”

I grew up in a church, I’ve always believed…it’s awesome that you found Jesus right before you were about to take your life, that God spoke to you as you opened the door to cheat on your wife, that you were delivered from your 10-year addiction, but I don’t have a story.

The Dilemma

I prayed for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior when I was a kid I guess, but I don’t remember being saved. What I do remember is praying that same prayer several times throughout my childhood, on 5 or 10 occasions maybe. I suppose I just wanted to make sure I was saved, but nothing happened.

The point is, I don’t have a story so don’t ask me about it, I get uncomfortable.

I don’t like being uncomfortable.

The truth is, not having a dramatic story makes me wonder whether I truly am saved. I believe, sure. At least I think I do.

But what does it really mean to believe anyway? I’m supposed to know that I know that I know I’m saved, right? That’s what the pastor says. Ok then, but how do I know for sure?

Faith is being convinced about things we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that; but am I convinced? The whole concept sort of stresses me out. Jesus tells us those who believe will cast out demons in His name, they will speak in tongues…wait tongues? What’s that all about anyway? I grew up United Methodist man, I don’t know what all this means.

Those who believe will pick up snakes with their hands and drink deadly poison without getting hurt. They’ll place hands on the sick and the sick will be healed…seriously? (Ref: Mark 16:17-18)

I certainly haven’t experienced any of that. Maybe I don’t believe then. But why not? What am I doing wrong? If I’m not saved, why am I wasting my time with church?

These are the things I struggled with during the first 38 years of my life as a lukewarm Christian.

People always used to tell me about the freedom they found in Jesus, but all I felt was condemnation. Paul says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) so I felt confused all the time. What’s the point of it all?

My lukewarm Christian friends used to tell me not to worry about it…that I was bearing fruit, I was fine. Even so, I had a potty mouth, an adulterous heart and an empty feeling inside….continuously searching for fulfillment, for something more.

Far from freedom, I know.
The truth is I was doing something wrong. I was going through the motions: seeking after the Lord with one hand but holding onto the world with the other. I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way.

About 18 months ago I started an unexpected journey in search of making sense out of it all. It was a Sunday afternoon, where despite having three energetic kids running around the house, I found myself scrolling through a mind-numbing playlist of movies on Netflix, most of which were full of sex, violence, and self-centered living. I’d been watching too many of those lately and I needed something kid-friendly, but not a kid’s movie, I couldn’t stomach anymore of those.

I selected a documentary called “The Finger of God.” I thought to myself, “hey that’s different.” The premise of the film was to investigate why some churches were on fire for the Lord, while others were well, lukewarm, perhaps? The film’s producer, Darren Wilson, sought after churches that were seeing real-life miracles, with the goal of capturing them on film.

Before watching this movie I knew absolutely nothing about miracles. I never even thought about signs and wonders before, or that any of the miraculous things Jesus talked about still happen in the 21st century. The Holy Spirit was basically an afterthought to me.

I figured miracles were a conceptual thing, not literally something us humans here on this planet could actually partake in. But I tell you, this documentary got the wheels turning for me. I was fascinated by some of the things I was seeing: deaf people’s ears opening up, knees being healed on the spot, manna showing up in people’s Bibles. It was weird…was this the same Jesus I thought I knew?

The idea of seeing miracles stayed in the back of my mind for the next six months. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t do anything about it.

Doing something would make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being uncomfortable.

It’s funny though, the Lord doesn’t seem to be concerned about my comfort. It’s like He has other plans for me or something…

So I figured the best thing would be to start getting into the Bible; to see what God’s Word says about miracles. Didn’t they go away? The problem was I found the Bible boring and confusing. I was going through the motions when I read the Bible and felt guilty about it. It shouldn’t be that way, having guilt didn’t feel right.

God knew I would get frustrated and blow off my Bible reading, and I did. So He put someone in my path who was well-versed in miracles, signs and wonders. I met Cale Nelson at a conference for podcasters in early 2017. We had only talked for five minutes or so, but I could see this guy was on fire for Jesus. I admired that, all the while wondering why I wasn’t on fire like he was…what was I missing, seriously?

At this point my finances were a mess and my marriage was about to fail. I was full of pride and selfish intentions. Yet, I put up a really good front. By God’s grace Cale and I kept in touch online, and after a few weeks I asked him whether he’d be interested in talking about Jesus with me more regularly.

Through Cale’s example, I learned how truly different real followers of Jesus were from the rest of the world. That scared me.
I was comfortable in my lukewarm world; I wanted to blend in.

Even so, I recognized in my search for fulfillment that I needed to make some sort of change. We all know the definition of insanity. So one of the first things I did was pray the Lord give me a hunger for His Word. If His Word truly brings life, I want to understand how.

Miracles and Atheist project

It took a few months, but the hunger I prayed for did eventually come, gradually. I made a commitment that the first thing I would do after waking up is get into the Word of God before I did anything else, even if just for five minutes. To my surprise, I actually started enjoying my time reading! For understanding, I started devouring any Christian media I could get my hands on related to miracles: audiobooks, YouTube videos, podcasts, and more documentaries.

It opened up a whole new world for me! I couldn’t believe I’d been missing out on such life in the here and now. For my whole life I’d just been concerned about not going to hell, but for the first time I realized Christ is actually inside me in the form of the Holy Spirit, I just needed to learn how to access Him.

I was sitting in church alone one Sunday morning and the pastor gave a sermon about taking risks for the Lord. He said faith had to involve some sort of risk, that without risk, it wouldn’t be faith. The message resonated with me.

I realized I had developed a fear of man. If I were to talk about my faith, to move outside my comfortable, lukewarm world it would be awkward. Talking to Cale every week was fine, but getting out into the world and being that weird Christian well, that was different.

Yet Jesus said “so everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 ESV

Acknowledging Jesus would mean I’d have to take a risk, probably more than one, and I didn’t like that very much. On the other hand, I didn’t like going through the motions anymore either.

It was time.

A lot of Christians love to learn, but far fewer take action on what they learn. I wanted to take action.

The Lord gave me a vision of bringing atheists and believers together to talk about miracles, signs and wonders. The problem was that atheists intimidated me. They thought Christians were stupid, they talked with big vocabulary and I didn’t want them to challenge me on my beliefs. My theology wasn’t all that strong and I didn’t want to jeopardize my faith, so I stayed clear of any religious talk when I found myself in a conversation with an atheist. Nevertheless, I respected them. They weren’t like me, in that they made a decision. They didn’t question their beliefs, they just didn’t believe and moved on.

There’s something to be said for being decisive, yet I couldn’t understand why they would be willing to jeopardize their salvation. It was a fascinating worldview, and I realized I had a heart for the atheist.

So I took my first risk, I took action.
I needed to find atheists and Christians willing to have a conversation. So I put out a polarizing post on Facebook about the folly of the aggressive, Bible-thumping, “you’re gonna burn” Christian. I mentioned that I would be working on a project to address the issue. I put out the post at around midnight on an early Wednesday morning and within 24-hours, I had nearly 300 comments and 20 private messages asking me what I was doing.

My post took people by surprise, it was out of character. And it also struck a chord. The next day I found myself filled with what could be none other than the Holy Spirit. I felt like I was high! Nothing else mattered, not my finances, not my frail marriage, not the kids, nothing…just God.

It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I can remember; that day I was baptized of the Holy Spirit. I took my first risk for the Lord, and I got my first taste of real faith. Shortly thereafter I found myself laying hands on the sick, rebuking illnesses and starting to see people healed. It’s been nothing short of amazing (and a little crazy).

One week later I launched a four-hour livestream on Facebook – I call it Miracles & Atheists. The premise of the show is to facilitate a healthy dialog between atheists and believers about the supernatural. It hasn’t been easy, but incredibly fulfilling.
Piece by piece, brick by brick my faith strengthened.

Nowadays, I see my wife and kids growing in their faith. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been and God’s handling our finances. My six-year-old is even laying hands and praying for the sick! It’s been an amazing roller coaster of a ride.

I don’t care about being the weird Christian anymore, I just want to help the lost and heal the sick.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

I had read that verse for years, but I never knew how to truly apply it in the fray of life, until I took my first risk for the Lord. Seeking God’s kingdom first means to truly die to yourself, every day. It’s means listening to the Lord when He calls you to do something, whether you know for sure that it’s Him or not. If it’s aligned with the Word of God, you go for it.

For me, I’d already lived the first 38 years of life for myself, so I’ll go ahead and live the rest out for Jesus.

If you’re like me, you may be afraid of going all in for Jesus. You probably don’t like being uncomfortable – believe me, I don’t either! Just know that your fear isn’t from God, it’s from the enemy. Push through and take that risk! When the dust settles, don’t be surprised when that mountain moves.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

are you spiritual or religious

Titles

How many times have you heard someone describing their faith status as being spiritual but not religious?  What do you identify as in your Christian walk?

As Christians we struggle with titles and identifying words for what we do and what we are.  Words have always been important.  They define us.  In a time where identity is topical.  What do you call yourself as related to Christianity?  Not only do we have goo- gobs of denominations but even more differences internally.

If you think about it, I bet it is because of the shortcomings you have witnessed, lived and survived as a Christian.  Have you heard the podcast?

Are you religious? Religion is our attempt at worshipping God in the manner of our preference. To be spiritual is to recognize the existence of God, angels and demons. That is not saying much, actually. Demons recognize God, they just don’t worship Him.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19 (KJV)

It is not secret that the concept of organized religion has come short for most people. If the truth be told we have come short of what God wants for us.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23

Our churches are imperfect because we are in it. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

One thing about deciding if we are religious or spiritual is from our failing as a religious community is forgetting who the real enemy is. We fight each other. We fight the pastor. We fight the deacons. We fight non-Christians. We fight people that show us our shortcomings. We fight a lot for people trying to be like Jesus. The real enemy is spiritual. It is the unseen forces that inhabit our dwellings, and people in our lives. Being demon possessed sounds horrible but lets move away from the Exorcist type movies and think about what happens to us daily.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

Have you ever had a family event go south (go to hell) after it started off great? There was love and peace in the home and then without warning someone ignites a firestorm of mean spirited conversation that destroys the joy. It is often the family member that doesn’t go to church. Or how about after a guest comes over. It is not the guest necessarily but as if a presence came in with them that changed the dynamic of the event.

This event influences more people than presenting the Gospel. It is why it happens. It is demonic.

How about a home that goes from warm to cold. A day that goes from great to horrible as if a virus of evil passes through it. I submit that this is exactly what happened.
How about the church business meeting? Those are often the worse. Meetings held were we talk about everything but evangelizing, saving people from eternal death or helping someone. They are ripe for evil influences. Meetings were we are more concerned with parliamentary procedure than prayer. Prayer is more important than we realize.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have enemies in the spiritual realms. Satan and his minions hate you. They seek to stop your growth, delay your progress, kill your joy. What’s worse is you accept it on a daily basis as normal. You blame everything and everyone else.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

It doesn’t just happen in church or in the movies.   It happens so often we miss it. Think about family times that turn out to make you NOT want to be around those who love you unconditionally. Think about all the times we have allowed ourselves to be angered, frustrated, or whatever is the opposite of what God would prefer.

You ever had family dinner time destroyed? The family is enjoying themselves and feeling the love and thankful to God about their blessings and then it hits.

How about in the home with a child that all of a sudden disrespects you, hits a hot button of yours.

It happens in church. It splits the church. It undoes the fabric of a church congregation which is actually another family.

Let’s talk about demons in the movies. They often say snarky stuff at first. It’s funny sometimes. It is a diversion. The next level is often hurtful truths. They are not all knowing but having been around longer than we have and able to confer with other demons on stuff about us and our families that appear impressive. They use that information to push your buttons. It came shame us, or fill us up with false pride. And it is always subtle. There is no being in red with horns and a pointed tail to scare us. The monster comes only after your confront it and try to cast it out. Then you get the ugly thing that spits, fights, curses God and blasphemes.

Casting out demons is no joke. It is not for the weak in faith. Not many of us are strong enough to do it. Look at what happened to the posers that tried it in Acts 19:13-16

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

I don’t want you running out of the house naked and wounded.

Reading Scripture the Holy Spirit cautions us that to do it successfully it must be done by someone strong in their faith, cleaned and prepared by fasting and prayer.

In the movies, The Exorcist (spoiler alert) both priest died. Prayer is still crucial for us on a day to day activity before we deal with anyone.

Suggestions:
Before your next conversation with your spouse pray.
Before your next meeting pray.
Before your next event pray.

You want to pray to rid your home of indwelling or wandering evil.
You want to pray to protect your family while home. Think of evil as a roach in your home or church. You need to fumigate it with prayer.

Call the Holy Spirit to replace what is there. That is done through prayer and praise.

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I want to give you a title if you must have one. Instead of being religious or spiritual, how about being a follower or disciple of Jesus the Christ. There is no ambiguity or gray area there. But I must warn you there is no middle of the road answer. You are either His or you are not…

Matthew 10:33 says “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Amen?

Make Good Choices a sign pointing to choices
Make Good Choices

 

 

Book Review: Ray Keating

I came out of the intelligence world in 2014 and was invited to write a review for an author I now consider a friend.  The review was printed in the Washington Times right before my birthday and I took it as a blessing.

I have received a copy of the past three Pastor Stephen Grant novels ever since and it is my go to summer read. Since The River there have been, four books.  Ray is a great writer.  His work will take you there.  Here’s what I wrote in 2014.

Just opened his latest called, “Reagan Country.”  Here’s my first review of…

 ‘The River’

Ray Keating’s novel, “The River,” takes you on an intriguing summer ride from Langley to the Vatican with Stephen Grant, a former CIA agent who leaves his intelligence career behind and becomes a pastor of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on East Long Island.

Mr. Keating’s storytelling is so lifelike that I almost thought I had worked with him when I was at Langley. Like the fictitious pastor, I actually spent 20 years working for the U.S. intelligence community, and once I started reading “The River,” I had to keep reading because it was so well-crafted and easy to follow and because it depicted a personal struggle that I knew all too well. I simply could not put it down.

What Ian Fleming’s 007 series has probably done for ex-MI-6 agents and Tom Clancy has done for retired CIA officers, Mr. Keating has done for the minority of former CIA agents who have served their country by working in the intelligence community, but now wish to serve God.

To me as a pastor, one of the interesting points of this story was the accuracy in the complexity of serving God as a Christian leader today. Apart from the espionage and action-oriented references to guns and tactics, there were real life, tear-jerking moments in a couple of instances that reminded me of some struggles that ministers face in sharing loss, grieving families and anger.

The book also highlighted my own inner search for truth in having made the transition from being a former active member of the U.S. intelligence community to being a Lutheran pastor. Undeniably, “thou shalt not kill” is an important part of the Bible, but during my own spiritual journey, those words took on a heightened level of contemplation.

Mr. Keating’s writing does not gloss over how things are and the responses we often hear, and that made the story richer for me because it wasn’t neat and sexy like a shaken martini in a James Bond thriller. It was a great blend of so many elements that actually happen in the intelligence community.

“The River” takes us to the core of moral principle; that is the battle between good versus evil, right versus wrong and the differences between one’s past and present lives, leaving the reader in deep reflection about the blurred lines that inspire inner conflict in anyone who has a past that they must reconcile with.

After all, in real life, the pieces rarely fit as neatly as we would like them to, and contrary to the old adage, time does not always allow all the hurt to heal before we get hit with something else. That is the kind of realism the reader is privy to in “The River,” because Mr. Keating weaves a convincing tale. After all, we are all seeking answers of some kind, whether they are to questions or merely settling on what is comfortable.

Mr. Keating also allows you to discover how each of his characters’ tick in a style and tone reminiscent of some of the best loved books of all time. The details and descriptions of “The River” brought me back into the secret corridors of the agency, trying to recall who the chief of station was as I read. Then, I wondered what operations were going on.

This riveting page-turner reminded me of some of my own experiences, such as the time I was training with a SEAL team that just happened to be at the facility I was working at as a member of the firearms-training team. I couldn’t help but wonder which of the nondescript young men I’d met back then would have become Mr. Keating’s Stephen Grant.

Which of the guys that I have run with, been bested by and traded insults with in the typical Navy versus Marine banter would it have been?

As soon as the story progressed, I knew this guy. The more I read, the more I understood him. A real-life version of Pastor Grant and I would have been friends. We would have commiserated on politics and poor choices of our youth, and surely, we would have debated church doctrines.

The book was so rich in content and story that I expected the meaning to be connected to one of the songs by Garth Brooks, Joni Mitchell or even Bruce Springsteen. All three artists of different genres have songs about “The River,” and the reader can’t be sure which one until the end of the story.

Many spy-novel authors try to appeal to members of the intelligence community as well as the average American looking for a little international intrigue and James Bond excitement. With Mr. Keating’s Pastor Grant, he has touched upon a small fraternity within the intelligence community of those who have wanted to serve both God and country — but necessarily in that order.

You can get them on AMAZON.com

THE RIVER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL

By Ray Keating

CreateSpace, $13.99, 272 pages

other books in this series:

  • Murderer’s Row
  • Wine Into Water
  • Lionhearts
  • Reagan Country

Kenneth V. Blanchard is a former CIA analyst and Baptist pastor.

I Love Gun People

None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church… Ephesians 5:29

When I got started in the gun community I was shocked to learn that I had as much prejudice and bias as anyone else. I had to check myself. The path from firearms instructor to minister of the Gospel, to Black Man With A Gun was not a straight line. My journey was unintentional. God often makes a straight line with a crooked stick. I love the people in the gun community, I didn’t know that when I started though. Let me share some of what happened along the way…

I started out with nothing. I still have most of it left.

I began as the evening, sexton of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Washington, DC. At the time it was a prolific and big name church in the African American community. I didn’t know any of that. I liked it because the Spirit spoke to me there. I had recently bankrupted my family, strained my marriage and changed jobs trying to become an entrepreneur. I was a burgeoning public speaker that had successfully lobbied and testified for concealed carry reform in four states. I was a gun activist. I was trying to become a paid lobbyist. I was trying to build a firearms training business that would stop accidents in the homes and make people in my community safer with the guns they owned. I was certified to qualify police, security and federal officers for armed duty.  My community wasn’t buying what I was selling.  Before concealed carry was an option in thirty-five states, I was trying to educate people.  So I put it all on hold and went to work for a church.

Every evening I opened the church, checked the place for leaks, spills, toilet cleanliness and then waited for the women of the shelter to get off work and unlock the house door for them. The church owned homes that it allowed homeless women to rent super cheap. They had to work of course and couldn’t lay around all day so the house was locked all day. I learned a lot. The choir members would come in and I would patrol the place to make sure they old ladies and the teens in the building were safe. After things got settled I sat in a little room near the door and worked on my first book, “Black Man With A Gun; People Fear What They Don’t Understand.” The title was changed by the editor.

The  church ladies loved me being there. They loved the attention I gave them. They giggled at the fact that I rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and was in church. I was the good bad boy of the building. When asked what I was writing they thought my premise was sound. Help stop the violence. I was shocked when the book was published and a few of the deacons recoiled in horror about my book. I was the same guy. Fortunately, the old ladies still bought the book and supported me. It was there after hours that I got the chance to talk to God one on one. In the sanctuary, I would sit on the first pew and look at the cross in the few minutes before I closed the building down and lock it up and leave. It was there that I would ask the Lord what He wanted for me in my life. It was there that I praised Him for saving me, sustaining me, and protecting me from all the things I had willfully done.

My day job in the government had just changed and I was wondering if I was going to make it to retirement. I was a misfit among misfits. As an entrepreneur I was dabbling as a writer, a speaker, a private firearms instructor, a professional bodyguard and a private investigator. At work, I was a supervisor of armed police officers, a senior instructor of police tactics and facilitator of new hires. I was struggling. I got the opportunity to fly all over the country with the NRA, and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America but it didn’t satisfy the longing in my soul.

One night a family of four came to the church looking to see if it had food to give them. They were living on street, in an old station wagon. I had never met anyone like that before. I thought it unbelievable in this day in age, in America, in the Nation’s Capital, there were hungry families. I heard the church had a pantry so I asked someone and they told me it was upstairs in the church attic. I didn’t even know there was a church attic. I got the key, found the attic and saw that there was plenty of food there. I went shopping. I filled four bags of canned and boxed food and brought it down. I was met at the door and challenged by a church trustee that admonished me for giving food to drug addicts. It was in ear shot of the couple. The look on their faces was authentic. The hope they had vanished. I felt as if someone had gut punched me. The trustee took a bag from me and handed it to the woman. She took a couple of cans and threw it at the stairs in anger. The husband was angry but he bent down and picked up the food. I looked at trustee and his arrogance and felt repugnance like I have never felt in my life. Another church officer walked by and gave a nod of approval to his actions. I felt anger for the first but not last time in a church. I wanted nothing to do with these people if this was acceptable. I apologized to the couple and gave the rest of the food I had bagged and walked back into the church.

When the pastor came in that night, I told him what happened and that I was resigning. I asked him how he could work around such people. I told him I didn’t want his job. He smiled and said he accepted my resignation. I was surprised. He didn’t try to change my mind or anything. The next week was quiet for me. The trustee saw me at Bible Study and apologized. A few nights later, the Lord spoke to me again in a dream. It wasn’t the first time but I remembered all the times He had in the past and recognize the feeling of peace that comes from being in His presence. I don’t remember the conversation but I woke refreshed and with a Scripture on my lips as I opened my eyes from Isaiah 6:8.

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

After church on Sunday, I waited for the opportunity to talk to the pastor privately. Having been on staff, it was easy to navigate the building, and bypass the personalities. I was expected to be cleaning up or opening a room. When I approached the pastor in his study, he saw a look of concern on my face and asked if everything was OK with my family. I assured him everything was great actually and we were now doing better than ever.

“So what can I do for young man,” he asked. Pastor I think I have a calling on my life to minister, I said. He looked me in the eyes, and said, “Yes, you do, everyone in this church knew that except for you.”

Stunned I just stood there. Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes. Now what do I do, I asked, I am not like the other ministers here, I said. I am Harley riding, gun toting, former US Marine, that works as the CIA.

He smiled and said, the Lord called you, He knows.

That was during the time of the Y2K fears. I gave my trial and initial sermon ten days before 9-11. It was the year of change for more than just me. The Black Man with A Gun persona was created and firearms training, radio interviews happened. These was before Google, Facebook and other social media.

The Washington Times interviewed me and to push the article they wanted an eye popping picture. We took one with me holding my Kimber 1911 and a leather bound King James Bible. The deacons of the church voted to kick me out of the church and resend my license to preach but it was defeated. I didn’t learn about the secret ballot until much later.


I wondered from church to church, serving where I could. I created In The Wilderness Ministries, the Forgiven Christian Riders Motorcycle Club and ministered where I could. I did this until I was called to pastor an autocratic church in Washington, DC. It was a tough place. When I resigned from the pastorate I felt the anger, frustration and sadness many who no longer attend church feel.

I now know that the Lord allows everything to either move, teach or prepare you. I know 999 things that don’t work. I know who I am. I walk with God. He has never left me nor allowed me to screw up too bad that I couldn’t get back to the safety of His side.
I refused to conform to this world. I refused to conform to the politics of the church as we play it. I am not popular in religious circles around the city. I don’t get invitations to preach revivals, and special days. I can be called uneducated. I don’t have a doctorate of divinity. I have failed at many things but not my God. I refuse to accept defeat in serving a victorious God.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2

He called me and asked Who shall I send, I said again, Send me!

This is a new beginning. Please join me. Don’t worry if you like hunting, riding motorcycles, shooting high powered rifles, pistols and shotguns. I do too.  Don’t give up your faith. Don’t give up on having a real relationship with the Creator of the universe despite what has happened to you in this life. Don’t surrender to the voices you hear and the naysayers that are abundant in your life. Roll with me, follow Jesus, let’s do this thing together. I understand your situation. I have been on your street. I am not above you. I am just walking with the One that saved me and I want you to be with me.

To God be the glory!

 

Fishing

I don’t know what it is about bodies of water but I love them. I especially love rivers, bay and oceans. Saltwater being my favorite locale of all. It started off just being a place for fishing but it is also a place I talk to God every opportunity I get.

The Atlantic ocean off of Virginia Beach was probably the first place where the water was overwhelming. It is said you can drown in less than a foot of water but I am not afraid of drowning. My father and his brother in law, took me out when I was young on a rented 15-foot boat and a outboard motor to fish in Virginia Beach. Now that I am an adult I would never do that. That boat was too small. The fishing however was spectacular. It left an indelible mark on me where I wanted to fish ever since. I used to ride my bike to any creek or stream in the area that looked like it might have fish in it. I never caught anything during my high school era fishing this way. After I got a car I would drive fifty plus miles to reservoirs and rivers with the same bad luck. But I loved fishing still. After I got my first “good government job” I met some retirees that had been fishing together for twenty years with a charter boat captain our of Solomon’s Island, Maryland named Robbie. It changed my fishing status instantly. On this old 60 foot converted crabbing trolley we fished the Patuxent river and the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay with ridiculous success. After years of hitting and missing with fishing, for the first time I was catching fish by the buckets full. We were bottom fishing for spot, croaker, perch, flounder and the occasional sport fishes like trout, striped bass, bluefish and mackerel.

I was a supernumerary on the fishing party and became a full time member after the death of one of the regulars. The fishing crew consisted of five retired African Americans that worked in the intelligence fields during the early years. They had stories of surviving Jim Crow, the Civil Rights era and filled me in on parts of history that escaped most books. I used the time onboard to learn, listen and pray. I found a peace onboard the boat that was unlike anything I had had before except maybe on my motorcycle. On back of the boat, or aft, with my back to the conversations about jazz music, the blues, and current events I faced the shore or open water. There I saw where the horizon touched the sky. Where clouds hung so low you could touch them in your mind. I watched sea birds like the osprey and eagle hunt and effortless sail across the clear blue canvas of sky.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

It is easy to pray here. There is a droning sound of a diesel as the boat moves from position to position. The charter captain spoiled us with knowing from data points favorite feeding grounds of the fish we are after. On more than one occasion he admonished me to get my hook in the water while I was marveling at Gods handiwork.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Psalm 19:1

In 2014, I lost the last of my five fishing partners. The original member that invited me went home to be with the Lord. The captain himself is fighting illness. Now I am the old guy, and I hope to keep the traditional alive by getting some new anglers to go with me regularly, once a month from June till September to fish, pray and enjoy the beauty of God.

One of the few reasons I don’t move away from this high traffic and taxing, cosmopolitan area is that not too far away are places like this where I can pray, praise and fish.

Now I prefer saltwater fishing to freshwater. I prefer being on a beach surfcasting, or on a boat in waters too deep to reach from casting from shore. I plan to get some video footage and preach from these spots this year, Lord willing. I am hoping you will join me. If you like fishing, I would love to get the invite to fish with you. Jesus likes fisherman, you know?

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-22

What’s Killing Our Veterans?

veterans committing suicide

Is the reason behind the tragic suicides of our nations veterans guilt?  For the recently separated combat veterans of the US military I have noticed a common thread regarding faith. Many has lost their faith in God after witnessing death, destruction, and the sanctioned slaughter of civilians. Those that still have faith, struggle with “religion” because nobody is talking to them.

Even unbelievers have heard that the wages of sin are death. Most don’t like that reference because everyone sins.

A byproduct of sin is the feeling of guilt.

Guilt kills more people than we realize. For the recently separated combat veterans of the US military I have noticed a common thread regarding faith. Many has lost their faith in God after witnessing death, destruction, and the sanctioned slaughter of civilians. Those that still have faith, struggle with “religion” because nobody is talking to them.

“Every day, approximately 22 American veterans commit suicide, totaling over 8,000 veteran suicides each year.”

This statistic comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, which analyzed death certificates from twenty-one states, from 1999 – 2011. The report calculated a percentage of suicides identified with veterans out of all suicides in death certificates from the 21 states during the project period, which turned out to be 22 percent. (By point of reference, about 13 percent of U.S. adults are veterans, according to a 2012 Gallup poll.) Then the report applied that percentage against the number of suicides in the U.S. in a given year (approximately 38,000). Divided by number of days in a year, the report came up with 22 veteran suicides a day.

Most, if not all of us have felt some type of guilt in their walk of faith at some point. The only solution I have found is in the Gospel of Jesus. This is not to be confused with televangelist, the preachers of X place or the megachurch in your neighborhood. We know that real Christianity is not kosher in pop culture, society or anywhere for that matter. BUT, we are all guilty of sinning before a holy and just God. It is guilt that is behind suicides.

Most people in uniform I believe have a very high moral code. It is one of the reasons they joined the military. They came to serve. Our human moral code has a limit. If you don’t have a faith system in Christ, you have a high probability of failure.

Guilt.

We know that word. You don’t have to serve on a battlefield to identify with that monster.

In the past, Post Traumatic Stress was seen as a result of “trauma/fear overload” in combat. But now, research suggests that guilt is a key factor. According to a Marine Corps study, PTSD was found to be “more closely linked to an inner conflict rather than threats to their lives, the sight of bodies or blood or family problems.”

Who has not had some inner conflict? What if you had nowhere or no one to talk to about it?

Army Colonel Carl Castro, who is coordinating $50 million in research into suicide prevention and treatment at the Pentagon said

“The core of the issue is that it’s not that people who attempt suicide … want to harm themselves as much as they want the pain they’re currently in to stop, and they don’t see any other way out.”

The US military does try to treat service members with mental and emotional issues; but treating those individuals isn’t the main priority. Fighting wars and defending the country are. As a result, many service members fall by the wayside after they leave the service or can’t cope with the myriad stresses of military service.

So how do we combat this as a church? I believe I’ll use what worked for me, the Gospel of Jesus. I had to hear the Good Word for myself. I had t study and meditate on that Word. I had to be open to the holy Spirit. Note that I didn’t get it from any one person in church.

This guilt is exacerbated by people that are also having difficulties coping in the larger society. It is tough to receive for folks going through family issues, substance, sexual and mental abuses. Many service members have family issues that are exacerbated by lengthy deployments and separations from their families, as well drug and alcohol addictions by the military spouse, the service member, or both.

In spite of its waning popularity it is still relevant. There are many verses contained within that speak to one who is feeling guilty, or one that feels outside and in pain.

But what exactly is guilt? My definition is “feeling remorse or negatively judging yourself for things you either did or did not do, which you believe had a negative effect on someone or something else.”

I am about to die, and I cannot forget my pain. I confess my guilt; I am troubled by my sin. Psalm 38:17-18

Guilt can literally “eat away at you” like cancer.

It’s impossible to go through life without doing things we regret. But you are a spiritual being having a human experience, and you deserve to be free. Don’t think about ending your life to free yourself either. So how do you start?

First, become aware that self-forgiveness is not about condoning your past behavior or saying that what you did or did not do was okay. It’s about accepting the past as it is, knowing that it cannot be changed, and realizing that feeling guilty keeps us stuck in the past. Own it and move on.

If I can help you, I want to. I want to show you how I made it through. I want to show you that the Bible is not just another book. I’d like to be your friend.

In Christ, even the most heinous sins are blotted. Salvation is by grace, and grace forgives. After a person is saved, we will still sin, and when we do, God still promises forgiveness.

“But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

Freedom from sin, however, does not always mean freedom from guilty feelings. Even when our sins are forgiven, we still remember them. Also, we have a spiritual enemy, called “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10) who relentlessly reminds us of our failures, faults, and sins. That is the one that keeps you down we you should be up. The devil boosts your guilt and says you’re just a hypocrite if you ask for forgiveness. Don’t dwell on guilt. Seek forgiveness and help from the Lord. Pray to the Holy Spirit daily for help and trust in Christ alone.

Spiritually, sometimes God uses guilt as a form of discipline to put us back on the right path. Guilt can lead us to repentance. So feelings of guilt are a blessing, because they push us towards God. Just like physical pain drives us to find out what’s wrong, the spiritual pain of guilt causes us to seek forgiveness.

Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23–24

Put the past behind you and move forward. Instead of dwelling on your now, dwell on God’s awesome love and grace.

If you want someone to walk with you, call, email or connect me. You are not beyond help. Life is not over. You can overcome. You can have peace again. You matter.

A broken crayon still colors.

 

You have forgotten the encouragement that is addressed to you as sons: “My son, do not think lightly of the Lord’s discipline or give up when you are corrected by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he punishes every son he accepts.” What you endure disciplines you: God is treating you as sons. Is there a son whom his father does not discipline? Hebrews 12:5-7

If I made sense to you, let me know.  thanks.