A Long Overdue Explanation

 by Johnny Carlton (Giesbrecht)

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

Some of the projects that I’ve been involved with have, thus far, not worked out.  I’m thinking in particular of my attempt to become a viable motion-picture producer.  With the help of my wife and many other people, I’ve produced and directed five movies, three of them feature lengths.

I’m pleased with the way they all turned out.  The problem is that they haven’t earned any money.

But what really bothers me is that people who helped me make the movies–actors, investors, etc.–no doubt feel that I’ve let them down, and some of them see my name, whether Giesbrecht or Carlton, as being written in mud or worse.  I can’t blame them for that.  However, I do wish to clarify the situation, for what it’s worth.

First of all, not one of those five projects have ever made a profit–not a cent.  We had a few showings of some of them, and one, the first one, was distributed in video by a small company in Edmonton, Crown Video Canada; but none of this meager income even came close to covering expenses.  We paid up some of our debts with money squeezed out of other sources, but overall the situation has remained gloomy.

One particular problem has been unexpected difficulties with music rights.  We paid out considerable amounts of money for rights, only to find that the allotted time limits ran out before we could find a way to realize income from the projects.  In the meantime the costs of music went up drastically.

For some years I tried to get us out of this hole with new movie projects (hence the five completed ones), hoping that each one would be the big ship coming in to rescue the whole flotilla.  Instead, each one only added to the disaster.

I finally had enough sense to quit trying with this particular method, realizing that money would have to come from some other effort.

In the meantime I was losing my health.  This decline had been going on for many years, so that even during the years of shooting the movies I could sometimes just barely stay on my feet.  Doctors, including specialists, didn’t deny that I was ill, but for a long time they couldn’t find what was causing my symptoms.

My condition kept getting worse, the symptoms being weakness, tiredness, pain in my back and legs, and an increased unsteadiness of hand.  Actually my right foot was the first to begin this jumping around bit, and then my right hand.

Only recently I finally found out what’s wrong with me.  I was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s disease, a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough dopamine.  This can result in tiredness, weakness, and loss of muscle control.  My symptoms began noticeably in 1980, thirty-two years ago, although there was a shorter episode some years before that.

Long before it got to the seriously shaky part, but with the weakness, tiredness, and pain more or less in full swing, I decided that the best thing to do was to go back to an earlier interest–the writing of books, fiction.  Sitting at a desk, writing, was physically more possible for me than any other kind of work I could think of.

Some time before I got into making movies, Moody Press of Chicago had published two of my teen novels.  Those didn’t make much money either, but at least they didn’t put me in the red.  So I did go back to writing, knowing that it’s very hard to place a manuscript with a publisher but hoping for a breakthrough.

Then came a major shift in the tectonic plates underlying the world’s publishing scene–namely the arrival of technology that allowed books to be published not on paper but digitally.  This way they could be read on an e-book reader and on other popular devices including ordinary home computers.  Once the book marketing companies were set up for this, the cost of publishing a book (by this method) had dropped so drastically that they were willing to have a much longer list of books accepted for publishing than the print publishers could afford.  This allows many more authors to get published than would otherwise be the case.  The downside is that the competition is as fierce as it ever was.  It’s easier to get published now, but one’s book is likely to get lost among the thousands of others that also got published.

That’s where I sit right now, having had a number of books made available as e-books, but waiting to be discovered by readers.  This website is an effort at promoting my books.  Information is also available on them by going directly to amazon.com, the company that’s marketing them, and calling up their e-books and then Johnny Carlton and Johnny Giesbrecht; I have some books under each name.

I’ve begun to take medication for Parkinson’s, and am waiting for it to kick in fully.  Already there has been a slight improvement–somewhat less tiredness and a little less pain.  My hand still trembles, but I’m able to type.  I’m trusting in God.

I haven’t given up on the movies.  Should I be able to earn enough money from writing to pay for the music rights, I would have another go at marketing these five entertaining projects, so that, hopefully, some income could be realized by all who were involved in their making.

I sincerely thank all the people who helped make them, and apologize for my lack of success in marketing the product.  Please forgive me and join me in hoping that some good things will still happen.

You were wonderful to work with, and Yvonne and I will always remember those exciting days of filming.

 

 

The Black Mouse and the White Rat

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

(I wrote this while I had a headache and didn’t feel good enough  to do anything more important.)

 

Once there was a little mouse

Who lived by himself in a little house.

His favorite food was corn on the cob,

And his second choice was shish kabob.

 

But he was lonely in his house,

So he said, “I’ll marry me a mouse.”

Yet the best he could find was a hot white rat

That he bravely rescued from the jaws of a cat.

 

Their wedding took place near the rhubarb plant;

The best man and bridesmaid were a bug and an ant.

For their honeymoon they took a long hike

All around the garden on a two-seater bike.

 

They stopped for the night at the Motel Gopher Hole,

And the white rat said, “Now pour on the coal!”

After a while a bellboy called Bob

Brought them a platter of corn on the cob.

 

But the white rat refused to touch any food;

She said she just wasn’t in the mood.

The mouse ate slowly—when he finished his corn

A little baby mouse-rat was born.

 

The three went home, the honeymoon over,

And lived in their house in a field of clover.

They were happy together, day after day,

Which proves that mixed marriages work out okay.

 

 

This Author Likes Dean Koontz Books

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

I became a Dean Koontz fan in 2002 after reading his novel titled, FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE.  Since then I’ve read about fifty-five of his lengthy thrillers.  Why did I get so hooked?

I suppose there are a lot of things about Koontz’s writings that have made him a best-selling author, such as his direct, intense approach to the subject matter, his fascinating characterizations, and his original concepts.  But there are two main points that make up the biggest attraction for me.

First, Koontz adds a spiritual dimension to all of his stories so that his characters are more like most people in real life who, after all, sometimes think about God and the matters of good and evil.  This is a realistic element that is strikingly lacking in most novels, including thrillers, so that it almost seems as though these authors are writing stories about intelligent, humanoid animals rather than about human beings.  But Koontz, whether he’s presenting a serial killer, a struggling priest, or a husband and wife and their child fleeing from said serial killer, never forgets that human beings are free-willed agents needing to take responsibility for their spiritual and moral decisions.  Reading a Dean Koontz story, you get the feeling that you’re experiencing a fuller, more complete representation of human life on this planet.

The second big point that drew me to Koontz is his sense of humor.  His thrillers are pretty heavy stuff, even gross at times, but that doesn’t prevent him from injecting them with ongoing clever and funny observations on the part of his characters, in their thoughts and in their dialogue.

The only thing I don’t like about Koontz’s books is the way some of his characters use the words, Jesus, Christ, God, and other references to deity as negative expressions–even though Koontz is obviously pro-Christian.  I have noticed, however, that there seems to be a lot less of that kind of irreverent dialogue in his later books than in his earlier ones.

I have no problem with the usage of rough and foul language by some of his characters.  That kind of realism helps to make the stories convincing.  (I know the same thing could be said about characters using the Lord’s name in a bad way; it’s just that I can’t stand it.)

How much has my own writing been influenced by Koontz?  Less than readers might think.  When I first discovered Koontz I was already writing in a way that brought out the fact that human beings have a spiritual, moral side to them.  And as for the humor, I think it was mainly Charles Dickens’ works that steered me in that direction.  His stories dealt with serious matters too, but he was never far away from bringing in remarks like, “Her purse snapped shut like a bite,” and something about how a particular large dog, if he wanted to, could swallow a small dog “like a pill.”  (I think both of these references are from DAVID COPPERFIELD.)  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if I learned that Dean Koontz had at some time in his life read a lot of Charles Dickens.

In any case, I hope to continue to read a lot of Dean Koontz.

The Materialist and the Rubber Ball

 by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

Materialists believe that “. . . physical matter is the only reality . . .” according to one definition of materialism in my Webster.  Therefore materialists do not believe in God, for God is a Spirit, as opposed to being part of the physical universe.  For the same reason they don’t believe in life after death.  They see the physical body die and refuse to believe that there can be any non-physical life left after that.  So their stand is:  if something can’t be experienced on a physical level, it doesn’t exist.

This is a shortsighted-narrow attitude, and anyone of this school of thought should be asked if he does not believe that a child’s rubber ball has a center—a point within the ball that is an equal distance from every point of the outer surface, as well as being a point from which all directions lead outward and none lead inward.  If a point is chosen and it is found that one can move inward from that point, or within that point, then it is obviously not the center.

We all know—materialists as well as the rest of us—what is meant by the center of something.  Then let the materialist proclaim that the center of a ball is physical—if to him all reality is physical.  But for a thing to be physical it must be made of some material, and if it is made of some material it must have a size and a shape; for material by its very definition has mass, and it is quite impossible to conceive of mass without allowing that mass to have size and shape.

What, then, is the shape of the abstract center of the ball?  Our first thought might be that it is spherical, like the ball, but a closer look reveals that if we are imagining the center to be spherical, we are not really imagining the center at all, but, rather, we are imagining a little ball inside of a big one.  Even though all outside points of the little interior ball are of equal distance from the surface of the surrounding big ball, the little ball does not constitute the true center of the big ball.  Certainly not, for it is only the center of the little ball that is also the center of the big ball.  Therefore you can go on imagining balls within balls forever, always smaller and smaller, and you will have come no closer to putting a size and a shape on the ball’s center than you were at the start.  This is simply because a true center has no size and no shape.  And if it has no size and no shape it is not physical.  And if it is not physical then either it doesn’t exist, or materialists are wrong who say that all reality is physical.

Does it exist?  If we say that a ball doesn’t have a center, then we must ask what it does have in its place.  For if we imagine straight lines leading directly inward from all over the surface of the ball, we would suppose that if we imagined them to meet somewhere, that somewhere would be the center and as such would constitute a legitimate part of reality.

It is interesting that although we cannot define the true center of a ball in physical terms no matter how hard we try, we can all—if we possess normal human faculties—easily comprehend the obvious reality of a ball’s abstract center.  We are told that animals cannot do this, and, although no animal has likely ever been seriously asked about the matter, I’m somehow inclined to agree.  But let that remain a mystery for now.

A bigger mystery is how any human mind, knowing and agreeing to the fact that the abstract, non-physical center of a ball is a reality to be reckoned with, can at the same time proclaim that his philosophy of life allows existence only of the physical.

And what of thought?  What of memory?  What of love?  What size and shape are they?

No one has ever seen love nor measured it with a yardstick, or weighed it, or tried to split it in an atom splitter to release its energy.  But it is the most powerful force in the universe.

The Holy Bible teaches that one day in the future the physical things will be destroyed.  Those of us who have fully accepted that there is a reality behind the physical, much greater than the physical, and have allowed ourselves to be put in tune with that reality through the love and power of Jesus, can read 2nd Peter, Chapter 3, verses 10 to 13, in the New Testament of the Bible, believe it, and, in spite of believing it, be at peace.

New e-book Release

I’m happy to announce the release of my latest Johnny Carlton novel, STARVILLE, as an e-book on Amazon/Kindle books.  This story is kind of special as you’ll see from reading the following excerpt from the book, Author’s Opening Note.  I’m also including the main blurb, What the Story is About.

Author’s Opening Note

This book is a work of fiction, a thriller, and I think it’s one that has a particularly authentic, interesting, and unusual background.  The story is basically set in a small hamlet in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in the year 1950.

These kinds of hamlets, along with their surrounding farmlands, and with their fascinating culture of the times, present a unique piece of historical reality.  If we cut a particular slice out of it–say from 1935 to 1955–we have not only the Second World War covered, but also the last part of the changeover from the “horse days” to gas-powered farm machinery and motor vehicles.

Looking at this through the eyes of a boy growing up in this time and place (as you will be part of the time while reading the book) you’ll be seeing what few people in the world know anything about.

It was a time and place on the edge of civilization, for to the south were more people, more things going on, more progress, and the whole bustling United States of America; but to the north there was wilderness.

Unique?  Consider this:  The time and place I’m talking about is the only one in the world where people drove around, in wintertime, in horse-drawn vehicles that were closed-in cabs heated with a small wood stove.  The inhabitants of the rest of the horse-days wintry world were freezing their butts off in open sleighs.

Most of my growing-up years (from the time I was seven until I was twenty) were spent in a hamlet very much like the one called Starville in this story.  It was a peaceful little place, yet, ironically, full of adventure, particularly in the imaginations of myself and my boyhood buddies.  Our Starville (it has a different name in real life) was to be a springboard–according to the way we looked at things–into glorious lives of romance and adventure, the kind demonstrated by our screen heroes of the time, such as cowboy-star Hopalong Cassidy, jungle-man Tarzan, and private-eye Philip Marlowe, rescuers of the innocent, crime fighters.

Now, so many years later, I thought:  What if some big evil had invaded that peaceful little hamlet at that time and tested everyone’s mettle, including that of us adventure-hungry boys?  Would we have been up to it?  Once the concept had come into my mind, it wouldn’t leave me alone.

Although its background is authentic, this story is fiction, and all its characters and their names are fictitious.

With that settled, you can ease back in your morris chair (that’s a 1940s type of easy chair), or maybe you’d like to recline on your chesterfield (that’s 1940s and early 1950s lingo for sofa) and read–and see what happens when extremely rotten eggs from Sin City invade our pastoral little hamlet, Starville.

 

What STARVILLE is About

The year: 1950; the place: Starville, a tiny hamlet in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, where tranquility reigns … until evil walks in.

This happens because a rather good man, VINCE GREENRAY, who ran away from home when he was fifteen, returns to the hamlet in an attempt to find refuge from the law.  He’s wanted for a California murder he didn’t commit.  Close on his heels comes the real killer, HUMPHREY BALZAK, whose agenda is straightforward–he needs to eliminate the suspect before he can prove his innocence and the true killer’s guilt.

Much of the story is told as seen through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old resident of Starville, ROY GREENRAY, the nephew of Vince.  Like most boys, he dreams of being involved in high adventure and derring-do, one of his screen heroes of the time being Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, private investigator.  But when the daydreaming becomes reality, can Roy handle it?

Although a fourteen-year-old boy is featured, this story is by no means intended for young readers.  It is a hard-edged adventure thriller with a unique and little-explored setting: an authentic 1950’s hamlet in Saskatchewan–very much like the one in which the author grew up.

 

 

 

The Romance of Transportation

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

The words locomotion and transportation are closely related.  One of my dictionaries defines locomotion as the “Act or power of moving from place to place.  Walking, swimming, and flying are common forms of locomotion.”  To transport something means to carry it from one place to another; so, in a sense, transportation was already in existence the first time a monkey carried a banana from one tree branch to another.  Yet most of the time we think of transportation as involving some sort of conveyance; however, when a human being trains an animal to carry something, said animal is definitely considered to be a means of transportation.

So, in this sense, what was the first means of transportation we know of?  A donkey?  Some other animal?  Maybe, but more likely a raft.  It was easier to find some fallen logs and tie them together with vines or strips of leather than to train a stubborn donkey to carry a load.  However, the raft was restricted to traveling on water; hence, donkeys, cattle, and camels were, along with rafts, the beginnings of transportation.  It is calculated that this began about 8,000 years ago.

The people of Southwestern Asia were among the first speed freaks to be discontent with the pace of the animals that had thus far been tried for transportation and bravely began getting onto the backs of horses.  And the Laplanders began driving reindeer, having them pull sleighs long before they had ever heard of Santa Claus.

You see how romantic it gets right from the start?

It got even more so after someone living near the eastern end of the Mediterranean invented the wheel about 5,000 years ago.  As a result the speed freaks could eventually sit in chariots behind the thundering hooves of their living engines.  But they probably had a lot of problems because it wasn’t until the 900’s AD that the French invented the basic, sensible, modern harness, which included the collar and traces.

All this improvement in land travel didn’t sidetrack the Vikings from developing rafts into rather sophisticated paddle boats that, around the year 1,000, brought them to America.  Columbus got around to it by 1492, and by that time few people would have even thought about paddling across the ocean; they let the wind push them!

This amazing inventiveness continued on both land and sea:  In 1662 a Frenchman, Blaise Pascal, invented the omnibus which was a large horse-drawn wagon used for public transportation.  In 1769 another Frenchman, Nicolas Cugnot, built a steam-powered car.  But an Englishman, Richard Trevithick, invented the first steam railway locomotive in 1804.  Yet it was hard to get a lead on those clever Frenchmen; in 1860 Jean Ettiene Lenoir invented the first road vehicle with a gas engine.  (Come to think of it, with the price of gas nowadays it might have been better to stick with steam.)  Then, in 1903, the Wright brothers did the impossible, launching mankind into the air.

Those living at the time must have been tempted to think that this was the final frontier and victory that could be gained in the highly adventurous, romantic, incredible history of mankind’s story of locomotion and transportation.  But no.

In 1969 Americans Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, with the help of brainy friends from various countries, flew to the moon, took a good look around, and found their way safely back to Earth.  And, as we all know, since then the leaders in the progress of locomotion and transportation have not decided that we’ve gone far enough.  Orbiting stations are being built and outer space beckons.

What is Love?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

My dad was not a great philosopher or renowned spiritual leader, but he would sometimes come out with profound insights stated in simple words.  When I was a boy he once told me, “Love is the greatest thing there is.”  Not being much of a reader or church goer, I doubt that he even knew about 1 Corinthians 13:13 where it says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  I certainly was not aware, at that time, of this scripture, but I’ve never forgotten that simple statement from my dad.

If love was that important I decided it must also be important to understand what the word meant.  I realized that it had peripheral meanings, but I was interested in understanding its basic meaning as used in the context of the statement made by my father.  I quickly came up with what seemed to me an obvious definition, and for many years after that I assumed that everyone else had just naturally arrived at the same conclusion; it didn’t seem like a matter that people would disagree about.

But one enlightening day in 1969 at the Decision Christian School of Writing in Minneapolis, I happened to bring up the matter to a small group of fellow writers sitting around a table over coffee.  I casually gave them my definition of the meaning of the word love–and was flabbergasted when not one of those present agreed with me.  It wasn’t so much that they felt my definition was totally invalid, but rather that it was insufficient.  However, they did not offer to fill in what they said was lacking.  Basically, they were saying that love is something too great for us to be able to understand well enough to be able to give it a satisfactory definition.

Although I agree that we can never fully understand anything–only God can do that–I do not agree that we can do without well thought-out definitions of the words we use; and the more important the word is, the more important it is that we have a clear definition for it.  The brothers and sisters surrounding the writers’ conference table gave me the impression that they were not at all concerned about their inability to come up with a definition for the word love.  This seems particularly ironic since they were all writers, supposedly interested in the clear communication of important spiritual matters of which love is central.

I have never found any reason to change my definition of the word love.  Keeping in mind that I am thinking here only of the word’s most basic and important meaning, please carefully consider my simple attempt at defining it:  Love is concern for the welfare of a conscious being, wanting that being to be happy.

Before you begin making a list of inadequacies in my definition, let me add some qualifications and clarifications of my own.  The above offers the core meaning; one of the main outer layers is: admiration of the qualities of the one being loved.  For when we say we love someone very much, don’t we usually mean that we think a lot of that person’s character?  But this outer layer can be removed entirely without taking away anything from the core, as is shown clearly by Romans 5:8:  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)  We didn’t have the qualities of character that draw love, but he loved us anyhow.  This proves that the basic nature of love is not the admiration of qualities of character, such as goodness, intelligence, and beauty.  No, God loved us then, and he loves us now, simply because we are conscious beings capable of being happy or unhappy and he wants us to be happy.  And he expects us to learn to have this kind of basic love toward those around us–whether or not they have any lovable qualities.

I’ve been told that in the original Greek of the New Testament a variety of words, all meaning love, were used.  One word, agapé, expresses the love between God and man; another, eros, is sexual love between a man and a woman; storge is parent and child love; philia is love among people in general, or brotherly love.  In my opinion, the Greek language is inferior to English and most other languages in this matter.  Why?  Because a concept as important as the core meaning of love deserves to have a distinct word; and apparently Greek has no such one word but rather a variety of words indicating sometimes the outer layers of meaning and sometimes various versions of the basic.  But God decided that the Greek language was good enough to use for the New Testament’s original manuscripts, so I’m not going to complain too much.  Greek is not my language, however, and it is rightly important to me that I have a simple and effective way of communicating the meaning of this greatest of spiritual concepts.

The world and Webster have not been too helpful in this, and Webster is probably innocent in the matter since dictionaries are obligated to define words according to the common usage of the world.  I’m going to quote the whole entry from Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, and we’ll see what, according to this famous lexicographic institution, the English speaking world has made of the word love up to this point.  You’ll find that although some of the definitions are good in themselves, not one of them clearly expresses the basic concept of one conscious being desiring another conscious being to be happy.  3a comes close but confuses the issue by throwing in the matter of loyalty.  There is a similar situation with 3a (1) and 3a (2).  And with these near-hits lost among all the rest of the entry, I think that a foreigner learning English from Webster would not be likely to discover the Biblical concept of the word love.

love \1 v\ n [ME, fr. OE lufu; akin to OHG lupa love, OE leof dear, L lubere, libere to please] la: affection based on admiration or benevolence b: an assurance of love  2a: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion (–of the sea>  b: the object of such attachment or devotion  3a: unselfish concern that freely accepts another in loyalty and seeks his good:  (1): the fatherly concern of God for man  (2): brotherly concern for others  b: man’s adoration of God  4a: the attraction based on sexual desire : the affection  and tenderness felt by lovers  b: a god or personification of love  c: an amorous episode : LOVE AFFAIR  d: the sexual embrace : COPULATION  5: a beloved person : DARLING  6: a score of zero in tennis  7: cap, Christian Science : GOD

As I was studying the above definitions I became hopeful that the word charity, which is sometimes used in place of the word love in the King James Version of the Bible, might be what I needed to fit my definition; but when I looked up charity, Webster informed me that this derived from a word meaning Christian love, which is certainly interesting but not at all helpful for my problem, and I was further instructed to look under the entry love, definition 3a.  I decided not to look in any other dictionaries, for I’ve always considered Webster to be the top authority in lexicography, and still do.

I decided, instead, to turn to the Bible to see if I could find passages that not only taught about the need for love, but also threw light on what love is.  The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, was a good place to start.  Verses 4 through 7 tell us:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)

The above tells us how a person will behave when he is motivated by love.  This is good for us to know, and these verses certainly suggest strongly that the person thus motivated is that way because he is concerned about the welfare of others.  But we are still left without a clear-cut definition.  Yet maybe the above scripture suggests the way to find the answer; maybe the only way we can come to a sensible conclusion about what the word love means is to notice how people in the Bible behave when they are described as having love.

When Jesus wanted to emphasize the importance of loving one’s neighbor, he told the story of the good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)  The good Samaritan found a stranger wounded and bleeding.  There is nothing to indicate that the Samaritan could have been attracted to the wounded man’s qualities, for apparently he had never seen him before and was probably repulsed by the sight of a dirty, bleeding man lying there on the road.  But he bandaged up the man’s wounds, took him to the nearest town, found a bed for him, and left money to pay for his care.  There is not the slightest suggestion here of the presence of any the peripheral things associated with love–admiration, sexual attraction, loyalty, duty, or anything else.  We have a right to assume that the good Samaritan helped the wounded man simply because he felt sorry for him.  In other words, he found another fellow-conscious-being suffering and had a desire to change that suffering into happiness.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV)  Not all love is sacrificing love, but much of it is, and sacrificing love is of the highest, most Godlike quality.  Usually the sacrifice is small, as when we decide to let someone else have the last piece of cake; sometimes the sacrifice is the greatest ever called for, as when, from time to time, someone will give up his life for someone else.  Although it is conceivable that a person can give up his life for insane non-loving reasons (Paul suggests this possibility in 1 Corinthians 13:3) this is obviously not what Jesus was talking about when he helped us to understand the meaning of love by telling us what is the greatest test of love ever required by humans.  Again, we find that the basic feeling involved in such great love is the simple matter of caring about the welfare of someone else.

This is what God felt for us when he made the ultimate sacrifice:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV)  This is what God the Son felt for us when he prayed, “. . . nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” (Luke 22:42b KJV) and went forward to meet the soldiers who would take him to the execution site on Calvary.  He wanted to rescue us from unhappiness and bless us with the joy of eternal life together with him.

People of the world deal out and withhold love as they choose.  They think they have a right to do this, but as Christians we cannot take this stand and expect to be pleasing to God.  He did not withhold his love from us while we were still obnoxious sinners, and we are not to withhold our love either, not even from our worst enemies.

I’ll stick to my guns, no matter how many of my fellow writers tell me my definition of love is audacious, and no matter how many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord keep mutilating this glorious word by “loving” their coconut cream pie, earrings, and favorite TV series.  We need to know what the word love means if we’re going to live by it and encourage others to live by it.

Think of it!  Love is the central quality of God’s own heart, for the Bible tells us that “. . . God is Love.” (1 John 4:8b—many translations)  Love is wanting someone to be happy, and wanting it so much that we’ll do something about that desire if we’re able to.  “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NIV)  Love needs no reason; it is its own reason.  You don’t love someone because of this or that; in fact, if your only reason for “loving” someone is because he’s a good person, or because she’s so pretty, or because he did something for you, or because she makes you feel happy when you’re near her, or for any reason at all, then you’re not really loving—you have only the entirely optional outer layers and not the core.  When you really love, you love—because you love.  What basic non-selfish reason could there possibly be for wanting someone other than yourself to be happy?  There is none, except the axiomatic one which is the wonder and mystery of love:  I want you to be happy simply because I know how good it feels to be happy and I want you to feel the same.  And that, dear fellow-conscious-being, is the motivating power that accounts for the existence of the universe.

 

 

What is Faith?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

When asked to give a definition of faith, many believers quote Hebrews 11:1.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)  The King James Version is one of the greatest of all English Bibles, maybe the very greatest, but for we who live in the twenty-first century, this approximately 380 year old translation is in many places hard to grasp.  The above passage may be a good example of that.  After having read the same verse in seven other translations, I find that they agree rather nicely with one another and that the Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard perhaps best express this meaning, both using exactly the same wording:  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  And yet one wonders if the King James translators perhaps considered the word, assurance, and were not quite satisfied that it carried the full intended meaning.  The word, substance, sounds more solid than the word, assurance.

In any case, this certainly is an important Bible verse in regard to finding out what the word faith means, but it was not intended to be a completely encompassing definition.  The writer was simply telling us something about faith.  A little further on, in verse 6 of the same chapter, he says:  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV)  Verse 1 tells us that faith is an experience of assurance and conviction about things to come and things not yet seen; verse 6 adds that faith is believing God exists, and trusting that God rewards those who seek him.  The two verses are somewhat the same, but verse 6 brings the blurry picture of verse 1 into focus, God himself being the focal point.  Faith, then, is believing in God.  Verse 7a clarifies this even more, letting us know that faith is not only believing that God exists, and trusting that he is a rewarder of those who seek him, but that faith is also believing anything that God tells us:  “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen (warned by God), in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (NIV–my insert in parentheses.)

Verses 17-19 tell us that faith is believing in God’s trustworthiness concerning his promises, and also believing in God’s power to do miracles:  “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” (NIV)  In this last sentence the writer of Hebrews is, of course, referring to the fact that at the last moment, just as Abraham was about to slay his son, God sent an angel to prevent him from doing so.

The rest of Hebrews 11 continues these same thoughts, telling us from examples of Biblical history that faith is believing in God, believing what God tells us, trusting in his goodness, trusting in his power.  Verses 32 to 35 tell us about some of the amazing results that have been brought about through faith, and in the last part of verse 35 to verse 38 we are told how people of faith are persecuted by people of the world who do not have faith.

Another important point, strongly implied throughout Hebrews 11, must be brought to attention in regard to faith.  In James 2:19 we read:  “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (KJV)  It is not enough to believe that God exists.  Even believing what he says can fall far short of the mark.  The demons, after thousands of years of experience in their rebellion against God, must know that God tells the truth.  It is also not enough to believe that God has great power and can do mighty miracles.  Again, the demons know about this, but simply knowing it to be a fact does not make any big difference.  What is missing?  The devils–in modern English versions translated as demons–are not surrendered to God in their minds and hearts.  They are enemies of God.  True faith, the kind that is alive and well and has meaning, must go hand in hand with the greatest commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37 NIV)

Therefore I must conclude that faith is: believing that God exists, being surrendered to him in love, believing that he will keep his promises to us, believing everything else he tells us, and believing in his infinite power and everything else about himself that he reveals to us.

Many have the mistaken notion that faith is blindly believing something without having any good reason for doing so.  Others say that all true faith should be based on solid evidence and that we cannot rightly believe anything unless it has been proven in such a way that our intellects can understand it.  Both attitudes are false.  It is foolish to believe something without having a good reason for doing so, but it is just as foolish to think that our finite minds, which can’t even understand themselves, can ever gather enough evidence out of God’s immense universe to conclusively prove anything.  Even more preposterous is the idea that our limited little minds can surround the infinite, eternal God, take a good look at him, and decide that he exists.

Human reasoning has its place and is highly useful when used as intended, but fortunately there is a different way to find conclusive answers.  If reasoning and scientific evidence fall far short–because of our limited minds–in giving us assurance in regard to the existence of God or any message from God to us, wouldn’t it be contrary to God’s great heart of love to leave us floundering about without a hope of ever knowing anything with absolute certainty?–particularly since such great principles and issues of love, worship, obedience, and eternal welfare are involved.

The Bible teaches that God has a way of communicating with us that transcends puny human reasoning and allows us complete assurance.  Jesus spoke of this when he said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) Elijah recognized the “… still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12b KJV)  Philip had no problem with it when he obeyed instructions to “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 8:29b NIV)  Because Philip obeyed, he was able to tell the good news about Jesus to the Chief Treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia.  What is this guidance?  It is the “voice” of the Spirit of God.  It is not a voice heard with the ears, but one heard with the heart.

You say the Bible is the only guide you trust?  How would you know the Bible is God’s word if the Holy Spirit of the living God had not told you that this is so?  We have to start at the starting point: God’s Spirit touching our own spirits with a touch that is unmistakably God.  But it will be unmistakable only when we are completely truthful in our hearts.  It is mankind’s fallen nature to be dishonest, and this is where the confusion comes in; but the more honest and truth-seeking we become, with the help of God, the more distinctly we hear his voice and know who he is:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10b NIV)   And that is what faith is all about.

 

 

What is Truth?

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

The Sophists, teachers of ancient Greece, asked the question.  It also seems to be accepted as a legitimate query among modern-day thinkers, and those who would like to give the impression that they are thinkers.  “What is truth?”  It sounds so profound.

Anyone ever having heard of Socrates going about the marketplace in ancient Athens asking apparently innocent questions of strangers, receiving obvious answers, and then contradicting them with deep philosophical insight, would probably not dare give a straightforward answer to this question.  Seemingly being wiser now than the people of ancient Athens were, we just naturally assume that if someone asks us something as easy as, What is truth? he must have a deeper understanding of philosophical matters than we do; so we tend to nod our heads wisely and say something like, “Yes, indeed, what is truth?”

My Webster doesn’t mess around with it though.  It says that truth is, “… the state of being the case–fact.”  And, “… the body of real things, events, and facts.”  That’s simple enough, isn’t it?

I think the question usually comes up because confused people, who have a bent for thinking but are determined to leave God out of the picture, decide that it would be nice if each individual could make up his own reality.

Without the great unifying factor of the all-encompassing mind of Almighty God, perhaps one mind would have as much right as another in proclaiming what was reality and what wasn’t.  If we didn’t all agree–well, what was truth to you might be falsehood to me, so you could live in your real world and I could live in mine.

This multiple-reality scenario could seem to make philosophical sense up to a point, but only if it could also include the belief that all reality is subjective.  In other words, the idea would seem to work (up to a point) if these many differing realities existed only in the minds of the individuals who had created them, and there was no outer, objective reality in existence at all–no proverbial objective tree, uprooted by an objective storm, falling unseen and unheard in an objective forest.  There can be no objective reality in the multiple-reality philosophy, for if there were it would imply an overall unifying reality to which the individual minds would have to be subject.  Just as they have already given up believing in God, these “What is truth?” philosophers should realize that they must also give up the idea of a materialistic objective reality.

I have never heard of an atheist who does not believe in an objective reality.  They have to accept one or the other–God or an objective reality–in order to try to account for the existence of the universe.  If they refuse to believe that God created it, they need to replace designed creation with gases floating around randomly in space, eventually coming together to form solid matter, maybe a big bang with resulting galaxies, and so on–but all without God, and all entirely objective, since there could have been no one around to see or in any way experience any of this, since life had not yet evolved.

Anyone who believes that truth is a relative matter, and that there can be as many realities as there are individuals, is, according to logic, automatically cut off from being allowed to believe in an Almighty, all-enclosing, all-knowing, Creator-God; and he is likewise logically cut off from believing in an objective universe.  Both concepts–God, and a Godless, objective universe–entail the idea of an absolute reality to which the individual minds need to relate, thus providing them with a single reality against which truth can be checked.

At first glance the only alternative for an atheist trying desperately to cling to the concept of truth being relative, would seem to be some sort of subjective evolution, rather than an objective one, in order to explain the existence of the universe.  He would have to believe that conscious minds, apart from any objective universe, had evolved and multiplied.  And unless he takes the illogical stand that something came out of nothing, he would have to admit to the existence of an eternal consciousness–an eternal mind with no beginning, out of which all other minds had sprung.  But he would not want to do that because that concept sounds too much like God.  In fact, it would not turn out to be an alternative after all, even if he did accept the concept and decided to call it something other than God; because if there was an eternal mind out of which all other minds evolved in this totally subjective version of the universe, that eternal mind of the infinite past would become the hub to which all the other mind-spokes would be connected, automatically establishing an historical, chronological, unified reality.  Once again, this renders impossible the concept of relative truth.

Such is the sad case, whether he knows it or not, of the person who claims he does not know the meaning of the word, truth.  Well, then, if the whole thing is so ridiculous, why even talk about it, or write about it?  Because before long a conversation in your living room or at the office, is going to swing around to religion or politics.  Then, just after someone has bared his heart in stating that he believes something or other to be the truth, someone else in the room may take on a look of sagacity and, after a moment of apparently deep contemplation, ask, “What is truth?”  I want you to be able to look that person straight in the eye and surprise him by telling him that truth is the opposite to falsehood, and that what’s true for one person is true for everyone else as well.  If it turns out that he wants to play Socrates with you, let him.  This will give you an opportunity, as a follower of Christ, to help him out of his confusion, if he wants to be helped.

It is possible to ask the question about what truth is with a sincere desire to find a deep, meaningful and truthful answer, and when it is asked in this way the true answer will certainly be granted to that sincere inquirer.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7 (NIV).  But usually when people ask, “What is truth?” they are trying to escape some issue at hand by suggesting that truth is relative, that there is no basic truth that can be known.  Those who ask the question will also say things like, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me,” and “Everyone has a right to believe whatever he wants to,” and “It doesn’t matter what a person believes, so long as he respects the rights of others to have their own beliefs.”  These statements express a desire to escape confrontation with actual truth.

As a follower of Christ I have learned that the unifying concept that makes absolute truth the reality it is, is the infinite, all-knowing mind of Almighty God.  He is the designer, creator, and controller of all existence.  For God there is no objective universe; he surrounds and upholds all things, and when he says that something is, it is; and when he says that something is not, it is not.  And it is foolishness for anyone to try to make up his own reality to compete with God’s.

It is in their desire to escape from submitting to God and his truth that some have foolishly taken to asking the question that suggests truth is relative–the question Pontius Pilate asked when he stood trembling before Truth embodied in human form.

How ironic it was when he asked, “What is truth?” John 18:38 (NIV).

 

 

Unusual Jobs

by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at www.amazon.com

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.”  I don’t know how true that is, but I think that at least a lot of men and women go through periods of their lives during which they’re discontent with the work that they find themselves doing.

If you’re one of these, if you feel there’s not enough spark in your job description, maybe you should check out some of the more unusual jobs that are actually available, generally speaking.

I remember hearing an alleged true story about a juvenile delinquent, who, in going through rehabilitation, took no interest in any of the job training programs being offered–until someone came up with a workshop on cutting and polishing gems.  He dived into that with a passion, and, so far as I know, showed every sign of launching himself on a productive, lucrative, and enjoyable career.

Following is my little list of types of employment that are somewhat off the beaten track:

English Teacher in a Foreign Country

A good friend of mine did this and found it to be a great adventure, partly because the country he was sent to wasn’t a bed of roses.

Wilderness Guide

Here’s a good one if it’s adventure you’re after, and if you’re young enough to put up with the physical challenge.  You can take a training course in guiding white-water rafters, etc., etc., and find yourself staring down grizzly bears in the great outdoors.  I have a relative who had gotten into this kind of work and liked it.

Cruise Ship Worker

If you want something a little glossier, try to get on as a worker on a luxury cruise ship.  I know of someone who did this and ended up marrying one of the dancers performing in the ship’s showroom.  What kind of work did he do?  Does it matter?

Stevedore

Still thinking of ships, maybe you’d like the challenge of working on the docks loading and unloading ships.  You’ll rub elbows with some interesting types.  I know because I’ve tried that one.

Ballroom Dance Instructor

If those old Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers movies turn your crank, take training with Arthur Murray Dance Studios and become an instructor.  It won’t put you on stage or in the movies, but you’ll be a star on any normal dance floor.  I tried this one too, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Security Guard

You want something more macho?  Try being a security guard.  I did, in Los Angeles, and guarded some interesting places:  Capital Records, various motion picture studios (you get to see big stars close up), and the Emmy Awards show.  At that location I alerted the police to a thief who was then arrested.

Forest Fire Lookout

I have a relative who did this lonely but important work for quite some time and liked it very much.  Besides being able to view the world from the top of a tower, she messed around with studying wildlife and growing her own garden in the wilds.

I could go on and on with this: Crop Duster; Bush Pilot; Ranch Hand (I did that); Ranch Hand On A Guest Ranch (I did that and liked it); Stuntman (I did that and didn’t like it); Actor (I enjoyed that a lot); Photographer (my wife does that); and Skyscraper Window Washer (I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-story swab).

So, you’re wondering, did Johnny Carlton ever find work he really liked and could stick with?  Yes, finally.  I’m happy writing suspense thrillers and this column.

But I am looking forward to trying a few other things.