You say you share your "own life-experiences, bringing them alongside biblical narratives in a manner that infuses the stories of our spiritual ancestors with life." How about giving us a brief overview of those life experiences?
That's a heavy opener, David, but there is no way you could know that. And, besides, it is a fair question.
We all speak and write out of our own experiences. It is unavoidable. These experiences figure largely into our world-view, our character, our personality, our tolerances.
Like many to whom I speak and write, and likely even many reading the text of this interview, I have dealt with numerous delightful and many painful events and issues over the years. I have endured sexual abuse, infidelity in a spouse, six years of watching my mother die of Alzheimer's disease. I was once incorrectly diagnosed and told I was losing my eyesight. That was a shocker. I have endured severe church abuse as a pastor, been fired, and ultimately changed careers. At one point I traveled over the U.S. - Canadian border for a year to see a Christian counselor. During one of our sessions, about two months in, he leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, "With everything you have been through in just the last two years, I am amazed that you're still sane," and he wasn't being sarcastic. He was quite serious. In 2012, I faced death twice with the same medical condition just seven months apart, and was told that typically this is a condition that is diagnosed during the autopsy.
I don't say any of that with bitterness, to sensationalize, or to elicit sympathy from your audience. But experiences like these give us insight not only into ourselves, but into the total human condition. So if we apply that to the way we approach Biblical texts and narratives, we are sometimes able to crawl inside the heads of those about whom we are reading, right?
Let's just take the example of Hagar in Genesis 16. She is a servant, or some translations say she is a slave. In any case, I get the impression that Hagar did not have much say over what heppened to her. Sari, Abram's wife, seemingly cannot bear him children, so she has him conceive a child with her slave, Hagar. Hagar does indeed conceive, Sari is overcome with jealously and ends up convincing Abram to send Hagar away. It's brutal!
So, here we have the first single mother in the Bible. What is going through her head? She did exactly what she was told to do - allow herself to be impregnated by the husband of her mistress. Now she's bounced out on her ear with no means of caring for herself and her young son. They end up stumbling their way through the desert, having run out of food and water, so Hagar lays her son under the shade of a bush to die while she goes off somewhere else becasue she cannot bear to watch it happen.
I have not experienced that specific circumstance, but we all have to be able to draw on our own life-experiences to identify with what is happening inside these people. These are not just stories. These are real men, women, and children who are floundering their way through life just as you are and I am.
Your website says you are a dynamic speaker, a word-crafter, and I see a picture of a trombone player there. Would you say you are a man of the arts, despite your technology background?
I started playing the trombone in the fifth grade and played all the way through my university years. Then it sat in the closet for a couple of decades until I pulled it out again to play in the horn line with the worship band at church. In fact, the photo to which you are referring was taken during a Thursday evening rehearsal with that band. I majored in music for the first three plus years in college, but decided I couldn't easily make a living that way so I changed majors to Mass Communication with an emphasis in radio broadcasting and newsprint.
But you're right, I've always had something of an affinity for the arts. I still do. I did a lot of drama in high school and college as well. In fact the Dean of the drama department along with his wife, tried to persuade me to change majors from music to drama. I declined, because the same problem exists there as does with music. There are too many starving actors and musicians!
The technology thing is just something I do to pay the bills. It is something I know how to do, but not something for which I have a great deal of passion. When I reached the end of my rope with the challenges of full-time ministry, I needed a new career path, and that one seemed reasonable, so I dove in and have been doing software development now for 22 years.
Summarize your speaking ministry for us.
The number one fear of most people is speaking in public. Number two is death. That tells us something! Interestingly, I have never had a fear of public presentation. Back to the arts question, I sand my first vocal solo at age four of five, so I guess I never knew that we are supposed to be afraid of being in front of people.
There are a couple of key components to being able to speak to a crowd. First off, I have to know what I'm talking about. If I don't know my subject, then it is best to just sit down. Secondly, I have to believe in the subject. I cannot speak persuasively about something in which I do not believe. This is why I could never make a career in sales. I cannot sell you something I am not persuaded you really need to have.
If those two components are in place, I can speak and teach, and I very much enjoy doing so. I have spoken to groups numbering in the single digits to those numbering in the thousands. It is critical, however, to keep this in perspective. What I mean is that you have to keep it always before you that this is not about you! I keep a statement from Randy Alcorn above my desk that reads, "The greatest danger of noteriety is you start thinking about you. People then exist to serve you, exactly the opposite of what Christ modeled."
I have reached a point that I am building my ministry around the concept of "Long-View Living in a Short-View World." As believers, we must keep that eternal perspective in focust as we reach out to a world that can barely see beyond the end of its own nose. This has to be about Jesus and his eternal kingdom, and moving that kingdom forward. I recently attended a speaker's conference in Arizona where one of the instructors was emphasizing the point "It's not about you. It's about your audience." I understand what she was saying, but ultimately, I don't agree. It is not about me, or the audience. It is about Jesus, and how we all work as a single unit - his body - to move his kingdom forward. Now, to do that, I have to be healthy and functioning, just as you have to be healthy and functioning, as does everyone in your listening or reading audience. So, in that sense, what the conference speaker was saying is accurate.
Your first book is Finding Faith in Slow Motion. Tell us about it.
That was never really intended to be a book, but rather it was my own personal research project. My dearest friend had been diagnosed with leukemia, and has since passed on to be with Jesus. It was gut-wrenching watching this disease relentlessly attack his body. At the time we were beating our brains trying to figure out why he wasn’t being healed of this disease. I mean James tells us, "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up."
Well, we did that - more the once. We prayed ofer my friend, anointing him with oil, pleading with God to eradicate this disease - and he didn’t - at least not in the sense that I wanted and expected. That’s where the research project began. I wanted to figure out why my friend wasn’t being healed of this cruel disease. And the more deeply I dug into it the more I realized I needed to wrap my mind around the basic concept of faith.
Those notes sat on my shelf for several years, and it is my wife who persuaded me to publish it, saying, "Damon, you can't keep this to yourself. You have to share this." So, I self-published that 2013.
Your upcoming book is The Christ Saturated Life. Tell us about it, and when it will be available?
The Christ Saturated Life is an idea I started toying with as I pondered Jesus' parable in Matthew 12. He talks about an unclean spirit that left a man and traveled through waterless areas looking for a place to rest, but found no such resting place. So the spirit returned to the man it just left, referring to the man as a house. The house had been swept clean and it was in order, but it was left empty. So the spirit, called seven of its spirit comrades, spirits more evil than itself, and the eight of them took up residence within the man. That's a nasty state to be in!
The driving premise for me is that the man left a void within himself, and a void demands to be filled. We have to fill ourselves with something, but what? So I began contemplating the idea of being completely filled with the mind of the living Christ. I were completely saturated with Christ, filled to the point of overflowing, so much so that he radiated through my pores, what would that look like? How would that change the man I am today? I assure you, David, the Christ Saturated Life does not look like me, and that's okay. With the ideal in front of me, at the very least, I know which way to walk. I know that toward which I am striving. I can see the target.
The manuscript is draft-complete, and I am in active discussions with a handful of agents who are considering representing it. At the moment I do not know when it will be released. I am learning that the wheels of traditional publishing turn very slowly. But I have no interest at this time in self-publishing again. To publish properly requires too much expertise in too many areas where I lack it.
I assume you have another book in the wings, or perhaps several. What do you have cooking up in the future?
I do have some ideas in the wings (there's a drama reference for you).
I'm chewing on one that I'm tentatively calling Swan Song of the Messiah. There is this myth that a swan will sing a song just prior to its death, so this will be a look at the statements Jesus made from the cross.
Another one I'm contemplating is based on Acts 2:42 where the new disciples devoted themselves to four specific things - The apostles' teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. My thought is that there must be something significant about those four devotions if that is what they applied themselves to.
I have been asked to consider writing a book on the believer's response to sex trafficking in the U.S. One of the most heavily travelled corridors for young girls who have been enslaved in the sex trafficking business runs just a few miled from my home - between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia. It's a horrifying reality that is far too easy to turn a blind eye to. A friend of mine runs a refuge that rescues these young girls and helps them escape that nightmare.