A Chain Of Flames: A Contemporary Christian Novel of Faith, Hope, Redemption and Love
Whose life will you change? Who will change yours? Will you even recognize that moment as it happens? In this remarkable Novel the characters are “vibrant and alive … dynamic voices demanding to be heard.” ~Where free will and destiny collide, there is… ‘Reckoning.’
Eli Rathebohn is an old soldier who never quite recovered from the the battle. He makes his living by smuggling drugs for the Mexican cartels. He manages his trauma by otherwise isolating himself from the rest of the world. Still- His inner demons will leave him no peace, and one of them in particular… will not stop whispering in his ear.
Johnny James is a Police Chaplain in the southern town of Las Cruces. In a twist of fate he foregoes his long anticipated fishing trip and decides instead to sojourn on his cowboy uncle’s ranch. But there is unexpected tragedy in the heartland. Johnny’s resolve will be tested… along with his faith and his courage.
Jared Suina, in returning home from college, finds himself caught between two worlds. On the rural American Southwest pueblo were he grew up, he is being pressured to adhere to the old ways — but Jared wants more. To please his Shaman uncle Jared embarks on a peyote vision quest where he sees more than he dared to… and his path is changed forever.
Denise Grayhorn is young, beautiful, and spirited Native American woman. The daughter of an influential tribal leader and businessman, she has been raised in privilege — but Denise has also been sheltered. Due to a careless indiscretion she may have just ended her television career before it has even begun. To redeem herself, Denise accepts a meager assignment, not knowing that this ‘penance’ will lead to the most sensational national news event of the year… and Denise has the exclusive.
Together these people – and a host of others – will come to realize that life is not a single footpath, but a broad interchange where our hearts, our souls, our actions, are all linked together… like a chain of flames.
A Chain of Flames is a Contemporary Christian Novel with adventure, suspense, pathos, and a touch of sweet, clean, romance.
You try to prove your love and loyalty to your partner every chance you get. As a child you were taught that love covers all wrong, so you overlooked the red flags. You thought, “If I love him hard enough, he’ll treat me better. If I give him more of me, he’ll see my worth; if only I invest more in him, show him I’m wife material, he’ll be afraid to lose me.”
And then you realize…
Loving Him Isn’t Enough; He Only Takes You For Granted.
When you realize your love isn’t enough to make him trade his thorns for leaves or flowers, part of you wants to let go, but it is a vicious cycle though because when you do let go, part of you miss it too much, so you go back to what is familiar.
That pattern is a common among people in abusive relationships. From the outside looking in, it’s easy to ask, why did they stay? Didn’t they see the signs? Honestly, they are afraid of letting go; they are fearful of the unknown, the unfamiliarity. Even when they finally build the courage to let go, sometimes they go back to what’s familiar. Why? Because familiarity is comforting.
You believed in your significant other when he didn’t believe in himself. And gave him wings to fly, not realizing that his roots were connected to your ground. You saw the best in him; you noticed a flicker in his ashes when he lose hope in himself. And maybe, just maybe, you think you can have enough hope for the both of you.
Suddenly, your ray of sunshine disappeared. Instead, a cloud of darkness covers you. You realize with every glimmer you saw in him; he was sucking on your light. It was never sudden, but little by little, you were trading your light for his darkness.
You Don’t Have To Remain In This Cycle!
If you truly want to live, you can’t be with someone who wants to survive. You may think your love can inspire him to live again, but your love will never be enough. He has to desire to live truly, rather than merely existing.
Also, how can you give what you don’t have? How can you be surviving with him and waiting for him to love you back to start living? How can you be his resource and expect him to be your source? You can’t be pouring into him while hoping he will replenish you. Your partner can’t be a vessel and a wellspring simultaneously.
You have to wake up every day and choose to live on purpose. You have to love yourself first, if not your effort to love him will only drain you.
It is noble to be selfless, but you shouldn’t lose yourself in the process of loving someone else!
Some of us were taught that it is selfish to put ourselves first, so we take care of everyone else but ourselves. That, we even do in the name of love. We love others, allow them to treat us below our standards. We stay, hoping if we love them hard enough, if we prove we are worth it, maybe, just maybe they will love us the way we want to be loved; they will treat us the way we want to be treated.
I am learning to love on purpose.
For me to do so, I need to love myself first, instead of loving someone else and wish they would love me back, all the while dying for their approval and acceptance.
Listen, you never have to trade who you are for love. Love is supposed to inspire you to be a better version of yourself, not force you to be a shadow of who you are meant to be. Love shouldn’t be draining you but strengthen and empower you. Otherwise, it’s not love; it’s an illusion of love.
You are a great gift to humanity. You are unique; there’s only ONE you. Don’t rob humanity of that gift trying to be loved by someone else. Don’t dim your light to get their acceptance; that’s not humility. Even if your light makes them uncomfortable, keep shining!
Note that Jesus says “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” not the other way around.
The order is to love God, love yourself, then love others.
His love has to fill you and reach the deepest part of your soul. You have to let his love fill every nook and cranny of your heart, every empty space left by past hurt and heartaches. Once you’re filled you will overflow, then and only then can you love on purpose. If you want to pour into others, let it be from your overflow, not from your leaks. If your heart has been broken, let God mend and renew it and make it whole again. So, as he pours his love into you, your heart will be ready and available to contain it. Once you’re filled with God’s love, you’ll love yourself until this self-love becomes contagious and inspiring.
If loving yourself first is considered selfish by their standards, then by all means, be selfish.
They say love is a risk, right? How big of a risk are you willing to take?
Some people are similar to a prickly cactus.
Your safety depends on your distance from them. Cacti trade their leaves for spikes. Why would they do such a thing? You may ask. Unlike many other plants, cacti are usually found in unpleasant conditions. In those harsh circumstances, their survival becomes their main priority. They use their spines to store water, to protect them from predators, to provide shade, which is necessary due to their long exposure to heat.
Just like a cactus, some people had been exposed to so much pain, hurt, abuse, and shame, and the ghosts of their past that haunt them. No matter how much they try to outrun their past, they’re only chasing their own shadows with their backs to the light. In order to survive, they build a wall around their heart, exhibit behaviors that they rely on to survive, but what they use to defend themselves can hurt those who love them. A cactus can’t tell the difference between a predator and an admirer. It has no way of assessing your intentions. A cactus-like person doesn’t know how to receive love or respond to it. They end up hurting those who love them.
Get Your Thorns Covered
Don’t get me wrong, we all have our thorns. We all have some rough patches; but the difference between the cactus and the rose is undeniable. The rose knows it needs thorns to defend itself from predators and petals for its admirers. No wonder cacti don’t make it on anyone’s coffee table on valentine’s day.
Just like the rose, Paul had a thorn, but he had enough grace to cover them. Notice, I did not say to hide them, but cover. To hide is to keep out of sight of others. It’s not about the object, but the intention is keeping the object from others. Cover, on the other hand means to place something over, to protect. So, when grace covers our thorns, the intention is not to hide it to provide a false sense of perfection, but it’s to protect us. Some people are not open enough to let God’s grace cover them and protect them from their past shame, regret, and failures that constantly taunt them.
Whether you are a rose or a cactus, God’s grace is enough. If you’re like the cactus, you can trust God enough to get your leaves back, trade them for your spikes. Once you give them to God, your shame, hurt, and pain will not be hidden or disappeared. They will always be a part of you, except they won’t be there to haunt you or hurt those around you. You’ll get the courage to embrace them and turn them into lessons and purpose.
Michael Furlonger’s Tip For Today is Love. People think “Love” is just this passive thing. Now-a-days, to “love” is just to accept people. I don’t want to get into a big debate, but I want to encourage people, especially Christians, to turn their passive “love” into an active one.
James 2:14-17 reads,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
In the same way that James is saying add “deeds” to your faith. I’m saying add actions to your “love“.
As Christians, we love to cut through scripture and say, “I just want to love people.” Which is fine. I think we need this desire to love people. And we can talk about teaching and other neglected roles in the church another time.
But, if you’re going to “love” people, how are you doing it? Are you reaching out a helping hand? Calling a lonely neighbour? Connecting with that person at church? Going out for coffee with that friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time?
Or, as I mentioned before, is your idea of “love” more of a “I’m going to ignore you and let you be” kind of love?
“I’m Just Checking In”
I received a text message from an old church group leader once. It said, “I’m just checking in.” Seriously? Not “How are you?”. No “We should go out for coffee.” Not even a “Did you catch the game last night?”
Nope. “I’m just checking in.” You know… It’s as if he works at a hospital. Just doing the rounds. Making sure you’re not dead yet.
How passive is that? Forgive me, but I replied, “Noted.”
Here Are Michael Furlonger’s Tips On How To Love:
Reach Out: It’s great when you’re at a drive thru and you want to pay for the person behind you. You can’t overly make a connection there. But stop treating your church family like the person at the drive thru. If you can help them financially, great. But, at the very least, connect.
Repeat after me: How are you? How’s the wife? How’s the kids? Did you catch the game? Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything I can pray for?
Go Out: Make time and go out. Leonard Ravenhill says, “There’s 24 hours in the day. Ideally you sleep 8, you work 8, what do you do with the other 8?” Of course, he is encouraging spending that time in prayer, but I don’t know anyone who locks himself in a room to pray for 8 hours. But on topic of showing people love, you have 8 hours. Ask these people you “love” out. It doesn’t mean a romantic dinner, just a walk around the block. Or a coffee, although COVID restrictions might make that difficult.
One time, two of the men in my small church group went out for a run. At first, I was upset that I didn’t get invited. But then I remembered, “I don’t run.” I laughed it off thinking of the scripture that says, “Only the wicked run when no one is chasing them.” But, truth, I was saddened that I’ve been locked up for months due to COVID lockdown and I didn’t get invited to spend time with friends.
Connect: Let’s be real for a minute. The world is online. People are on social media, they’re working from home, we don’t go to the movies anymore, we watch Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime (Try Amazon Prime Free For 30 Days through the links at ChristianWritersBookstore).
My point is that we are in a completely different world today. Let’s try to connect. Due to Facebook’s silly algorithm, I randomly lose touch with friends, so I can’t just scroll through and click “Like”, I have to make an active decision to connect with people. So, try tagging a person in a post, maybe an old picture, just to let them know you’re thinking about them. Comment on their posts, as opposed to the passive “Like”.
If, like me, they have an online business or even a blog, share it. Let them know that even though we are separated, you still add value to my life.
While Paul wrote that there is no law against love, Tolstoy wrote there is a law of love. He believed that no law prohibits choosing to do what is loving. The Christian is not threatened by external things when he is liberated within to love.
Three hundred burka-clad women stood at the gate imploring to get in to give their last respects to their beloved doctor. Security forces had warned hospital staff to let only Christians in for the funeral. But these Muslim women would have none of that, they would bring down the gate if they couldn’t say good-bye to the German doctor who had loved them and delivered their babies for over 20 years. Hospital staff decided to open the doors, but under one condition. To ensure identity and that no militants entered disguised as women, every woman went against strict conservative norms to lift her veil, exposing her face to a male, as she walked through the gate.
The lady doctor had served the people in a tribal part of Pakistan, in an area that even police officials dared not trod. Everyone received special care at the hospital whether they were Muslim, Christian, military or Taliban. All experienced the doctor’s loving care, especially the women. She was so well-loved and respected that the Government of Pakistan awarded her a prestigious national award for her dedicated humanitarian work in that region.
The women poured into the church and wept for the one who had loved them so much. Her love, kindness, and gentleness turned potential hostility into friendliness.
Is There a Law Against the Fruit of the Spirit?
Paul says there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit. But that was centuries ago, what about today? A quick search of Google says it is still true. There is no law against the kind of love Paul writes to us about. Rather, the fruit often breaks down barriers and binds enemies into friends.
I live in a restricted country where we must be careful what we say and who we associate with. We must be mindful not to loudly declare our displeasure with anything or anyone in the establishment. That is if we value our lives. My husband and I laughingly say, “We have no rights, only responsibilities. And ours is the bigger word.” No one can object to love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Some have bad-mouthed us in the face of kindness, but we will never be charged for having and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. Others have seen the fruit and it has softened the heart and bound us together.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23
No Water for Ablution
To illustrate I will share one more story.
Adil’s employee approached him, “The water pump at the mosque is broken and no one can wash before prayers.” Adil picked up his toolbox and with his employee in tow, went to the neighbourhood mosque to repair the pump. Fortunately, it was an easy fix he could do with a little help from his employee. A gaunt old man, leaning against his cane, watched. When the repairs were finished, he turned to the religious leader and asked, “Where are all your rich cronies? Could they not do this task? Look, here is the one you call a kafar (infidel) doing it for us. He didn’t have to do it, but out of the kindness of his heart he came.” An act of kindness is noticed and usually well-received.
And that, folks, brings my posts on the fruit of the Spirit to a conclusion.
The next time you see that prostitute, that gay person, that transgender, that Muslim, Hindu, atheist, whoever it might be; how can you demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit with that person? How can we love our neighbour as ourselves? In what ways can we be a Good Samaritan to those who are outside our comfort zone?
“Kind words of a friend when your outlook is gloom, how it brightens your day like the dawn” are two lines from one of my mother’s favourite hymns, The Best Things in Life are Free. We all need kind words and we all like to think that we are kind. Maybe we are kind some of the time, but can we say that we are overflowing with the fruit of kindness? Do we need to always bear fruit? Do we bear fruit in season only and when is that season?
I don’t find a Bible verse that says I can pick the season when I bear fruit. When I read passages that say, “always be ready”, that means I need to always be fruitful. But the truth is I am incapable of bearing fruit all the time. I am not always kind. I need help, I need to be filled. Where can I get a good outpouring of kindness to fill my cup?
Jesus is Kindness Personified
Jesus is the ultimate example and outpouring of kindness. God, in his great lovingkindness towards us, laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all so that we might be saved from destruction and have LIFE with him, now and forever more. He bore our transgressions while we were yet sinners so that we would be saved from death. This is called unconditional love, a condition of kindness
God calls us to be imitators of him, as beloved children to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But this too is impossible without God’s help. It is through Jesus our minds are renewed when we “put on the new self that has been created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4: 24 NIV). It is only in Jesus we bear the fruit of kindness in and out of season.
Kindness is Love in ACTION.
Kindness has many synonyms: generousness, consideration, mercifulness, charitableness and many more. It is only kindness if there is no expectation of praise or reward. (I think most of us fail this test.) I know of only one who passed it. His name is Jesus.
Every act and every word that Jesus did while on earth was an expression of pure lovingkindness. His kindness was of the radical variety for he befriended prostitutes, tax-collectors, the poor, the ragged and even a thief on a cross. Oh, what a liberal he was!
Liberal you say! This is not a political statement – that is a whole different discussion. I am playing with words because Jesus was liberal with the sinner but never liberal with sin.
Jesus bent down and told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more. He had compassion for her but not for her sin. Jesus showed mercy, compassion, sorrow for the downtrodden sinner and righteous indignation with the religious bigots. He touched the leper, the blind, the repentant sinner and wept for the self-righteous who didn’t recognise their disease and need for the Physician.
This was LOVE in ACTION.
This is what kindness is, an outpouring of love that is active and touches lives. In Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse, “the moral of the story is no act of kindness is ever wasted.” God’s kindness towards us is not wasted. Let us pour out the fruit of kindness unto EVERYONE because God has so generously poured out lovingkindness for us.
I would love to hear back from you about stories of kindness. Has someone shown kindness to you? Have you shown kindness to someone who needed “kind words when their outlook was gloom”? Please leave a comment about kindness.
The love I want to talk about today isn’t the 1955 film Love is a Many Splendored Thing kind, although it is needed in every relationship. And pure love is certainly multi-splendored. Jesus said that we will know a tree by its fruit. But to pull this analogy further, a tree can only produce a certain kind of fruit. The fruit doesn’t determine the tree, but the tree determines the fruit it bears.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23
If that be true, the tree determines the fruit, what tree produces love?
Love is From God
We cannot love outside of God’s realm. We can only love because he first loved us. If he hadn’t shown us his love, we would be incapable of love. So for those outside of Christ, true agape love is impossible. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
There we have it folks, unless we are rooted in Christ, we cannot bear fruit. We can’t bear the fruit of love. If you are fruitless, then maybe you want to anchor your branches in the vine who is Christ Jesus.
Now, none of us are perfect and we do have our bad days when not much fruit is falling from our branches. And bearing fruit takes time. A small tree (even one anchored in Christ) takes time to mature, blossom and produce fruit. Weak, immature branches cannot bear the weight of heavy fruit. It is the desire to bear fruit for God that is important. I am not saying because I don’t see love in your life today, you are not in Christ. I leave this for your self-examination.
Love, especially agape love is indeed a many splendored thing. There are so many facets to love that flows from God and channels through us. So what does the fruit of love look like?
Love for God
I heard a lady on a Christian program say that the fruit of love was what we directed towards other people. Somehow she missed saying that this fruit is also directed to God, maybe foremostly directed towards him. I believe that you can’t love without loving God first.
To love God is to know him. Without knowing him, how can you love him? To love God is to put him first. He is top priority above all else. We are commanded to love him with all our soul, mind and strength. Of course our love for him is seen in how we love others, but he is first. To love God is to praise him, thank him, fall down and worship him. And to love him is to desire him as the “deer pants for the waters, so our soul pants after him, our souls thirst for Him”, to paraphrase the Psalmist. We will spend time with him in prayer, reading His Word, communing with him. And we will obey him.
Love for Self
Proverbs 19: 8 tells us those who acquire wisdom love themselves. Where does wisdom come from? From God. The Psalmist in Psalm 139: 14 calls us to give thanks to God because we are wonderfully made, and for those who know God’s love, who love God have learned from him that we are beautiful, and our soul is aware of it. There is a love for self that is humble and rooted in God and that love is needed for a believer to bear much fruit.
Why did I put love for self before other loves? I believe that we can’t love others without loving ourselves first. When we are caught up in low-self-esteem and negative thoughts, turning our thoughts inward to the self, it is difficult to bear the fruit of love.
Love for the Church
A love relationship with the Father means we love our siblings, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might not always agree, we might not always like them, but we are to love them. Constantly throughout scriptures, we are admonished to love one another. This is a direct commandment to love those in the church.
Love for Non-believers
Nor are we to neglect love for outsiders. Some believers withhold their friendship and love for non-believers, but in God’s kingdom there is no place for that. I believe a good summary of how we should treat non-believers is found in Luke 6:35-36, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
So how are we to treat non-believers? With love, do good to them, lend to them, show kindness and mercy. It is okay to be friends with non-believers, just don’t conform to them – be in the world but not part of the world.
How splendid is this love that God calls us to bear! It is multi-splendored. This is the first fruit that is mentioned in Galatians 5: 22-23 and if we bear this fruit, the others will follow. I encourage you to love, first the Father and then yourself and others.
In the video below, Michael shares his concern for people who are left with doubts due to emotional spirituality.
Michael Furlonger shares his thoughts after watching a video by Francis Chan on the topic of genuinely loving Jesus Christ. His great concern is this new emotional spirituality or sentimentalism that has flooded many churches. So Michael took time to discuss what Francis Chan lacked in his teaching.
Make it clear that Michael also didn’t go on a personal attack of Francis Chan. Michael’s main concern was for those who are left with fear and doubt of their faith.