My Love of Comic Collecting

I wonder how many hobbies start by accident or on a whim? This was certainly the case for me. I remember reading my first volume of comics like it was yesterday. It was October 2013, and close to Halloween when I got hold of my first volume of comics: Welcome Back, Frank, a 300-page graphic novel starring the Marvel Comics vigilante/antihero known as the Punisher, one of my favorite characters. But I had no intention of buying it at first. I was merely going to buy Punisher Warzone on Amazon since I wanted to watch a good action flick. But curiosity got the better of me, and I bought the comics as well, since the volume was under $15, and there was a deal on Amazon to buy both the comics and the movie for a cheaper price than normal. Now I know how Jeff Bezos makes so much money, haha. Suggestion selling is a genius marketing tactic!

Welcome Back, Frank (2000 Punisher series)

The $15 I spent on my first volume of comics turned out to be an amazing investment, because it was the first comic book I’d ever read in my life. And it opened me up to a whole new world by how fun to read it was! For anyone who likes stories with action-packed plots, black humor, and fantastic artwork, Welcome Back, Frank is like candy. It’s addicting. I couldn’t put it down, and I blew through the 300+ pages in only a few days! After that, I was hooked. I knew I had to buy more volumes of that Punisher run under the Marvel Knights imprint, so I could continue following the story!

By Christmas 2013, I had bought volumes 1-4 of that Punisher story arc and blown through them all. I bought cheap used copies that I still own to this day, but as long as I was able to read the story I didn’t care.

Around Christmastime, I think I’m usually pretty easy to buy for. If someone buys me Ohio State, Browns, Cavs, or Indians shirts or gear, I’m happy. But I remember putting Punisher vols. 5-8 on my wishlist. Being the comic newbie I was at the time, I didn’t realize how many different Punisher runs there are. There are literally dozens of storylines, from his first solo series in the mid-1980s up to more recent volumes published a year or two ago. Dozens of different takes, each by unique writers, artists and producers. I would compare different takes on the same character to be like different versions of the same type of beer or whiskey. They all are similar at their core, and fun to experience. But they’re also so different and unique too!

An inadvertent and well-meaning mistake Mom made that Christmas truly unleashed a monster though, haha. She bought me a few volumes of comics. But they weren’t from the Marvel Knights run like I was expecting. Instead I unwrapped volumes 5-8 of the Punisher MAX run, a dark, realistic and gritty take on the Punisher. Marvel Knights’ version of the Punisher was like a PG-13 version of the character. Punisher MAX? A hard R-rated version you’d hide in a locked and chained safe, away from the prying eyes of impressionable, innocent youngsters.

She thought I would be disappointed as soon as I saw them. She knew they were the wrong ones and felt bad. But I didn’t care in the least. I was hooked! I had new comics, new stories to read, and I was happy because it was the thought that counted. Thanks, Mom 🙂

Punisher MAX #1: In the Beginning (2004-2006 Punisher series)

I never did finish collecting the other series once I started reading Punisher MAX, haha. It was that good! In the old series, Frank would team up with superheroes like Spider-Man and Wolverine to take down supervillains. In the MAX run he’s a lone vigilante, a grizzled and aging Vietnam vet who takes down real-world crime organizations such as the La Cosa Nostra (Italian Mafia), Irish Mob, Eastern European gangs, Yakuza (Japanese Mafia), drug kingpins, child abusers and sex traffickers. I think I enjoyed that version of the character more because it was closer to what you’d see in real-world situations.

I try my best to be a decent man, love others and do the right thing. I am a Christian. But I am also human. I’m a fan of the Punisher, because he serves justice to the worst people in society. He deals with truly bad people in the comics the way we sometimes wish we could deal with them in real life. He reacts the way many of us would if we lost our family to thugs. It would certainly feel natural to want vengeance if someone took my family from me, even if God warns against it.

But reading those kinds of comics from time to time, even if they are dark and violent, serves as an escape. It’s cathartic. Therapeutic in a way. It allows me to release strong or dark emotions, while also enjoying the action in the story like someone would if they were watching an action thriller.

I also have more lighthearted Captain America comics, although the messages in them about patriotism, and what it truly means to be an American are powerful, and extremely relevant to today’s world. As is the interesting and timely storyline in the Marvel Civil War arc. Everyone has seemingly taken sides on the vaccine in today’s world. Just as every superhero takes a side for or against The Superhero Registration Act. It’s a study on how NOT to handle things when interacting with someone who has fundamentally different views of the world from our own.

Captain America: Home of the Brave (2017 series)

Comics either allow us to escape to another world, full of action or relaxation. Or they sometimes mirror who we are as people, or who we aspire to be like. Comics also give people something such as a character to identify with. Like I identify with Captain America for his patriotism and love of country, and Spider-Man for his pure heart and desire to help others. In those characters, I see inspiration for how I should strive to be as a person.

Some comic characters might also serve as inspiration for people who want to be proud of who they are, like Black Panther for African Americans, or the X-Men for the LGBTQ community and anyone who feels like they’re a societal outcast or misfit looking for a place to belong.

Collecting the stories of characters such as these, is like collecting pieces of the human experience. There’s a type of comic out there for everyone to enjoy, and I would encourage everyone to collect and read comic books they find interesting. It’s fun! As for me? I need to finish reading Punisher Noir, the latest addition to my collection. I’ve piled up a 26-volume stash over the last eight years, and plan on adding new comics for the rest of my life!

Cleveland Indians: 1915-2021

I knew this day was coming sooner rather than later. But now it’s official: After this season, the Indians are no more. Starting with the 2022 season, they will officially be known as the Cleveland Guardians. I don’t really know what I feel other than sadness. The changing of the team name signifies so much more than just “moving forward” to me. Even though I wasn’t an Indians fan as long as other people, the changing of the name represents the wiping out of nostalgic memories many have shared at the ballpark with their families and friends.

If I go to a “Guardians” game in the future, I won’t be reminded of past nostalgic and fun memories of my team, the Cleveland Indians. I will instead be reminded of the sweeping wave of political correctness that has this country in an iron grip. Chief Wahoo and the Cleveland Indians were just another pair of inevitable casualties. They were small speed bumps on the road to progressive wokeness. This was merely done so a small, powerful, vocal group of people can feed into their false moral superiority complex. They need to feel better about themselves without really having solved any serious existential problem.

Am I bashing everyone in support of the name change? Absolutely not. I’m sure everyone has their own reason for supporting it, and I completely respect their opinions. But I know this was driven by people far above simple protests at the ballpark. It’s simply a small instance of hollow political correctness winning out amidst a huge worldwide agenda. For that reason, I bristle at the name change. I chafe at it.

The second reason I am against the name change was a voiceover Tom Hanks did for the new Guardians name. I greatly respect his abilities as an actor, and I would hope he’s a decent human being when the cameras aren’t rolling. But as the time has passed, in my mind he has become inextricably tied to the Hollywood machine. He’s not even remotely a Clevelander or Ohioan. He briefly lived here as an up and coming actor. He’s part of a group of elites who look down upon those of us who don’t share their worldview. I’m a prime example of the people they preach and pontificate to. Yes, I did go to a left leaning college at Kent State. And I am more clearly able to see and understand left-wing points of thinking, whether I agree with them or not. But after all of my formative experiences, I am still me: A farmboy who absolutely cannot stand those who talk down to everyone else. Arrogance is my number one pet peeve.

The voiceover also seemed like a weakly veiled attempt by Indians/Guardians owner Paul Dolan to convince those of us who are unhappy or angry that this is for the best. And he’s appealing to the Hollywood machine to do so. This is a purely political move, and the man isn’t brave enough to say so, even though I’m sure he knows what’s going on. He’s wrong, but he ain’t stupid. After all, he was squeezed by MLB to get rid of Chief Wahoo ahead of the 2019 All-Star Game in Cleveland, and he caved. This is simply more of the same.

I guess what upsets me the most isn’t that the name is changing. It’s why it’s changing, and what it represents. The name change is merely a tiny drop in the ocean of a disingenuous agenda. The whole thing seems insincere and phony to me. The agenda may seem benevolent on the surface. After all, who could possibly be against social justice, inclusion and progress, right? But if the name change, and other things like it are truly done in the name of those ideals, how come when people are upset, they’re coldly told to “get over it” or to “get on the right side of history”? Responses like that reek of a superiority complex to me. And treating people like that only makes those who are upset or angry dig their heels in and fight harder.

We have so many other problems as a nation. Shady voting practices. A true border crisis. Higher ups in education teaching kids what to think instead of how to think. An administration slowly killing this country by spending trillions of dollars in just six months. Washington cracking down on speech they don’t like on social media. And divisiveness and hatred like I’ve never seen before in my life. Not one of those problems has been fixed. Not one iota. But we can feel fantastic as a nation for removing supposedly offensive team names.

Forgive the dark example folks, but I don’t know how else to put it. Removing a team name is like trying to cover a stab wound or bullet hole with a Band-Aid. Our country is being slowly killed with so many very real problems that we’ve done absolutely nothing about. Yet we slap on the Band-Aid in this particular situation, so we can feel good about ourselves for having done something surface-level and symbolic. Yes, racism is a real problem in this country and all over the world. But this isn’t even remotely how to fix it.

In the meantime, I may or may not follow the “Guardians” next season. If everyone else wants to, great! Go for it! But it’s gonna take me a while to get used to this one. It’s much deeper than a name change for me and many others. The Cleveland Indians are always going to be my baseball team. Go Tribe.

Midway: High-Flying Thriller!

A few days ago, I watched Midway for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But now after watching it for the third time in less than a week, I can definitely say it’s one of my new favorite history movies along with Downfall and Darkest Hour.

I’ve never really given much thought to what it must’ve been like to fly a Dauntless, Wildcat or P-51 Mustang during World War II. But Roland Emmerich was a master at not only putting the audience in the pilot’s seat, he also did a great job at capturing the feel of how intense and dangerous the combat was, along with what the mood was among many American fighter pilots during the war.

At the start of the film, the recreation of the attack on Pearl Harbor definitely woke me up. I couldn’t imagine being a sailor on deck that Sunday morning in Oahu. They were minding their own business with their shipmates and friends, enjoying the beginning of what they thought was going to be a peaceful December day. They must’ve thought the huge squadron of planes heading toward them was friendly…until they started divebombing and torpedoing everything in sight!

I understand this is a movie, and creative liberties were probably taken at certain points to enhance the gravity or weight of everything. But in my case watching it, it definitely did what it was probably supposed to do: Make me remember the nearly 3,500 American sailors wounded and killed that day, and set the stage for a group of young fighter pilots eager to do what the entire country wanted to do at that time: Get revenge on Japan.

The Key Players

The portrayal of the pilots and sailors we get to know throughout the movie was another strong point of Midway. Ed Skrein heads a solid cast. He portrays Richard Halsey “Dick” Best, a divebomber from New Jersey. He’s loud, brash, funny at times, yet tough as nails when he has to be. Not to mention he’s got antifreeze in his veins. But I suppose bomber pilots had to be that way…especially when they’re flying into a hail of bullets from Japanese AA guns while bombing ships up close and personal!

Other important figures portrayed in the movie include:

  • Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank), Dick Best’s friend and fellow bomber.
  • Wade McCluskey (Luke Evans), a flight instructor and fighter pilot. One of Best’s superiors.
  • Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas), Machinist Mate First Class.
  • William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid), Fleet Admiral.
  • Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), Fleet Admiral and Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
  • James Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart), fighter pilot, known for the famous “Doolittle Raid” where he led a mission to bomb Tokyo.
  • Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson), a U.S. Pacific Fleet Intelligence officer who worked to crack Japanese naval codes.
  • Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown), a Radio Analyst who works with Layton to crack Japanese naval codes.

Midway was really strong in not only showing the distinct personalities of these men, but also showing the role they had to play in our eventual victory in World War II. Roland Emmerich constructed everything in such a way that the movie fit together like a puzzle. What one key player did directly affected, or helped the other key players to do their jobs. Midway definitely showed the teamwork involved in winning the war in the Pacific. Plus every key personality was fleshed out enough that I feel like the actors could reprise their roles in spinoff movies. They were that good, in my opinion!

I know Midway likely won’t get any spinoffs or sequels. But if the studio had wanted to, they could’ve made spinoffs to Midway. Perhaps one showing the Doolittle Raid, another showing more of Nimitz’s and Halsey’s leadership within our Navy, and one showing Layton and Rochefort cracking the Japanese naval codes along with other intelligence operatives. If a movie was ever made similar to the style of Midway, but with Layton and Rochefort as the stars, I imagine it as kind of like a Zero Dark Thirty film with a World War II twist. I’m sure the intelligence work was extremely interesting!

Tireless and tenacious intelligence work often gets overlooked in the midst of huge ground, naval or air victories. Generals, Admirals and Commanders get the glory for winning battles and wars. They should. They should always be honored along with their troops. But without top notch intelligence, every big military operation in history would’ve stayed stuck in neutral. Nothing would go anywhere.

“This is for Pearl!”

My favorite scene in the entire film though, had to be this one:

Everything about this scene was just awesome. The tense music, the chaos of the battle, and Dick Best letting out a primal scream after dropping the bomb to sink a Japanese carrier. How much more badass can it get?! The scene definitely seems Hollywood-ized, but that’s not the point of it. I think this scene was used to show how Dick Best and so many others felt about Pearl Harbor, which I completely understand and agree with. I felt the same way after 9/11.

No matter how fractured our country seems at times, if we’re shocked or shaken by a common enemy that wakes us up like with Pearl Harbor or 9/11, we take a second or two to let it register. Then we get angry and all unholy hell breaks loose once the sleeping American Giant wakes up. Like one of my favorite songs says: “We may have done a little bit of fighting amongst ourselves. But you outside people best leave us alone!”

Overall, I thought Midway was fantastic! I’ve definitely gotten into the habit of watching war movies lately. Maybe I should check out Fury, 1917, or Dunkirk next? But I would definitely recommend Midway to anyone who likes action movies, and is a student of history. Jump into the copilot’s seat with Dick Best and the others. You won’t regret it!

Parable of the Tenants: A warning to the world

For those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning: Thank you. You know I don’t write unless I feel truly moved to do so. This is definitely one of those times. I just finished listening to The Parable of the Tenants in Chapter 12 of Mark, and was instantly jerked awake. I literally got chills, and felt that God was trying to tell me something. The Parable of the Tenants, not to be confused with The Parable of the Talents, is in Mark 12:1-12. Before reading more of this post, take a moment and read the parable here.

Before I listened to this parable, I genuinely asked God in my heart to help me see whatever it is that He wants me to see, if anything. And boy did He! Usually I listen to or read chapters of Scripture expecting to learn, or write something down to remember. But every once in a while, God smacks me in the face! Most of the time, those rare “Godsmacked” moments are joyful, peaceful and deeply profound. They sometimes even move me to tears!

This time though, God’s message to me seemed ominous. Like He was not only warning me, but the rest of the world. Especially when we ridicule, mock, hurt or kill those who tell the truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Right away, I understood that the vineyard owner in the parable was God. Next, I understood each servant the vineyard owner sent to the tenants, to be any voice of truth that preaches the Gospel. These voices were the Old Testament Prophets, Jesus Himself, and any true Christian who walks the Earth today.

In the parable, what is the reaction to each of the servants the vineyard owner sends? They’re beaten or killed. What is the reaction to the son of the vineyard owner? He’s beaten and killed. To me, this represents what happens when the world receives a person who tells the truth that Jesus preached, taught, and literally embodied while He walked this Earth.

The world hates the truth. It doesn’t want to hear it. Or if it does, it only wants to hear the sunshine and rainbow, peaches and cream parts that it likes. This was as true in first century Judea, as it is in our 21st century world. The world likes the “Buddy version of Jesus” as long as he doesn’t rock the boat. Society likes the timid, agreeable Jesus that can easily be shuffled into the background if he offends somebody. The “Jesus” they know apologizes and meekly saunters away into a quiet corner. Their “make believe Jesus” is only allowed to step out of that corner when they want to hear something that makes them feel good. I don’t know who THAT “Jesus” is, but he’s certainly not the Jesus I know and love with all my heart. Society’s “Jesus” is a weak, spineless imposter!

What happens if someone shares the real, authentic Jesus? If they share the radical, sometimes fiery and controversial man who seems to delight in stepping on toes and stirring the pot, our secular, largely godless society puts its fingers in its ears when exposed to Him. As a result, when someone tells the whole truth of the Gospel, they may lose friends, be openly mocked, physically hurt or killed.

At the end of the parable, a chilling warning is given: What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?

We often scoff at the truth. I certainly have at times. It’s not always easy for us to hear and obey what God tells us through Jesus. The world often brands the people who share the Gospel as “crazy,” or “dumb.”

But the day where the vineyard owner finally returns to settle things with His tenants is coming sooner than you think. It will be upon us all without warning. Which group of tenants will you find yourself in on the last day? Will you be among the righteous ones who have done the will of the vineyard owner, or in league with the bad tenants who have rejected the truth of Jesus? Choose wisely!

Darkest Hour: Bringing Churchill to life

I have always been a student of history. Something has always fascinated me about the subject. I was fascinated by it as a child and teenager, and I have come to love and respect it as a grown man. I believe we need to know both history’s greatest triumphs and darkest tragedies, and take their lessons to heart. For if we know how things have played out in the past, it’ll help us make good decisions which will lead to a bright and prosperous future for ourselves, and our children after us.

I have also been inspired by a great number of historical figures for their courage and determination in the face of seemingly hopeless odds. Few seem to embody that courage, grit, stubbornness and never say die attitude as much as Sir Winston Churchill. I don’t know if he would appreciate me calling him this, but I always call him the British Bulldog. When everyone around him was ready to throw in the towel and negotiate for peace with Hitler in May 1940, he relentlessly stood his ground, he dug in and was stubborn like a bulldog! Gary Oldman was absolutely superb in bringing him to life in Darkest Hour, one of my new favorite historical movies!

Who was Winston Churchill?

Before I watched this movie, I admittedly did not know much about Winston Churchill beyond what I was taught in history class, in that he was our country’s greatest ally and friend in wartime once we joined the fight in December 1941.

But now after having seen Darkest Hour, I have a whole new level of respect and appreciation for him that just wasn’t there before. That’s not to say I didn’t respect him before. I always have respected him. But Gary Oldman brought out his humanity, and that really resonated with me. Winston Churchill was more than just the top-hat-wearing, cigar-chomping, whiskey-drinking man we see in the history book. If this movie is historically accurate and true to who he was as a person, Winston Churchill was a passionate, emotional man who deeply loved his home country in the same way I passionately love my country!

He also resonates with me because of his kindness to the people, and his sense of humor. Particularly when dealing with pesky reporters constantly hounding him for any updates on the war effort. When one reporter kept badgering him about whether or not he thought Britain was losing the war, he abruptly stopped walking, wheeled around to face the man, and gave him a “backwards peace sign” that instantly offended him. After that, it was all over the front page of the newspapers!

This scene taught me a new cultural thing, and had me busting out laughing! Apparently the “backwards peace sign” is the British equivalent of flipping somebody the bird? Learn something new every day! But that’s not even the funniest part. I bet Winston did know what the gesture meant, and he did it anyway! That would fit into his sense of humor. From what I know of Churchill before and after seeing the movie, he strikes me as a man who wasn’t politically correct. At all. And he didn’t seem afraid to rankle a few people or ruffle their feathers if he felt they needed it, with humor or otherwise 😉

Qualities of a True Leader

In addition to showing Churchill’s humor, Gary Oldman was also an absolute master at conveying his mindset when it came to making tough decisions. It seems to me like he often felt alone in facing Hitler. After all, his people were terrified, and nearly every politician in his cabinet was more than willing to back down and bow to Hitler. It took balls for Churchill to truly stand up for what he felt was right. And history did eventually prove that he WAS right in not backing down.

But the most important thing with that part of the film, is that Gary Oldman nailed portraying Churchill in such a way, that I felt as if I were there with him during the times he was outnumbered. I empathized with him. I felt as if I were there in person, watching him spar with Lord Halifax and other members of his cabinet, over whether or not to give in to Hitler or continue fighting.

It also became clear to me that Winston Churchill was often the wisest and most aware person whenever he was in the room with his advisors. When they wanted to sue for peace, and truly believed that Hitler would be merciful and reasonable, he knew what kind of man he was REALLY dealing with. He saw what no one else could see. He saw the giant 800 pound “Nazi gorilla” in the room when everyone else either couldn’t see it, or willfully looked away.

“You cannot reason with a tiger, when your head is in its mouth!”

There were several sparring matches like this, with Winston often going against the others alone, until former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain joined him, once Chamberlain realized that peace with Hitler was impossible. I couldn’t imagine the stress Churchill was under. He saw the Battle of Britain coming before it happened, and he probably felt like no one was trying to help him. At one point in the film, he is on the verge of tears while he is at home. He feels hopeless, scared of the oncoming battle, and frustrated at the lack of help he’s getting. But his wife, Clementine Churchill comforts him. After that, he seems reinvigorated and ready to go. Ready to stand his ground and protect his people. He did indeed stand his ground. Because of it, history smiles on him as a hero. He was a bulwark for the British people and the rest of the world against arguably the most evil man in history.

Man of the People

Lastly Churchill’s love for his people was shown in a powerful scene near the end of the film. From all I have heard, the scene itself is fictional. It supposedly never happened. But there is an element of truth in it. Apparently, Churchill would often disappear from the sight of his bodyguards or the people he was with…only to be found later, talking with the common person, and listening to their views whether he agreed with them or not. That is a leader. That is a true servant of the people. Something the politicians in Washington have not done in decades! The world needs more people like that!

Overall, I thought this movie was extremely well done! Darkest Hour has also inspired me to learn more about who Winston Churchill really was. Our society seems like it could use more people like him in leadership positions. He certainly was not perfect. He was a human being like the rest of us and made plenty of mistakes. But he was there when his country and the world needed him the most, said what everyone needed to hear whether they liked it or not, and he didn’t rest until Hitler and the Nazis were no more.

God Bless Winston Churchill!

Downfall: A Tragic Classic

I have always been interested in studying history of any kind. But I’m particularly fascinated with political and military history. How certain people acquire power, the rise and fall of once mighty empires, and the strategies used by brilliant generals to defeat their enemies, has always been extremely interesting to me.

However I think many of us often don’t understand what it’s like living in the middle of all these things. It’s easy to be interested in something and study it when it’s years, decades or centuries in the past. The film titled Downfall, rips away any of that by placing viewers squarely in Berlin, Germany in the closing days of World War II. Most people may know Downfall from when the “Hitler meltdown parodies” were the biggest thing on YouTube back in the day.

But now after watching the film, I find it hard to laugh at any of those videos anymore. Downfall is a gritty, nasty, realistic film that should be watched only by people who think they can stomach it. I’m glad I watched it to be able to truly get a sense of what things were like back in 1945 Berlin. But it’s also one of those rare movies that left me feeling emotionally drained after watching it. It’s a brilliant film by director Oliver Hirschbiegel that was nominated for an Oscar, but I’m not exactly itching to watch it again anytime soon. Downfall attempted to recreate the final days of one of the darkest chapters in human history, and did so better than almost any film I’ve ever seen.

There were several things that struck me in the opening minutes of the film. I was awestruck by the absolute carnage in Berlin, and this is even before the Soviet army shows up to capture the city. Buildings were smoldering. The screaming whistle and explosion of Allied artillery was practically constant in the movie’s opening scenes. And there were more civilians preparing to fight the Soviets in the streets, than there were commissioned officers. Some of these people were teenagers and young children! While Hitler and his inner circle were hiding in an underground bunker like the cowards that they were, they left everyone to fend for themselves!

Another thing that struck me, was how Eva Braun was portrayed by German actress Juliane Kohler. At certain times throughout the film, Eva Braun often strikes me as disconnected from reality. But then again, she had to be disconnected from reality, and at least somewhat insane if she was romantically involved with one of the most evil men in history. The war is all but lost and the Soviets are slowly tightening their grip on Berlin by shelling the city day and night, yet she swing dances, parties, smokes, and seems to be enjoying herself. The crazy thing? I truly think that Eva Braun, Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, and the other high-ranking Nazis in the bunker, thought they were going to be saved by some miraculous breakthrough.

What happens when they finally realize that nobody is coming to help them though, is an interesting study in human psychology and what the breakdown of the mind looks like. When the realization that they’ll all soon be dead finally dawns on them, they turn on each other like a bunch of piranhas. They eat each other. Hitler points the finger at his most trusted followers and brands them as traitors. Several generals begin fighting amongst themselves. The original scene of Hitler’s meltdown shows the moment when he finally realizes everything is over. It’s age-restricted but still available on YouTube. You can go to it from here.

Traudl Junge

What happened in Berlin in late April 1945 is a powerful story by itself. But when historical people are portrayed by incredibly skilled actors, they bring an extra layer of weight and realism to what happened. German-Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara plays Gertraud “Traudl” Junge, Hitler’s personal secretary who was responsible for typing many of his messages and pieces of propaganda to the German people. She was brilliant in portraying Junge’s mindset during the film.

Alexandra Maria Lara as Traudl Junge

She originally was happy to serve Hitler when he first hired her as his secretary in 1942. She originally saw being his secretary as just a job. But towards the end of the film, we see her eventually start to come to terms with what she has done by helping him. She realizes that while yes, she wasn’t directly responsible for perpetrating suffering and death upon millions like many of the Nazi soldiers, she did contribute to a bunch of anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi propaganda that encouraged others to do those things. In the film’s closing credits, we see the real-life Traudl Junge admit that she should’ve known right from wrong back then, even at 22 years old. Traudl Junge seemed haunted by everything until her death in 2002.

Joseph and Magda Goebbels: The Couple From Hell

While Alexandra Maria Lara was brilliant as Traudl Junge, the portrayals of Joseph and Magda Goebbels by Ulrich Matthes and Corinna Harfouch, hit me harder emotionally. The portrayal delivered by Matthes and Harfouch showed me just what radical, blind devotion to evil looked like. Nothing came before their devotion to Hitler. Not morality. Not logic. Not reason. And especially not their six little children.

Goebbels Family in Downfall

I’m rarely shocked by anything I see in movies or TV nowadays. I’m probably desensitized to many things, since it’s the nature of American television, unfortunately. But watching the scene where Magda sedates her young children to knock them unconscious, and then having them bite down on cyanide pills, is one of the most gut wrenching things I have ever seen. I did not cry. I was too shocked to do anything but watch. It’s one of those things where you know what happens, but you hope beyond hope that it doesn’t. Seeing something like that just ate at me. It would eat at even the most hardened person. Little children are so innocent, happy and pure. They haven’t been changed or dirtied by an evil world. Joseph and Magda’s children never really got the chance to be children. They had no chance at a happy life when they were raised by a pair of murderers!

Magda’s coldness with which she murdered her own children, and Joseph’s demonic, near-skeletal look have forever been seared into my brain after watching Downfall. They were evil personified. They weren’t far off from the man they blindly devoted their lives to.

Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler: A Masterpiece

I wasn’t exactly sure what to think when I first started watching the film. Hitler’s story has been done so many times, and quite a few men have portrayed him onscreen. But Swiss actor Bruno Ganz blows them all away. His portrayal of Hitler was unsettling, jarring and scary at times. It’s like he’s a ticking time bomb. Prone to blowing up at any small thing said or done by anybody.

Bruno Ganz as Hitler

But aside from that, Ganz also portrayed Hitler as a very charming, charismatic man who could be nice to others when he wanted something. He was a master manipulator. But he was also an enormous hypocrite and the world’s biggest coward. Several times throughout Downfall, Hitler’s generals beg him to order an evacuation of Berlin so the people caught in the middle of everything can get out. What’s his response? “They deserve to die. We’re about to lose Berlin and the war because they didn’t fight hard enough.”

So much for truly loving one’s country and people. What Hitler believed and did was as wrong as wrong could possibly be. But I would’ve had at least a miniscule measure of respect for the man if he had taken up a gun, stood next to everyone else and died fighting. But he didn’t even have the balls to back up what he believed in with action!

It takes a special actor to play one of history’s most evil people. And not only to portray him, but to portray him accurately. I also saw an eye-opening quote from Bruno Ganz himself when I found out he portrayed Hitler in the movie, “I couldn’t get to the heart of who Hitler was, because there was none.” Wow…

Bruno Ganz is no longer around, since he died on February 16, 2019 from intestinal cancer. But I will always believe he deserved an Oscar for this film.

A new perspective after watching Downfall

It may have been 3-4 days since I’ve seen Downfall. But it’s a movie I won’t soon forget. And with it, I have developed a new perspective. I realize just how truly horrible war is, and how utterly devastating World War II was. Anywhere from 50-73 million people were wiped off the face of the earth from 1939-1945. Including six million Jews, along with millions of other people the Nazis saw as “inferior” or “undesirable.” If I had lived in Europe or Nazi Germany back then, I would’ve been one of them. I would’ve been sent to the gas chamber for having Cerebral Palsy.

Along with this sobering look at everything, a new kind of anger has awakened inside me. Not at the Nazis, or the Holocaust deniers (although I AM angry at them). No, after watching Downfall, I realize just how clueless, heartless, and downright stupid people are when they call Trump “Hitler.” Or when they brand Conservatives “Racist” or “Nazis.” I dare every single person in that group to watch Downfall all the way through without looking away, and say those things with a straight face afterward. That is if they have the stones to even watch the film. I guarantee you they don’t!

The amount of hatred someone has to have in their heart to label someone else a “Nazi” is staggering. And it’s probably not far off from the level of hatred shown by the REAL Nazis back then! Every time these terms are tossed around like they mean nothing, they’re an insult. They’re an insult to good, sensible people. The people using them don’t realize just how dark history was back then. And every time they use those terms, they’re slapping every Holocaust survivor in the face, and pissing on the graves of those who weren’t fortunate enough to make it out alive!

I recommend that everyone see Downfall all the way through at least once in their life. Yes it’s dark, ugly and depressing. But I believe if more people saw it, they would do everything in their power to make sure nothing as dark as Nazi Germany ever happened again!

Living and Loving Sacrificially

It’s probably all too easy for all of us to forget to love sacrificially at times. Human intent naturally seems to be selfish. Living for numero uno comes naturally to us. But the Bible verse I was shown this morning reminded me that I need to live the opposite way. Hebrews 13:16 says:

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

I like when Bible verses or passages make me think of how I can apply them, or put them into action in my life. I get legitimately excited when I can DO something and live an active faith! I love learning wisdom from the Bible that I can commit to memory, but I love even more when I can put something I learn into action. Take a few seconds to think of ways you already live sacrificially, or think of ways you can live sacrificially. We are all busy people. But no one is ever too busy to show the sacrificial love of Jesus with acts of kindness.

Two ways I try to live sacrificially in my own life situation, is by donating either my time or money to the local homeless shelter here where I live, or by taking the time to write blog posts such as this, so others can hear of the Good News of Jesus. I enjoy doing it for all of you, but it takes a little time and energy to put these out. On days like today where I know He wants me to say something, I listen to Him. I choose to let myself be an instrument through which He can speak if He chooses to. I’m just a tool though. Nobody special. I also enjoy living sacrificially when I do something nice for others as a surprise just to see the smile on their face! Their happiness is enough 🙂

A Mother’s Sacrificial Love

But my examples are just small, everyday examples. They are insignificant compared to the sacrificial love a mother shows her children. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this particular Bible verse showed up the day after Mother’s Day, the day we celebrate all that our mothers do for us. I think God wanted me to speak on this. A lot of the celebration of Mother’s Day honors and recognizes deep, sacrificial love. Selfless love. A love only a mother knows. My mother Stacy Wickiser, is a great example of what it means to live and love sacrificially!

I can only imagine how much love and selflessness it takes from a mother to raise a physically normal child. Let alone one born with Cerebral Palsy. But that was the situation my mom found herself in 30 years ago. She, like Dad, was definitely scared and uncertain once I was diagnosed with my condition. She could’ve treated me differently. She could’ve seen me as a burden. She could’ve given up on me in any number of ways. But she did not think of any of that for a second! All that mattered to her was giving me the best quality of life she could possibly give me. And she still thinks this way even now!

My Mother, Stacy

She worried about me as a baby, like any good mother would. When I was a toddler and little boy, she took me to therapy to learn how to walk and live with my condition. 90 minutes a day driving me there and back, along with hours of watching over me as the therapists worked with me to improve how I was doing.

As I grew from a young boy into a teenager, there were two surgeries on my legs so I’d be able to walk properly. And both times, she was there for me while I was in pretty rough pain during 6-8 weeks of recovery. If the pain got so bad I cried, she was extra gentle with me. When the time came for me to return to school, she went out of her way to make sure all my classes were accessible while I recovered in my wheelchair, and so I could see my classmates and friends.

As I grew from a teenager into a man, there were countless times where she’d drive me up to Kent State and back, or do my laundry on the weekends I was home. She asked for nothing. And later on she worked as a housekeeper at the University of Findlay, so I could pursue a Master’s Degree that was virtually free because she’s a University employee. I know children like to brag that their mothers are the best. But I have yet to find a greater example of sacrificial love in my own life than my Mom.

Mom, if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for living a sacrificial life for Christy and I. I apologize for the times I have lost sight of all you’ve done and for when I have been ungrateful. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for your love and guidance. I love you always, no matter what!

The Greatest Sacrifice

There is only one greater example of sacrificial love than that of a mother for her children: The love Jesus Christ showed for us all when He willingly went to the Cross to pay the price for our sins with His own blood. It’s the greatest example of sacrificial love in all of history, past, present and future. Forevermore.

Jesus sacrificed everything. He sacrificed more time in Heaven with God. He left the comfortable, unimaginably beautiful Paradise where He had lived with His Father and countless angels. He came to this sinful world as a helpless baby, and grew up poor in the tiny little town of Nazareth. As a grown man, He endured 40 days of temptation from the Devil in the desert. He could’ve thrown in the towel then, gave up, and said “You know what, screw this I’m going home! It’s too hard!” But He didn’t do that. He endured His trials.

He knew He would make enemies with the religious authorities of His day, and with the Romans. But He sacrificed there too. He sacrificed the comfortable life He could’ve had as a wise rabbi with a wife and children if He had kept quiet and didn’t rock the boat. But He chose to live as the only truly holy and sinless example of grace, love, fearlessness, and absolute truth there has ever been in human history. And then He willingly endured the most painful death imaginable on a Roman cross on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He did all this out of a sacrificial love that cannot be measured, and never will be measurable by our human standards!

In today’s selfish society, I will strive to remember that I should live selflessly and sacrificially, and then look for ways to live like this. I encourage you all to do the same in your own lives. For if we do this, we become just a little bit more like the Lord. And hopefully He smiles on us 🙂

Leprosy and a Miracle

I’ve slowed down reading Scripture a little bit compared to the pace I started with. I’m just gonna say it: food regulations, rules for sacrifices, and rules on cleanliness aren’t as interesting as the story of Joseph or Moses. But the Bible is from God, and in order to know Him better, I have kept going as best as I can, even though the middle of Leviticus is very dry and repetitive. But boy am I glad I kept reading!

Leviticus 13 describes how a priest examines people for skin diseases, and what a person who has leprosy, a sign of uncleanness, must do. I tried to focus on reading the chapter as best as I could, but you know what I thought of the whole time? Jesus healing the leper. I meditated on His miracle as I read the chapter and what it meant.

As I got to the end of the chapter, the last two verses broke my heart. Leviticus 13:45-46 says:

“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone. They must live outside the camp.”

I tried to put myself in the shoes of a leper. Imagine being separated from your family, friends and loved ones, with no hope of ever being accepted back into society. That would be an awfully hard, lonely life. Plus I’m sure the stigma of leprosy also caused the people in the days of the Israelites to view lepers as cursed by God. And if a leper shouted “Unclean! Unclean!” as they walked along, it was probably an invitation to be made fun of or ridiculed. Knowing this, it made the miracle Jesus performed nearly 1,500 years later, that much more powerful and beautiful. Although I’ve seen several versions of the miracle portrayed, this is my favorite one:

That scene always has me choked up or in tears. Imagine how lonely that man must’ve been before he met Jesus. He may have wandered alone for days, weeks, months, or years. And at the same time imagine his indescribable joy after he was healed! Jesus showed how radical and unending His love is. He was willing to go to a person society considered the lowest of the low, and not only heal him completely, but restore his place among the people.

Things to learn from Jesus’ miracle

After reading Leviticus 13, and connecting it to Matthew 8 (which is where the above scene in The Chosen is taken from), I definitely had questions. I wrestled with what it meant other than Jesus loved the leper enough to heal him. Those who aren’t Christians but well versed in the Bible and the Torah will say that Jesus violated a Levitical law on cleanness by healing the leper, which is committing a sin.

But Jesus did not violate any law, nor did He sin. Rather, He revealed God’s character in that instance: That He loves the people who society shuns and looks down upon. I still struggle mentally with reading Leviticus 13 and then Matthew 8, because they seem contradictory. Why would God give these laws on cleanliness, and then heal a leper 1,500 years later? I still don’t entirely know the answer to that one, and I am not going to claim that I do. This is where faith comes in 🙂

This is just my take, so take it with a grain of salt. But I believe this was an instance of God teaching us that we should have a heart like His, rather than be legalistic. And He shows us this several more times throughout the New Testament. By healing the leper, Jesus fulfilled the heart of God’s law rather than the letter of it. The heart of God’s law is love.

Jesus also did two other things by healing the leper: Reward the leper’s faith, and provide a MASSIVE clue to His ultimate identity as the Messiah. The leper had never personally met Jesus before. He had no reason to believe He was a miracle worker. He had only heard from somebody else about Him. But yet he had enough faith in his heart to say, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He addressed Jesus as Lord because in his heart, the leper knew who He was. The leper had faith and trusted in Him.

Which brings me to the last thing I learned: By this miracle, Jesus showed in just one of many ways that He is the Messiah and God incarnate in the flesh. This was just one in a series of seven major miracles He performed that are recorded in the New Testament. They’re big flashing neon signs pointing right to Jesus as if He’s saying, “I’M RIGHT HERE! YOU CAN’T MISS ME!”

I also see the healing of the leper in another way. We are all spiritual lepers. Our souls are infected with the spiritual leprosy of sin. But just as Jesus rewarded the faith of the leper, He rewards us when we have faith in Him to forgive us of our sins, and to trust in Him. And just as Jesus embraced the leper after healing Him, He will one day embrace us in the Kingdom of Heaven if we allow His sacrifice to make us clean.

Matthew 6:1-4

Well this has been an interesting post to write…

I don’t often block people, or get blocked myself on Facebook. I’ve only ever blocked maybe three people, and been blocked four times including this morning. But I guess when you speak truth, people don’t like to hear it. Whether that’s someone you thought was a friend, or a world-famous Catholic priest!

Yep. I was blocked from commenting on a post by Father Jim Sichko, a priest out of Lexington, Kentucky. He’s known as the “Missionary of Mercy” on social media circles. He’s met the Pope, several celebrities, and has done all sorts of things for the poor and disadvantaged. I think overall he seems to be a very good man. He seems like a nice guy and is a very powerful preacher! He came to my home church in Carey, Ohio once and gave an absolutely FANTASTIC homily (sermon) on why showing respect by staying during the whole Mass and participating in it is so important. He was like a breath of fresh air. He woke us up!

But for all of the good things he does, there’s one thing I can’t stand: Every time he does something good for somebody else, he posts about it on social media. Not occasionally like a normal human being. ALL. THE TIME. I’m not jealous of him or envious that he’s being seen by others. I would honestly hate that kind of attention most of the time. People do need to see good things being done in our broken, dark world. But where I have a problem, is that he could do all the things he does with the money he has, entirely in secret. He doesn’t need to toot his own horn. If he does nice things, and is recognized by the people he helped, great! People need to see Christlike love more often! But drawing attention to oneself reminds me of Matthew 6:1-4, in which Jesus is warning people not to be like the Pharisees. He says:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Here’s a screenshot of the post that got me blocked. I apologize for the blurry photo. But you can probably still read what it says: Father Sichko talks about giving to others by helping bury the father of the two kids in the picture, and then buying their steers and donating the meat to charity.

I’ve been quiet in the past and just scrolled on by when he does stuff like this, occasionally rolling my eyes at it. But I couldn’t stand by anymore. Something got into me last night. Perhaps it was the tone with which he posted it, like “look at me! See all the good I am doing for others?” Or maybe it was the fact that everyone was praising him, and nobody was politely calling him out for clearly going against what Jesus says. Perhaps it was also the way he seemed to brag about helping pay for another person’s funeral? Who does that? If I had the money to help pay for a funeral, I wouldn’t be telling anyone I paid for it. Let alone blast it all over social media! Humility and some respect for the dead and their family is more important than getting a pat on the back over social media!

I rarely call people out. Mostly because I know I am a sinner too, and somebody somewhere could definitely remind me of a time I was far, far less than Christlike. There have been loads of those times where I haven’t been acting or living like a Christian. I am often wrong, stubborn, sinful, and human rather than like Jesus.

But every once in a long while, I think I discover what it means to be righteously angry, and that not following or respecting Jesus needs called out in society. And anyone can and should be called out. Even famous people in positions of authority. People need to be held accountable.

So after I saw Father Sichko’s post, I calmed myself and politely was like, “Father Jim, what you do for people is great 🙂 But do you think Jesus would be happy with how you’re going about it? Reread Matthew 6:1-4. I want your take on it.”

I was nervous after I posted it. After all, the mob on Facebook doesn’t take too kindly to some average Joe from Ohio challenging a famous person. Let alone a priest who should be and probably is, far more well-versed in Scripture than I am. But I felt it needed to be said. So I went to bed after posting that, nervous that I had opened a massive can of worms.

I checked my Facebook notifications this morning, bracing myself for the onslaught of angry, indignant comments. “How dare you criticize a priest?! He does so much more good for others than you can, or will ever do!” But as I checked it, I didn’t see any angry responses. I actually saw two likes from a couple people who agreed with me. So I was relieved. But then something very interesting happened. Father Jim responded to my post. But unfortunately when I checked to see what he said, I saw this:

Yep. He went there. Instead of having a dialogue with me on whether or not my thinking was correct, or answering my question, Father Jim made it so I couldn’t go back and forth with him on his post. It may be a small instance on Facebook. But that told me a LOT about a bunch of things: His character, whether or not I was right in calling him out, and just how much the Catholic Church worries about threats to good PR, or somebody making them look bad. I understand that I am a nobody in the grand scheme of things. Nobody’s going to put the entire Church on notice with one simple Facebook comment, and I am not a threat to the Church. I’m one man. But if I’m not a threat and Father Jim was following Jesus, he should’ve responded to me and allowed me to do so as well. I would still gladly welcome a conversation with him! But unfortunately he’s made it so I can only like or share his posts, and not comment on them.

Which brings me to a larger point: The Catholic Church needs called out on hypocrisy and held accountable for when they don’t follow Jesus. I am not here to destroy Catholicism. I actually think it’s a very beautiful part of the Christian faith when practiced right. And thank God for my Dad, Mom, and Grandma for all guiding me and raising me in my faith as a Christian. Their love for the Roman Catholic faith has deeply influenced my own walk with Jesus, and the man I am today. They’ve passed that love on to me.

Although truly loving one’s faith does not always mean being happy with what those in leadership positions are doing. Sometimes there needs to be someone who’s like “Wait a minute, where did Jesus say to do that or act like that?” And sometimes there needs to also be righteous anger that comes from a place of love. The same sort of anger that Jesus showed when He drove the money changers out of the Temple. I cannot know His mind obviously, but something tells me that Jesus deeply, deeply loved His Jewish faith and being at the Temple. So you can imagine how horrified, shocked and downright livid He was when He saw people selling animals and making money in a holy place like that!

But when Jesus went off, what did the Pharisees do? They were simply like, “Who are you, to tell us this?!” Which is what I imagine Father Jim saying to me if I had been allowed to respond to correcting him with Scripture. After all, he’s the wise priest who spent years in seminary. And I’m just the farmboy who struggles to be a good man while still feeling like a relative baby in my walk with Jesus.

But that’s where the thinking needs to change. Nobody in authority should be above being corrected. Especially those who claim to represent God as His people on Earth. And the Catholic Church needs to focus more on helping others in secret. Without having to blast their good deeds all over cyberspace.

Chronicles of Brothers, Book 3: Son of Perdition

She did it again. Wendy Alec is an absolute master at writing great books! Son of Perdition, the third book in the Chronicles of Brothers series was full of suspense, government conspiracies, and it ended in the Summer of 2025, just before the start of the Tribulation described in the Book of Revelation.

In the whole timeline of the series, we’re 2,000 years past the events of Messiah: The First Judgment. It’s 1981, Lucifer has found a way back to Earth in spite of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross destroying his complete hold on humanity. And he has devised a plan to sway humanity back to his rebellion against God: the birth of his own dark messiah. The Antichrist.

As I read through the book, it became clear to me just how much Lucifer twists good or holy things, and creates his own warped version of them. To mirror Jesus, he oversees the birth of the Antichrist. He also distorts and warps the miracle of life created by God, and in its place, has his chief sorcerers and scientists create all sorts of twisted, grotesque creatures that are a mockery of the natural order of things.

Lucifer also heads his own “unholy trinity.” As a counter to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, there’s Lucifer, the Antichrist, and one of Lucifer’s chief generals, a fallen angel named Charsoc assuming the role of the False Prophet described in the Book of Revelation.

One particular quote said by Lucifer in the book gave me chills. Just as he’s anointing the Antichrist near the end of the book, he says these words, a dark and twisted version of the most beautiful verse in the Bible, John 3:16:

“For I so loved the world, that I sent my only begotten son, that whosoever take the Mark and follows him shall perish and forfeit eternal life. For mine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, forever and ever Amen!”

Not only does Lucifer twist and warp holy and good things, he also shows his absolute ruthlessness in pursuit of achieving his main goal: The total destruction of humanity by any means necessary. To him, everybody is a pawn in his game against God. Everybody is expendable. So many in his inner circles loyally serve him, But once the Antichrist is ready to assume full power over the world, they will all die by various means. No exceptions.

The Illuminati: The Power Behind the Suits

I don’t often consider myself a conspiracy theorist. I probably scoff at 90% of the conspiracy theories I’ve heard in my lifetime. But every once in a while, I hear one that not only seems believable in my mind, but likely. For example, I do not believe Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in his prison cell. Not for a nanosecond. He was murdered by some very powerful people who didn’t want to be exposed for their evil. Nobody will ever change my mind on that one.

Another one that I have in my mind falls similarly in line with what Wendy Alec talks about in Son of Perdition: A One World Government. The book opens on 9/11, with one of the flights crashing into the World Trade Center. But that’s only a small part in the grand plan of things. Because right after the crash we see Lucifer (in his human disguise as a Jesuit priest), and a boardroom full of bankers, stock brokers, diplomats and dignitaries, discussing and mapping out several future events at that time. They talk about the invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the 2008 Recession, plans for World War III, and the eventual peace treaty that is to be signed in the Middle East.

Hypothetical World Government Symbol

Now, I do not believe world history is literally being shaped by demons disguised as humans. But I do believe there are puppet masters FAR higher than any world government pulling the strings. Truly evil people who have not been brought to justice yet, and may never be. Yes, our government in Washington is incredibly corrupt. But I have always believed they answer to some higher authority. Big Tech. World Banks. Multinational mass media companies. The ladder of world corruption probably climbs higher than any of us can imagine. This is the angle Wendy Alec takes. In Son of Perdition, every war, economic collapse and election is merely a move forward on the path to Armageddon.

From Hope to Fear and Anxiety

Son of Perdition has a polar opposite feel and tone compared to the book that preceded it. In Messiah: The First Judgment, the whole book shows the love that Jesus treats everyone with. His life and miracles are described in powerful, vivid detail. In some cases I misted up or cried! Yes there are dark moments in the book, such as when Jesus encounters demons guarding the tomb of Lazarus, the overall mood surrounding the Crucifixion and the gloomy atmosphere of Hell that Jesus encounters on Holy Saturday after His death and before His Resurrection. But overall, Messiah: The First Judgment is a hopeful book, because it shows the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice. He also frees all of the righteous dead from Hell, while imprisoning Lucifer there for the next 2,000 years.

Pale Horseman of the Apocalypse

In Son of Perdition, there is no such hopeful mood. From the get go, its like you’re going through the story waiting for a ticking time bomb to explode. Every act in the story leads to something bigger and even more sinister. This book is a thriller but also scary! And at certain times in the book, astronomers and scientists see an ominous, hooded figure on a pale horse appear in the sky. This is the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death. The Four Horsemen themselves haven’t shown up to wreak havoc. Yet. But when the Pale Horseman appears in the sky, it’s a warning that the end of the world, and the Second Coming of Jesus isn’t far off. Considering how the fourth book in the series is titled A Pale Horse, something tells me it won’t be long before Death, Pestilence, War and Famine team up to bring humanity to its knees!

An Unexpected Encounter

There is one hopeful aspect to the book though. Redemption for one of its main characters. Throughout the series, readers become more and more well acquainted with the De Vere brothers: Nick, Adrian and Jason. They were all born into a wealthy English family. Jason becomes a multibillionaire media mogul, basically controlling most of the world’s major media outlets through his business deals. Middle brother Adrian rises through the political ranks, first becoming the British Prime Minister, and then the President of the European Union. He’s more powerful than the President of the United States, who answers to him. He’s the most powerful person in the world.

Nick De Vere on the other hand, is the playboy of the three brothers. He’s the youngest of the three. The baby of the family. He doesn’t see any need to do anything other than enjoy himself. Unfortunately at some point before the beginning of the series, Nick’s hard-partying, drug-fueled, sex-crazed lifestyle catches up to him. He contracts HIV from a dirty heroin needle, which eventually progresses into full blown AIDS. With a looming death sentence hanging over his head, he becomes bitter, angry, reclusive, and a hardline atheist.

One night however, he stumbles across several artifacts on an archaeological dig in Petra, an ancient city in Jordan. One of these artifacts is a small carved wooden Cross, reportedly carved for the Nabatean King Aretas by Jesus when He was three years old. Even though he’s a militant atheist, Nick grabs the Cross, aware of the stories of its supposed miraculous healing powers. When his disease isn’t healed by the Cross, Nick scoffs at it.

Just then, he hears a voice behind him telling him that Petra is a holy place, and sees a figure cloaked in a deep purple robe. As Nick starts to sarcastically converse with the hooded figure, the cave he’s in grows more and more bright with white light. When the light eventually becomes too painful to bear, the figure removes the hood. It’s none other than the man Nick had been mocking: Jesus Christ Himself! Jesus is then described by Wendy Alec similarly to how John describes Him in the Book of Revelation: So majestic, beautiful, glowing, and too painful and bright to look at directly. Guys, the way she described Jesus immediately made may hair stand on end! I GOT CHILLS! No book has ever given me goosebumps. It was so beautiful, yet terrifying at the same time!

I immediately put myself in Nick’s shoes. How would I react if Jesus suddenly appeared in front of me, glowing so bright I couldn’t look at Him directly? I’d definitely be face first on the floor crying and begging for mercy! Nick does exactly that. But surprisingly Jesus isn’t vengeful toward him. Instead, Nick can feel Jesus’ love for him radiating outward. He’s healed of his disease completely, his soul is saved, and he slowly falls unconscious. Three days later, Nick awakens at his uncle’s house thinking the whole thing was some sort of fantastical dream. But once he realizes it was no dream, and sees that he’s completely healed, he just breaks down and sobs for fifteen straight minutes while his uncle holds him! Can any of you imagine that kind of peace and joy?! Oh my goodness!

Now that he is healed, Nick’s eyes are opened to the fact that his oldest brother Jason needs to be warned about the true identity of their brother, Adrian. Adrian isn’t the loving, caring brother they both have grown up to love. No. He’s the Antichrist! A cold, calculating creature created by Lucifer who replaced their real brother, who was murdered shortly after his birth.

The book ends with Nick, Jason and Adrian’s mother being murdered in a hospital by Adrian himself. The fact that he took his own mother’s life so coldly shows just how evil he really is. He won’t have any problem bringing pain, suffering and death to billions of people down the road.

The next step down that road? Book 4 of the Chronicles of Brothers series: A Pale Horse. Can’t wait to check that one out! Yes, the series is getting dark. Armageddon is looming. But considering we all know what’s supposed to happen at the end of everything, I’m comforted. And I have to keep reading! Catch ya later everybody! 🙂