Articles and Stories by Sandy Cathcart

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Location: Prospect, Oregon

Sandy Cathcart is a freelance writer, photographer and artist. She has published several hundred articles and photos in national and regional magazines. Sandy and her husband, Cat, work as cook and guide for 4E Guide and Supply, a wilderness outfitter. She writes about The Creator and everything wild.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Diving Deep with Ted Dekker

This article appeared on the front page of the February, 2006, issue of The Christian Journal

He rode into town after sunset, catching the edges of a storm. Nearly a hundred of us lined up and waited at Evangel Bookstore in the Mall. Expecting thunder and lightning, we braced ourselves for a fright. After all, Ted Dekker produces thrillers that keep burley men awake at night while they turn the pages and jump at every sound. Instead, Ted offered the hand of friendship and answered every question as if we were all part of The Circle—that intimate group of friends who draw close and dive deeper into the heart of Elyon. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pick up your own copy of Black, it will keep you on the edge of your seat and make your heart yearn for Heaven.

First in line, Phil Lemons, bravely asked the question that all of us had on our list. “Why Medford?” Anyone spending any time on the internet will know that the entire East Coast and the rest of America was asking the same question while they grappled with the demon of jealousy.

Turned out the answer was simple. Ted’s publicity manager, Caroline Craddock, had never been to the west coast before. When she looked at a map, she saw a road going right down the middle. Medford was an easy stop. Hooray for maps!

Carl and Kathleen Eastlund stacked up all thirteen of their books for Ted to sign, with his latest, Showdown, on top. Ted took his time, and autographed each one. When nine-year-old, Rachel Cathcart, handed him her copy of Black, he asked if she had read it. She shyly shook her head no and raised an eyebrow, pointing at me. “It’s Grandma’s,” she said.

Ted ignored me and kneeled down to Rachel’s level, explaining why she should read the story of Hunter. I had told Rachel that she could borrow the book, but she left that night with Black firmly in hand and me having to buy myself another copy. It’s a small sacrifice since it’s a great way to get a kid interested in reading and started on a lifelong journey of knowing God.

Barbara Brenhaug, the librarian for Cascade Christian High School, thanked Ted for writing books that get young people excited about reading. Teacher, Janis Rubus, stood in line and thanked him as well. “I let my students read their choice and then conference about it,” Janis told Ted. “When I heard many of them conferencing on your book, I knew I had to read it. And that was the end of it. I was hooked.”

“I write for people who don’t like to read,” Ted told her. “My plots are intense and twisted for people like me who get bored easily and only like to read stuff that is really riveting. It’s like what life should be like, because the great drama of life beyond the skin of this world is far more intense than what we usually think.”

That explains it, I thought. Ted’s books are about life, death, redemption, and the church, but it’s not an in-your-face type message. It’s more like C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series only stepped up a few notches—better make that quite a few notches—with tension. After the first few pages, his books are impossible to put down.

That isn’t how it’s always been for Ted’s books. His first few were more what you would expect from Christian fiction—some love story thrown into a bit of mystery, but with a surprise message of Heaven. Did I say Christian fiction? Ted dislikes that term.

“Most Christian fiction, but not all,” Ted explained, “is Christianized fiction. It’s fiction and you plop Christianity on it. My books are about the story between good and evil, ordinary people who aren’t Christians who are going through extraordinary circumstances, and in the process they learn some truths, and my readers and I discover that truth with them.”

Ted admits that the under thirty crowd probably gets the message of his books faster than us oldies. It made sense to me, because it took two readings for me to figure out that Three is really a personification of Romans. It depicts sin as the rift in our union with God, but it also depicts the human yearning for completion that can only be found through God’s gift of redemption through Christ. I had trouble reading Three, because it so clearly depicted my own struggle with identity.

Saying more than that would be a spoiler, so I’ll quickly seal my lips, but I can tell you that a good book to start with is Black. Be sure to read as far as Elyon’s lake. You’ll understand when you get there. It’s a beautiful picture of our desperate need for the love of God and His incredible love for us. It’s all born of imagination. “I used this gift called imagination,” Ted explained, “which is one of God’s greatest gift to man. Essentially, the way that we actually engage much of what God has for us, particularly that which we hope for, is through the imagination.”

In a separate interview, Ted explained even further, “Jesus used the construct of parables in speaking of heavenly wonders and often in answering questions. He used symbols and metaphors in urging us to use our imaginations to view the unseen world.”

Ted stayed late into the night, letting everyone take photos and ask as many questions as they wanted. One of the most prevalent questions was how things went with Frank Peretti as the two of them recently co-authored, House, an upcoming thriller.

Laughing in response, Ted said. “Frank is really weird.”

“We knew that,” several of us responded.

“And I’m intense,” Ted went on. “Frank told me I would make coffee nervous.”

That left all of us chattering, deciding that we better not read House late at night. Evangel employee, DJ Note, decided not to read it at all, “I live alone,” she said. So Ted suggested she stick with Blink and his safer stories. I suggested she read his latest nonfiction book, The Slumber of Christianity. It’s a wonderful story of Ted’s life as a missionary kid and how he ended up writing Christian thrillers. Elyon’s Lake is in there too, so you can get the best of both fiction and nonfiction worlds.

Ted ended the evening by recognizing the circle emblem around the neck of Phil Lemons. “Circle brother,” Ted said. Then he invited all of us to join him on the internet: Fittingly, he joined hands with us in a circle and left with the parting words, “Dive deeper…on your journey through life, may you always dive deep.”