Since I broke the original The Cross and the Badge into two novels, and I’m getting close to rolling with both out there, I was looking for a suitable title for the new book. Let’s be honest about it, The Dog That Howled at the Moon sounds OK for a working title, but it would fill a movie marquee if it ever became a film, and sounds a little more like a vampire story.

Tying it in with first book seemed important, and since Ephesians 6:10 and specifically the verse about “Taking the Sword of the Spirit” seems to be one the main scriptures, it made sense to have that to do with the title.

The title is no longer The Dog That Howled At the Moon. It’s now The Sword.

If you’re not familiar with what Paul has to say about it as found in the NIV (New International Version) from Ephesians 6:10-17:

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Armor of God is what helps us stand strong in this world, and the question becomes what happens if you lose your armor. What’s more, how can you lose it? One of the characters that kind of lurked in the background, but has come out of the shadows, is a guy called Zorro. It isn’t his real name, as Will Diaz explains. Rather when Zorro was a child, he loved to watch the “Adventures of Zorro” on TV. He dressed up in a black cloth for a cape, an old battered black cowboy hat, and had a plastic sword.

The nickname stuck.

It’s established that Zorro was a believer, but he got run over by sin and tragedy. A tunnel rat in ‘Nam, he fell into the trap of fear and drugs. Add that to the mental stress of war, and you’ve a recipe for a man with some serious issues. He still clutches to his faith, but he’s terrified and helpless in this world. Will tells his pastor that he was like Wiley Coyote falling, and he knew the impact was going to hurt. Zorro had already hit the bottom of the canyon. In fact he’d done it several times. Left up to him, he’d stay in the impact crater he’d made.

In one section, Zorro explains how he met an old WW I vet in an airport. When asked if he was headed for ‘Nam, and saying he was, the old man gave him a religious medal that had Ephesians 6:10 engraved on it. Zorro wore it through combat, till one day, in a brothel in Saigon, it was stolen from him. From his perspective. the medal being stolen from him took the only protection he had in the world.

Zorro missed understanding what the Armor of God really is. Is it a thing, or is it part of us?

THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT

Will has a different issue. He’s got the armor on OK. It’s drawing the sword and using it. We see three different instances where he was justified in returning fire on a suspect. In all three instances, he doesn’t. Things work out, but as Pastor Morgan puts it, “If you can’t use your weapon to defend yourselves or others, then you’re in the wrong business.”

While Ephesians is talking about the Sword of the Spirit or the Word of God, the same applies. If you’re a Christian and you’re afraid or can’t use the Word of God, then you’re ineffective. We get that way because, when people say we can’t, we could be threatened with our job, or even friendships.

If you’re a cop who can’t use deadly force, then you’re swinging around to get yourself or someone else killed. Will is in odd situation. He has no religious or personal beliefs against using the weapon to kill someone. His problem is the last time he did, it caused him so much anguish, he can’t do it anymore.

It’s something he has to figure out. Assuming he stays alive long enough to do so.

The final book in the first trilogy has also taken a name change. It went from Dead Friends (which is still a pretty cool title) to The Judas Tree. It’s a reference to the tree Judas Iscariot hung himself from after betraying Christ. And yes, there’s a major betrayal going on here, but the full magnitude of that betrayal won’t be known until we’re well into the next series of book.

So, stay tuned.