Interview with Mark Kuhne
Giving God the Helm: Overcoming Storms of Adversity
Overcoming For Life, LLC (2011)
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (5/11)
Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is pleased to interview Mark Kuhne, who is here to talk about his new book “Giving God the Helm: Overcoming Storms of Adversity.”
After more than twenty-five years in banking, Mark Kuhne left his position as Community Bank President to pursue painting and writing. Today, Mark is an internationally known painter with his works displayed online at www.kuhnegallery.com. Mark and his wife Kristin share their passion in life coaching to improve the lives of people, to reach souls for Christ across the world, and to introduce people to a better way of thinking that is founded on proven Biblical principles.
Tyler: Welcome, Mark. It’s an honor to talk to you today. I really like the title of your book “Giving God the Helm” because too often I think we stress ourselves out with trying to do everything ourselves. We need to remember that God can help us when we fully place our trust in Him. Am I right in saying that’s what you would say the book is about?
Mark: In a few words, yes. I am amazed at how often Bible-believing Christians move forward with important decisions without following the path that God specially designed for us…we usually don’t listen to God. God will not forsake us, but we tend to forsake ourselves without even being aware of what we are doing.
Tyler: What made you decide to write this book?
Mark: Realizing that everyone will sooner or later encounter wicked or unreasonable people (who often cause overwhelming circumstances), my pastors—Senior Pastor Timothy Peterson, D.Min., and his wife, Pastor Cherrie Peterson, Christ’s Family Church International—encouraged me to write “Giving God the Helm: Overcoming Storms of Adversity” so others could also know how to recognize and hopefully circumvent storms of adversity that may be looming on their horizons.
Tyler: There are a lot of self-help books out there about overcoming adversity. What do you think makes yours stand out from the rest?
Mark: I believe that my particular book stands out because I candidly share what happened in my life that became the worst storm of my life, and I think others have faced similar storms. Instead of using a victim mentality, however, I explain how I made poor decisions that not only resulted in difficult tests and trials for me to overcome, but my story also reveals my vulnerabilities and my weaknesses. When we understand the part we played that led to our circumstances, we can make life changes to avoid the worst of storms in the future. Throughout my book, I provide advice and inspiration on how to use the energy from our adversities to transform our lives. The key is how one learns and uses his or her faith in God proactively to overcome anxiety, fear, and depression.
Tyler: Mark, you said Christians need to turn to God when making decisions. Can you explain that more? Are there certain types of decisions you’re talking about, or is it everything, such as something as simple as whether to buy a car or go to a movie?
Mark: 1 Thessalonians 5:21 does tell us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” I am talking about all types of decisions, but not every decision is between good and evil. Buying a car, for example, may be more about spending within your means and being a good steward over the money and things you have.
Tyler: Can’t a person make a good decision without God’s help? Why is God so necessary, especially if you’re someone who is generally intelligent, raised in a good family, who knows right from wrong and usually succeeds at what he does?
Mark: Yes, a person can make good decisions without God’s help. Some decisions are already made for us if we just follow the “rules.”
Let me explain it like this: we all follow standards (rules, values, or principles) from which we make decisions (consciously or unconsciously). At some age of maturity we can choose to follow standards found in the Bible, or choose standards found in the Koran, or choose to combine standards from various sources. We can also make up our own standards, to name a few examples. Some standards are shared by more than one source: that is, they are universal. Others are opposed to each other: Christianity and Judaism share many common values while Christianity and Nazism share very little or nothing in common.
We also have standards already established by our national-local governing bodies, workplace, school, and so on. As Christians we are also called to obey those standards. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities…whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God…do what is good, and you will have praise from the same” (see Romans 13). Just following the “rules” will most likely cause me to be basically a good person even if I am not all that intelligent or a follower of God. Most banks, for example, prefer that you write checks against sufficient funds in your account. I don’t need to ask God whether I should write the check if I have sufficient funds, but I may need to search out God’s will for me about where or how to spend my disposable income.
Let’s consider two people deciding on how to invest their liquidity: they both decide to diversify their savings. A non-Christian practicing the principal of diversification will probably have better results in protecting his or her savings just like the Christian. In other words, a non-Christian and Christian investing in several similar money market funds will both enjoy the lower risk of diversification. Diversification is Biblical, but the non-Christian doesn’t have to follow Christ or know the Bible verses that pertain to diversification to benefit from a Biblical truth.
Tyler: I completely agree with you that we create our own adversities in our lives many times, but what about those adversities we have no control over, such as a natural disaster or a random shooting spree? How would your book help people in those situations?
Mark: I am glad you bring up those types of situations. Yes, I believe my book will help many even when faced with circumstances they didn’t choose. Dealing with unreasonable people only contributes to a small fraction of our circumstances. Natural disasters, shooting sprees, layoffs from employment, or the sudden death of a parent, spouse, or child will leave many with adversities that are overwhelming. My book offers several suggestions on how to create positive actions or routines to overcome negative situations. No one thing is a panacea and it may take time to overcome situations that are more severe. Listening to educational or motivating audio CDs and music, incorporating positive affirmations into your daily routines, and seeking the support and council of others when appropriate are just a few things to begin a process of restoration or to help bring about healing or more positive results.
Tyler: Would you define “Giving God the Helm” as a book specifically for Christians, or would people who define themselves as “spiritual but not religious” or not necessarily believers in Jesus but maybe Muslims or Buddhists also find it beneficial?
Mark: I would say that “Giving God the Helm” would most benefit Christians and Jews because I use both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to demonstrate several principles and examples. I use the spirit of Jezebel, for example, to help the reader better understand spiritual warfare and how to fight against this particular force. I also use several scripture passages that offer promises and inspiration. Having said that, people who define themselves as “spiritual but not religious” or not necessarily believers in Jesus will also find it beneficial to learn how to create new positive routines or rituals in their lives to enjoy fewer and less severe adversities. The adversities and lessons I learned are not unique to Christianity. And, I believe it is universal for most all people to desire better and more productive lives.
Tyler: Mark, earlier you said that people need to realize how they often create their own adversities by their actions. Are you suggesting that force may be our own inner demons, or is it simply we haven’t learned how to make good decisions or ask God for help?
Mark: In my book, I describe how my trust in certain people led me into adversity. In other words, by being gullible (lacking discernment) I followed their lead without much thought. Whose fault is that? Mine! Once I learned to be more discerning, it became more difficult for someone to fool me into decisions that were, or are, against my best interests.
Tyler: I know in the book that you talk about many of your own adversities in life. Would you share with us one of them that you tell in the book and how you overcame it?
Mark: Certainly. I know some may find this strange, but I often have dreams that provide me clues of potential dangers (and good things) coming my way. By using an excerpt from my book, let me share how I overcame a particular trap….
“In one dream, the Lord showed me a very narrow path. It was a dangerous path across the top of a narrow mountain ridge, with steep slopes on both sides. Before me on this path, the Lord showed me a hidden pit, a trap concealed with straw as though meant to trap an animal. If I took one more step, I would fall into this deep pit. I noticed that Kristin was on the other side of this pit. Somehow she had made it around the pit and was still on this narrow path. The dream ended, but I knew that if I were careful, I could also make my way around the deep pit.
Later that afternoon I was with Jesse in his office sitting across from him at his large desk…he presented legal documents to me and expected me to sign them right then and there…remembering my dream that morning, I realized that this was the trap, the deep pit…despite his command to sign them, I gently placed the documents back on his desk. I didn’t sign them. Praise God for speaking though dreams!”
Tyler: Wow, Mark. I wish I had dreams like that. But I’m wondering whether some of your readers will be skeptical. What would you say to people who don’t believe in such dreams or that it was just coincidence? And in the situation above, were the documents really that bad an idea to sign?
Mark: Oh I am sure some readers will be skeptical, but I do give numerous examples of my dreams and how I used them to make decisions. Not every dream, however, is a message from God. I have used a few sources to learn about Biblical dream interpretation. Dream analysis can be simple, but it also defies a brief explanation. As far as the situation above regarding the documents, yes it would have been terrible had I signed them. A huge financial obligation would have been transferred into a limited liability company that included my name.
Tyler: One part of the book many people may find important is how to deal with relationships. Can you give us a little hint of your advice in that area that you think will entice readers to want to read the book?
Mark: I don’t think there is one person that hasn’t encountered Jezebel. We have all encountered someone who tries to manipulate and bully us to follow his or her own agenda. I (and many others) call this type of bully a wicked or unreasonable person and having the spirit of Jezebel. In other words, I am not saying Jezebel possesses the person, but this type of person often says or does things like her. Sometimes our trouble comes not because of our character or because we fell prey to an evil person but because we felt pressured or shamed into making a bad decision. Few characters exemplify manipulation better than Jezebel in the two books of Kings in the Bible. To this day, she remains notorious for manipulation, and many have written about her controlling nature.
Let’s look at Jezebel more closely. As I said, Jezebel uses deception and snares to control and manipulate situations. Jezebel uses flattery, domination, intimidation, and manipulation tactics to control. Jezebel hates the uncompromising voice. Jezebel lures you in, and if luring doesn’t work, she curses you for using truth and rejecting her bait. Her battle is over people. Her stronghold is stubbornness and pride, but she will be quick to point out that you are the stubborn one, that you are being selfish. She uses false power—illegitimate authority—to oppress and influence: Do it my way or you will look like a loser and there will be consequences. Selfish love feeds her agenda to seek control. Don’t be surprised when Jezebel switches to self-pity to play the martyr, the victim, to manipulate.
The more you understand this type of person, the better you’ll be at not only recognizing these tactics being used against you, but you can be that uncompromising voice and stand your ground. The ground you wish to stand on is “truth.” You fight the Jezebel-type spirit with truth.
Tyler: Mark, you’re also an accomplished painter and include several of your paintings in the book. Did you create the paintings intentionally as illustrations for the book? How did you decide to put paintings in the book?
Mark: None of my paintings were created for my book. Particular scriptures inspire me to paint. My book is filled with scripture passages so it doesn’t surprise me that many of my paintings paralleled portions of my book as I wrote it over the last three to four years. Some of my paintings helped convey relevant thoughts in a more visual dimension. At the risk of being cliché-ish, a picture or painting speaks 1,000 words.
Tyler: Would you give us an example of what one of your paintings is about and how it ties into scripture? You’ll have to paint the painting in words for us here.
Mark: One of my favorite paintings is titled “Door of Hope” based on Hosea 2:14-23. In Hosea, the Jews are led into the Valley of Achor, and from this valley they will receive their door of hope evidenced by new wine, grain, and oil. It is also where they no longer call the Lord “Master” but instead “Husband.” “Achor” means “trouble or death.” The Bible shows a situation of people being led into trouble, but from their trouble or circumstances they will receive a new vineyard and have a more intimate relationship with God (Husband, no longer Master). They’ll enjoy new wine (represents anointing), grain (represents harvest and provision), and oil (represents mantels, a calling or assignment by the Lord).
My painting shows the Father’s hands leading the way to what appears to be a passage or “door” (that is formed or framed by two olive trees) in a vineyard for as far as the eye can see. At the top of the door you see the image of what appears to be the rising sun. Looking more closely, the sun is actually the head of Christ with His glory also creating His crown (the sun).
In March 2011, I gave a presentation at Word of Life Christian Church in American Samoa and created a PowerPoint presentation around this painting. Although the presentation doesn’t explain everything about the painting, it can be found at YouTube under KuhneGallery:
Tyler: Does writing make you feel in touch with God yourself?
Mark: Not exactly. I write what flows from my heart. When I edit, however, I am more concerned with the message I am trying to convey and whether it is what God wants for me to say. In trying to glorify God, for example, I would say I am closer to God when editing verses when writing.
Tyler: What about painting? Do you find it a more or less spiritual experience than writing?
Mark: I definitely feel painting to be a more spiritual experience than writing because “editing” a painting is usually not an option. Changes to a painting can be made, but not as easily so I try to wait on the Lord to figure out the message, shapes, and colors of my paintings. I also meditate on my painting as it takes shape to seek direction before putting paint to canvas.
In all I do, whether I am writing or painting, being a husband or father, etc. I try to lead as I believe God has called me, and I desire wholly to follow and trust in God to lead me. I want God to have the helm to my heart and soul. I want God to be the Master Mariner of my life.
Tyler: You seem particularly fond of the mariner theme for this book. Was there a particular reason why you chose to use the boat or sea metaphor for the title?
Mark: I started my book with a story about a pontoon boat. Oddly enough, before cutting up that rusted pontoon boat, I pulled off the helm and saved it. This would also be a good example of why I don’t believe in coincidences! A picture of that helm—converted to a sketch using photo-editing software—is at the beginning of each chapter and became the focus of the book.
It was my editor Jean Cook who not only suggested that I be consistent with the mariner theme and metaphors, but she also gave me suggestions for the title of the book. I cannot stress enough how important it was to have a great editor to help me write my book.
Tyler: Mark, I know the book contains a lot more information we haven’t touched on. What is your favorite part of the book?
Mark: My favorite part of the book is “The Parable of the Pontoon Boat”—a short story I wrote years ago about how I accepted a “free” rusted old pontoon boat and what it cost for me to get rid of it—because “free” wasn’t really free at all, and I can laugh at that situation…and many others have too! The bigger story with much more at stake—and the cost to overcome those circumstances—wasn’t funny.
Tyler: If readers only come away with one thing from reading your book, what would you hope it would be?
Mark: That readers will learn to use the energy from their storms of adversity to overcome and approach their lives and businesses in new ways; they will find the keys to transformation, and break through resistance; their faith will grow; they will discover the purpose behind their storms as I did and with God as their Captain; and they will learn to navigate the roughest of seas. Oops, that is more than one thing. Okay, one thing…that they give God the helm to their hearts and souls.
Tyler: Thank you, again, Mark, for the opportunity to interview you about “Giving God the Helm.” Before we go, will you tell us what your website address is and what additional information we can find there about your book?
Mark: Our website address is www.OvercomingForLife.com. Aside from my book, my wife and I have our DVD video titled “Tree of Life, A Contemplative Prayer” that uses my painting “Tree of Life” to improve one’s inner-communion with Christ using godly meditation. Kristin and I also have several recorded messages available in CD or in downloadable versions. Lastly, copies of my paintings known as giclee’s can be purchased on paper, canvas, and aluminum.
Thank you Tyler for this opportunity to answer your questions and share a few words with you about “Giving God the Helm.”
Thank you, Mark, for sharing your faith and your stories in this interview. I wish you and your book much success.