. . . and what I will say are two different things. I think I’d like to end the year with some profundity but fear of failure leaves me wanting.
To comment on the highs of 2009 requires such a deep gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ for His provision, His power, and His pacing—and the fact that He consumes and occupies the very meaning of profound—that I doubt I can capture any of the intensity in mere words on a blog post. You know? Somehow by rating thankfulness as the most important emotion which hurtles to the front of all I can think of, I can’t seem to make it overcome “trite”. And that’s disappointing. Because being thankful isn’t trite in any form. Especially when it pours from the heart.
Somehow, in spite of some very personal heartache in our family, we survive with hope and grateful spirits. Even with the battle being played out before us we understand that God is good. And just. And right now that justice seems mighty important to us.
We remain thankful that soldiers we know, and many more who we don’t, fight for our freedoms and deserve our respect, our gratitude, our prayers, and our whole-hearted support for their sacrifices past and present.
There is evil in the land, and we need to be prayed up, prayed in, prayed out, and prayed for in order to do our part to combat the heinous ways and demonic influences parading around in all forms of deceit and corruption.
I can tell you this. I’ve lived many years and learned some things of value. The most important of them: nothing outside of God’s will has any merit or inherent value, yet He is able and willing to work everything together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Jesus loves everyone. We struggle to love a few. He died to save everyone. Only a few will take Jesus up on His gift.
My desire remains to love God, to obey God, and to praise God. I’m blessed. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
As the end of the year 2009 approaches and New Year's Eve looms, I recall some times of welcoming in the new year when politics didn't phase me and only the immediate future seemed to matter . . .
One New Year's Eve a friend spent the night at our house. At the turn of the New Year we headed outside with a couple of my mom's pans and big spoons and ran around the yard banging on the pans shouting "Happy New Year!"
On another New Year's Eve I went to a costume party with my boyfriend dressed as a genie (as in "I Dream of Jeannie"). That evening didn't end too well with the angst of teenage "love", a forgotten key to my house (where could I have put it in my costume?) and parents had gone out for the evening, too, the Righteous Brothers singing their heartbreak song . . . Aaahhh, the drama.
How 'bout you? Any special memories of New Year's Eve?
Father, we look forward to your plans. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Of course as Christians if we hear the word “savior”, we think of our Lord who is the savior. We are pleased to celebrate His birth this time of the year and give Him the honor He deserves year round.
I told you how much I admired Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ, and the young mother Mary who demonstrated both her love for and obedience to God instantaneously after being visited by the angel Gabriel. The profound honor placed upon this couple was full of personal sacrifices and required enormous faith. As humans, I’m sure they experienced their share of tearful confessions to one another during the trials of relocating and raising the son of God. And then Mary lived to watch the One who had been miraculously conceived in her die a gruesome and sorrowful death, only to see Him rise again to deliver her and the entire human race from punishment if they so chose to believe in His sacrificial act of redemption.
So what about those who are called to be single, without a spouse, without a mate or helpmate? According to Paul, it is the better choice to remain singular. “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:32) An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” (1 Cor. 7:34) “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” (1Cor. 7:8)
Those of us who are married know there are multiple sacrifices made to stay married, to work out the problems of sinful humans cohabitating. Our selfishness strives against benevolence. Our demands strain to be concealed or rise to be satisfied. We have all kinds of issues to face and overcome. Some do, and sadly some don’t. Marriage is hard work. Worth every effort in almost all cases, but very hard work to keep it functioning at a godly and inspiring level of operation.
So this is a tribute to those who have been called to the sometimes lonely office of being single. To find that you have the unique place of being devoted to the Lord’s business without the distractions of trying to keep another person satisfied in a living arrangement does not mean that the requirements of that life are any less difficult or potentially stressful when neglected but rather allow for a possible greater extension of service in the kingdom. There is no greater duty, call, privilege, or responsibility than being about His business. Every position in the kingdom is valuable, but it is also part of a grand design. No one should feel less or more because he/she is single or married. We all have our things to do.
The single person must forge his way without the help or interference of another human partner. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the partners in making the way for decisions to accommodate the business of God. Who better and more helpful? What better way to become more dependent on God instead of on another human being?
This supernatural kingdom has a place for all of us. God dictates the ways and supplies the means to enter into His service. No more noble duty for the people of earth than to follow Him. Some will volunteer and serve faithfully. Others will begin their service and then be drawn away. Some will snub the Savior of the world and carry on with His enemy’s business. And still others will be pursued by the Spirit of God and give up and give in to His overtures to embrace the Savior.
Christmas always causes me to reflect on all aspects of humanity. As some work tirelessly within the holy kingdom without recognition while others give their lives for the King of Kings while succumbing to torture, each person given life on earth has a worthwhile place in the kingdom of God if he so chooses. No one need be excluded. There is a plan for every individual, yet some will never come to believe it’s possible for them.
Here’s to all my brothers and sisters who have looked upon the Savior and said: I want you, I need you. Take over for me, Jesus. Thank you for coming to live and to die for me.
Heavenly Father, we honor you. Your high ways are beyond our abilities to comprehend, but we accept them with our finite understanding. We ask to receive your revelation for more of you. As always, we are desperate for you. Increase our insights and discernment during these hard times. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
A year ago Christmas was very different for our family. Snow fell all day which was very unusual for our area. A white Christmas rarely comes our way.
This year the ground wore white but it was frost, and the sun shone all day from a bright blue sky.
The weather spoke of only a small part of the differences for our family . . .
The past always affects the present . . . one way or another. And oftentimes we choose how we allow it to affect us. Significant changes cause sadness or rejoicing in personal affairs, but we must make the decisions to keep propelling ourselves forward from shocking tragedies, sorrowful events, or severe losses. Not easy decisions to make for most of us.
We cannot revisit the past. It melds into our history either closely or creating distance. We cope or we delete or we ignore or we engage whatever it takes to keep going. Sometimes the elements of the distant past determine who we've become in the present, and sometimes we must let go of those elements to advance our emotional and spiritual maturity. Clinging to those things of the past which we've become accustomed to without inventorying their value will only produce more of the same and usually lead us to repeated disappointment or failure.
As we approach the end of another year, I wish you a clear vision of what the Lord has designed for you. If you follow Him, He will not lead you astray. Through the difficult, the impossible, the wonderful,and the astounding, Jesus is faithful, truthful, direct, forthright, and foolproof. He knows. Even when you don't.
Follow Him. Use the past to advance the present. Remember this: Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
Father, lead me in your ways everlasting. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Happy Birthday, Jesus. Your peace on earth in the hearts of men.
The spectacular meaning of Christmas can be lost or misplaced by those of us who worship our Savior. We are not immune to the secular version, or even the cynicism, which can accompany this exceptional holiday. Some of us begrudgingly go through the motions of decorating and purchasing gifts, finding no joy in the process. Some of us struggle with losses so overwhelming the Christmas season makes them seem enormous and unbearable. Some of us succumb to the legalistic refusal to embrace the day set aside for Jesus’ birth because it’s speculated he was actually born in March or April and by somehow putting up the tree and decorating with lights, we celebrate a pagan approach to this holy event.
The “traditions of men” referred to in Scripture by Jesus Himself reads as follows:
“He [Jesus] replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’
“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”
(Mark 7:6-8 NIV)
These verses were in reference to the Pharisees' complaint about the disciples eating food with “unclean hands”. In His further reply Jesus amplifies the discussion and implies that God is not impressed with man’s version of what is clean and unclean. God is always checking out the heart of man on matters.
This is where we can struggle during this huge Christmas season. I know many who feel “forced” to buy presents for relatives they rarely see except at Christmastime. I know at times I’ve felt guilty receiving a gift from someone who surprised me and felt compelled to rush out and buy a reciprocal gift. Not so anymore. It’s not about buying, it’s about bringing. Bringing joy, smiles and laughter, while conducting a spiritual examination and taking inventory of our relationship with the Holy One. To breathe in the magnitude of what we fail to fully comprehend. To honor someone and something so much greater than ourselves and any human knowledge we’ve acquired. It’s the season of the supernatural and Jesus is the very heartbeat of it.
Extravagance or simplicity? Both remain non-factors when the heart is right with God. The love of Jesus radiates from our countenances because this is a time of celebrating the true famous one (almost a shameless plug)! No one can rob us of this truth. We are mystified by the magnificence of something so unique and strange we can only claim it is our faith which compels us to know its truth. We know Jesus!
There are innumerable posts, articles, television spots, and suggestions from friends, relatives, and pastors, all instructing us on how to reduce the stress of the season. If we could just step back and realize the stress comes from “the traditions of men”, we could tone down whatever it is that drives us to focus outside the miracle of Jesus: God come to earth to save us from our sins. Surely there is nothing more celebratory than this single fact. Our manufactured stress can be replaced by a grateful joy, a silent peace.
The Prince of Peace brought and provided reconciliation to our Creator. He came in as a baby just like us, born to sin-stained parents who did everything they could to follow God throughout the supernatural adventure thrust into their lives. This whole event has never been and will never be equaled.
If you’re anything like me, you have an opinion on a lot of things. And you’re not afraid to express it. In the flesh you’ll jump in with unsolicited commentary and in the Spirit you’ll regret some of what you said.
I grew up—or attempted to—during the heyday of the “drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll” generation. I resisted it for as long as I could before I wondered why I was still holding out or holding onto any kind of innocence. I believed in God but didn’t know His Son.
My generation saw the ushering in of the “Ms.” women, better known as the decline and fall of real womanhood. Don’t get me wrong here. If you’re a woman doing the same work as a man as well as or better than a man, you deserve to be paid accordingly. If in your family, you have to work outside your home and put in as many or more hours than your husband, work together to manage your household chores. If you feel called to engage a job or service in a predominantly man’s field of endeavor, go fulfill your call.
But through all these trials and decisions, never ever forget who God made you to be . . . “But for Adam, no suitable helper was found.” (Gen. 2:20) Many women cannot accept their God-given roles, as if it’s degrading to be a “suitable helper” to the man God has for them. God saw the need, and he filled it with the perfect complement, the one who could meet the loneliness, the one who could inspire the desire to lead, to be responsible, to love emotionally, physically, and spiritually, the one who could maximize who he was made to be. Only a woman made just for him could fill that incredible order.
The woman was made from a man indicating she would always be a part of him, and he would always be attached to her. He would be responsible for this one who owned a piece of him. It was a perfect combination.
Enter the temptation to “do it my way” under the beguiling influence of “female reasoning and logic” and insert the male inertia of not wanting to take responsibility for direct disobedience, and the fatal flaw of sin entered a perfect world setting off the ticking time bomb of utter depravity and eventual destruction.
How generous of God to allow a very young virgin woman named Mary to bear the child who would redeem this fallen mess of humanity. He could’ve done it multiple ways—far more creatively than I could ever imagine—and eliminated the use of a female in the process. This young female was strong in her faith and absolute in her worship of God Almighty. Read Mary’s declaration after her encounter with the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:46-55). Humble obedience. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
Mary would be required to follow her husband to a strange town to have her baby, to a foreign country to protect her son, to return to a new city to start life over again. And she would do it. Because it was her call to do so. She fulfilled her God-given role. Her faith and her obedience allowed her to live the most important role of all women in the Bible. She was allowed to carry and bear the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Never again. Once for all. But the female gender was redeemed by being obedient, first to God, then to her husband. Was it easy? I highly doubt it. How many of you women could pack in the middle of the night to leave for a foreign country where you wouldn’t know a soul and couldn’t even speak the language because your husband woke up with a start after hearing from an angel. Not many of us would be too willing, perhaps arguing it was bad pizza. Life was not ordinary for this family. Because God was directly and actively involved. Someone had to lead. Someone had to follow. Mary followed.
Ladies, this isn’t my idea. I’m a strong-willed, independent woman, and my husband gives me a lot of freedom. He respects me spiritually and often seeks my thoughts, even my advice. But when it comes time for the heavy-hitting decision making, he knows it’s ultimately his responsibility to make them because one day he will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for his manhood. We women will do the same for our womanhood. Do you really want to stand before the Lord and testify that you acted like Eve when you should have acted like Mary?
Every home is different. Every household has its own order. This Christmas I would just suggest to you women who profess to honor Christ, to take inventory of your willingness to obey the One who made the rules, set the tone, gave you life, who adores you, and treasures you, and desires to guide you through the wicked world with His steadying, encouraging, loving hand. He knows you best, and He knows what’s best for you. May we all say along with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Father, it’s been a long and difficult journey for this woman, as you know. But I’m ever more willing with each hour that passes in my life to obey, to seek your face, to be your servant. There is no better place to be. Help me to be the one you want to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
We realized the seriousness of our endeavor right from the startling beginning. When you study the heavens, it’s a shocking discovery to find something new and so specific, something so amazingly bright set in place by some outrageous force. It beckoned to us, and after much discussion we knew we must pursue the phenomenon because not only our minds were in agreement but our hearts pulsed in our chests and stirred us like none of us had ever experienced. This star marked something, and we became determined to follow its marker.
Packing our satchels and gathering our wealth, somehow knowing there would be a requirement at the end of this journey, we loaded our best beasts with our survival gear and treasures and bid our associates farewell. Each one wished us good traveling and remained anxious to learn of this special light in the sky never before noted in the history of the stars. We weren’t entirely sure we could find our destiny with this star, but we knew we were all compelled to follow it.
The journey wore on, long and sometimes difficult. We faced some weather storms and had to rest more than we’d hoped. One thing was sure throughout our travels: the star never once hid itself in the clouds or diminished in its opaque brightness.
At night we wondered aloud to each other why it could’ve appeared at this time, so stark, so evident, so impossible to ignore. So we studied the publications we had, the prophecies of old, and we realized together that there was to be born a king of the Jews, and it was then that we knew this special birth must have a marker because of the unique description of this new king’s life. Something sacrificial would be required of him, something beyond the scope of mankind and the usual service of kings. We dared to assume this child was set apart for things too grand for us to fully comprehend. Perhaps those heavens we studied held a greater message than our simple hearts could compute, and at night when we discussed our journey and the gifts we felt we must bring as an offering, we’d often retreat to silence as we contemplated the magnitude of our destination in this moment in time. We sensed eternity placing its request upon our hearts, and at times we quaked in what could only be called a holy fear.
Since we were all our own personalities, some of us light-hearted and generally jovial, others of us severely focused and serious, we began to notice we had a joining of our souls on this journey and our usual petty grievances with one another which every so often occurred while we argued over the heavenly bodies no longer persisted. It was like we were joined in purpose, resolution, and a kind of faith we’d never known together. This star had presented an opportunity for us to set aside our professional differences, our dislike of certain characteristics in each of us, including ourselves, and I cannot recall one single incident of discord along the occasionally perilous journey.
We approached the great city of Jerusalem and the star shone even brighter—as impossible as that seemed, but we were all in agreement about that fact. Knowing we were in foreign lands, we asked some local teachers of their law about the prophecy to determine the exact location of this tiny king because the star seemed to shine over the entire area. Shortly after seeking our information we were summoned by the Roman King Herod who inquired about the exact time the star had appeared. He made a strange request after telling us to go to Bethlehem, asking us to report back to him so he could go and worship the child.
When we packed up and headed out for Bethlehem, the star, in what could only be referred to as a miraculous compass, once again appeared more specifically and led us right to the exact home of the young child. We thrilled with anticipation for we knew the purpose of our journey was nearing its climax. The mother Mary’s eyes widened at our appearing and the extravagance of our gifts, but she seemed to understand the magnitude of our visit and her gracious welcoming allowed us to experience the marvel of the whole journey and culmination of supernatural events here in this small and common dwelling. Our surprise at the utter holiness of our visit overwhelmed us later that night.
We awoke having all experienced the same intense dream filled with warning not to return to King Herod’s court, so we set off for our distant home taking a different route, never to be the same again.
Following a star placed in the heavens by a holy hand who holds eternity gave us hope we hadn’t previously known. This little king radiated a glory we couldn’t have sensed without him, and we held him in our hearts as we traveled back to our land. We would never leave him behind even though we knew we would never see him again until that one who made the star we followed took us to be with Him.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Most of us don’t need anyone besides ourselves to tell us we’re flawed. Sin-stained and in need of salvation from the moment we breathe outside the womb. Those of us who’ve discovered that Jesus saves also come to know the value God has given to the human kind. It’s sometimes trickier to realize that value originates in His artistry and not in our own vain appeal.
It’s interesting when writers refer to their characters as “flawed”. I assume all characters are flawed since no one is perfect. Perhaps they mean uniquely flawed, abnormally flawed, quirky flawed, whiny flawed, or desperately flawed—in other words: specifically flawed. As in a particular area of their lives. I suppose there are opportunities in speculative fiction/fantasy to assimilate a “perfect” character for story purposes, but those might be the exception.
Sometimes we inject our own specific flaws into our characters because we are self-aware, recognizing and intimately knowing our weaknesses. Other times we observe specific flaws and translate them to the page in a character we seek to demonstrate as needy or brazen or evil. Certainly there are no perfect characters; just some that seem “more” flawed than others.
Within the context of story, characters appeal to us for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because we identify with their flaws or their circumstances or their challenges. Sometimes it’s because we admire their tenacity or their spunk or their intent to work through their unique flaws. It’s tougher to write major characters who won’t be liked by the majority of readers—to hide some redeeming quality under their skin or to insert small measures of likeability in order for the reader to stick with them.
Along the way readers discover what we enjoy and what we can’t stomach and what we will tolerate for the story’s sake. We tend to like a book because of how we relate to the characters whether they’re other-worldly, historical, or contemporary. I loved Mitch Rapp in Vince Flynn’s Pursuit of Honor. He’s the typical hero with some “issues”. Those issues don’t keep him from doing his job even when he’s in conflict with himself. Davis Bunn gives us the “fallen” hero-types and portrays them with such amazing skill that we sympathize and root for them from early on in their stories.
It’s not easy to get inside the head of someone who is not like us. From serial killers to those who just characterize opposite personalities, it takes a kind of keen level of observation skills and a vivid imagination which computes to realism on the page. That character must be real. Somehow the foreign traits, no matter how deplorable or admirable, need to come alive for the reader and not display a caricature.
If you’ve read enough of my reviews, you know the kind of characters I love and the ones I do not. How ‘bout your preferences?
Father, we are yours. Flawed, but redeemed because of you, not us. You’ve blessed us with skills. May we always use them for your glory. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
As we approach our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, I would like to encourage men today with this message from the Christmas account.
Men today have multiple challenges of all kinds. For example, their visual instincts are exploited by every medium known to the human race, enticing them into sexually sinful thoughts and/or ways. Books such as Everyman’s Battle break it all down for them in a working and understandable way, but many Christian men won’t read the book(s) which identifies the problems of their gender, some because they’re unwilling to face their weaknesses and be required to do something about them, some because they think their reactions are all just part of being a man, and some because they feel hopeless and just can’t take one more jab of criticism from the holier than thou set.
The requirements are stiff for a man in this world. Especially in Christianity. Because Christianity requires a guy to be a man about everything. To step up. To take responsibility for himself, his wife, his family, his place in the body of Christ. It’s a tall order, and it can be daunting.
The Bible tells us in more ways than one, and history bears it out as well, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The only new things are the advanced technological ways to present and exploit the same old problems.
Well, men, if you want to usher in the new year with some fresh resolve, take a look at the earthly father of Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, not wealthy, a man of faith, placed in the middle of a difficult dilemma with the young woman he was pledged to marry. (If you’re some wayward wanderer in the blog kingdom, landing upon my title of this entry and certainly not expecting to find anything biblical, of all things, I urge you to complete your reading anyway—you just might learn something.) As most of you know, you can find the account in the following places in the New Testament: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-23; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-51.
Joseph had dreams and visions of angels which both challenged and amplified his faith. In the process of receiving life changing instructions through these supernatural encounters, he became an amazing man who is only discussed in these few places in the Bible. When he anticipated having to divorce his pregnant (not by him) fiancée, he thought of her, not wanting to “expose her to public disgrace”. It was after his practical consideration that the impractical took place: specific instruction of the how and who of this anointed child to come. What did Joseph do? “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name of Jesus.”
Through the course of time, Joseph was required by the Roman government to leave his home with his very pregnant bride and travel a considerable distance to Bethlehem for a census where this unusual child was born nearly upon arrival there, started a new life in that town, sometime later was told to leave in the night for an immediate escape to Egypt, travel back to Israel and eventually settle in a not so desirable town known as Nazareth where the family started over once again.
Each decision that Joseph made had to be a difficult one: uprooting his family because of dreams and visions. The consummate man of faith with the family who trusted his ability to hear and obey God’s leading. This was the man God hand-picked to be the earthly father of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one has ever held a more difficult role in humanity. So much weighed upon each decision he had to make. Yet God sent messengers, dreams, and visions to guide him from his simple life as a man pledged to be married to the awesome task of being the husband to the woman who carried the Christ or Messiah.
Never again. Once for all. But, men, I urge you to consider the depth of faith of the man Joseph. Are you willing to listen, dream, endure visions to hear from the living God? And then are you willing to obey? Single, married, divorced—are you willing to make a new commitment to the supernatural God who desires to find men who are anxious to upgrade their spiritual lives instead of just their computers or sound systems or football channels? Are you a real man of God who knows there is so much more available to you, and you want it? Regardless of what’s required of you? Are you willing to hear and obey?
Look at Joseph, an ordinary man of faith, selected to be an extraordinary man because of that faith and willingness to obey the God who asked him to do what some would have considered out of the question, not in their house, huh-uh, no way. What kind of man are you?
Father, your love is endless, your desires often plainly expressed, but you also use unpredictable means to communicate at times. You are the one true God. You make ordinary things extraordinary when you enter into them and participate actively. I am so in awe of you. Help me to listen and always obey. I want all that you have for me. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Writers face some hard choices. Sometimes the story they desire to tell falls short of publishing expectations. “Not right for us.” “Not what we need right now.” “Not interested.” Advice for writers comes in many forms and ranges from salty sarcasm to passionate pleas.
The writer must face rejection from professionals and once published must again face possible rejection from readers. One thing is for sure: one writer will not satisfy everyone. Some people are tough to please and some people like just about everything.
Writers are warned about posting on the worldwide web. Once it’s out there and someone reads it, there can be fireworks, disappointments, challenges, regrets, or there can be empathy, laughter, tears, or praise. We are told that professionals scan blogs of prospective clients, hoping not to discover something that will shoot down a potential contract.
Controversy often stirs up bloggers and elicits all kinds of commentary. Snarky rants are usually tolerated if they contain sufficient humor. Whining rarely wins much positive attention. But neither does a non-stop bubbly perfection.
Truthfulness is deemed to be essential, but yet writers are told some things are better left unsaid. And some things are. Determining what those “things” might be can be confusing.
A writer is faced with multiple choices every time he/she sits at the keyboard or picks up the pen. Who is my number one audience? Who must I ultimately please? Can I disagree with “the norm”, whatever it is, and do it respectfully? Do I dare?
Just thinkin’ . . .
Father, it’s not supposed to be about us. It’s really all about you. Help us to keep that straight and up front above all other things. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I thought my “Petty Pet Peeves” post was self-explanatory. Light, not dark. Just a few things that bug me—“petty” being the operative word. Small things really except for the Happy Holidays, etc., nonsense instead of Merry Christmas. Inconsequential. Nit-picky but not to be taken too seriously.
Little did I know I would be labeled “joy-less” and have my Christianity questioned. Accused of tearing down to build myself up. Wow! Complaining about nearly everything? Hmm.
Let’s start with book reviews on this blog. I think you could probably count on one hand the number of “bad” reviews I’ve written here. And, honestly, I gave valid reasons for not liking the particular novels and acknowledged that each book would probably find an audience to love it. There have been far more rave reviews posted here than any other kind.
Yeah, I’m defensive. I went through a bunch of my posts to determine whether or not I’m always complaining. I didn’t see that. And I’ll admit I was shocked at the accusations.
So . . . I’m rendered a bit speechless. At least one person is probably glad about that . . .
Father, you know my heart. You’re all I’m living for. Continue to instruct me according to your will and ways. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Okay, probably not the best post for a Monday, but then again maybe it’s the perfect post for a Monday. These are just a few things that bug me. Granted, they might shouldn’t. But they do. Okay? Or not.
Angels: Angels don’t bug me at all. I’m grateful for them. But people are not angels, never will be angels, do not graduate to angel-dom at any point in our existence.
Angels: Angels are not “babies” or “cupids” or “ladies”. I do believe they can appear as either sex here on earth as needed, but never, not even once, are they portrayed as “children” or “females” in the Bible. They are powerful, often frightful, of unique designs, and occupy some kind of heavenly hierarchy.
Santa Claus. Not he himself really, but the idea of him being all-knowing. In other words having God-like capabilities. Isn’t it interesting how people can tout “punishment” from Santa for being “naughty” and “reward” from Santa for “being nice”? Duh. So, let’s just make Santa God in order to have Christmas—er, Happy Holidays. Riiighhttt.
Non-traditional “holiday” songs. Songs which touch on everything about Christmas—but not Christmas itself.
Just a few of those things which truly do bug me. Truly.
Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Apart from Him we can do nothing. I love you, Lord.
The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry, published by Moody Publishers, is the current featured novel for the CFBA Weekend Blog Tour. Difficult to categorize as far as its genre, The Familiar Stranger falls somewhere between mild suspense and women’s fiction, although esteemed male authors such as James Scott Bell and Randy Ingermanson wrote compelling endorsements for Christina’s first novel.
This is a tough one to review because at any point I risk giving the reader a “spoiler”, and I don’t want to do that. So to begin I will start with how the story is told. In chapters labeled “His” and “Hers” the reader is introduced to Craig Littleton and his wife Denise. From their first person points of view we quickly realize their marital situation is on the skids, and Craig intends to do his version of a remedy. The couple has two sons, the oldest on the verge of turning 16. We assume the 46 year old affluent dentist is leaving his wife for another woman and has calculated a plan he thinks is foolproof.
Craig tells his wife he’s skipping church to go hiking at the Columbia River Gorge, and we are able to follow him in detail part of the way. Next thing we know Denise forgets to silence her cell phone in church and hurries out of the sanctuary to answer the call which tells her Craig has been in a serious car accident. After her best friend drives her and the boys to the hospital, she learns another man was present with her husband and killed at the scene. The attending doctor relays what little information he has and informs her that Craig has been put into a coma to alleviate the pain.
From this moment on their family life changes dramatically. When Craig emerges from the coma, he remembers nothing of his family or his dental practice or his secret life and plans. Craig and the other man at the scene were in an apparent argument by the side of the road when another car hit Craig’s vehicle, but being given this information rings no bells in his blacked-out memory.
Aside from the familiar plotline, the primary weakness in this story for me is Denise. She’s as flighty as a flag in a hurricane and sometimes she’s just plain annoying. This presents a problem when trying to make her the sympathetic character with whom the reader needs to identify and commiserate. Sometimes quite frankly I understand why Craig wanted to take a hike, if you get my drift, not in any way excusing his ugly and hypocritical, cold and calculating ways. Here’s the thing for me: some women are remarkably naïve and quick to judge instead of looking inward to examine their contributions to lack of marital bliss. Whether or not fault can be found, no one is excused for breaking his/her vows to another. In addition to that no one is excused for not forgiving either.
This story has been done in multiple ways multiple times. Christina’s take on it isn’t unique, but I’m quite sure it will garner a certain audience such as those readers who enjoy Karen Kingsbury’s novels (one of which is quite similar in plotline to this one) and that’s no small audience.
Father, continue to provide stories and blessing for Christina as she strives to honor you with her efforts in writing and in her life. Encourage her as only you can do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The fifth book’s title in the YA Dreamhouse King Series implies the intensity turns up another notch in this leg of the minute-by-minute journey through time portals and dangerous civilizations and circumstances. Xander and David King, literal brothers and often brothers-in-arms, continue to travel into unknown situations in hopes of finding and rescuing their captured mother.
Each book picks up where the previous one finished so in spite of the six month intervals between them, the dire circumstances come roaring back to mind as one or all of the King family contends with the evil Taksidian and his lurching destroyer the family calls Phemus. David is stuck in a narrow chamber filled with dead people’s bones somewhere in Taksidian’s house. Xander must listen to Taksidian describe how he plans to murder the young man, and Dad plots how to rescue his sons. Toria hears faint screams and alerts Keal who was once in Special Forces but is now their aged great-great uncle’s caretaker.
In Whirlwind David and Xander visit Uncle Jesse in the hospital, and though he is weak, his eyes come alive when he describes the meaning of visiting the historic times and places offered by the portals in their house. His connection with David gives him the ability to convey how vital their purpose is in restoring or completing history as it should be. It gives new meaning to their dubious travels and what they can accomplish if they just pay attention. Of course that’s easier said than done since most of the time they’re running or fighting for their lives.
This particular segment of the story leads into more of an overall spiritual purpose which David begins to ponder. Xander also considers who Taksidian might be.
I’ve said it multiple times before, and I’ll say it again: Robert is the master of pacing. These stories invite the younger crowd to zoom from one historic timeframe to another in a matter of minutes and hours all the while experiencing one startling and often hapless event after another. Robert’s marketing tactics for these books have included multiple visits to schools across the country to discuss these stories, writing and reading, a website which invites readers to contribute (and receive credit for) plot elements, enter contests for great gifts including autographed copies of all the books and other great prizes, and book signings which have turned out to be major events for fans of all ages.
As with each book, Whirlwind ends in another crisis for the two boys and leaves readers eager for the final sixth book in the series titled Frenzy which promises more of the same. There is some discussion about continuing this series, but the six books conclude the initial run for the King family. Kids of all ages—make that readers who don’t easily scare—and who enjoy the thoughts of time travel and thrill to action rides will take great pleasure in the harrowing adventures of this ordinary family in this strange house.
Father, you know how much I appreciate Robert for his heart, his talent, and his genuine and generous spirit. Bless him as only you can do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.