I’m not one for year-end list making, and if you’re one to make those lists of resolutions, don’t look for them here. I learned a long time ago just saying something or hoping something doesn’t make something happen.
By the time the end of the year approaches I’m not sure what all took place in it. I’ve had to go back and check reviews to see if I read a book this year, last year, or the year before last. Some of them stand out and seem recently read because they were the rare ones that stayed with me, that still elicit certain feelings when I recall their titles and characters. So many more swirl in my memory as if in a blender, and I have to go back to their copy to separate them from each other.
If I were to attempt to list any accomplishments, they would definitely be centered on—and radiate outward from—I added friends who love the Lord and comment here, who offer their best efforts at writing stories, and who will be published someday. I worked on two separate novels, unrelated to each other, but still unfinished. I solidified other relationships with my author friends. I received two rejections for one novel, knowing it might not be a good fit for either publisher but receiving a good report from one editor.
The trauma of divorce was finalized and resulted in a unique and unanticipated freedom for my oldest son even though there remains the residue of extreme sacrifice. He never wavered in his love for the Lord and gained a closeness and dependence upon the Lord for things he could not do for himself.
In spite of myself, I move on, waiting on the Lord for His timing of many things. Life is but a breath . . . I’m glad and grateful to be inhaling and exhaling.
As the day blends into the night and pushes forward into the dawn of a new year: I wish you the Love of the Lord Jesus Christ in ever-expanding measure. Nothing compares or is more cherished and precious. God bless you in His abundance in 2011.
2010 proved one thing in football: the officiating stunk. I mean the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve actually wondered if the refs aren’t betting on the games. Not so far-fetched is it when you witness some of the ridiculous calls allowed on the field. From bad spots to non-existent penalties to ignoring obvious fouls to just plain incompetent calls, it’s been a season of ugly policing on the football field, reminding me a lot of the politically correct skewed views of items which require common sense.
It’s one thing getting beat by the opposing team. It’s yet another thing when a defeat is aided and abetted by the officials. This isn’t just a rant for my team’s hapless experiences with the referees. I’ve seen it in multiple games this year where I couldn’t care less about either team on the field. Bad, bad calls. Costing victories. With no reprieves.
Either the powers that be need to simplify the convoluted rules or they need to refine them so that “opinion” and plain conjecture don’t play such major roles. I think the pass interference calls which give the receiving team the ball way down the field or at the one yard line need to be eliminated. Give them a first down and 5 or 10 yards but not at the point of the foul. There’s no guarantee a receiver would have caught the ball or not dropped the ball. This penalty is a killer and often subjective: it needs to go. It makes the role of the cornerbacks extremely difficult and ill-defined and creates hesitancy to defend. After so many bad calls that favor the offense, the defensive backs can only hope for a sure tackle and a possible no-catch or fumble. Occasionally good positioning and reads make for a great interception, but most of the time the receivers get a free ride. That’s why nearly all of them are throwing their invisible flags after even a touch by defensive backs—many of them influencing the officials to throw the real flags.
Would someone please clarify for me whatever happened to spotting the ball where the player’s knee, elbow, or hip hits the ground by contact?
And, let’s face it, holding could be called on every play—so it isn’t. What should be done about holding? Something certainly should happen because it’s arbitrary as it is, and it seems to get called on crucial plays when it isn’t apparent and ignored on other crucial plays when it’s blatant to anyone who understands the game of football. What can be done to improve the calls on holding?
And need we witness the “roughing the passer” call ad infinitum? Some legitimate, many not? Helmet to helmet intentionally. Okay. But contact in the process of making a tackle or sack? Geez. No one wants to see anyone get seriously hurt. But technology needs to replace penalties that protect the quarterback from the game itself. Build a better helmet!
Granted I’m just a fan, but the bad officiating has ruined more games for me. Like I said, it’s one thing to get beat. It’s yet another to have the refs help the opponent win.
My rant is over . . . for now.
Lord, I know there are all kinds of injustices in this world. A game shouldn’t mean so much. Help me to keep a clear perspective. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
My review of Almost Heaven noted briefly that Chris Fabry based his story on a real person who he didn’t know. In his Afterword he explained how he became aware of the man Billy Allman, how that person touched his heart and made him feel like he really did know him. He couldn’t shake thinking about him nor could he ignore some of the similarities he shared with Billy. The story had to be written, and Chris elected to use first person point of view for both the character Billy and his assigned angel Malachi.
Chris’s style in his last two novels differ slightly from his first adult novel Dogwood. Both June Bug and Almost Heaven use a little less sophisticated language because June Bug is told primarily from a young girl’s perspective, and Almost Heaven is told from a “hillbilly genius” point of view. Malachi’s voice and thoughts are more profound, ethereal, as he struggles with his assignment.
My point here concerns the methodology used to tell a story. Chris Fabry was compelled to write a story about a person he never knew but somehow felt a certain regard, respect, and/or kinship to him. He crawled inside the inspiration and took on what fit like the man’s skin to create a story. Why this is so interesting to me is because it’s the same thing I did in The Famous One. The Lord put a real actor on my heart so heavily, I couldn’t escape from this man even if I’d wanted to do so. The burden for his salvation was palpable and with me every single moment of every day. People can disregard this factor, call it fanaticism, do the proverbial eye roll, or whatever they please. It’s all factual.
The methodology and style of our two novels took different courses. As I said, Chris used first person POV contrasting the less-sophisticated language with the more profound depending on who was reciting the events. I "chose" the omniscient POV for the first part of the story and slowly morphed into third person POV. I used a lot of the vernacular in keeping with the lifestyle of the main character Joey Parr.
Almost Heaven contained three parts or divisions (with chapters), and originally I wrote The Famous One without chapters but divided into sections of Joey’s life. Some styles end up unacceptable to readers and are abandoned in the editing process. I kept the divisions but added chapters.
It might interest you to know I had no intention of using the omniscient POV. It just happened that way as my novel became much like a fictional biography. Almost Heaven is similar in that regard because the story begins as Billy’s about to celebrate his 11th birthday and takes us through his life story dropping us off before it concludes.
I love different methods of storytelling, styles, and voices. Creating with the written word is a joy to experience and to share. When it comes to reading stories, I’ll give the author a lot of room to move. Who wants to read the same thing time after time? Hmm. Apparently there are many who do. Not this writer.
Father, please keep providing the inspiration for your authors. Give them daring and defiance and determination to write for your glory. Help us all to be the ones you desire us to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry takes us back to Dogwood, West Virginia, where he fills the landscape with hollows, miners, a horrific flood, a mandolin, bluegrass music, sadness, small victories, and radio. Chris constructed a story around a real man named Billy Allman, but the character Billy Allman is his heartfelt re-creation of and tribute to the man Chris never met but heard about from a listener to Chris’s program on radio station WOTR, 96.3; Lost Creek, West Virginia.
Told in a reverse style of The Screwtape Letters, both Billy in his first person account coupled with his warrior angel “Malachi”, who is none too happy not to be on the front lines of spiritual battles, give us their versions of Billy’s life as it happens. When Malachi is called away for a short season, he knows there’s been a significant occurrence in his charge’s life during his absence but has no knowledge of what happened to change him.
Billy Allman (the character) shares the love of mandolin and music with his father who teaches him the instrument and allows him to play bluegrass with the men who meet to play the music that runs through their souls. From a faithful family, Billy is well aware of the blessings of Jesus even when he doesn’t quite understand how God operates. Billy’s a natural at all things electronic and musical and can fix just about any equipment used to create and maintain a radio and its transmission. His dream is to have his own radio station.
Malachi must watch as a horrendous flood sweeps away the bare-bones homes of mine workers, killing many—if not in body, damaging souls.
Billy and his mother strangely escape the flood waters stampeding down the road where their car is parked while Billy’s mom tries to rescue her husband as he’s trying to save the children of their neighbors. When the car is consumed in the oily black water, Billy finds himself whisked out of the swirling death where he and his mom can climb to safety on higher ground. Later his dad turns up in the hospital, but the damage to his lungs from the mine and his sorrow at being unable to rescue his neighbors combine to lead him to an early grave.
Life isn’t easy for Billy and his mom, but the friendship with a girl named Heather who rides the school bus and saves Billy a place makes hope tangible for the boy. When Billy is offered to accompany a well-known band to play the mandolin in church concerts, life changes for the young man in ways he never anticipated.
While Malachi is away, life takes some difficult turns. Realizing some dreams don’t come easy and some others don’t come at all, Billy plugs away at his life wondering much like the rest of us if there’s any significance in what he does.
Billy learns in unexpected ways how he’s holding back his emotions, and Malachi takes a difficult journey to find out why. When Billy ends up in a fight for his life and that of a woman who loves him, the long put off righting of a period from his past surfaces and finds a satisfactory conclusion.
Almost Heaven tells a tale of one faithful man’s hard life. The significance of the title shows up toward the end of this story and fits perfectly with the tone set by Chris Fabry. Included in this novel is the reappearance of the character June Bug (aka Natalie) from his previous novel of the same name. It’s an easy tie-in and works very well. I’ve said before I’ll read any of the adult novels Chris writes, and this one reinforces that statement. He’s talented, unique in voice, makes his settings for the story as meaningful as characters—and as telling—and mixes down home with lovely prose. Chris Fabry is a gifted storyteller and a terrific writer.
Father, you know the trials of the Fabry family. They know you've never abandoned them in spite of it all. I pray for many blessings on this family and plenty more of your inspiration for Chris's stories. Thank you for him and his heart for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Counter-espionage is always a good subject for books and movies. Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, takes a break from the Islamic jihadists and goes back to the topic of the Russian infiltration of the CIA in a contemporary setting. Filled with difficult stunts, hand-to-hand combat between one tough female operative against aggressive members of a uniquely trained Russian spy ring, and just enough specific acts to tempt you to believe Evelyn Salt is not who she appears to be, this story offers intense action with a plot that lets you know this unseen war we fight will never be over—and potentially this single film could be the beginning of a Jason Bourne type series.
Angelina Jolie is a self-professed lover of action roles, doing as many of her own stunts as is physically possible—and safe—for her, and it’s hard to imagine any big screen actress who can top her in them. I thought the specifics of her action scenes were done exceptionally well, especially some of the scenes involving various trucks on a freeway. In real life a gun-toting momma she’s not afraid to use her firearms to protect her family. This little trivia detail endears her to me.
The film opens with a torture scene in North Korea two years prior to the main story. Unbelievably to a fellow operative who makes the exchange, Salt is traded for a Korean prisoner and released due to the efforts of her husband, a German-bred world-renowned scholar on arachnids of all things.
Through a brief scene of the couple at their apartment before Evelyn heads to work and at work as she struggles to learn to fold a napkin for a special dinner she’s planning with her husband, we get to see her love and devotion to him. Flashbacks to snippets of their meeting and their marriage add to the picture of their relationship. Just before she and her co-worker are readying themselves to leave work, an older Russian does a walk-in to the CIA, and Salt is delayed to interrogate him. It ends badly with Salt on the run because of this old spy’s revelation. She knows they’ve got her husband and nothing is going to stop her from finding him before they kill him.
Finding her husband and proving her identity consume the final hour of this exciting film. I found Salt worthy of a last minute Christmas gift, and we’ll watch it many more times in the near future. Jolie is clearly the star of this film, and she pulls it off sensationally. Highly recommended to those who love thrillers.
Father, only you know Angelina’s heart condition. I pray the Holy Spirit would minister to her in all His amazing ways, ushering her into the true love of Jesus. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."
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.
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.
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) identifying 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.
Let’s say you own a business. You have a specific clientele. However, there is unlimited potential for expanding your business even though it might offend some of your current clients. Your expansion plans need not affect those clients and would clearly benefit this untapped market if you could reach them with your product. The market surveys indicate this new market is anxious to enter into purchases if you could just open up your product to include more variety of similar though not identical offerings.
Overall you feel fairly secure within your chosen parameters. Although the economy has affected the quantity of product you produce, the clientele remains steady if not indulgent. Is now the time to take a chance and expand? Add on those who wait for your new and different version of product? Time to be visionary like a couple of your competitors? Of course those couple of competitors can afford to take losses more easily than you can, but, hey, how did they get to be bigger than you are anyway if not by expansion and product development?
Hmm. You don’t know. Maybe it’s better to reduce product for awhile, sit on what’s safe, and hold steady. Yeah. That’s what you’ll do. Maybe in the future you’ll address that untapped new market. But maybe by then your competitors will have that market secured in their pockets. And you’ll be stuck with the same old, same old . . . and they’ve sampled everything you’ve given them over and over again. And are starting to look elsewhere.
Such is the Christian book publishing industry. Or so it seems.
While there is nothing wrong with establishing a clientele and putting their desires at the top of the list, it is short-sighted and unimaginative to alienate a potential market by ignoring their desires to sample an expanded product. Imprints serve a purpose when a publisher wants to delve into an untapped (for them) genre or style to serve a different audience/market.
Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m all for any business choosing, refining, and specializing in whatever product they desire to produce. However, if you’re in the book business facing the joys or perils of the e-book craze, depending on how you perceive it to be or feel about it, publishers can potentially be affected by custom-publishers with POD and e-book adaptation technology. Authors who know how to use publicity can choose to use these technologies and promote their work for a possible greater gain. And those authors won’t be bound by archaic demands or to a restricted market.
What do you think?
Father, may we all follow you. You’ve ordained our steps, and it’s you who matters most. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Everyone who writes has an opinion about it. From a holy calling to a compelling desire to become a household name, writers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and cultures. From recluse to agoraphobic, writers can be an odd bunch. Serious writers talk about their characters as if they’re real because, you know, they are. Not in the flesh and blood way, but nevertheless: incredibly real. Providing we make them so.
And there’s the rub, the fly in the ointment, the crimp in the plans, the clichéd fact: we do our best to make our characters real and our stories vivid or humorous or life changing or fantastic or lovely or sweet or horrifying. Our motives might vary from start to finish and from beginning to end of our writing desires and careers, but we all have some things in common and probably just as many differences.
Narrowing the field a bit, let’s discuss writing novels as a Christian. We get those who specify they are simply Christians who write, others who find no shame in being tagged a Christian author who writes Christian fiction. Those who write seriously have studied the craft in order to make valiant efforts to create stories that will find homes in the hearts of many readers. Honing voices and developing styles, writers pour their lives into words on pages.
Very few writers achieve a universal appeal for their work. Most of us have specific audiences which can overlap either generously or slightly with other genre readers. Invariably, someone outside our particular genre will decide to read our work. This will often backfire for us because some readers are very unforgiving in their tastes. And vocal. With their word-of-mouth assaults or their keyboard attacks, those readers tear apart our stories with no mercy. Even when they were never intended to be our audience, there’s really no way to guard against them getting a copy and ripping it to shreds if they so desire.
What remains terribly disappointing is when a Christian reader of Christian fiction decides to question both the motives of the author and their very Christianity just because the reader decided to be offended by a story the reader should never have read. Recording their wrath on Amazon for all to see, readers leave the empty shells of their bullets and scoot away to another site to “express” themselves.
Some Christian readers set themselves up as judges and juries for all other readers and if they don’t condone a piece of literature, they’re noisy about it. They seem to think they have the corner on motivations and morality, and if an author slides outside their rigid boundaries, condemnation awaits them. Similar situations arise from Christians who determine they have the right to judge what is excellent and what is not.
As a Christian author, I know there are those who will not like my work. It’s a little too raw for some, too much romance for others, too many lost characters acting like lost characters. There’s always redemption even though not all choose it. Jesus is there. Still, my novels are not for your typical romance reader. What I need from a reader is not to have my love for the Lord questioned, my motivation criticized for including sensuality or bad behavior or anything else within the pages. My number one audience is God. He is my judge and jury, and I write for His pleasure and purpose. No one can tell me I don’t.
If we don’t like a novel, we need to determine why. Are we the intended audience? Do we not like the author’s voice or style? Did we simply read a story we didn’t like? These are all legitimate, and we can give fair reviews accordingly. Attacking the author is not an option.
Father, keep our hearts pure and our mouths guarded. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Most people enjoy awards—at least most of the recipients of those awards. Unless of course it’s “Worst Dressed” or the “Rotten Tomatoes” label or some other acknowledgement of how awful something is.
I continue to be surprised at the different awards, i.e. The Academy Awards, and their choices of nominations. Utterly mind boggling at times. This bewilderment occasionally extends to the various Christian Fiction awards. One prevalent difficulty in the process is the categorical assessments and divisions. Rarely enough of them—at least in the book awards.
I just saw this morning where “The Tourist” is up for a Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy Division. Um. Wow. Did those few snickers and the concluding laugh-out-loud moment qualify this light-hearted film for a comedic classification? Did I miss the whole point? In spite of those several silly moments was I supposed to assume this fun adventure qualified as comedy? Satire, maybe. But comedy?
In the Christian Fiction Christy Awards, Suspense division, an Athol Dickson novel competes with the likes of Robert Liparulo. Uh, no. Not even close in genre or style. Why is this? Now I know the Christys must have a publisher nomination (with a fee) to be included.
It seems to me that if you’re going to have awards, you need enough classifications to truly compare like-products to each other. And before organizing awards I think it would be wise to define the categories with enough specifics and qualifiers so as not to end up with the apples to oranges comparisons. I know judges are gathered according to certain criteria, and standards for judging are established by the organizers, but in the end we still come away with opinions.
I prefer lists I think. Of favorites. In proper categories. That speaks of where the “judge” is coming from in their reading experience. And in this situation it can truly be said, “It’s an honor just to be 'nominated'—or listed.”
Father, thank you that you are no respecter of persons. That your love and favor extend to all who desire them and even to those who don’t. Let us seek your favor above all others. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
How do you define style? In my writing I use a fair amount of sentence fragments. Less commas than grammatically correct—if you stick to what you learned in English, those commas can drag a story along. I love similes if done well. And italics don’t bother me at all.
Some cinematographers use panoramic shots, taking advantage of magnificent scenery. Think the newest version of “Pride and Prejudice” (with Keira Knightley). Gorgeous. Others use choppy shots infused with monochrome or black and white. Some use different colors of filters to alter mood or create tension.
Style speaks as much about the creator of a piece as the piece itself. What is the author or director or painter or photographer saying with his/her expressions, colors, words, actions?
I want to create a mental movie for my readers, to get them inside the skins and heads of my characters. My stories deal with the emotions and spiritual realities of people living their lives. Some are outstanding, some are very ordinary. Some undesirable, others you want to have as friends or lovers. Dialogue must be real.
Style for me is the way the story is told. What does it mean for you, and how do you describe your writing style?
Lord, you are the Creator. You share it, you author it, you contain all beauty and imagination—all that is good. Help me to honor you with what you’ve given me. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Okay. If you’re a film connoisseur or a polished critic of the silver screen, don’t bother seeing "The Tourist" with Angelina Jolieand Johnny Depp. If you sometimes go to the movies just for the fun of it and occasionally enjoy a film where you can sit back, chomp on your overpriced popcorn, and forget about all things stressful, go enjoy "The Tourist".
This film required next to nothing from Angelina Jolie (as the mysterious “Elise”) so if you’ve ever wondered if in fact she can truly act, "The Tourist" will not help you make that decision. The camera is used to focus on her face and figure, accenting her bedroom eyes with thick false eyelashes. She’s rail thin except where it counts, and her elegant clothes fit like fine calfskin gloves.
Johnny Depp (as “Frank”), on the other hand, manages to entertain with perfect bumbling, adding occasional humor and perfect discomfort to his role with just enough spunk when required and a dash of suave manhood which surprises us at times. And likewise for him, the clothes make the man in certain scenes, and for once the powers that be decided to highlight his handsomeness while mocking it in the final scene.
"The Tourist" begins in Paris with surveillance on Elise. When she receives a letter at her outdoor café table, we read its contents with her and watch as she sets fire to it. She eludes her watchers, and they snatch the remains of the letter resurrecting its instructions. Boarding a train to Venice, she selects Frank, the math teacher from Wisconsin, to be her companion for a time, and he seems overwhelmed by her attention but is insightful enough to know she’s up to something. The woman who requires no questions befuddles Frank as he is pulled in by her beauty.
When men with guns start showing up to capture Frank, when police prove untrustworthy, and when Frank is rescued by the lovely Elise, we begin to understand the reason for all the commotion.
This is not a typical American movie, and in fact it’s a remake of an old French film. It’s being compared to Hitchcock-ish suspense with twists, but it’s so not Hitchcock. It’s European fluff with magnificent Venetian canal shots and boat action. The underlying pokes at Italian law enforcement and the subtle jabs at Scotland Yard and Interpol probably do not stray too far from the original intention of the French script. However, at times they give the movie a “Pink Panther” feel and make it difficult to determine if we’re to take it seriously or only partially so.
Anyway, this is not normal film fare for Johnny Depp who rarely allows himself to look so dashing and to play at romance. It’s got that touch of comedic style with the “perfect” ending, and if you like that kind of movie once in awhile, you can’t help walking out of the theater with a hint of a smile on your face.
Lord, you know my prayers for actors. You know how deeply you’ve planted them. Please, Jesus, make yourself known to those you've given me in prayer and bring them into the Life you offer. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Thanks for this, Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Online Magazine. It's for my review of Rusty Whitener's A Season of Miracles, one of the best novels of 2010. If you need a Christmas gift for people of all ages, this novel is the one.