Monthly Archives: November 2012

From Eden to Ear Hair

We could have had it so good in the Garden. But Adam and Eve got kicked out. And it’s been a downhill spiral since then. We inherited a life of toil, pain, suffering, and death. Our bodies, once meant to endure forever, are now something less than perfect.

We’ve gone from perfection to infection…from immortality to death…from Eden to ear hair.

Thanks, Adam.

But I can’t put the blame on Adam…not entirely. The Holy Word of my Holy God tells me that I have sinned too. Adam isn’t accountable for my sins…I am. The guilt is mine. Theologians can argue whether I was born in sin or became guilty when I reached an age of accountability and willfully sinned, but in the end it’s a moot point (at least for the purposes of this post). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

What can we do? Is there anyway to reverse the curse?

The answer to those questions is the reason I write. And the reason I have something to write about. Furthermore, whether I write blunt statements about God’s truths or layer in subtle elements of spiritual reality, I know that I have information about the “double cure” from sin. And God has called me to write about it. He has called me to proclaim His answer to the guilt and the power of sin. He has allowed me the privilege of sharing HOPE. And I want all my stories to have that element, because humanity desperately needs it.

We will never get back to Eden. We are stuck in decaying bodies on a decaying planet, and time is running out. And I want people to know that Jesus (i.e. the “second Adam”) has come to shine light into darkness, to offer life were death know reigns, and to promise something better than Eden.

It’s called HEAVEN. What an example of grace and mercy it is that this sinful man is allowed to write stories that point people in that direction.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go trim my ear hair, and then get back to writing.

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The Power of Outloud

I love it when my wife reads out loud to the children. I enjoy listening to the story as much as they do. I suppose I’m just a big kid. But hearing a story being read with emotion, helps me enter into the scene. I try to view the story in my mind, just as if I were watching it on a TV screen.

There is power and clarity that comes from reading out loud, especially if it’s something you’ve written. You can catch mistakes. You’re putting yourself in the perspective of your readers and the story is appearing before your eyes in a new way. If you are reading along and stumble over the way something is worded, likely your readers will to. And we want to avoid that. At all costs.

I recommend doing both: reading your work out loud to yourself, and having someone else read it out loud to you too. Each brings a different emotional interpretation to the reading. Each sees the characters somewhat differently. That is priceless information for a writer to have while going through the revision stage.

Have you ever read your work out loud? Have you ever had anyone else read your work back to you? What did you learn from the experience?

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“The Best Is Yet To Come”

A little girl climbed onto her great-grandmother’s lap. She looked at the old woman’s snowy white hair, then at the many wrinkles that lined her face. “Great-Grandma, did God make you?”

“Yes,” the old saint replied.

“Did God make me too?”

“Yes, dear.”

“Well,” said the little girl, “don’t you think He’s doing a better job now than He used to?”

I chuckle at that story, knowing that the little girl hadn’t yet learned that these physical bodies of ours are temporary, and are unable to hide the signs of wear and tear that come with age. She would eventually come to understand that her great-grandma didn’t start off old. It wouldn’t take long to discover that it was time that had carved those wrinkles and had taken the color from her great-grandma’s hair.

As a writer, I know that I only have a limited amount of time to write. And my readers are dealing with the same dilemma. I pray that the stories I write will draw them closer to the God that loves them. If I can urge someone to journey on with renewed strength toward heaven, then I’ve used my time wisely. If I write books that stir readers to a renewed commitment to the Lord, then it’s been time well spent. More than anything in this world–whether in preaching, teaching, or writing–I want to communicate that a God of love and mercy is knowable here, and invites us all into His hereafter.

No one will stumble into heaven accidentally.

That makes the call to write an important task. Time is limited to help point people in the right direction.

Can Christian fiction carry out this task?

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A Journey To Remember

My daughter, Jayne, and I have gone many places together. And we’ve repeatedly died.

Often our demise has been chalked up to extreme temperatures. Then there were the times when we accidentally shot ourselves while hunting for food…irinically so we wouldn’t starve to death. Trying to cross flooded rivers has done us in more than once too. And even when we’ve managed to survive these things, we’ve had to stop and bury other members of our traveling party who didn’t. And usually those who are dead or dying have been sick with scurvy, cholera, or other ailments. Then there were those nasty “bites”…mosquito bites, snake bites, and frostbite. Icky.

We’ve encountered flooded trails, polluted water, broken wagons, prairie fires, harsh thunderstorms, blinding blizzards, gnawing hunger, exhausting thirst, blocked roads, steep paths, wild animals, quicksand, dust-storms, high mountains and relentless deserts. Also, we’ve had to deal with ill-tempered travelers, injured draft animals and high prices at hole-in-the-wall trading posts. Double yuck.

I can imagine some people turning to their spouses and saying, “We’re never going anywhere with the Timm family. I’d rather go visit your mother!”

Don’t worry. Jayne and I experienced these journeys from the comfort of our home while playing Oregon Trail on the computer. It’s a game that provides an educational–if not terror-filled–journey demonstrating what early settlers underwent and overcame to reach a new home and start new lives.

Good writing takes a reader on a journey too. Maybe they are emotionally connected to a character or curiosity keeps them turning the pages or a sense of unsatisfied justice makes them need to see what happens to the villain. And the reader is on a journey of our making. And it better be believable. Because time is precious. There had better be something for their heart and mind to embrace. They have to feel a strong need to continue–even finish–the journey with you.

And, as a writer, I want them to make it to the end…better for the journey.

Answer this question: what keeps you turning the pages of a book?

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Harry or the Deer?

A group of friends paired off into twos and went hunting for the day. That night one of the hunters returned to the campsite alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck.

“Where’s Harry?” the other hunters asked.

“He broke his ankle a couple of miles back up the trail.”

Several of the other hunters jumped to their feet. “You left Harry by the side of the road, and carried the deer back instead?” one of them managed to blurt out.

“Well, sure!” He dropped the deer. “I figured that no one was going to steal Harry!”

 

There are no more life-shaping decisions than the ones that reveal our priorities. The developement and expression of what’s most important in our lives says a lot about our character. Why did we choose “this” over “that”? This pursuit of priorities takes place in our writing also. Writers are constantly bombarded with the urgent and forced to decided between sitting down to write, taking time to market, answer emails, polish proposals, and on and on the list goes. And that doesn’t even take into account the responsibilities of “real” life–where most normal people live.

But perhaps the most foundational question is this: Why do you write? Is it for fame? Money? Influence? Therapy? Fun? To break the monotony of your existence?

Keep in mind that most writers I know can walk and chew gum at the same time. They may write for a mixture of reasons at the same time. And they may write at certain times because of one pressing priority. We must be careful when we try to judge others. But we must be brutally honest when we evaluate ourselves.

Is God pleased with your priorities? Do you want Him to be?

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He Endured

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself…

Those words were written by the author of Hebrews–chapter 12, verse three. Who is the “Him” and exactly what “hostility” did he endure?

Verse two answers both questions:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The word translated “endured” means “to abide under or to bear up very courageously under suffering.” The words have an “above and beyond” texture. It emphasizes that the suffering was great, but Christ’s endurance was greater. He exceedingly outlasted the suffering.

It means that His fatal suffering on the old rugged cross was not the tragic ending of a brave man, but the gracious unfolding of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t end up on those rough wooden beams by accident. This isn’t the inspirational story of an unfortunate martyr. Jesus didn’t just go through the cross, He went to the cross.

Verse two reveals that He did it “for the joy set before Him.” He joyfully super-endured in order to die for our sins.

Keeping that fact clear in my mind helps me carry on as a writer. Our Saviour endured torture and death for us, and I pray that my stories will point people to that truth. It’s just one way that I can serve the One Who loves me with an unquenchable love.

Carry on, fellow writers, for our Lord has endured–and defeated–death and darkness.

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History is His Story

As far as many children in America are concerned, Mother Goose is more relevant than Father God.

That happens when the Bible’s historical accounts are taught as “cute little stories”, complete with comic strip characters. It happens when our children are taught Bible history that has been revised from fact to fable. It happens when are children are exposed to a system that intentionally expels the Bible from the room when a discussion about “real-life, real-time” world history is about to begin. This is done in the name of tolerance, which usually means that everything–except the Bible–is invited to contribute to the discussion.

As a Christian who writes fiction, I do so based on one non-negotiable conviction: the stories I write are ways to communicate knowable, powerful, and Divinely inspired truths from God. I didn’t say my stories were divinely inspired…I said that my stories ARE BASED ON the truth that comes from God and can be found in the Bible. I believe the Bible is the Word of God in the language of mankind. And any meaningful truth that I seek to highlight in my books can be found in the Bible. I don’t create truth, but I am called to proclaim it.

A Christian writer who does not have a firm belief in the Bible as true and accurate is not Christian at all. They are religious probably, but not Christian. My claim to be a Christian is based upon my response to the Christ that has been revealed in the Scriptures. If I can not trust the validity of the Bible, than I have nothing but religious fancies upon which to base my stories. And that’s not worth my time.

God has dealt with mankind in the context of literal times, places, and events. He made sure those real events we needed to know about have been preserved in His book. And, someday, we are all going to meet the Author.

Oh, by the way, that’s a matter of literal history too.

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What is suspenseful about suspense?

I’m really hoping that you will take a moment to answer the question I asked in the title to this post. As a Christian writer who writes in the suspense genre, I never want to lose touch with people who love to read. I’m taking a look at what draws you to suspense books, and what keeps you reading.

What types of situations hold you in suspense? What do you want the writer to tell you and what do you want to be left for your imagination to fill-in? What kind of characters are you drawn to? What scares you?

In what ways do you really want to see good triumph over evil? Be specific…example:  I want to see how a neglected child can learn to let love of God heal her inner wounds?

I hope to hear from you. Thanks.

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Little Writer On The Prairie

One day we had trouble with our DVD player. The prospect of it not being usable bothered my then nine-year-old daughter. Trying to be helpful, I said, “I didn’t have a DVD player when I was your age. They weren’t invented yet.” Then, as if the floodgates of repressed memories opened, I added, “And we didn’t have VCRs or personal computers.” For some reason I stopped short of telling her that when I was growing up we only had black-and-white television, and could get three channels…maybe four if the weather was just right. I chose not to mention thatI never had ANY video games…until PONG came along. And that hardly counts. I even resisted the and I had to walk to school every day–through knee-deep snow…uphill…both ways!

And never once did I seriously entertain the notion of telling her that the only time we had electricity when I was growing up was when lightning hit the outhouse. A tad too dramatic. Not to mention factually inaccurate.

What I DID mention was effective enough. She was sufficiently horrified by the thought of growing up without computers and videos. She looked at me, sad eyes filled with pity, probably thinking that the reason our family owns several seasons of Little House On The Prairie (On DVD) was because the Ingalls were my next door neighbors. Which, by the way, they weren’t.

But I didn’t have access to the technology that kids today are raised with. And when it comes to writing, sometimes that’s awkward. I’ve had to learn how to email manuscripts, deal with track changes, and create proposals in digital form. And don’t get me started on the whole formatting my WIP thing! Indent here…don’t indent there…double spacing every where, except here, here, and over there…no spacing…ittalics okay…ittalics not okay…NO semi-colons…ever…under any circumstances…and Word this…Mac that…Manomanoman! To be honest, it’s not been easy for me. But it’s just part of the writer’s life now.

What’s been the most challenging part for you as a writer?

By the way, did I mention that when I was a kid, the only time we had electricity was when…oh, never mind.

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Taking advantage of my son’s nightmares

For the last two nights, my four-year-old son, Josiah, has woke up crying or otherwise agitated because “there are snakes under my pillow!” Understand that his “room” is actually a 5 x 6 foot area that’s attached to our bedroom. It’s like a large walk-in closet really. My point is that if the snakes where really in his room, they’d have also been in ours.

And that’s a problem. Because I’m terrified of snakes. I’m talking the I’d-trample-an-elderly-person-to-get-away-from-the-slimy-devils kind of fear. When I worked for the city of Florence, Kansas a long time ago, one of my jobs was to be the cemetery caretaker. (The real term was “sexton” but I can’t say that with a straight face. But I digress). Anyway, one time I was weed-eating around some stones and hit a snake. The snake landed on my shoe. To this day I have no idea where the weed-eater landed or how I made it back to town.

Now, back to my upset toddler:  he claimed there were snakes in his room…directly under his pillow. So I asked his mother if she was going to just lay there or go do something about it. Here’s another difference between me and my wife: she’s not a writer…I am. Which means that while she’s going to comfort our snake-threatened youngin’, my writer’s brain was asking, “What if?”

I mean, we were up. I might as well be using the time wisely. I don’t know if it will ever work it’s way into a story, but time will tell. And if there ever are real snakes in our room, I’ll be writing that story from the camper.

I’m just sayin’.

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