Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Few Cats

I'm not really sure how many cats my parents have. It looks like a big pile of fur when they feed them. I shot the video below when I was up there for Christmas:

Mike Huckabee Phone a Prayer

The video below is of Mike Huckabee delivering a prayer at a gathering of governors. My comments are below.

Some people have been critical of this, but what I like about it is that it is a reminder that God is a real person who speaks to us on a personal level. I don't think God is going to be calling me on my cellphone, but prayer has become a token guesture that we use to show how dedicated to God we are. At times it may become a ritual. In church we have set times when we pray. At home we pray before every meal. We may have our prayers memorized. At social gatherings a person may use prayer as a speech to the audience. When we pray, are we really talking to God or are we doing it because it is the thing to do? Do we really think God hears us and will answer or are we doing it because it is expected and then we will go do what we planned on doing anyway? Do we really believe that the committments we make in our time of prayer are real or are we going to back out of them as soon as those around us quit listening. God is real. Prayer is a direct line of communication with God. God may not call us up on a cell phone, but when we talk to him it should be as real to us as if we were talking to a friend or family member over the phone.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Day at Mingo

The morning started off pretty an sunny, but by the afternoon there was a chill in the air and the sun was hidden behind the clouds. While I was in Missouri for the Christmas holiday, we spent a few hours at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, near Puxico, Missouri. In the video you can see some of the wildlife we saw. We saw an armadillo, about twenty or thirty deer, hundreds of ducks, and other things. We saw what I believe is a young bald eagle. I even got to see him fly. I saw a turkey in flight also, but I didn't get as good of a picture of him. I did manage to get video of him and his hundreds of brothers sitting in the tree tops, roosting for the night. A great blue herin was eating when I filmed him. It started raining before we left.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

I don't know when I will post again. I am officially on vacation until after the first of the year. During part of that time I will be in the wilderness where the Internet is more of a concept than a reality. So, I wish you well until we meet again. I hope that you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Right and Wrong vs. Right and Wrong

One thing I have often struggled with is my own concept of right and wrong versus other people's concept of right and wrong. They seldom agree completely. It seems simple enough when we can go to the Bible and find a clear understanding, but what about those times when it seems the only thing we find to help us come to an understanding is the statement "honor thy father and mother?" So often, our concept of right and wrong is based on what our parents have taught us. What are we to do when what one person learned as a child is different from what another learned as a child and it isn't clear which is right?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Timothy Fish the Expert

Sometimes you get to feel like an expert. Today I received two e-mail messages from people I don't know. As far as I know, these two people do not know each other and yet they asked questions about the same subject. Really, the only reason these people had for contacting me was because I was fairly vocal about the subject several months ago and they were interested in further input. I was happy to be able to respond to their inquiery, but I was a little surprised that they contacted me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Most Common Emotion

I have been giving some thought to writing that talks about and engages the readers emotions. It occurs to me that one of the emotions we see the most in modern works of literature is lust. Many of the books that pass as romance novels are not about love at all but about how two characters can both get what they want. Some of the more graphic scenes fail to show love between the two characters. Instead, they engage the reader by evoking feelings of lust. The reader desires to have what the character is getting. Even the covers on some novels are designed to encourage people to experience lust. We know that lust results in sin and sin results in death (James 1:15). I wonder, does God look at the work of those who produce these novels and record the death they have to their credit?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't Break the Back Button

One thing I don't like is when a website has a broken back button. If I go up and click "Back" then I want the browser to go back to the previous page. What I don't want is for the page I am on to refresh so I can see the content once more. In most cases, the content isn't worth seeing anyway.

There are a few things that will break the back button. Some site owners do this on purpose, I suppose they are so afraid that site visitors will not return that they try to keep them as long as they can. The other thing that will break a back button is a lot of this kitsch that we see on so many websites. Some of the third party web applications will cause the page to reload. The only solution for that is to refuse to use those third party web applications. The developers would probably find a solution for the problem if people refused to use their stuff because of it.

An occassional exception is okay, but a broken back botton helps nothing and convinces people to stay away from the site.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Words are Important but...

Words are important. God used words to create the world. He could have waved a wand and everything would have known were to go, but God used words. Still, there are times when words fail us. Words can teach, but people often learn more from actions than what they learn from what we say.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Now it is Really Christmas

Our church choir performed our Christmas cantata this morning. I used to think that the most fun part about singing in the choir is the practice time. That is fun, but there is nothing quite like the actual performance.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Winter Crop

You've got to love Texas. The ides of December is upon us and I went out and picked a handful of peppers from a lone pepper plant this morning. I doubt it will make it through the winter, but I figured the freeze yesterday would kill it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Winter Story

One cold winter night, when the roads were slick and snow was falling outside, a man sat watching the fire he had built in his fireplace. The warm fire and the crackling wood had nearly lulled him in sleep when he heard a knock at the door. Three light taps. Tap, tap, tap and then it was silent. At first, he wasn’t sure if he had heard it, but in a few moments, it came again. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. The man rose from his chair and went to the door to see who might be there at that late hour. He opened the door and only the cold wind greeted him as no one was at the door. He peered into the darkeness, trying to see beyond the trees that were nearly outside the reach of the small bit of light that shown from the windows of the old house. He could see no one and he could not hear the sound of snow crunching under some visitor’s boots. He closed the door and returned to his chair.

The man soon fell asleep, but he woke a few minutes later when he heard a knocking at the door. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He quickly rose from his chair, hoping to reach the door before the person left, but before reached the door he heard another knock. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He opened the door and as before, it was only the cold wind that greeted him. “Is anyone there?” he called out into the darkness, but there was not sound but that of the falling snow. He returned to his chair thinking that surely it must have been tree limb striking the house or only his imagination.

It was a few minutes later that the sound returned. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He ignored it, thinking that no one was there, but in a few seconds, it came again. It was slightly louder this time. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. Once more, he ignored it. Then it came a third time. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. This time he was certain that it was a knock at the door. The man went to the door and looked out. Once more, he saw no one. Only the cold greeted him. He turned to go back inside, but as he did, he noticed something lying on his front porch in front of his door. In the darkness, he could not make out its shape at first, but when he looked closer, he could see that it was a human hand, severed at the wrist. The cold air had mad it stiff and frozen.

Not knowing what else to do, the man went back inside to call the sheriff. The woman who answered the phone told him that the weather would make it difficult for anyone to make it out that night and that he should put the hand in his freezer until someone should make it out to investigate. It would not do for some animal to drag it off before anyone could make it out to retrieve it. He found a small box to put it in before he placed it in the freezer. He did not like the idea of having a human hand in his freezer, but it was all he could do. When he had finished his unwanted task, he turned off the lights in the kitchen and began to get ready for bed.

He remembered a book that he had been reading and decided that he might read in bed for a few minutes. He returned to the kitchen to get his book, but when he did, he found the small box sitting on the counter near the refrigerator. In his haste to complete the unpleasant task, he must have forgotten to put the box in the freezer. He feared that the warm air inside the house might have thawed the hand some, so he looked inside the box, just to make sure nothing had changed. It looked no different than it had before.

The man returned to his bedroom and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. That did not take long and when he was finished he walked over to his bed, but there on the night stand he saw the small box. He was certain that he had placed the box in the freezer, but he must have carried it with him by accident. He returned to the kitchen to place the small box in the freezer. He looked inside the box once more. The severed hand was still unchanged.

It was around midnight when he woke. There was a faint sound. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. He thought that he might have been dreaming, but then it came again. Tap, tap, tap and then silence. It was the sound of something hitting the side of a box. He reached over and turned on the light. There on his nightstand was the small box. He opened it to look inside.

When the sheriff made it out the next day, the man was nowhere to be found. The sheriff looked all around the house and found nothing. He did not find the man and he did not find the severed hand. The old house has been empty ever since, but people say that on cold winter nights there is a man that is sometimes seen at the door of other houses. They say the man looks very much like the man who lived in that house. With one hand, he holds a small box and with the other, he knocks on the door. Tap, tap, tap and then silence.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Saddest Time of the Year

Christmas is the saddest time of the year. It comes just as we have slipped in the winter, as season we will be trapped in for three more months. As if that isn’t enough, we have slow, melancholy Christmas music to make us contemplate our innermost thoughts and emotions, emotions that should not be brought to the surface. Sadness comes to the surfaces as we remember Christmases past, Christmases that we anticipated with excitement only to be reminded that things are not as picture perfect as they appear in the movies. Who cannot remember a Christmas when the gifts under the tree were a disappointment? What of that poor kid whose parents have been telling him that Santa is real and then when he waits up until midnight for Santa to arrive he finds that Santa is not a jolly old elf, but dear old Dad. Christmas should be a time of joy as we are reminded that God saw fit to send his son Jesus to pay our sin debt, but instead people insist on racking up another kind of debt on their credit cards.

For some reason, an empty house never seems quite as empty as it does around Christmas time. Maybe it has nothing to do with Christmas at all. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the days are so short and we spend so much more time inside. Anyway, I prefer Easter, when the spring flowers are leaping to praise God in the only way they know how, when the songs we sing are triumphant because Jesus was dead and is alive so that we can live forevermore.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Early Morning Book Acquisition

My parents are early risers and even though they are six hundred miles away I can tell that they have already been on the Internet this morning. Someone put in an order for ten copies of my latest book, How to Become a Bible Character, and though I cannot tell what time it occured, it does have today's date. I know what some people are getting for Christmas this year.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mostly Done

I have my Christmas shopping nearly done. That is unless I change my mind about what I want to give certain people. There is no such thing as a perfect gift, but one day there will be. One day we will stand before Jesus and see him in all his glory. Perhaps we will ask him what gift we can give him to show our appreciation for all he has done for us. Surely, there can be no gift that we can give him that will show that. Then he will hand us our crowns as a reward for the service we have rendered to him. As we look at these crowns, more beautiful than any crown we have seen on earth, we will remember that we do not deserve these crowns. It is not our own efforts that have accomplished great things for God, but God working through us that has accomplished great things. Then we will take our crowns and we will cast them at the feet of Jesus, the one who has enabled us to accomplish great and wonderful things. It is Jesus who deserves the reward. Just imagine how large that pile of crowns will be. It will be the perfect gift for Jesus, not because of the beauty of the crown, though that will be great, but because it is the perfect act of worship for us to refuse to accept credit for the great things that we have accomplished in our lives and to give all credit to Jesus who has made it possible.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Links and Blog Posts

The Rejecter has this to say:

Writers who plug your blog: Don't do it. First of all, I know you're doing it so that I (or other industry people who read this blog) might wander their, discover your genius, and email you with a 5-figure offer based on the novel excerpt you have up. Or worse, you're plugging your self-published book that needs sales beyond your friends and family. Well, we all know what you're doing, so stop it. Second, it looks really tacky. (

Who is the Rejecter? She claims to be an Assistant Literary Agent. I have no way to either confirm or deny her claim, but that doesn't matter. She does have a blog and so she does have an opinion about the posts that people make to blogs and she does bring up an interesting subject.

For my part, I never post links to other people's blogs in hopes that someone will notice my work and offer me a five-figure offer. If I am going to have an unrealistic dream, I might as well make it six or seven figures. She goes on to say that she is talking about people who sign their posts with a link. Now making statements like "see my new book by visiting this link" can be irritating, but I think that the Rejector is wrong to assume that everyone who tags their blog comments with a link is doing so for the sole purpose of getting noticed by someone like her.

There are people who participate in blogs just for the social interaction, but let's ignore those and consider people who are doing so to sell books. The chances of an industry professional paying attention because of a link are about like those of winning the lottery, so it is unlikely that people are pinning their hopes on that. The chances of a person buying a book after the author posts a comment that says, “read my book” are greater, but links from blogs serve another purpose. Posting comments with links is a way of building a name. We don’t really know people on the web. For example, I don’t know who the Rejector is. She knows more about me than I know about her. But if I began to see comments that tied back to her blog then I could form an opinion based on those comments. Some people begin to develop a friendship through interaction on blogs. The links help to identify who these people are. When friendships develop, even if these friends do not buy a book, or make an offer on a manuscript, they may be more willing to help in a way that is mutually beneficial to both.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Third Book

Ok, I officially feel guilty. I have been saying that writing should not be about being able to hold a book in your hand or pointing to a byline and saying “I wrote this!” Writing should be about communication. Whether it is a reference book, a novel or an article in a magazine, writing should be about the author communicating with or teaching the reader. Writers should not be defined by the paper that is produced but by what they communicate. If they take pride in anything, it should not be that they have their name on a book or on an article, but it should be in what they have been able to communicate. It all sounds good, but I received an unexpected package today and now I feel guilty.

This afternoon, when I arrived home from work, I found a small package on my front porch. It looked very much like one I received a couple of days ago. When I opened it, my suspicions were confirmed. This was the second copy of my third book, How to Become a Bible Character. As I began to think about this book, I began to think about the differences between this book and the one before it. The cover is so much like the one before it and yet it is very different. It reminds me that this is not the first book, but the third book that I have written and yes, I will admit that I feel a little pride because of it. It is the culmination of many weeks of work. Of the three books, this was the hardest for me to write. Nothing was easy about this book, but it is finished and there is something about being able to hold it in my hands. Even if sales are dismal, I feel as though I have accomplished something.

Yes, I know that may seem like it goes against my ideals about writing. Yes, I know that it may seem like vanity and perhaps it is, but I am enjoying it none the less.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kids Are Great

Kids are great, as in very interesting and fun. Tonight I walked into the room where our Awana kids play games and what I found was a mass of kids running back and forth. It didn't take me long before I realized that they were playing a modified version of Ship Wreck, their favorite game. There were adults in the room, but the kids had somehow selected their own leader to tell everyone which line they were supposed to race to and to tell them which kids were the last to cross the line. It looked like they had everything under control without our help.

Future of eBooks

At the moment, the eBook is a concept that people are approaching cautiously. The company that appears to be the biggest contender in future success of the eBook is Amazon. Their Kindle looks very similar to something Tandy (Radio Shack) might have built when they were a viable contender in the computer industry, but publishers are supporting it and that is perhaps the most important thing. So, if the eBook proves to be a success, what can we expect from it in the coming years? Here are my predictions.

A color display and sound that is part of the book will probably be some of the first changes that will take place. The only reason that books do not currently have a lot of color pictures is because color printing costs so much more. With a eBook Reader there is no reason that it should cost much at all.

The whole thing encased in plastic. Do you remember the Star Trek Next Generation “pad?” That is what I expect the eBook reader will look like in a few years. It will be thin. It will be cheap enough that a person can have several to lay side by side and compare the text of several different books. It will have a pen interface so that we can write on them. It will be sealed air tight so that a reader can drop it in a swimming pool or a bathtub and will be able to pick it up and keep reading.

Holographic projection with feedback gloves. In a couple of decades, we might have eBooks that we will read like regular books, but rather than holding a pad we will see a 3-d projection and when we reach out to turn the page will feel it on our fingers. But the whole thing will be stored on a small device we carry on our belt.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On Mentoring

I think churches need to spend more time doing mentoring. A mentor is like a person who has already walked a path and then turns around and shines a light on it for someone else. It takes a personal commitment by the mentor and the person or person he or she is mentoring, but I am not sure that we can say that is the reason why people are not doing more of it. Speaking for myself and for friends in my church, I think many people would be open to the idea of being a mentor, but no one has approached them and asked for that kind of help.

What many people fail to realize is that it is not the responsibility of the mentor to approach people about mentoring. The mentoring relationship does not work well that way. The person being mentored has to be actively seeking help to learn and improve in some area of their life or the mentor can do little to help. Only a person who is willing to make efforts to improve will approach another person about being a mentor.

Even though some people might appreciate the help of a mentor, it can be a scary thought to think about approaching someone about being a mentor. Often the people who can help us the most are people we do not know very well, so we may be uncertain about how they will respond to the idea. If we do approach someone about being a mentor, we should not take it as rejection if the person refuses. There are many reasons why a person might refuse and very few of those reasons have any reflection upon the person who is making the request.

Monday, December 3, 2007

How a Stationwagon Should Look

I saw a PT Cruiser today. Now, most of the time I don't pay a whole lot of attention to them. They are much to common to be interesting. I am not a big fan of crossover vehicles. When I was eight, I thought stationwagons were interesting, but I soon lost interest. Making them smaller and calling them by a different name doesn't help much, but I did see a PT Cruiser that caught my eye and caused me to take a second look. It was gray, a very common color for PT Cruisers, but it had those fake wood panels that the old stationwagons used to have. That, I decided, is what has been missing from the new crossover vehicles. That is how stationwagons ought to look. It doesn't make me want to go out and buy one, but it sure made that particular PT Cruiser look a whole lot better.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Guilty Conscience

I found out yesterday that I have someone watching me. I have to be careful what I say. Here, let me speak in code. The ides of December have yet to come and then comes Christmas. Let's keep that between us. No, actually, I received an e-mail last night from my sister. I was glad of that since none of her previous e-mail addresses are valid anymore. She commented on something I said here. I was shocked. I didn't tell anyone about this blog. It is really quite new. I just put a link on the bottom of my homepage. I didn't know she even knew I had a webpage and then she found my blog. I guess that means I will have to be extra careful about what I say, she may be telling me about it if I don't. She may be my guilty conscience. Sisters seem to be good at that sort of thing.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Death of an Angel

They say that they aren't supposed to die. They say that they live forever in the presence of God. Mine died. I plugged her in and nothing happened. I fiddled with the switches and nothing happen. My Christmas angel is dead. To morn her death, I have decided not to use the lights on my Christmas tree this year. Actually, it has nothing to do with her death at all. Two or three strands of lights are out on my tree. One strand has a bulb that will burn out the instant one is put in to replace it. It is time to replace the lights on my tree, all 1650 of them on the nine foot giant. I am not certain that I am ready to go out and buy 33 stings of lights and I really don’t like putting light on the tree. When I replace the lights, I may uses colored lights or go with some other option, but for now, the tree and the angel are dead. It will be different next year, but didn’t I say that last year?

Friday, November 30, 2007

To Do List

I am on the schedule to play the offitory this Sunday night at church. Anyone who has heard me play knows that I really need to be practicing, but I'm not. I am also supposed to teach a Sunday school class on Sunday morning. I could be preparing for that, but I am not. It is time to put the Christmas tree up. I could be doing that, but I am not. I need to go put more air in the tires on my truck. I could be doing that, but I am not. I bought a towel rack and a toilet tissue holder for my master bathroom. I could be hanging them, but I am not. I could be working on my next book. In the absense of doing anything else productive, I could be doing that, but I am not. It is one of those gray, overcast days when I just don't feell like doing much of anything, except goofing off. I could be doing anything but that, but I am not.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Is Saving Money Good Stewardship?

We all know what stewardship is. It is that thing that pastors start talking about when money is needed for a new building or there are several church members who are having financial difficulties. The short form version of it is often “be less greedy and give more to God.” The Bible has a lot to say about good stewardship and how to take care of God’s money. It is all God’s money, we are told, and we are to take good care of it. The concept of saving money often comes up when we are talking about stewardship. We don’t want to waste money, so that mean we look for low prices. We don’t always take the lowest price, since doing so may result in a lower quality product and we may not have what we need or we may have to replace it sooner. It sure sounds like good stewardship to look for cost savings and then use that money to give more to missions, for the poor and for church projects, but is it really?

I started thinking the other day. It had to do with the price that people are paying for books. There are so many authors writing books that it has pushed the price of books to a very low mark. A publisher can offer an author as little as $500 for a manuscript and the author will take it. Why? Because the chances of another publisher offering more is very slim. Think about this. An author has spent weeks on the manuscript. Let’s say the author has spent eight weeks on the manuscript. Let’s assume a forty hour work week. That is a total of three hundred twenty hours that the author has spent on the manuscript. The book will probably not earn more than the advance, so the author is working for $1.56 an hour or maybe as much as $3.13 and hour. Isn’t an author’s time worth more than that? I think it is, but with people paying such low prices for books, there is no way that the publishers can afford to pay authors what they deserve. Most books lose money for the publisher. So what does this have to do with stewardship?

Luke 10:7 tells us that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” The job of the steward is to do what the master desires. God has made it clear that he wants those who work to receive the pay they deserve, so as stewards of God’s money, is it appropriate for us to pay people less than they deserve? An author’s work is distributed to many customers, so it is hard to determine how much each customer should be paying, but looking for the lowest priced book may not be proper stewardship.

Let’s not apply this only to authors, let’s apply it to other fields as well. Our quest for the lowest prices may not be the good stewardship that we think it is. It may be just another form of greed. We look for low prices so that we can take money from those who deserve it and buy more of what we want, while at the same time giving enough to church to make it look like we are doing well. Instead of asking what price is the lowest, wouldn’t it be better to ask how much value the item brings to you? What if you determine that it is more valuable than the asking price? Wouldn’t it be good stewardship to give more than the stated price?

One of my college professors once showed us a intricately carved horn. It was the image of a cat and it was beautiful. My professor was in a foreign country and he asked the man who had done it how much he wanted for it. The man must have spent many long hours doing the work, but the asked for twenty American dollars. My professor said that he gave him fifty, because he knew it was worth much more than twenty dollars. The man cried after receiving the fifty dollars. Good stewardship isn’t about giving people what they are asking or what the market allows. Good stewardship is giving people what they deserve for the work they have put in. That is what God wants from his stewards.

I'm Lazy

I really should modify this template to look more like my website. One of the things I hate about blogs is that they all look alike and none of them look very good. I mean no offence, Dan Rubin, but this template doesn't look at good as I would like. When I get a chance, I intend to create my own, so that this blog looks more like what I would like rather than looking like a cookie cutter website, but I am lazy and I will put it off until later.

Fiction Friday

Welcome to Fiction Friday. These posts are intended to give you a chance to get to know my characters a little better. Each Friday, one of the characters will be appearing as a guest on this blog. Some will be writing the posts. I will interview others. We may even slip off into the world of the novels and explore. Think of this as your behind the scenes look at the stories in the novels. The following are the posts so far: