Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Stores

In the interest of full disclosure, I should first say that I own stock in Radio Shack. I’ve often said that I think one of Radio Shack’s problems is that their stores are too small. I like Radio Shack because they you can’t help but dream about all the ways you can build something with the cool stuff they have in there and I don’t like Best Buy because it is such an unsatisfactory shopping experience and yet I shop at Best Buy more than I shop at Radio Shack. If I had my way, Radio Shack would have a superstore the size of a Best Buy store where you could get any and all the stuff that Radio Shack sells online.

That being said, there’s something to be said for the small stores that Radio Shack has. I walked into a Radio Shack the other day in need of RCA connectors. The store clerk greeted me the moment I walked in the door and asked how he could help. I told him what I needed. He not only knew what I was talking about, but he left the counter, walked the short distance to the back of the store, opened the drawer they were in and showed me my options. He rang up the bill and I paid him. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I needed an RCA coupler as well. I told him as much, though I didn’t call it by the right name. He got enough of an idea that he took me to another part of the store, showed me what he had and I was able to spot what I needed. He checked me out again and I was out of the store within ten minutes of when I walked in.

I realize that some of Radio Shack’s workers aren’t always that helpful either, but compare that experience to my last experience at Best Buy. I walked in the door as about a hundred Best Buy employees were walking out. I suppose several of the stores had had a meeting that morning. The guy up front greeted me. I said hello and then walked back to the part of the store where I thought what I needed was. There were a couple of blue shirted employees standing there talking. I spent several minutes looking for a camera bag that would fit a Flip Ultra. I looked at one bag and then another, but no one even bothered to ask if I needed help. I found a couple of bags I liked, but since I didn’t have my camera with me, I wasn’t sure if they would fit. I decided to look for Flip Ultra in their store. After some looking, I found the camera. I slipped the smaller bag over the camera and it didn’t fit. I stuffed the packing back in and tried the other bag. This one seemed to work. I decided to buy it, even though it was thicker than I would’ve liked. I took the other bag back to the rack. Then I walked to the front of the store. I had to walk all the way to the other side of the store to get past the rope, even though I was the only customer ready to check out. Only then did someone actually talk to me. But that may be okay. My experience with Best Buy employees has been that all they really want to sell is the service agreement and they have very little knowledge of the products they’re selling.

Radio Shack is the kind of store I’d like to visit more often, but they don’t carry enough stuff for me to have need to. Best Buy is the kind of store I avoid if at all possible, but they carry stuff that I can’t get at the places I’d like to shop.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Than I Really Wanted to Know

Pornography is a problem. And it’s not just men. I won’t bother to repeat the statistics because on a personal level you either have a problem with it or you don’t. The reason I bring it up on this blog is because due to the title of one of my books, the Google Alert I’ve set up for it generates a number of results linking to web pages where people are looking for specific kinds of pornography. I’m sure they sit in the privacy of their own home or maybe even at work and think that no one knows what they’re doing. Of course, God knows, but even if that doesn’t bother them, there’s really nothing you can do online that someone else can’t see.

I don’t figure those people who are online looking for pictures and videos of mothers doing strange things to their children are finding evidence of my book like I’m seeing evidence of their search, but it got me thinking. There are people who think they should write books to reach the sinner. Some of these people write books with bad language and sexually explicit scenes, claiming that they have to appeal to the sinner. My personal opinion is that these writers need to remove the beam from their own eye, but if they’re serious about reaching out to the lost with their writing, maybe it’s just the title they need to change. Give the book a title that would fall within the search parameters of someone with a porn addition, such as Brother with Sister, and they’ll be sure to find it.

You recognize that is a bait and switch tactic. I’m sure it would sell a few books. Maybe it would sell many books, but the reviews would be terrible and I doubt it would reach any of the lost. They would be offended by the content of the book being different than they expected and rather than seeing their own need for repentance they would see us as needing to repent.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Full House

We had a full house at church yesterday. There was still some seats left. Some people sat in the choir loft. We had a video feed going, so I was upstairs taking care of that, though I wouldn't be able to tell you if anyone actually watched it or how many. Even if no one watched it, it was good practice for us. I'm sure the day will come when we'll need that capability. Sometimes it's good to practice something just so you'll be able to do it later. I'm sure that can be applied to writing, but frankly I don't feel like writing much more at the moment.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Random Thoughts

Last week, I lost a dear friend, Wyndol Hart, a deacon in our church. He died from complications following a heart attack. He was well loved by the whole church. The young children quickly learned that he carried candy in his pocket, ready to hand out to them all. He was well known not only at our church and in our association, but he was well known by the southern gospel music crowd. As I write this, I’ve just remembered that he was always the one who organized the Valentines banquet, selling tickets and arranging for the entertainment. I’m sure that by the time that event comes around the Planning Committee will have it under control, but it’ll be different. He was very involved with our effort in building our new family life center.

I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t say something about God’s timing when we look at how it all worked out. It was a long drawn out process, but we had finally completed the building and we had the dedication service. Within a week of that service he was gone. It almost seems like God wanted to let him see it through to completion before he took him.

His funeral is today and we’re expecting a big crowd. If it tells you anything, most of our college kids we sent away for school were back in the service yesterday because they wanted to attend his funeral. Because we may have more people than the seating capacity of our auditorium, we’re setting up a video feed to our fellowship hall for the overflow. I’ll be upstairs running the video camera.

I hope you’ll forgive me for the scattered nature of this post, but when I bought that camera I had one project in mind that needed a high quality camera. I could’ve done it with a cheaper camera, but I wanted a better one and I sort of justified the expense with that project. I’ve used that camera just for fun, but most of the use I’ve gotten out of it has been up at church. Life’s funny that way. You wonder about spending money on something you want because it seems selfish and then you discover that you use it more for God than for yourself. If I’d known that before for I bought it, I might not have struggled with the purchase so much.

That brings us to another big expense. By the strangest bit of timing, I have learned that my neighbor’s house has been foreclosed on and is going up for public auction next month. I’m really hoping that’s a God thing. I could’ve easily missed that public notice because I haven’t even looked at public notices until now. If I can put together enough cash soon enough and I can get it for low enough, I’d like to buy the house. The house isn’t in great shape, but that doesn’t bother me because what I really want to do is tear down the house and clear the land so my yard will be larger. It would be nice to think that the other potential bidders would recognize the house isn’t in good shape and not bid, but the people who buy houses at public auction don’t always know much about the houses they’re bidding on. I would sure like to come back at a later date and be able to say that I prayed like Jabez that God would enlarge my coasts and he did. But God is God. He may have something else planned for me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Blog Killers

I’m really frustrated with some of the bloggers I follow. I see most of their blogs through the RSS feed. I’ll decide I want to say something about what they said and I’ll click through to the blog. So then I can’t actually comment because it takes so long to load all of those widgets they’ve got running on the side of their blog. Do I really care which books they’ve been reading or what songs they’ve been listening to? No, I don’t. So why show it to me? Some of that stuff is okay, but some of it doesn’t work very well. And the only reason much of it exists is as a way to advertise something the widget creator is selling. He gets free advertising because some writer wants to put her bookshelf on her blog. That stuff will kill a blog. So cut it out!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The ACFW Women's Conference

Another author mentioned the gender imbalance at the ACFW conference. That was one of the first things I noticed when I learned of ACFW. There just aren’t that many guys who attend. It looks like a big women’s meeting and for the most part it appears to be run like a big women’s meeting. This may make me sound like a male chauvinist, but there’s a big difference between the way men conduct meeting and the way women conduct meetings. I don’t like the way women conduct meetings. Stick a man in front of a large gathering and he’s all “let’s get on with this thing; we’ve got stuff we’ve got to get done.” With women it’s all peaches and cream. “Isn’t that a wonderful speech she just gave? Let’s give her a hand to show her how much we appreciate her.”

It could very well be that more men don’t attend the ACFW conference because they would rather listen to fingernails on a chalkboard than to sit through a women’s meeting. But let’s consider some other possibilities.


Men tend to think more logically than women and the logic of spending $1000 to attend a writers’ conference don’t compute when you consider that the agents there won’t sign very many people, only a small portion of those signed will get a publishing contract and most of the information being taught in the classes is available online for free. You don’t spend $1000 to make $50. It just doesn’t make sense. Still, people have other reasons for wanting to go, so let not rule it completely an issue of logic. Besides, there’re plenty of women who don’t like spending that kind of money for nothing also.

Weekend Schedule

I could see throwing caution to the wind some year and just going to see what it’s all about. Maybe I could put up with a women’s meeting once and maybe spending money on a writers’ conference is better than spending it at Disneyland. But the fact that they hold this thing on a weekend is a major killer for me. For a “Christian” conference, this is a really dumb move. I am actively involved in my local church. At my day job I get three weeks of vacation per year. If the ACFW conference started Monday afternoon or Tuesday, I could take vacation, fly into the convention city and attend the conference. But with it taking place on the weekend, I have a harder time convincing myself I want to go because there’s always so much stuff going on at church that I don’t want to miss. In thinking about that, I thought about all of these preachers who have written books. Some of them may be able to call someone up to fill in for them on Sunday, but isn’t easy for pastors of small churches. I don’t expect these guys really want to leave their pulpit to go pitch a novel. And the same is true of many of the other positions in a church. If a man feels led to be in the ministry he is, he isn’t likely to go off and pitch a novel instead.

Bread Winners

We often see women writers talking about how writing is their job and it is just as much of a career as that of their husbands. Hogwash! The fact is that most of the women writers out there are housewives who have time to write because their husbands are working to earn the money and the invention of the dishwasher, the washer and dryer, and the vacuum cleaner has given them time to sit in front of a computer screen. There are more women novelists because more women have time to be novelists.

So for as long as ACFW lasts, I think we’ll continue to see it primarily attended by women.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Write For Me

Ray Bradbury talks about his writing journey in the video below. I apologize beforehand for the product placement in the video, but near the end of the video he talks about what he decided is the right stuff to write. What the video and then we’ll discuss it.

“I was writing for me and I discovered that was the way to go.” On the surface, that sounds vain, but when we consider what he’s saying it makes a lot of sense. While our ultimate goal in writing is to communicate with the reader, writing that doesn’t draw upon our innermost feelings will come across as hollow. There are a number of stories that I could write just because I’ve read or watched so many of them. Being able to write a story is one thing, but understanding the motives of a story is another. If we aren’t writing about our own emotions, we won’t get them right. We might end up with a villain who is just bad because he’s a villain and a hero who is good because he is a hero. The reader will be much more interested in a story when it is the story that moves us as writers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I’m not one to be big on the power of positive thinking, but I’ve noticed that how you see yourself has some influence over what you are able to accomplish. An example of where it works is in public speaking. If you walk into a classroom thinking that you have nothing to say and the students are just humoring you because they don’t want to teach the class themselves, you will fail as a teacher. But if you walk into a classroom confident of your ability to teach them something and with self respect for your ability as a teacher, you’ll be able to do a much better job as a teacher. However, before you take the attitude that if you think it it will come true, let’s consider why it works.

Thinking you’re a great teacher doesn’t make it so. I’ve seen a number of people who are overly confident in their abilities and the result is that people laugh behind their backs. To be a great teacher you must prepare to be a great teacher and only then have the confidence in your abilities. If you don’t know your subject you won’t be a great teacher. But let’s suppose you know the subject. If you walk into the room and aren’t confident in your abilities, you’ll hold back. You’ll temper what you say by sticking to the “safe” material. You won’t say anything that you don’t think the other people in the room agree with because you’re afraid they’ll disagree and expose you as a fraud. You’ll stay away from visual aid because you think they look silly. You’ll avoid class discussion because you’re afraid they’ll ask something you don’t have the answer to. In the end, you lecture for the length of class to a chorus of yawns throughout the room.

On the other hand, if you know your subject and are confident in your abilities, you’ll walk into the class with the belief that you can teach the students or at least get them to consider something they might not have otherwise considered. You’ll reduce lecturing and your reliance on Power Point and turn to activities that will cement the concepts you are teaching in the minds of the students. You won’t be as worried about them seeming silly because you’ve given much thought to the impact they will have in reaching your goal of teaching the students.

I think that much of what I’ve said concerning teaching can also be applied to writing. If we become too worried about our inability to write, we pull back and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we are confident that we have something to say, we can ignore those who disagree with us and say what we believe needs to be said. It may not make us better writers, but it allows us to write at the highest level we can.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Let's Do Guest Posts Better

Several of the writers for the blogs I follow have been off at the ACFW Conference, so much of last week and maybe this week they’ve been having all these “guest blogs.” Am I the only one who just skips over a blog when I see that it’s a guest blog?

It’s not that I don’t think the people they invite to write for their blog don’t have something meaningful to say, but it’s a little like calling someone on the phone and getting the answering machine instead. It may be that I can tell the answering machine what I needed to tell the person just as easily, but it’s disappointing because I was looking forward to talking to the person and all I get is the machine. When I visit a blog that I’ve enjoyed reading and see a guest blog, I’m disappointed because I know the blogger isn’t going to post anything today.

To rectify this problem, I suggest we bloggers adopt the following rule: Never use a guest blog to replace a regularly scheduled blog post. If you post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, have the guest post on Tuesday. Or better yet, go ahead and post your own stuff on the same day as you have a guest post. I believe this would help the situation because our readers wouldn’t be disappointed and we would be able to introduce our readers to other bloggers that we feel would benefit them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

God is in Heaven and He Does What He Pleases

To paraphrase Psalm 115:3, God is in heaven and he does what he pleases. I think many people have a problem with that verse because it makes God seem distant. It gives us a picture of God in which he seems to have no concern for the problems of mankind. But when we consider the context in which it appears, it gives us a better image than that. The psalmist talks about the heathen asking where our God is. They point to the idols they worship and say here is our god, where is yours? To that the psalmist answered that God is in heaven, but he goes a step farther, saying that God does what he pleases. Unlike the idols that these people made with their hands, God does as he pleases. We can take a stick of wood, shape it into an animal, stick it on a shelf and bow to it as a god. If we decide to move to a different house, we can take the god with us and put it on a shelf in a different house. The god has no control over which shelf it sits on, but the living God does as he pleases. Where is the living God? Wherever he wants to be, that’s where!

We often talk about the thing that people make into idols, such as money or television. I suppose that could be right, but I sometimes think we’re stretching it to think that people are actually making these things a god. Unlike the figurine someone might put on a shelf and bow to, money and television serve a different purpose. People want money and television to satisfy their own desires. While they may do many things to obtain money or they may spend far too much time in front of the television rather than worshiping God, they aren’t putting these things above themselves, as they would do with an idol. Instead they hope to use these things to lift themselves up, perhaps to place themselves above God. But God is in heaven and he does whatever he pleases. No man can hope to place himself above God or even reach God’s level.

The thing about God is that unlike a figurine, he has ears that hear and eyes that see. He does what he pleases, but he pleases to spend time with his creation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Greatness of Our Friends

One of my responsibilities is to keep our church website up to date. In doing that, it is necessary to inform people of upcoming events. I find it difficult at times to know what to write. One of our church members is an author who will be teaching a ladies’ Bible study class based around her latest book. Before her husband retired from full time pastoring, I knew this author as the wife of a preacher in our local association. But there are many women who first met her through her book “What’s a Girl to Do?” a book that teaches teenage girls biblical principles on how they should handle many of the problems they face. The issue I have is that while I may see this author as just another church member talking about her in that way doesn’t do much to encourage people outside of our church to consider attending the class she is teaching. It’s easy for me to say that she’s just like our other teachers—they’re all great, but how many outsiders would believe that. They’re looking for proof. So I want to talk about her credentials, but I fear I’ll oversell her. I doubt I have anything to fear.

I think what I see happening here is that I’ve grown up with this idea that the great things people say about other people must be true and none of the people I know personally can possibly be that great. I suspect their friends think the same thing of them. The reason I say that is because I know some people who are absolutely great at what they do. They don’t get the press that some other people get doing the same thing and wouldn’t like it if they did, but that doesn’t mean they are any less great at what they do. In fact, they often impress me as being better at what they do than some of the better known people. It is simply a case of the old inferiority complex directed at one’s closest associates. It’s like school cafeteria food. No matter how well the cooks prepare it, the students will never think it is great.

We have to overcome this inferiority complex and recognize greatness in our friends. That isn’t easy to do, but if we don’t we may not fully appreciate the things that are right under our noses. Worse, we may promote the inferior over the superior.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Healthy Associations of Unhealthy Churches

Last week I attended the Cane Creek Baptist Association’s Youth in the Harvest for the first time in several years. I even got to lead the singing, which is always a pleasure. For those of you who have no idea what the Youth in the Harvest is, it is a monthly youth meeting. I assume it’s a Missouri thing, but it’s not unlike youth meetings that other associations have had. It struck me while I was there that it is ironic that healthy church associations are typically made up of small churches. By healthy I mean that the association has frequent meetings that draw several churches. The Cane Creek Baptist Association has two meetings a month. One is the Youth in the Harvest and the other is the Third Sunday Singing. They also have a Fifth Sunday Meeting that meets the weekend of the fifth Sunday. And they have an annual meeting. They have about twenty churches, which is relatively large for a local association, but I’m not sure any of their churches run more than a hundred in Sunday School and most of them are much smaller. Contrast that with associations with larger churches and you’ll find that the larger churches hardly ever get together and the members of one church seldom know the members of another.

The difference is that smaller churches need each other a lot more than larger churches, or so it seems. The local association fills the gap for ministries the small churches can’t afford or do not have the personnel to handle. While I see some things about the Cane Creek Youth in the Harvest that I would suggest changing if I were in their association, it provides activities for the youth that larger churches would provide through Awana or other youth programs. Larger churches are better able to start a new church plant without outside help. Smaller churches can’t, so associations of smaller churches are more likely to hire a missionary.

In some ways, it is the unhealthy nature of smaller churches that gives the local association strength, but I can’t help but wonder if larger churches aren’t missing something because we are so self-sufficient. And maybe we are hurting smaller churches in our own local associations by not opening doors for them to become more involved in our activities. It’s easy to get caught up in our activities and forget that there are other churches out there. We may feel we don’t need their help or that they are too small to be able to help us, but maybe we just haven’t taken the time to consider how things could be better.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back at School

I write this from rainy Zalma, Missouri, having returned from a high school volleyball game. Zalma beat Marquand three games to none. Zalma’s volleyball team has been doing fairly well this year. If this game was any indication, Marquand hasn’t been doing very well. It wasn’t much of a game to watch. But I got to see some people I haven’t seen in several years. I saw some of my old teachers and some of the people who were around when I was in school. The old gym looked a lot like it did when I was there. They’ve made a few changes, but mostly it was the same.

It’s odd going back to school. I spent thirteen years of my life there and it all seemed so important. These days, it doesn’t seem important at all. There are other students who are there now. They’re walking the same halls I walked and sitting in the same classrooms. They are the ones worried about their test grades. I’m glad I’m not there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Homeschooling, the Work of the Devil?

Homeschooling is growing. Texas saw a twenty percent increase in homeschooling last year. Supposedly, it is because of the economy. Parents who were sending their children to private schools are pulling them out and homeschooling instead. Now, I realize that there are some cases where home, private and alternative schooling is necessary, but as a general rule, I think that parents with Christian children are doing the wrong thing by homeschooling their kids. The primary reason parent homeschool is because they want to “integrate their faith” into their children’s education. I get that. Really, I do, but what about integrating our faith into the education of the lost world? Isn’t that what God has called us to do?

I hear a lot about prayer being taken out of schools and the Ten Commandments being taken off the walls. I can tell you right now that the courts have done far less to take prayer out of school than what Christians have done by pulling their kids out of the public schools and fleeing. How is that “integrating their faith” into their children’s education? I’m sure their children will remember what their parents taught them about the creation of the world and all of that, but what they’ll remember more is that when facing those who oppose them, the solution is to hide away somewhere and close their ear and minds to whatever the opposition says.

There are some countries where it is legal to “believe” whatever you want, but it’s illegal to try to persuade another person to your beliefs. Though missionaries may feel a calling to go to these countries, the doors are closed to them. We ask ourselves how we can reach these people. One way is that though missionaries are not allowed, these countries are allowing students to attend their universities. So, Christian students have taken this opportunity to go to some of these countries. While in these universities, they encounter other students who have never heard the name of Jesus. In a ordinary discussion of differing culture and such things, these students are able to tell these people about what Jesus did for them and the salvation he offers. If these students took the attitude of the homeschool parents, there would be no way at all to reach some of these heathen lands.

Christian students in public schools are missionaries to children who would not otherwise hear the gospel. While teachers are not as free to share their faith, the schools cannot prevent students from sharing their faith in the lunchroom and on the playground or on the school bus. They cannot prevent students from inviting their friends over to spend the night where they see the family praying over the evening meal. They cannot prevent students from inviting their friends to church. Even if none of that takes place on school grounds or at school events, the friendships Christian students develop with lost students can be used as a witnessing tool. But while public schools cannot prevent these things, Christian parents are making these thing impossible by removing their children from the public schools.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Fifth Dimension

Science fiction folks like to talk about these other dimensions. Sadly, many of them get the idea wrong. They talk about another dimension like it is another Universe. As you know, we keep track of four dimensions, X, Y, Z and Time. If you were to add a fifth dimension, whatever that would be, it would be possible for something to be at one location and at the same time be at another location. Quite literally, as far as our four dimensional Universe is concerned, that object could be everywhere at once. The comparison is usually made between a two-dimensional space and a three-dimensional space. If a living being could only perceive two dimensions, then a three-dimensional object would appear as the intersection. A cone would appear as a circle or some other conic shape. If it moved along the third dimension through time, it would appear to expand or contract. It could come into existence within an instance and disappear for no apparent reason.

The problem with that is that there is no existence that there is a two-dimensional Universe. While we can’t say there are not more dimensions that we’re unaware of, we also can’t say how those dimensions would actually behave. Take time for instance. While it is our fourth dimension, it does not appear to function in quite the same way the others do. We can reposition an object in relation to space, but not in relation to time. While it is theorized that we might be able to move through time, time appears to flow in only one direction. If there’s another dimension, who’s to say that the fifth dimension doesn’t work much like time does. Maybe it moves in only one direction. Maybe we’re already moving through it, but we’re unaware that we’re moving through it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

O When O When Will I Get a New Cover?

There are several stories that I’d like to be writing right now. And there’s a non-fiction book I’d like to write. Actually, there’s more than one. Funny how I want to work on them while I need to be working on the book I’ve already started. The one I’ve started completes a five book series. I really want to be finished with that series. It isn’t that I don’t want to spend more time with those characters; I love my characters, but I’m ready for a new cover design. That’s one of the great things about self-publishing; you get to design your own cover. Of course you can let someone else do it, but what’s the fun in that. So one more novel and I get to play around with covers again.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Best Story Yet

I’ve hard that the best stories come about when you write yourself into a corner that you don’t think you can get out of, but you do. Writing shouldn’t be easy. When you find that a character is doing something without a good motivation, you might decide to quit. You might decide to go on to another story, but if you keep going and work through the problem you might discover that what you have is one of your best stories ever. It might take you a while, but work it out and see what happens.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good Books, Unimportant Authors

A lot of importance is placed on an author making a name for himself. How different that is from how television and movies work. You don’t often know much about the person writing a script. You might know something about the actors, but only the stars. You don’t pay much attention to most of the people involved and you may only recognize the actors by the character they play. It may just be wishful thinking, but wouldn’t it be nice if books were that way? Perhaps it’ll get that way. People won’t pay much attention to who wrote the book, just whether it is a good book or not.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Confess Your Faults

Confess your faults, one to another, James 5:16 tells us. I’m not sure when the Catholics first built their confessional boxes and made confession a requirement for salvation, but in modern times the confessional box often aids sagging plots in television shows by providing a place where the evildoer can talk about his crime without fear of the police learning of his crime. Of course, his confession is often overheard by someone standing nearby or by some recording device placed in the box. It’s all in good fun to make things more interesting.

But before you go sticking confessional boxes in your stories, let’s look at the idea of confession a little closer. The Catholics have popularized the idea that confession is going and telling one’s sins to a priest. Protestants have turned around and said that it is God we should confess to and not to a priest. When we look at James 5:16, the phrase “one another” seems to indicate that confession is not limited to the sinner and the priest, but the church members are to confess to each other. It appears that we are to confess to people as well, so some people have gotten the idea that we should stand up in church and tell the rest of the church all the things we’ve done. All of that is built on the premise that confession is telling someone your sins. Let’s see if that premise holds up.

The word confess appears many times in the Bible, but it is used to translate a word that appears even more frequently. Many times when it is used, the concept of going and telling your sins to a priest doesn’t even fit the context. For example, Revelation 3:5 has Jesus saying of the man who overcomes, “I will confess his name before my Father.” Philippian 2:11 says that “every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Neither of those verses can be used to talk about us telling our sins to anyone, either another person, a priest or God himself. But there’s more. The Bible talks about us confessing God’s name, confessing God and God confessing us. The words that we translate as confess are sometimes translated with words like praise.

Someone who wants to hang onto the confessional box might talk about confession bringing us to a point where we can praise God, but that’s a stretch, to say the least. It makes more sense if we go through the Bible and everywhere we see the word confess we read the word acknowledge. The word we translate as confess actually means to acknowledge. It doesn’t carry with it the concept of sin, in and of itself. If the Bible talks about confessing sin, what it means is that we acknowledge sin. But if it talks about confessing God, it means that we acknowledge God. If it talks about our confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, it means that we will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. If we then confess our faults one to another, what that means is that we acknowledge our faults.

In the broader context of James 5:16, what we see is that James is talking about church members praying for the healing of each other. I don’t think he is actually talking about us telling other church members all the bad stuff we’ve ever done. Instead, I think he’s saying that when we’ve offended someone we should say to that person, “Yeah, I agree that what I did was wrong. I’m sorry.” That person will then be better able to forgive us for what we did to him and will find it easier to pray for us. One of the quickest ways to put an end to a fight is to agree that the other person is right.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Let's Not Even Bother Writing a Story

Books aren’t like television shows. The thing about television shows is that some people will watch them just because there isn’t anything else on. You’re tired and you want to watch some mindless entertainment. You want to watch it now, so you turn to the most interesting thing you can find that is on now. With books, people pick and choose. Occasionally, they’ll pick something up just because it is there, but someone had to make the decision that the wanted it in the first place. It’s interesting because television shows can get by with some of the worst plots. They’ll throw an episode in there that is nothing but clips from previous episodes. Usually, the main character is away somewhere and the supporting cast is remembering what a great person he is.

Can you imagine if we tried doing that with books? Instead of writing a new book, we would just pull chapters from other books to tie together with some weak plot. No one would buy the book, but television producers don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with doing that with their shows.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Self-publishing Produces More Traditional Contracts

Suposedly, you're twice as likely to get a traditional publishing contract by self-publishing a manuscript than by getting an agent. While that may seem like it ought not be the case, I think it makes sense. People who self-publish are a different breed of people than the traditional author. The author who is willing to self-publish does so with the idea that he will have to do most of the work. So while some traditional authors are sitting around debating how much work the publishing company should be doing that they aren't, the self-published author is out selling books. The result is that the manuscript that some people thought wouldn't sell proves that it will. There isn't a publisher around who wouldn't prefer an author who can sell books over one who just wants to write books.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A World With No Adults

I read the other day that there is an elongated youth. It used to be that soon after high school, people began to be responsible productive members of society. They got jobs. They got homes. They married. They had children. But today, many people are waiting to do those things. And worse, I think, is that so many people don’t see themselves as being responsible. A woman in her forties got onto me the other day for calling her “Ma’am.” And many women don’t like to be addressed as “Mrs.”, saying that that is their mother-in-law’s name.

I think it’s all sad. Even though I expect my parents have many good years left, I can see that they have reached age where they have begun to move away from the active involvement they once had. If the younger generations are not willing to take on the responsibility of adulthood, we will have a society of children and no progress will be made.