Monday, April 30, 2012

Reason to Celebrate

I love the way God works. At our church, I work with the Awana boys in the 3rd through 6th grade. This year, we’ve been down in attendance because we quit running the van. We decided to try focusing on those who wanted to come rather than including those who just wanted to ride the van to get away from home. We’ve had nights this year when we’ve had more male leaders than we’ve had male clubbers. I’ll admit, I’ve been down about the turnout.

Well, last week was our spring revival services. Each year, on Wednesday, we combine Awana with the revival. This time, we did handbook time as usual and then took the kids down to sit in the auditorium. Dr. Philip Attebery, dean of the BMA Theological Seminary brought the message. As I listened to the message, I was thrilled. It was the kind of sermon I like to hear. It headed off into some somewhat deep concepts and he got into the means of some of the Greek words. He talked about how the individual is not the most important thing in a church. And he preached longer than I expected. That was fine for me because I was enjoying it, but some of the kids were squirming because we’d promised they could play kickball afterward. As good of a message as he brought, it seemed like he did everything wrong that he could have in presenting a message to my group of kids. For everyone else, it was great, but for my group of kids, not so much.

During the invitation, I thought I heard one of the boys whisper to another leader, “Am I saved?” I didn’t hear the other leader’s response, but I was confident he would respond appropriately, probably even better than I would, so I went on singing.

We baptized that kid yesterday. It just goes to show that God can take a sermon that I might think was better suited for adults and use it to convict a young child of his sins. I’m not recommending that you start pronouncing Greek words as a way to win children to the Lord and I’m sure that if Dr. Attebery had been speaking only to a group of elementary kids he would have had something different to say. What I am saying is that while I was taking in the Greek words and the deeper theological concepts, the Holy Spirit was causing a young boy to listen to what Dr. Attebery was saying about how he came to recognize his need for salvation. Isn’t God great?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I write note and leave them on my desk. Usually, I remember what they are, but some have no meaning at all. On one sticky note, I wrote two seven digit numbers. I don’t know what they mean. I must have known at one time. On another, I wrote “Theme of Ruth.” Not sure why, but I did. On another, I’ve listed seven names. Again, I’m not sure why. The bigger question is why haven’t I gotten rid of them.

Notes are like messages from someone in our past. They knew something and wanted to communicate it to us. Sometimes they are successful. Sometimes they are not.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Don't Care

I’m kind of in the don’t care stage of my writing endeavors. I’m ignoring many of the writing blogs that I once read. I’ve been staying out of many of the conversations that I might have one provided input to. I haven’t had a lot of time to write recently, but I feel the bug biting. But while other people are worried about how they’re going to get their book published and how to format a query letter, I’ve found that I am able to pay attention to more interesting things.

I suppose we all imagine what it would be like to sell millions of books and have to money to go with it. But there’s a point at which you realize that a small amount of money is all you’re going to get, no matter how much effort you put into it. It’s like golf. A few people make millions. Some people make a living. Most people just enjoy the game. I’m to the point that I just want to enjoy the game of writing. The Lord has blessed me with enough income from other sources that I don’t need to make anything from writing. And I’m not anxious to give up the other things I do. It is not my desire to become the traveling author who goes from place to place trying to sell books. If people want to read my books, that would make me very happy, but if they don’t, that’s okay too.

People talk about writing because they can’t not write. Though I enjoy writing, I’m beginning to see all the things I’ll miss if I spend too much time at it. Some of the writing world is passing me by, and I don’t care.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Are Endings Important?

Are endings important? That’s what one author asked this week. Why must we be so concerned about not revealing the ending when the journey is what is important? Good question, but here’s my thought on the subject: Endings aren’t just important, they’re everything.

That’s not to say we have to be particularly concerned about revealing the ending, but that’s not because endings don’t matter. Rather, people are looking for an ending they like and want to read a book that takes them on the journey to get there. Consider, The Lord of the Rings. Didn’t you know that the ring would be destroyed at the end? Of course you did. You knew that from the beginning. That was the whole reason for the journey. Or how about Cinderella? That story has been told hundreds of different ways. We all know she gets the prince in the end, but we read it anyway. So how can it be that endings are everything when we know how stories are going to turn out before we read them?

If we see a story as a journey, we should consider that the most important thing about any journey is where you are going. Two travelers can start from two different locations. One may travel by car and the other by plane. It may take one longer than the other, but they both must end up in the same place. If one of them doesn’t reach the destination, then he has failed. So it is with a story. We have great flexibility in where we begin the journey as well as the twists and turns along the way, but if it doesn’t bring us to the right ending, then we’ve failed.

How then do we know what the right ending is? Why must Cinderella get the prince? Why must the One Ring be destroyed? Why is it that at the end of the yellow brick road, Dorothy must click her heels and go home? Why must Darth Vader be the one to destroy the emperor? In many ways, these are all predictable endings, but the stories wouldn’t be the same if the prince chose one of the step-sitters, the One Ring was reclaimed by the enemy, the wicked witch got the ruby slippers or Luke joined his father on the dark side. If these stories ended that way, we probably wouldn’t remember them at all.

The right ending is the one that corrects the problems that exist at the beginning of the story. Beginnings and endings are a matched pair. We can’t mix and match. Suppose Cinderella, after meeting the prince, clicked her heels and went home. Suppose Luke destroyed the One Ring. It won’t work. Instead, we look for that ending that puts the world where it ought to be. But we can’t take shortcuts. At the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, we know that the ring is going to be destroyed. What we don’t know is why. The journey in the middle is there to persuade the reader that the ending is right.

Or consider The Wizard of Oz. Considering how bad Dorothy had it at home, why wouldn’t she want to stay in Oz. But we reach the end of the book and we’re glad to see her go back to Kansas. The reason endings are everything is because we’ve spent the whole book building up to the ending and persuading the reader that it is the right ending. The whole story centers around the ending.

Many times, the unexpected nature of an ending is what causes a reader to remember the book. How strange it seems to reach the end, find an ending we don’t expect and realize that we believe it is the way the story must end. But does that mean we must worry about revealing the end? I don’t think so. How often have we read stories again, just so we can experience the same journey? Knowing the end of the story is like knowing you will see a dear friend at the end of a long journey. It is with joy that we arrive at our friend’s home, but all along the way, we are also joyful in anticipation of that meeting. Surprises have their place, but there is also a place for reading of the struggles the hero faces and knowing that he will overcome. We need not worry, but rather we can look to the villain and say, “you’re going to get what you deserve.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I have a friend who came to church the other day, praising God because his daughter is in jail. Yes, that sounds strange, but as he said, “I know she’s safe.” Sad fact is that his daughter has fallen victim to a drug addiction. She was wanted by the police and without some form of intervention, she was going to die.

Recently, in our area, a home owner shot and killed a fourteen year-old boy who broke into his house. Don’t you think that the boy’s parents wish the boy was in jail instead of being dead? We don’t normally think of jail as a blessing, but when we consider the alternative, it is.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

That Terrible Thursday

On this day, about two thousand years ago, Jesus died. What a terrible Thursday that must have been for his disciples. We see a little bit about how they felt when we read the Bible, but they were scared. It is easy forget what was going through their heads because we are able to look back and see that Sunday was coming. But they didn’t get it. They didn’t really understand why Jesus had had the Passover early, but now, here he was, hanging on the cross. Those who dared watch on that terrible Thursday must have been hoping to see him work one more miracle and come down off the cross. But many didn’t watch because they feared for their lives.

A friend had betrayed their leader and then went out and hung himself. There religious leaders were out for blood. If they could crucify Jesus, then surely they would crucify his followers too. They couldn’t see that it was all part of the plan.

There wasn’t much they could do. A few of them went and asked for the Lord’s body. They buried him in a new tomb, with soldiers guarding it. Then they went and prepared for Passover. But the Passover lamb was already slain. Friday was a busy day. Saturday was the Sabbath. The death of Jesus on Thursday was on their mind, but they had things they had to do. It wasn’t until Sunday morning that some women were able to break away from their required tasks and finish what they hadn’t been able to do on Thursday. Three days later.

The older I get, the more terrible that Thursday seems to me. When I was a kid, I was more interested in the Easter eggs. I don’t know that many people said much about that terrible Thursday, at least, not until Sunday. Now, as people prepare for the Easter festivities that take place on Good Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, much like how the Jews were preparing for the Passover, I’m reminded even more of what took place on the terrible Thursday.

But I’m thankful we don’t have to dwell on it long because in three days, Jesus rose from the grave. He conquered death. Yes, he died on that terrible Thursday, but he isn’t dead now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Voice and Being Ignored

I’ve been watching The Voice. It’s another singing context patterned after American Idol, but it’s better, I think. I quit watching American Idol a few years ago. But it isn’t my intent go into why it is better, rather I want to look at one of the differences in comparison to writing. On The Voice, people don’t get on the show by acting silly and you don’t see great crowds gathered in stadiums, hoping to convince the producers to let them appear before the judges. The people who appear on The Voice are already proven artists, but they haven’t had their big shot. From the good, the coaches select those who are better, with the hope that they will find the best of the best. Then they coach these performers to be even better.

When we look at writing, I believe many authors are looking for something like that. What they really want is for someone to take them under their wing and say, “here’s what you need to do to become a published author.” Unfortunately, the publishing industry isn’t like that. Some literary agents try to do that, but I don’t know of any literary agents who are great authors. Many of them write, and have books available, but they aren’t known for their writing.

Personally, I’m not looking for someone to turn me in to a bestselling author. But I feel for those author who are. They put their stories out there. Rejection comes and they say, “If you would just read it, you would see it is worth publishing.” The agents and publishers hear them, but they ignore them. Nothing hurts more than being ignored.