Ironside’s Dog

One time theologian, H. A. Ironside was eating in a crowded restaurant. All of the other places seats in the place were filled, except the one at his table. A man asked if he could sit there and Ironside was glad to let him do so.

Shortly, Ironside’s food was brought to the table. Upon the arrival of his meal, he closed his eyes and bowed his head. A few moments later he looked up into the stare of the man seated across from him.

“Is there something wrong?” the man asked. “Are you sick? Do You have a headache?”

“No. I was just returning thanks to God for my food.”

The man frowned. “Oh, I don’t believe in all that religious stuff. When my food arrives, I just start eating without any hesitation.”

“I understand,” replied Ironside. “I have a dog that does the same thing.”

Gratitude has two important elements to it:

  1. A thankful recognition of individual gifts.
  2. A reverent appreciation toward the Giver.

As a writer, I am grateful for the power of story. But I realize that this wonderful blessing does not exist in a vacuum. Behind the words there is a loving God who cares for us far more than we can imagine. To “count my blessings” without acknowledging Him as the source is a waste of words.

Real praise is seldom random or accidental and it always has a target. One of the beautiful things about being human is that God gives us the ability to intelligently verbalize our thankfulness to Him. One of the key differences between us and animals is the unique opportunity for relationship between us and our Creator. We can relate to Him with an intimacy reserved for no other part of creation. And with that privilege comes a great responsibility.

I write (or preach & teach) out of a deep gratitude for His grace and mercy in my life. God would still be God without me. But I would be nothing without Him.

I thank God for you. Thank you for being a part of my blog, and for sharing my writing journey with me. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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Hope is the Rope

People all around us are trapped in pits of their own making. These pits are too deep, their walls too slick to climb. And even though these pits are invisible, I know they’re out there.

I used to be in one.

Then someone lowered a rope. Finally, I grabbed ahold and they pulled me out.

Another word for these pits is condemnation. The earthly dungeon it traps us in is the consequence of sin. Adam and Eve dug the first pit, but then they left the shovel where we could reach it. And the Bible says that each of us have our fingerprints all over the handle.

It’s a waste of time to blame someone else. I heard a preacher say that as he traveled through a city, he saw something that had been spray painted on a wall. It read, Humpty Dumpty was pushed. True, we don’t really know how the Eggy fella ended up tumbling off the wall, but we do know the results: brokenness.

When I write a story, I often picture a reader whose soul is crying out,  Is there hope for me? Can I be lifted from the dark pit that sums up my life? Can I escape this condemnation?

The answer is YES, because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1)! And I seek to communicate that in every story. The gospel is Good News because it is a message of hope for the hopeless, healing for the broken, and liberation for those who grope in the darkness to find something that can help them.

Well, HOPE is the rope. It is lowered–in Jesus’ name–each time we tell the gospel story in word and deed. I want to make sure that I give my readers something to grab ahold of. I want to lower hope into their pit…because someone did it for me. Yes, I will write about the reality of the pit–the slimy, taunting wall, the stench of filth, the darkness–but not to glorify the pit. My goal is to help people appreciate what they were saved from. I want them to understand that the rope of hope that was lowered to them is the most expensive rope ever known…if they look closely, and we all should, they will see that the rope is covered in blood. It is the blood that poured from the wounds of a Savior.

When Jesus died on the cross, He stained the rope with his blood. When He rose from the dead, He made it possible for the rope to be lowered into my pit. And yours. And, through repentance and surrender, we took hold of the rope.

And just like the shovel that dug my pit fits my hand, the rope that pulled me out fits my hand also. And I’ve been given a piece of the rope to lower down to others.

And I plan to use it. Will you use yours?

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Top 10 Alternatives to National Novel Writing Month

I wish nothing but success to those writer friends of mine who are in the middle of NaNoWriMo. But for those who didn’t join in the verbosity, here are my Top 10 ways you can fill the remainder of the month with your own nifty writing challenges.

# 10:  NaWriBacMo:  (National Write on Bacon Month) Try to write a novel on strips of bacon! Trust me, it’s not easy…er…I mean, I imagine it’s quite a challenge.

#  9:  NaStaEdMo:  (National Stalk an Editor Month)  This is really self-explanatory…not to mention the fact that it will most likely leave you with taser marks and research material from the local jail.

#  8:  NaDaParMo:  (National Dangling Participle Month) Being snarky with this activity, the month will go by quickly.

#  7:  NaFloBoPaAwaMo:  (National Floating Body Parts Awareness Month) Turn your favorite floating body parts into characters in a story. Write an entire novel featuring them!

#  6:  NaPoHoCoYoLaMo:  (National Pour Hot Coffee in Your Lap Month) Try different blends and see which one gets the old blood pumping the fastest. This is also a good cure for Writers Block…never mind how I know that.

#  5:  NaCreWePeNaMo:  (National Create Weird Pen Names Month) Just imagine you couldn’t write using your real name–due to legal ramifications connected with # 9–and come up with a new weird pen name every day. I’d give you suggestions, but I’m saving those for another Top 10 List.

#  4:  NaWriWhiWeSpanMo (National Write While Wearing Spandex Month)  Just because.  And I strongly discourage mixing this one with # 9 because…well, it could get real ugly.

#  3:  NaPreTeDeMo (National Pretend to be Ted Dekker Month). See how many books you can sign at Barnes and Noble before they kick you out.

#  2:  NaDreLiYoFaAuMo (National Dress Like Your Favorite Author Month)  I’ll just let you conjure up your own images on this one. All I can say is there REALLY needs to be more male authors in ACFW!

#  1:  NaPoSarGeHiBaNeNaMoKaQuZiLaPoMo  I have no idea what this means, but it will take you a month to make something up yourself. Besides…it’s just plain fun to say. In fact, just walk up to someone and say it, then turn around and walk away. Enjoy!

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Germs and Jesus

The preacher’s little son was repeatedly told to go wash his hands before lunch. The youngster demanded to know why he had to wash his hands before every meal, so his mother said, “Son, there are germs on your hands.”

He looked his hands over carefully, then said, “I don’t see any.”

“You can’t see them, but they’re there,” his dad said firmly. “Now go wash your hands.”

The little boy stomped away, shaking his head and mumbling, “Germs and Jesus…Germs and Jesus…that’s all they talk about in this house and I’ve never seen either one!”

My writer friend, when you sit down to write, do you have a strong desire that readers will see Jesus in your story? How do you accomplish this goal? Is it possible?

What stories have helped you see Jesus better?

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Name your “Foes”

Take a piece if paper and write: Things I want to accomplish as a writer on one line. Then start listing your goals in any order or arrangement you want, just as long as you are honest with yourself. Rank them by priority or just randomly as they spill out our heart. Remember–be honest! Put your dreams on paper right in front of your eyes. And notice that I didn’t qualify the list with the constraints like this year…or…in the next 3-5 years…or…before my frayed mind comes completely unraveled and I wander around my yard in my underwear, giggling and making dandelion necklaces.

Now take a second sheet of paper and put this heading at the top: Things that are stopping me from reaching my writing goals.

The start listing them. One by One. Get to know your foes by name.

Fear. Doubt. Lack of money, time, or discipline. Unsupportive family and/or friends. Unresolved anger. These are just a few.

Finally, on a third sheet of paper write: My plan to overcome my “foes” and reach my goals.

Then, prayerfully and carefully, start writing out a plan to deal with each and every one of the “foes” that are in your way. This may take awhile, so take whatever time you need. It may take hours, days, or even weeks. But the investment of time may be one of the most liberating experiences of your writing life. If you can’t think of a way to overcome a certain foe, seek advice from other writers. But don’t stop until you have addressed every foe.

You can do this.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but If I can help in any way, please let me know. By the way, I’m working on my list also, so we’re in this together.

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Those Special Moments of Ministry

Dear God,

Thank you for allowing me to be your child.

Thank you that there is now no condemnation for me, because I am in Christ.

Thank you that you for allowing me to gather with others and teach your Word, for entrusting me with the soul-stirring honor of preaching the liberating truth that can lead others to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

And, thank you, for the power of story, and for the privilege of being a writer.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Friends, it is impossible for me to adequately describe the awe I feel when I stand to preach the Word of God. It is one of those “moments” that stands out as unique in my human existence. It embraces my mind, strength, and soul…leaving me exhausted but fulfilled.

Sometimes, during those moments right before I’m going to stand up and begin preaching, I’m so focused on how I intend to start the message that I simply don’t know much else. One time, a lady had called all the children to the front of the sanctuary for a little children’s lesson. That usually happened at some point in the order of service before the sermon. Well, while she was talking to the kids, my mind wandered to the opening few sentences I wanted to use to start my message when she was done. In other words, I zoned out of what she was saying and zoned in on the introduction to the message I’d prepared and would momentarily be preaching.

Then I heard her say, “And now, kids, we’ll have Pastor Larry lead us in the Lord’s Prayer.”

Folks, my mind went completely blank. Trust me, I reallydo know the Lord’s Prayer. I can usually say it in a couple different versions. But not at that moment. I couldn’t remember how it started to save my life! I mean, for Pete’s sake, that wasn’t what I was going to be preaching!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was rummaging through my mind in a panicked rush and all I was coming up with were things like, “Eeny, Meni, Miny, Mo” or “Who built the Ark? Noah, Noah,” or “Would you like fries with that?” And, until that moment, I hadn’t noticed how incredibly warm it was in the church! I mean, come on people, let’s crack open a few windows!”

I mean the words to the Lord’s Prayer may be printed in red in most people’s Bibles, but they were written with invisible ink in my mind that day.

Finally some dear merciful saint started the Lord’s Prayer and I was able to join in.

Yep, I can get zoned in and lose track of other things going on around me. I can do it when I’m teaching, preaching, and even when I’m writing. The moment of communication (spoken or written) grabs my attention and I’m captivated by the power of words…the stewardship of story.

And more than anything, I desperately want it to matter. I want people to hear what I have to say and read what I have to write because it can help them on the path to or with God. I believe that with all my heart.

Fellow communicators, what you are doing matters. So do it with all your might. Give of your best to the Master!

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Top 10 Unfortunate Responses to a Book Proposal

I just submitted my first book proposal. Now I’m worried how it’s going to be received. And that led me to today’s Top 10 list. Here’s what my weary and worried mind came up with:

Top 10 Unfortunate Responses to a Book Proposal:

# 10:  “ROFLOL! By the way, when will you sending the real proposal?”

#  9:  “Thanks for letting me read your book proposal. I haven’t slept this good in a long time!”

#  8:  “Were you drunk when you wrote this?”

#  7:  “Dear Mr. Timm, you can’t list Jim Rubart as an endorser of your book just because he said ‘Hello’ to you at a conference. And Nancy Mehl said the restraining order is not just a joke. Additionally, you can’t say that Chevy Chase is co-author simply because you sort of look like him.”

#  6:  “Your proposal was greatly appreciated. Our parrot, Mr. Snarky, has diarrhea, and we are out of newspaper.

#  5:  “Having read your book proposal, I’ve believe the best way to fix the problems within the pages is to hold the entire proposal by the upper left hand corner, and then set the bottom right hand corner on fire.

#  4:  “After reading your proposal, the editors of four publishing houses have met and unanimously agreed that you’re insane. Have a nice day.”

#  3:  “Please be informed that our legal department has carefully studied the marketing plan you submitted with your proposal–along with the photographs and drawings you unfortunately  provided–and we have determined that all of your ideas are either illegal, physically impossible, or would require surgery to undo.”

#  2:  “Dear Larry, while it’s true that Dr. Seuss wrote some really suspenseful stories, and although we agree that some might think of The Grinch that Stole Christmas as a real spine-tingler, you need to send us more recent comparable titles right away.”

#  1:  “I’m sorry to report that a swarm of dung beetles has rolled your book proposal away. Better luck next time.”

 

Okay, friends…if I get any of these responses I’ll let you know. Have a nice day.

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The lone writer

I’m blessed to have the support of family and friends as I travel on my writer’s journey. My wife is a source of great strength to me and my writing, even though she doesn’t read a word of it. LOL! Seriously! I write suspense and my dear wife doesn’t like to get scared to death. But she goes out of her way to cheer for me and let me know that she supports me as a writer. She, and the kids, share the ups and downs with me. They sacrifice time and money for me to be a writer.

But there are some writers who trudge through the ups and downs of writing without the strength and support from those closest to them. And that breaks my heart.

The solitude and monotony of writing can be hard enough without a writer feeling that their work is not respected and their passion is not shared by the people they love. The lows are lower alone.

This simple post is my attempt to get you to do two things:

  1. Make a list of the people who support & encourage you as a writer. And, starting today, take a few moments and send a note of thanks to one person a day until you have written them all.
  2. Be an encouragement to other writers, especially those who have confided to you that they feel alone and discouraged. Listen to what other writers say, because sooner or later a broken heart will reveal itself. Pray for them. Help them. Become their cheering section, even if it means you’re the only one sitting there at the moment.

If you are one of those who feels alone, please remember that God loves you and will never forsake you. And if I can do anything to help you, please let me know.

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Three directions of a writer’s life

A writer’s time is precious. Duties pile up, deadlines taunt and torture, and demands play tug-of-war with your attention span. The fact is a writer must walk the writing journey with the ability to maintain a 3-way focus.

*A writer must look UPWARD: Writing Christian fiction is not a task that should be attempted without the realization that we need the strength only God can supply. It is essential that we be intentional in our discipleship. Writing is a stewardship from God, and good stewards stay in close contact with their Master. We should seek His face in personal worship on a regular basis during the week. Let us love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let us be far more in love with His Word than we are with our own words. Let’s spend time in His Book before we spend time in our own.

*A writer must look INWARD:  Every one of us needs to cultivate the habit of taking a personal inventory of our writing life. We should be brutally honest with ourselves and seek answers to questions like: Why am I writing? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What motivates me to write? What stops me from writing? How can I grow as a writer? What sacrifices do I need to make? Good writers never stop learning. And great writing doesn’t happen by accident.

*A writer must look OUTWARD:  If we see our writing as a service to our readers, we will craft stories that will connect with them. In a real sense, we have a responsibility to many people–our readers, agents, editors, and even to other writers. I would not be as far along in my writing journey if it were not for the gracious help of other writers. Even though busy with their own writing responsibilities, several writers have taken time to help me with mine. I won’t forget that kindness, and will do my best to serve & encourage other writers when I can. Writers need to remember we are part of a community of writers.

What do you think?

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Top 10 Save-the-ACFW-Journal fundraiser Ideas

Several months ago I shared this list on the ACFW email loop, but never put it on my blog. Sooooo, in light of the announcement from ACFW’s Executive Board about discontinuing the Journal due to cost concerns, I’ve decided to post the list here. Many ACFW members have enjoyed reading the Journal, and I still consider having an article in the premier issue a highpoint in my writing life. But the only way to save the Journal is for money to be raised to keep it in publication. Therefore I humbly submit:

The Top 10 Save-the-ACFW-Journal fundraiser ideas:

# 10:  Request a grant from the Federal Government…they seem to have unlimited amounts of “free” money to give away.

#  9:  Create a “Mug-of-the-Month” Club where ACFW members sell their unwashed coffee mugs to each other, with the proceeds going to the Journal.

# 8:  Sell a CD of the ACFW Executive Board singing their favorite show tunes.

# 7:  A telethon featuring ACFW authors acting out scenes from one of their books, while viewers call in and pay them to stop it.

# 6:  An online auction of the “dancing elephant” from the conference in St. Louis a few years ago.

# 5:  Open a museum of “floating body parts” and charge admission. (However, it shouldn’t cost an arm and an leg….bwahahaha…uh hmmm…I digress)

# 4:  Instead of the traditional pitching sessions that happen at every conference, make each writer pay an entry fee to stand on stage and read their manuscript out loud in front of a panel of agents, editors, and cranky reviewers. Panel members get to scream, “Rejection!” and shoot red paint balls at the writer when they spot a problem in the manuscript. The writer that survives the longest gets a contract and also wins one of the mugs mentioned in #9.

# 3:  Have me, Michael Ehret, and Peter Leavell do a benefit opera. We’ll call ourselves the Track-Change Tenors and dress in red tuxedos, complete with red cowboy hats and red cowboy boots. Undoubtedly Michael will demand that red bow ties be optional.

# 2:  A pay-per-view Mixed Martial Arts octagon challenge between writers and the agents or editors who have rejected them in the past (complete with tights and stage names)

# 1:  As much as this one gives me the dry heaves, I recognize that it may work since the majority of ACFW’s membership is female…How about selling a Men of ACFW Kilt Calendar?

I hope this helps. And I pray that #1 will never be necessary.

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