"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Divine Heartburn

      Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience." Thanks to Tricia Goyer for that quote.
      Luke recounted in Chapter 24, vss. 13-32, the story of two disciples who traveled to Emmaus after Jesus' resurrection, and how He appeared to them in the way, concealing His identity. While walking, He opened their minds to the scriptures concerning His death and resurrection, causing their hearts to burn within them. Not until He broke bread with them and blessed it, did He allow them to see who He was.
      In the same way, when He, through His Holy Spirit, brings home a truth to us, we will report how our hearts burned within us. We won't necessarily know it's Jesus speaking to us at the time, but truth's effect will be the same.
      I'm aching for my place at the Wedding Feast, when I'll finally see Jesus in the fullness of who He is.
      Let's pray that we'll walk close enough with Jesus that we will experience His divine heart-burn.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

No Fences

      Here's a riddle: What keeps a herd of cattle from trying to break through pasture fences?
      Answer: Plenty of food, water and shelter inside the fence.
      You're right. That's not funny. But it is true.
      If you read much in the New Testament epistles, you'll find a frequent theme among Paul's letters. It's all about the Law and the Spirit, and love's grace and forgiveness. Now isn't that lovely? But what does it all mean?
      Let's go back to that herd of cattle(if you can stand the smell). Smack in the middle of the pasture is a nice, warm barn with all the alfalfa and sweet, fresh water they could ever want. The farmer opens the gate and drives the cattle into the pasture.
      What happens if he leaves the gate open? They wander back out, of course, even though the warm, inviting barn waits just a mile away. So the farmer closes the gate and locks it securely.
      With the open gate no longer an option, the cattle put their heads down to forage on the rough, barren earth. Eventually, some of them find the alfalfa-filled manger and water trough, with soft, clean straw for their beds--everything in the world they could want. Will those cattle return to the fence to forage? Not likely. They have something far more satisfying.
      The other cattle, however, continue stretching their necks through the fence, trying the reach the meager blades of grass just outside. They push against the fence until they manage to loosen a rail here or there. Eventually, they weaken the fence enough to break through to freedom, and the wild predators that wait in hiding.
      The farmer would love to go out in search of those wandering cattle, but he has to remain close to feed and water the ones who stayed. And he has to guard them from the predators that stalk them.
      Did the fence keep those satisfied, comfortable cattle inside the pasture? At first maybe. But now they're unlikely to wander. So what did the fence accomplish for them? It enabled them to find what the farmer provided for them. It didn't keep the other cattle safe, though. Because they didn't find the farmer's provision, they will wander until they perish.
      In the same way, the Law doesn't save anyone. It only points us to the Savior, who provides all our needs out of His abundant love. We who stay close to our Savior forget all about the Law. It has no bearing on us because we're happy where we are. And if we know what's good for us, we'll not go back to the fence. See Galatians 5:16-25

Friday, January 26, 2007

If The Shoe Fits

Have Glass Slipper, Need Prince...

If the Shoe Fits is the second book in the Sassy Sistahood Novels. The first in the series was Made of Honor (Steeple Hill, Jan. 2006).

In all my thirty-five years, I, shoe designer Rochelle Gardner, have never had so many men interested in me! My teen son's dad is back in my life after suffering from amnesia (yes, really). The church deacon has had his eye on me for years (and never said a word). And the young waiter (from the restaurant I've visited for singles' events) is trying to steal my heart. I've been struggling with my faith, trying to figure out which man God has chosen for me and wondering if I have the courage to step forward, on my not-so-pretty feet, to accept love. It's almost too much for the Sassy Sistahood to handle, but my girlfriends always have my back!
      Visit author Marilyn Griffith here: http://marilynngriffith.typepad.com/rhythmsofgrace/

Thirsty ... Again?

      Mom didn't know I was thirsty until I fussed about it. But as soon as she learned I had a need she met it in a timely manner.
      God knew His people Israel were thirsty in the desert of Shur, and He already had a plan to give them water--before they fussed about it. Yet, by the time they reached Marah, they were ready to lynch Moses because of their dry tongues. Though God had always met their every need, they assumed He would let them die of thirst.(Exodus 15:22-27)
      What a stiff-necked people! Why couldn't they have the kind of faith we have?
      Actually, they did. Let's examine our faith-history for a moment. When did we last participate in a grousing session at work? Okay, if not that, when did we last gripe about a supervisor, or some coworker not pulling his part of the load, or our pitifully poor pay rate, or that idiot in traffic, our our spouse failing to meet--or even understand--our needs.
      When was the last time we reached Marah, and fussed about the bitter water? We love to point out the Israelites' idolatry, their lapses of faith, their legalism. And by castigating them, we inflate our own self-esteem.
      Yes, they were idolaters. But did they spend lavishly on their cars, their properties, their toys, their savings, without first tithing to God's work or contributing to others' needs?
      Yes, they had lapses of faith. But did they fall into a funky depression when contemplating their unfulfilling jobs or marriages?
      Yes, they were legalistic. But did they criticize their weaker brethren for their meticulous standards, or their more liberal brethren for having no standards? Did they joke about those who didn't share their standards? Did they mentally excommunicated a brother because he stumbled, his lifestyle, or his hairstyle?
      We might well listen anew to Jesus' oft-repeated words: But why do you look on the chip in your brother's eye, but do not consider the beam in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Brother, allow me to take out the chip in your eye, not yourself seeing the log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the chip in your brother's eye. (Luke 6:41-42 LITV)
      I didn't say that. Jesus did. And He didn't say it was optional. In fact, when he instructed his students in prayer, he said in part, ...and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 LITV)
      As usual, He said it best.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Live Today

      John Steinbeck wrote, “When I face the desolate impossibility of writing 500 pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day's works is all I can permit myself to contemplate.”
      Jesus concluded one of his lessons with this thought: Then do not be anxious for tomorrow. For the morrow will be anxious of itself. Sufficient to each day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34 LITV) Even John Steinbeck grasped this Biblical truth, applied to writing. It is a truth any faithful disciple must apply to his discipline; a truth pretenders can't grasp.
      On that same theme, James' observation helps define the spirit of Jesus' command: Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16 NAS77)
      How often have I heard wannabe writers and false brethren(yes, and politicians) claim vast achievements yet to come? Dream, plan, execute, but don't presume on God's sovereignty.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Nonfiction vs. Fiction

      Sol Stein is a brilliant man, but one thing he wrote wouldn't prove that. In his book Sol Stein on Writing, he stated,
Nonfiction conveys information.
Fiction evokes emotion.
      Oversimplification is the false economy of writing. Stein's simple distinction between nonfiction and fiction doesn't account for the "Aha Factor" of well-written nonfiction, or the emotion elicited by a difficult truth. And it neglects the skillful fiction writer's ability to vividly set the story's scene without overloading the reader with information.
      No, the distinction between the two is far more fundamental than that. It's the forest you can't see for the trees, the information you can't see for the story, and the story that's hidden in the information.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Arms of Deliverance: A Story of Promise

      Tricia Goyer did it again. Arms of Deliverance captured me from page-one. And don't let the cover fool ya. Though I'm a card-carrying male, the two beautiful ladies on the cover dissuaded me not a bit. One look at the cool B-17 pictured in the distance was all it took to get me past those gorgeous babes.
      If you're a proud, Arian, white-supremacist, maybe you'd better not pick this one up. You probably couldn't handle the unabated truth Tricia tells about the Third Reich. Besides historical accuracy, she relates a compelling story of passionate men and women--passionate about professional competition, love, patriotism, and getting the news story right.

      Below, read the book's back-cover blurb to put my impressions into perspective.

      Europe, 1944. Katrine, a Czech Jew, is so successful in her attempt to pass as an Aryan that she finds herself dating a Nazi officer. Having convinced him of her genetic purity, the officer sends her to stay at a Lebensborn home -- a Nazi breeding program in which children are raised and indoctrinated by the state.
      Meanwhile, rival American reporters Lee and Mary land assignments on the frontlines of war-torn Europe -- Lee joins troops sailing for Normandy, while Mary's destiny lies in the cramped quarters of a B-17 bearing down on Berlin. Before the presses roll, their lives will be indelibly marked by a caring American navigator, brave French resistors, and a maniacal Nazi officer. Arms of Deliverance is a story of unexpected redemption.
      Bottom line? Just read the book.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good Enough

When I read e-mails, instant messages or blog posts written by those who identify with the writing community, I expect polished, creative prose that will bring credit to the author and her God(in the case of a Christian author). Tragically, I seldom find that level of excellence. It's as if "good enough" is good enough. The truth is, ... whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.(Colossians 3:17 NAS77) and, Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.(1 Corinthians 10:31 NAS77) Everything we do reflects on God our Savior. Whether or not we ever publish, we must write our best.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Pagan's Nightmare

      A Pagan's Nightmare is not for the religiously faint-of-heart. And especially not for Southern Baptists who take their religion very seriously. Ray Blackston exhibits the rare ability to sound irreverent while dishing out copious portions of hard truth. This is a book about a book written by a cynical agnostic named Larry Hutch, who is that way because of "Christians" in his past who have burned him.
      If you profess Christ, and this book makes you uncomfortable with your religious culture, Ray has succeeded in his mission. If, however, you profess Christ, and this book makes you fire off unkind correspondence to the author, you, my dear brother or sister, need to examine your heart to see if maybe you love your religion more than your Savior.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


She did it again. Nancy and I innocently picked up Tangerine, and Marilyn Griffith spun her web on us. She has an uncanny way of making us care about her characters. With another story about Garments of Praise, a faith-based, New York fashion design firm, Marilyn spins the story of Jeane and her long-lost hubby, and how they thrash about trying to put their extinct marriage back together--or not. Just read the book, you'll love it. But keep one thing in mind. In our pre-publication copy, the first few chapters were a bit belabored, as if Marilyn started cold and warmed up to the story. Don't let that stop you, though. They've probably fixed it in the final version, so read on. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0800730429 http://marilynngriffith.typepad.com/rhythmsofgrace/