Archive for February, 2015

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Simmer Starters – Feb. 27, 2015

February 27, 2015

Following Christ on Social Media: 15 Questions for Self-Examination (Kevin Halloran) – Great list of questions to ask ourselves about our social media use.

Why Things Often Don’t Make Sense (DesiringGod Blog) – Ohhhh, this is beautiful.  “And this is the most real story that exists, for this story is reality. All the characters involved are real. All the tragedies and comedies are real. The cosmic war is as real as it gets. The stakes are real, the risks are real, the dangers are real, the punishments are real and the rewards are real. The story is so creative that it is by definition creation; it is so imaginative that its images are real. All our stories, all our artistic endeavors are merely copies and shadows, pointers to or distortions of the Great Story, the Great Composition.”

Inviting Children Into the Prayer Closet (Your Mom Has a Blog) – This is a convicting reminder to me to pray more with and for my children!

Transcript from The Briefing, 02-26-15 (Al Mohler) – I often appreciate Al Mohler’s thoughts on the news and popular culture, and this is one of those cases.  There are lots of heavy thoughts here on the growing trend of euthanasia in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Laws of the Land (Annie Douglas Lima) – Just for some laughs, here is a list of laws 5th graders wrote for their invented countries. 😀

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Love Is… – 1 Corinthians 13 Series Introduction

February 25, 2015

love seriesAt the beginning of this Valentine’s month, I decided that I needed more love in my life.

By which I mean – my lack of love was painfully evident to me.  It was evident in how I spoke, thought, and acted every day, particularly toward my little children.

If there’s anyone in the world you think you love perfectly, it’s your babies, right??  But the Bible is clear that “love” is an action word…not a feeling.  As we’ve all heard,

Love is patient and kind…

Patient and kind?  So many days, I am anything but patient and kind!!  By the very definition of that passage, right from the get-go, I “have not love.”  This was a convicting and depressing realization, and for awhile I was bitterly disappointed in myself for not living up to expectations.

Then I remembered that this is what Christ came for – to die for me, to take my sins away, and He sent His Spirit to dwell in my heart to conform me to His image!  I am not a hopeless case; I’m a work in progress like every other believer throughout time.  I can and will learn and grow, in His strength.

I yearned to have a heart of love more like my Savior’s.

It was time to really study a well-known Scripture passage – 1 Corinthians 13.  Most Christians know it.  Even unbelievers who have never cracked open a Bible have probably heard part of it at weddings!  It’s so familiar that it’s easy to gloss over it as we read, rather than truly digesting it and applying it to our lives.  I decided to delve into it this month: to study it deeply, repeatedly, and carefully, and memorize it as best I could so that I could carry it with me always.

Long story short, this has been a beautiful and mind-blowing experience.

The text has opened up to me in ways it never did before, I feel like I understand it far better than I ever have, and best of all, God has used this study to reveal to me huge swaths of “weeds” in my heart…overgrowth of sin choking out love.  Now that I can see the weeds, I can uproot them, and water and tend that beautiful, first fruit of the Spirit He means for His children to grow – love.

I would like to share my musings and wrestle them into written form, so I plan to post a sporadic series here about my findings.  I hope my thoughts will be edifying to my readers here, as well. 🙂

Here is the entire passage.  Lord willing, I hope to come back next week and discuss the first few verses to start the series.

I CORINTHIANS 13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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Have you ever intensively studied a Scripture passage for a specific purpose?  What passage was it, and how did it affect your life?

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Simmer Starters – Feb. 20, 2015

February 20, 2015

In this week’s Simmer Starters, there are lots of links about literature and the state of fiction.

Why are Christian Movies So Painfully Bad? (Brandon Ambrosino) – Even if you don’t think Christian movies are all bad, there are some fascinating quotes in here about common problems in Christian storytelling.  “It isn’t problematic that Christians ‘borrow ideas’ from Hollywood and put their own spin on them. Every film genre does this. But given the Christian doctrine of creation, it is certainly surprising that so many Christian filmmakers — and artists in general — would choose to mimic someone else’s vision, rather than cultivate their own.”

Does Fiction Matter? Fiction, Fantasy, and Social Change (Kristen Lamb) – “To assert that any book that’s sold that many copies is just a story, in my [point of view], is naive and ignores almost all of human history. Societies have always been defined and redefined by its stories. Fiction IS NOT INERT. Why do you think dictators shoot the writers and burn the books first?”

Religion in Fiction (David Farland) – This article looks at religious fiction from an outside perspective and advises authors on how to write successfully to a religious audience.  The blogger suggests, “…Religious readers usually don’t want to be challenged. Religious literature is comfort literature. It reinforces, strengthens, and builds up the reader’s own belief system. That’s the draw. So anything that negates that will tend to disenfranchise readers.”  Food for thought, that!

Infographic: What Age Do Writers Publish Their Most Famous Works? (Lincoln Michel) – This was a fun infographic!

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life (NY Times) – This is worth a read.  The world can be an ugly, mean place, especially in the internet age when a single comment online can destroy your life forever.  This article feels like it goes hand in hand with my blog post last week about showing grace to people online.  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Proverbs 10:12

Top 10 Tips for Being a Bestselling Author (Sophie Kinsella) – I love all these tips!  Especially #3 and #10.

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5 Things I Want Aspiring Young Authors to Know

February 17, 2015

Aspiring Young Authors

This post is for the young writers of the world!

And I admit it – technically I’m still a “young writer” myself.  I’m not even a quarter of a century old yet!  😛  But I’m thinking specifically of the teen and preteen writers among us.

Guys, I’ve been where you are now.  It was one of the best times of my writer life – all about exploration and the joy of story!

I’ve been writing since I could staple paper together and pencil words inside.  It’s always been a part of me.  Maybe that’s also true for you, or maybe you found your love for writing recently.  Either way, if you’re an aspiring young author, here are some things I want you to know, because I wish someone had told them to me long ago…

1. Your eagerness for storytelling is a gift of God.

To some of us, storytelling is as natural as breathing.  We tend to forget that not everyone has characters, plot lines, high stakes, and entire worlds kicking around their imaginations.

This is a gift!

Don’t be afraid to write the stories that excite you, move you, and interest you, even if other people don’t take those stories seriously or tell you that writing (or that genre) is a waste of time.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, either!  The world is full of readers, and they love all different kinds of books.

God gave you this desire to write, and furthermore, He has given these stories to no one but you.  Your life is unique, your experiences and perspective are unique, and God gave you these stories – no one else can tell them the way you do.  Embrace that!  Seek Him constantly, and earnestly pray that you may serve Him with how and what you write.

Tell your stories fearlessly for His glory, praising the Author of Life for making you creative in His image.

Me when I was  about 13 (far left), with one of my many story folders, talking art and story with my sister (right) and friend (center). :)

Me when I was about 13 (far left), with one of my many story folders, talking art and story with my sister (right) and a friend (center). 🙂

2. This is only the beginning. Truly.

You probably have daydreams of being the next famous teenage bestselling author (I certainly did).  In reality…that’s probably never going to happen.  Sorry. 😉  If you are serious about writing, you’re not after fame, glory, or money – and you’re in this for the long haul.

Read broadly.  Read lots.  Dabble in any genre that interests you.  Read books about writing.  Try to finish the books you start writing. Study what makes the books you love so good.  Don’t be afraid to query and submit your stories!  But don’t put all your energy into publishing at this point.  Right now, your goal is to learn and have fun.

It might take years to develop your skill to the point where your stories are publishable.  As you get older your writing will grow richer, deeper, and stronger.  Even if it takes years for your books to “go anywhere,” that time will be well spent.  Trust me, you will look back and be grateful you didn’t land a publishing deal when you were much younger.  I am so thankful that daydream didn’t come true for me.  My books were not ready.  They’re still not ready!  But that’s okay – Lord willing, I will keep growing and improving.  My books will “go places” in His perfect timing.

Don’t focus on dreams of young fame, fun as that could be. Fill your head with good stories – and write, write, write.  Your best books will emerge with time and practice. 

(Image from teen.com.) Christopher Paolini, whose first book was published when he was 19. It probably won’t happen to you, much as I hate to say it!

3. Find the RIGHT critics (and learn how to take critique).

I have shed many a tear over “scathing” critiques from friends.  Please, take it from me, and don’t treat your friends as professional critics!  Even if they write stories too, they will be biased because you are their friend.  If they’re around your age, they probably don’t know any more about writing and publishing than you do.  Also, they may unintentionally twist your story to fit their own vision by campaigning for the changes they want.  Be wary of making big changes to your projects because of advice from friends, and don’t let the value of your story rest on whether your friends love it.  Even if they hate it, that doesn’t make it a bad story.

Similarly, be wary of treating your parents as the ultimate critics.  They are probably biased because they love you and will always be impressed by your work, even if it needs a lot of editing. 😉

Seek out older, experienced writers who can give you constructive criticism.  Look for writer groups and communities where you can get good advice.

And always remember, your book is not YOU.  It is a project, a product, and it is not perfect.  Accept critiques with an open mind, consider the suggestions others give you – and don’t let it crush you.  There is no reason to be defensive. If you don’t like the suggestions, politely thank the person who gave them to you, and do your own thing!

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4. Your story’s NOT going to get stolen (but think before you post it online).

A lot of young writers (and their parents) are anxious about plagiarism.  My mom was so concerned about it that she refused to let me share my works with any more friends after a certain point!

Basically, you don’t have to worry about this – because it never happens to aspiring authors.  Here is a very helpful article with a video that says this better than I could.

However, there is one thing to be aware of.  Sharing your work in a public place online counts as self-publishing it.  I’m talking about putting it on your blog, on a public forum, or anywhere on a website where the general public can access it. Sharing your work like that will disqualify it from being accepted by most publishing houses, because they will not generally take books that have already been published elsewhere.

You don’t have to worry about plagiarism unless you’re already super famous!  But be aware that posting publicly online counts as self-publishing.  Unless that’s your plan, stick to sharing in private settings.

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5. At some point, it’s probably going to get hard.

Chances are, when you’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing, you will reach a point where it stops being fun and becomes hard, HARD work.  You will feel like you’re navigating around a billion tiny rules, and you’ll struggle to remember and implement them all.  It’s overwhelming, and frustrating, and not enjoyable.

Push through that!

Every serious writer goes through this phase – some probably more than once!  It is a learning phase.  Eventually you will reach a place where the “rules” you’ve learned become second nature and you can create freely again.  You’ve been busy building a strong foundation for your writing.  It will become fun again, I promise!

When the going gets tough…keep writing.  You will get back to the fun again!  And your stories will be better because of it.

You'll get there!!  Just keep swimming.

You’ll get there!! Just keep swimming.

Some Good Resources for Young Authors

Go Teen Writers

Helping Writers Become Authors

Resources for Young Writers – The Creative Penn

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If you’re a young writer, what do you write?  What are your stories about?  🙂

Fellow “older” writers, what are some things you wish someone had told you about writing when you were young or had less experience?  Please share, in the comments!

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Simmer Starters – February 13, 2015

February 13, 2015

I don’t have as many links today as usual, but a couple of them are lengthy.  Enjoy!

How To Break Through Small Talk and Turn Strangers Into Friends (Puttylike.com) – I hate small talk, but I stink at breaking through it to deeper topics with people I don’t know very well!  I’m determined to study how great conversationalists do it, and grow in this ability, so I enjoyed this article.  It accurately pegs fear and insecurity as the root cause behind shallow conversation.

Bible Study: Death and the Naked Man (For Glory and For Beauty) – This is a neat new blog studying the role and symbolism of clothing throughout Scripture.  This post focuses on Adam and Eve with their fig leaves, and the skins God gave them instead.  “We cannot manufacture any style, color, or fabric that is good enough to put us right with God. There have been many, many people over the years who have tried to do this, but it’s impossible. God desires our obedience. And if we are not leaning on Him for our salvation, no hem will be long enough, no color sober enough, no jeans ragged enough to protect us from His wrath.  It didn’t work for Adam and Eve, and it won’t work for us.”

The Real Reason 50 Shades is So Wildly Popular (LifeSite News) – This is a thoughtful and hopeful theory about 50 Shades, Twilight, and other shallow, abusive romance stories.

I Know God Loves Me, But Does He Like Me? (The Blazing Center) – “When Jesus first saved me I believed God forgave my sins. Gradually I came to believe God loved me. But perhaps because of my upbringing or my own lack of affection for others I wasn’t sure God liked me.”