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He Who Seeks


midnight guest parableBy Frederick Buechner

In Luke, Jesus tells a strange story. At midnight an unexpected guest arrives. He is hungry, but you have nothing to feed him . So you go to the house of a friend to borrow some food. “Don’t bother me,” the friend says. “The door’s locked. The children are all asleep. I can’t give you anything now. Go home.” But you keep on pestering him. You are so persistent that he finally gets up and gives you what you want.

Then Jesus adds, “For every one who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

And his point seems to be that the secret of prayer is persistence. Keep at it, keep speaking into the darkness, and even if nothing comes, speak again and then again. And finally the answer is given.

It may not be the kind of answer that we want — the kind of stopgap peace, the kind of easy security, the kind of end to loneliness that we are apt to pray for.

Christ never promises peace in the sense of no more struggle and suffering. Instead, he helps us to struggle and suffer as he did, in love, for one another. Christ does not give us security in the sense of something in this world, some cause, some principle, some value, which is forever. Instead, he tells us that there is nothing in this world that is forever, all flesh is grass. He does not promise us unlonely lives.

His own life speaks loud of how, in a world where there is little love, love is always lonely.

Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself.

If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.

Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat

 
 

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God’s Handwriting


God's Handwriting

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Quotes

 

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A Christian Ghostwriter – Not Always A Scandal


ghostwriterI recently followed a link to an article that lambasted the idea of Christians hiring ghostwriters. The title, “The Scandal of Christian Ghostwriters,” pretty much laid out the idea of the article. It opens with an inciting question:

“Are some of the most cherished books in your personal Christian library written by ghostwriters, some of whom may be homosexuals, atheists, and New Agers?”

Wow. The writer definitely knows how to use an opening “hook.” The article goes on to state, “A tragic and disreputable hoax is being perpetrated on unsuspecting Christians. And you might be one of the chief victims.” A verse is then added, for biblical emphasis: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth. that shall he also reap.” 

I understand the main concern of the writer is that Christians buy literature expecting one thing and instead finding a book that “may contain poisonous and insidious views hostile to Christianity imbedded in its text.”

But I strongly disagree with the idea that hiring a ghostwriter is a scandal, even for Christians. Maybe even especially for Christians. It is the responsibility of the Christian author to find a Christian ghostwriter, one who holds the same set of beliefs and would write in the same spirit, threading in to the story the concepts of faith, love, sacrifice, or salvation.

I’ve ghostwritten books for a number of Christian authors, some more well-known, and many getting started in the writing world. Most of them felt that they lacked the needed skills to write a book, yet they knew they had a story that needed to be told. A memoir or personal journey of faith that brought them to know Christ in a deeper way than ever before. A message of purpose or a portrait of Christ swirling in their heart, but that they couldn’t quite transfer to paper. Other times, I have worked with authors who simply lacked the time to complete a book, or were going through some personal challenge and needed help to meet a publishing deadline.

I feel privileged to have worked with each of the writers for whom I have ghostwritten. I am blessed that they have chosen me to help them tell their story, and relay the message God has put on their heart to share. The author of the article asks, “shouldn’t the cover jacket of these books have a warning label or notice” regarding the books that have been ghostwritten. I don’t think it would be necessary, or even ideal, for my name to be written on my clients’ book, because it is not my story. Everyone has a story to tell, and it is the author’s story.

Some authors I’ve worked with like to be intricately involved; others have given me a more general outline and let me run with it. But each time, it has been the message of their heart, their soul. I’ve served as a grammatical huntsman of sorts, finding descriptive words and putting the dots and dashes in the right places. The author whose name is on the front cover is still the one who needs to ensure the theme or the story line follows what they had in mind, and that the message has not been lost somewhere in the forest.

The article conveys that the bottom line is the money. It states, “It thus becomes crystal clear why publishers and celebrity authors conspire to produce ghostwritten books. The reason is simple: money, money, money!” The writer labels the ghostwriting “business” lucrative, unethical, and dishonest. In my personal experience, for 100 percent of the books I’ve ghostwritten, it was not “about the money” for me or the author.

It was about the message. Miracle, purpose, healing. God’s love. God’s care. God’s provision.

I can’t speak for all authors. I can’t speak for all ghostwriters. But I truly believe that ghostwriting is a benefit to the world of literature. It helps those who have a great message to convey, and don’t have the time or the skill to put it on paper. It helps those who, like me, feel a calling to help others share the message God has put on their heart. Ghostwriting can, and should, be a blending of concept and craft, theme and theory, to create a unique story that breathes with a life of its own. A story that, hopefully, somehow, at some level, conveys the message of the Author, and tells a part of the Greatest Story.

 

[If you’re interested, you can read the full article: “The Scandal of Ghostwriting.” He does make some points, but for the record, ghostwriting is not always a “scandal.” And if you have experience in ghostwriting (or have ever read a book that you realized was ghostwritten), what are your thoughts on the ghostwriting issue? I’d love to hear from you.]

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2015 in The Craft of Writing

 

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Measuring the Worth of a Word


words

We’re one month into the year. Each week, each month, each season, seems to fly past more rapidly than the one before it. Often with fewer things to show for the time gone by … at least it seems. But perhaps more depend on how we quantify accomplishments and deeds. Perhaps it’s not a matter of word count reached on my latest Work in Progress, or whether I manage to write a blog post per week. Perhaps it’s not about Facebook page likes or blog followers. Not even about works completed, or published, or copies sold.

But then what is it about? If my worth is not determined by my gains in the world of writing (or teaching, or whatever my chosen world), then what measures success? How can I know my life is worth the living and breathing, the laughter and crying, the wins and the losses, if not by the quantifiable methods I so often cling to?

What determines my worth?

Maybe the better question is, who determines worth? And maybe, when I’m brave enough to ask that question, I will find the courage to admit that I already know the answer.

That success by measurable means is far less satisfying, and far more fleeting, than many would admit. That worth is not always a thing determined, but it is intrinsic. That He who calls me worth calls me precious. Calls me loved. And He does not keep count of manuscripts completed or submissions accepted. But He numbers the hairs of my head, He stores the tears I cry, He bids me believe in my worth. More than sparrows. More than lilies. More than the accomplishments I claim as the days turn.

It’s February. One month of 2015 is gone. Soon this month will be past too … and the next. And the next.

God help me make the most of every moment, but to remember that what I make of a moment and what You make of it are not always the same. Let me see the days through Your eyes, that at the end of them, I lived for moments of truest worth. In the Name of He who is worthy, the Heir of all Things, amen.

 

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A Prayer for Comfort


I attended a funeral last weekend. I wanted to go, but I also didn’t. I was afraid. Afraid of not knowing what to say. How to comfort the hurting family members. As if, somehow, I could.

Maybe I try too hard to fix things. To work things out. To know exactly what to do and how to do it. To read life carefully. Too carefully.

But some things can’t be fixed. Not here. Not now. Sometimes tears must be cried before the comfort comes. Sometimes many tears.

My dad told me yesterday, sometimes just your presence, and your prayers, are the best thing you can offer to a hurting heart. Yesterday I offered my presence. My timid, unsure presence. Such a small thing in the face of death and the pain it causes.

Today I offer a prayer. Also such a small thing. But somehow, perhaps, calling on the Giver of Life, of Comfort, of Hope, will do more than anything my presence, my words, could ever do.

I hope so. I pray so.

 

Lord, I woke up with the verse running through my mind, entrenched deeply as though it was something I dreamed, but I can’t remember. “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

I don’t remember any dreams, but I know it was the verse that the Father spoke of yesterday at the funeral of a young man who left this life too soon. They were the words You spoke at the grave of Your friend, who left this life too soon. You raised him from the dead.

Father, Your power is not limited. You can do the same today. You have, time and again, worked miracles in this age. So when You don’t, when death’s finality resounds and the curtain is drawn, it conveys a painful message that is hard to understand.

You have a purpose. And though we cannot see or know, that purpose will be accomplished.

But it seems so harsh to say or conclude that You have a purpose in death. Perhaps, if nothing else, it is the effects of a fallen world. A world of sorrow and the harsh reality that Satan is prince of the world, of its pursuits and the way it has minimized those things that truly matter, and glorified those thing that have no meaning. No wonder we grow so weary, so confused, in the midst of this.

God, bring hope to those who are hurting. Bring strength to those who are weak. Your strength. Bring comfort to the weary and let them rest their heads on Your shoulder. Lord, You promised to glorify Your name. Glorify Your name now, even in the midst of sorrow and death. May Your name, oh Lord, be glorified, and let it bring hope and Light and Life to those who are lost, hurting, and broken.

You are the resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in You, though dead, shall live. We were all dead in sin until Your light broke through the darkness of our souls and brought life. So that we who cross the great divide might step from life to Life.

Thank You for that life. Thank You for that hope.

Bring Light to those who wake in darkness.

Bring Hope to those who have none.

Bring Life. Oh Lord, bring Life.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Heartache & Hope, Prayer

 

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The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate

The Great Christian Spec-Fic Debate

Bonita Jewel:

Great insight from Avily Jerome on the Speculative Fiction genre in Christian literature.
I’m still figuring out my genre … and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fit myself into a single one, but for anyone who is wondering what speculative fiction is, or how it fits in with Christian literature, this is a good read.

Originally posted on The New Authors Fellowship:

spec fic

There has been a lot of debate lately among Christian Spec-Fic authors about the Christian Spec-Fic market, how it relates to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), the secular market, and the market in general, and how the genre as a whole is failing. There are those who, as Ben Wolf detailed in this post, and Mike Duran discusses here, feel as though the Spec-Fic genre is badly under-represented at the ACFW conference and other similar conferences. The discussions on Facebook that led to these posts, and the following discussions in the comments cover virtually every opinion on the matter. There are those who are all for conferences like Realm Makers and the opportunity it provides for like-minded writers to converge and learn. There are those who go into how much benefit the ACFW provides for writers of all kinds, and those who point out that it’s a…

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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The Unbalanced Balance


juggling pinsOne of my ongoing struggles is with balance. I sometimes feel like a tightrope walker. Sometime like a circus clown with a juggling act … a clown because if anyone were to look closely enough, they would realize how comical it really is. “Why are you trying to juggle that?” I’m not sure if I would have the answer. So I hope no one looks too closely while I keep up the act.

And I get frustrated when I drop a pin or two. Or I get annoyed that no one notices how hard I’m trying to maintain. Or I sink into a dark morass of self-inflicted disappointment, because of self-set goals I’ve missed.

And still, I try to find a balance.

I’m editing a project for a writer, who is also a painter. In order to get a better sense for his writing style, I began reading one of his previously published works, and something I read did more than whisper to me. It spoke, loudly. “Hey, this is you. Listen up!” Maybe it was the timing. Maybe it was just the simple truths. But I saw myself in the paragraphs:

We all struggle with our desire for balance, that place of imaginary security. We all admire balance; we even envy it when we perceive others are living a more balanced life than we. But this balance we see and the balance we desire, is it from God? Is it from a need for God? Or is it personal, prideful gymnastics?

… My pride, desiring to appear balanced, balances on my remaining leg of abilities, my understandings, even my virtues. It takes all my effort and focus just to maintain this appearance of balance. How long I can continue the effort will depend on my resolve.

Eventually, in exhaustion, God offers me merciful futility. I fall down. Gratefully defeated.

There is an unbalanced balance that pleases God. You see it throughout the Bible. It’s only when I accept my imbalance and acknowledge how weak and crippled I am, that I become dependent on God.

That’s where I find the paradox of balance, leaning totally on Him. – Quote from Deepest Thanks, Deeper Apologies, by Stephen Shortridge

A strange paradox indeed. It drew me, on the threshold of a New Year, to make this my prayer …

Heavenly Father, it’s 2015. I meant to have everything worked out, my goals and vision and to-do list for the entire year. Okay, maybe not that, but probably just as bad.

An unbalanced balance is probably what I need to embrace this year, at least in the beginning. Please help me, Lord.

I don’t have everything figured out and that’s okay. Rather than patting myself on the back because of my misguided sense of control, it will force me to depend on you. And that’s what I really want. And even when I don’t want it, it’s what I really need.

Forgive me for trying to figure it all out instead of resting in You and allowing You to work in me and through me.

Help me to understand that the things I try to do without Your power and guidance will only fall flat. And the things that You do through me, often almost without me even knowing or realizing, are the things that really matter. The things that go farther than those things I am grasping to control.

It’s the start of a new year. Let me be led by Your Spirit, guided by Your hand. Let these not be just words but the deep prayer of my heart. Help me to surrender to You in every way, even when it means giving up some of my so-called rights.

Lord, You had every right, and made Yourself a servant. I have no rights, and make myself a queen.

Forgive me.

I know you have. Your grace is renewed each morning. Thank You for that, dear Lord. Help me to lean on You and in leaning, find my strength, my joy. My true balance.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Prayer, Quotes, Thoughts on Thoughts

 

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