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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 5

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

Today we will look at being false to the truth. Some may say, “I write fiction. It’s not truth anyway.”

Au contraire!

Consider this quote from E.M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel.: “We cannot understand each other, except in a rough and ready way. But in a novel we can know people perfectly. . . . In this direction fiction is truer than history, because it goes beyond the evidence, and each of us knows from his experience that there is something beyond the evidence.” (Emphasis mine.)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. John 14:6

When we pattern our lives on his, we will be living the truth. When we live the truth, we can write the truth.

Larry Bird once said, “I don't know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody - somewhere - was practicing more than me.” And just as basketball players are first taught the basics and then practices, sometimes daily, for years and years until dribbling and shooting become second nature, so must we practice our Christian living.

We learn what to do by studying the Bible, and then we live it out in our everyday lives.

And then we, as Christian writers, write it.

It simply becomes second nature.

I’ve mentioned before that books and movies achieve greatness when they have underlying moral premises. When the movie or book, the story, rings false to the audience, to those underlying moral premises that we all understand, the movie or book will flop, no matter the technical skills employed.

And those are the moral premises we find in the Bible. The moral premises that Jesus displayed.

Jesus—the one who displayed the truth.

Let us, as Christian writers, never be false to the truth.

Our test for today:

1226faithtest

Next week, we’ll finish up this series. Are you ready for the final?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Random Thoughts

I’m a little bleary eyed this morning. I haven’t been getting enough sleep. I’ve been putting in long hours for the past few days.

Someone mentioned doing a devotional. I thought—hey, I’ve got enough blog posts to do a 365 day devotional.

So, that’s what I’ve been working on. I need to finish it up in the next couple of days.

I feel like Ender in Ender’s Game who is beyond exhaustion and still rises each day to play the game. Or, like Frodo and Sam intent on destroying the ring.

They pushed on to their goal. And were successful.

Here’s a picture of the cover:

Setting a goal of December 27 to have it available in e-book format.bookcover1222

I’m falling asleep at the keyboard.

Hope you’ll be able to check it out when it becomes available!

(By the way, that’s a picture my son took at Cypress Springs.)

I almost forgot . . .

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 4

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

We are continuing our study of this passage from James. Today we are specifically examining “do not boast.” The following story shows the dangers of boasting:

A lion and a tiger were drinking beside a river when the lion let out a huge roar. The tiger said, "Why do you roar like a fool?" 

"That's not foolish," said the lion, with a twinkle in his eyes. "They call me king of all the beasts because I advertise."

A rabbit heard them talking and ran home. He thought he'd try the lion's plan, but his roar was just a squeak. A fox came to investigate and ate the rabbit for lunch.  The moral of the story: When you advertise, be sure you've got the goods and can deliver them.

There is nothing wrong in recognizing our abilities, as the lion does in this story. We do need to realize where our abilities come from.

All our ability comes directly or indirectly from God. We make the choices of how to use the ability he gives us, but God gives us the raw talent or the opportunities to develop talent.

Proverbs 9:23 tells us: A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

So, what does it mean to be humble?

According to Charles Spurgeon, Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.

And William Temple tells us: Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts.  It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all. 

All that matters is that we strive to please God. We humble ourselves so God can and will lift us up.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. ~Proverbs 11:2

One of my former preachers, Raymond Elliott said this: We can have respect for self without conceit; concern for self without selfishness; love of self without vanity.

After all, the Bible does say to love others as we love ourselves. It’s okay to know our abilities and even to advertise when necessary—in a humble manner.

Our job is to become the best us we can be.

When we become right for God, we can write for God in the manner he wants us to. Without boasting.

Right for God; write for God.

No boasting necessary!

1219faithtest

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Things I’ve Learned (CreateSpace)

I have been trying to come up with a list of steps for CreateSpace. This may not suit everyone, but it has been helpful to me. These are just suggestions. Everyone needs to read the submission guidelines before uploading their manuscripts. With that said, here are my hints for preparing my manuscript for CreateSpace. (If you find any errors, please let me know! Thanks!)

Hints for CreateSpace document (to make a 6 X 9 book): 

In Microsoft Word 2007:

1. Choose Page Layout --> Little Arrow on Page Setup--> Paper --> Width: 6"; Length: 9"

2. Page Setup --> Paper --> Paper Source: Default Tray

3. Page Setup --> Paper --> Apply to: Whole Document

4. Page Setup --> Margins --> Orientation --> Portrait

5. Page Setup --> Margins --> Custom Margins --> Margins --> Top 0.8, Bottom 1.0, Left & Right 0.8

6. Page Setup --> Margins --> Gutter 0, Gutter Position left

7. Page Setup --> Margins --> Apply to: Whole Document

8. Page Setup --> Layout --> Header & Footer 0.5

9. Page Setup --> Layout --> Vertical Alignment: Top

10. Page Setup --> Layout --> Apply to: Whole Document

11. Home --> Paragraph --> Little arrow --> General --> Alignment --> Justified

12. Home --> Paragraph --> Little arrow --> Indentation --> Special --> First line --> 0.3 ***Make sure the tab key was not used to indent paragraphs!!

13. Home --> Paragraph --> Little arrow --> Spacing --> 1.15

14. Make sure the # 11, 12, & 13 are applied to the whole ms.

15. Begin each chapter 14 spaces down.

16. Insert --> Page Number --> Bottom of page, centered

17. Insert --> Header --> (Type in text you would like)

18. Insert --> Page Break at the end of each chapter (also at end of title page, table of contents, etc.

19. Turn document into PDF file.

I’m sure I’ve probably left out some formatting!

However, when the manuscript is suitable according to CreateSpace guidelines, it’s time to upload. And that’s what I’m off to do!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 3

The Scripture:

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

We have been taking a closer look at these passages from James. James is speaking to Christians when he says “Let him show his works.” As Christian writers, our works include our writings.

In my first post of this series, I looked at “meekness of wisdom;” in the second post, “bitter jealousy.” This is the third question we’ll be exploring: Are we guilty of selfish ambition?

Eriteia: The Greek Word for Selfish Ambition

From Strong’s Concordance we learn “selfish ambition” is translated from “eritheia” that means “rivalry, hence ambition.”

Strong’s further gives the following definitions:

Short Definition: ambition, rivalry
Definition: (the seeking of followers and adherents by means of gifts, the seeking of followers, hence) ambition, rivalry, self-seeking; a feud, faction.

HELPS Word-studies also has light to shed on the word. We find this information from them:

Eritheía (from eritheuō, "work for hire") – properly, work done merely for hire (as a mercenary), referring therefore to carnal ambition (selfish rivalry).

Ancient Greek uses eritheía ("mercenary self-seeking") of acting for one's own gain, regardless of the discord (strife) it causes. Eritheía ("selfish ambition") places self-interest ahead of what the Lord declares right, or what is good for others.

This word was used to refer to men seeking political gain by unfair means. That gives a good picture of what James means here, doesn’t it?

Should Christians be Ambitious?

The question I would like to pose: Is it wrong to be ambitious? For example, should we be ambitious in promoting our work?

One of the definitions Webster’s gives for “ambitious” is  having a desire to achieve a particular goal.

Goals are a good thing. If we desire to publish a book in order to spread God’s word, or to strengthen our fellow Christians, or to make the world a better place, or fill in the blank with a good motive here, that’s a good thing, a very good thing.

And, if we wish to reach hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, that’s not a bad goal to have. Are we not to go into all the world to tell others of Christ?

Problems arise when we place self-interest ahead of what the Lord declares right, or what is good for others. (See HELPS Word Studies above)

When Does Ambition Become Selfish?

When we think only of ourselves and crush others in our quest for our goals, that’s when ambition crosses the line.

There’s something I have had to work through in my own writing life. When does my writing become “selfish”?

If we choose writing over things like cleaning house, cooking, or partaking in church activities (besides worship services), that does not necessarily make us selfish. All of those things are good. But are all those things the best way we can use our time? Often, it’s not a matter of choosing good over bad, but choosing the best over the good.

We must not neglect the people in our lives when pursue a writing career. And, we certainly do not need to neglect God.

However, we must carve out time for God, family, friends, and our writing. Perhaps an analogy will help illustrate what I mean.

Is it selfish for a person to devote years of study to become, say, a doctor? Would we say, “Frank is so selfish for going to medical school”?

Of course not. We would probably commend Frank for devoting his time to that endeavor.

Does that mean Frank should ignore his family and quit attending worship services? No. But Frank will make sacrifices to become a doctor.

In the same way, as writers, we make sacrifices to read, study, and write. We make those sacrifices to become the best writers we can be—even though it may appear that we are selfish to family and friends.

Sometimes family and friends may need gentle reminders that our work has importance and ultimately will glorify God.

Testing, Testing

God wants us to use all of the abilities he has given us.

Working hard in order to achieve goals is not selfish ambition.

Our ambition becomes selfish when we engage in rivalries and develop cliques in order to achieve our goals.

Our ambition becomes selfish when we change the things we say or do in order to become popular with men, instead of seeking God’s glory.

And that brings us to today’s test:

1211faithtest

 

Next Monday, December 19, we’ll be looking at question #4 in the series—Are you guilty of boasting?

Meanwhile, join me Wednesday for things I’ve learned and Friday for Random Thoughts.

Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Self Publishing

The folks over at ciaindie, a website for Christian self publishers, have been so helpful!

They demonstrate the principles we are taught by the Bible. Those principles of being encouragers and serving others.

Right now, I feel like a taker. And, I am! I’m taking advice and words of encouragement.

I’m working through some formatting issues with their help. And some issues with the writing itself.

I likened it to walking around with toilet paper stuck on your shoe all day, and no one tells you.

So, right now I have some toilet paper issues. One of the members told me to take the toilet paper and make confetti. And, on the day of publication, rain down the confetti.

And that I plan to do. Soon. Very soon.

By the way, I finalized the cover—I think! This is it:

backcoverfinal2-horz

Coming very soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

There Is No Tab Key!

One thing I’ve learned this week is to never use the Tab key. Never, ever tab over. CreateSpace does not like the tabbing.

Take a screwdriver and remove your Tab Key. ***** WARNING! Joking, people! Don’t do that! *******

Okay, wish I had known not to use the tab key before I started writing this book.

I had to do a search through my manuscript and find every time I tabbed.

In case you’re like me and wondering how to do it without losing your mind, this might help.  Choose “Search and Replace.” In the “Search” field, type ^t. Leave the “Replace” field blank. And then choose Replace All.

That removes all your tabs. Supposedly.

I should mention I use Microsoft Word 2007.

My next step was to remove all paragraph formatting so that I could start with a clean slate.

I went to Page Layout –> Paragraph and clicked the tiny arrow in the lower right corner. The one that blends in so well that it took me a while to find. I rolled everything back to zero. In the “Special” menu, I chose “First Line” and rolled it to zero also.

I made sure these settings were applied to my entire manuscript. I then saved, closed, and reopened my manuscript to be sure all the spacing for the first lines of paragraphs had been removed.

Next, I went back to Page Layout –> Paragraph –> Tiny Little Arrow Microsoft Doesn’t Want You to Find. This time, by “Alignment” I chose “Justified.” Then I clicked on the drop-down menu for “Special” and chose “First Line.”

For my manuscript, I went with Indent 0.3. You may choose whatever you see fit. For professional purposes, there is some type of system. As you undoubtedly know, Googling  “paragraph indentation for published books” will bring up articles to read.

Great fun! 

Where did I put the copy of my Serenity Prayer?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Faith Test for Christian Writers, Part 2

Let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~James 3:13-18

A couple of weeks ago, I began a study on Faith Tests for Christian Writers by studying this passage from James.

As Christian writers, our writings are our works. This passage teaches us the correct way to view our works, our writings, from a Biblical perspective.

In Part 1, we asked: Do we, as Christian writers, have meekness of wisdom? (Faith Test for Writers, Part 1)

Today, let’s look at a second question derived from this passage. Do we, as Christian writers, suffer from bitter jealousy?

Jealousy touches everyone at some point. Jealousy drives a lot of unchristian behavior. Jealousy makes us do and say things that normally we would not say or do.

One time, a group I participated in was given an assignment to write a short essay. I cannot remember the topic; however, I do remember one person doing an exceptional job.

I also remember my reaction. As we left the room, I made a catty remark. I remember it well, because my conscience pricked me. The exceptional writer was a close, Christian friend, a friend I should have congratulated on a job well done. Instead, to make myself feel better about my own feeble attempt, I put her down.

God calls us to use the special talents he has endowed us with, even if they are not on par with others.

I worked hard, but I did not succeed as well as my friend. So what? I am stilled called on by God to do my best.

One of Tim Tebow’s favorite quotes is this: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. ~Tim Notke

Our talents may not equal those of someone else, but we can work just as hard as they do. Will we garner the same amount of success if we put in the hours? Probably not. But we will be using the opportunities God has given us instead of burying them in the ground.

My preacher, Mark Littleton, taught this passage not long ago. He used this illustration: “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” a reporter once asked a famous conductor. The conductor answered, “Second fiddle. No one wants to put in the hard work required to become second fiddle. If they can’t be first string, they simply quit.”

As Christians, we are not given that option. We are to do our best whether we are first, second, third, or even last.

When we work solely to please God and not man, and that “man” includes self, we will be able to put aside jealousy. God loves each of us equally. There’s simply no need for jealousy.

Furthermore, if we work to please God, we will be able to truly rejoice with those who succeed. We will know they are expanding the borders of God’s Kingdom.

And, for that, we should be truly grateful. A grateful heart has no room for jealousy.

Here’s our test with question #2:

paper

 

Join me next Monday to look at the next question in this series:

Do I have selfish ambition in my heart?

(Special thanks to Mark Littleton for his lessons on James.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Don’t Hate Christmas!

 

Part of the CW Blogchain. Check out the sidebar for other great posts from the wonderful writers in our chain.

Gifts from the heart come from a loving spirit. But how do we maintain a loving spirit during the stressful holiday seasons?

MM900288888[1]Many people hate this time of year, some because memories of departed loved ones are especially poignant, some because of the commercialization of the season, and some because of the extra workload Christmas brings with it. While some of us may not hate Christmas, and some actually love this time of year, it is true many of us are more stressed. Let’s examine six things we can do to help us, even those who love Christmas, enjoy it more.

  1. Sad memories make this time of year difficult for many. The first thing many of us need to do is to accept death, not bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. Everyone is dying—we just do not know the hour or day. I know it is difficult to accept death, and I’m certainly not trying to minimize the pain we feel when loved ones die. However, as Christians we have hope. In possibly the most beautiful words in the English language, Paul tells us:

    Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? I Corinthians 15:54-55

    This time of year is a perfect time to reminisce, to remember Christmases past, to honor the memories of those who have gone on to meet their reward. Will tears be shed? Perhaps, but tears are a gift from God. And everything God gives is good.

  2. Furthermore, this may be the perfect time to drag out those old pictures and share memories with the new and old members of our families. We may just find laughter intermingling with the tears. And taking time to just be with our families can give us a respite from all the hustle and bustle and renew our energy.
  3. Other people hate this time of the year because of the commercialization. For years I complained bitterly when I saw ads or commercials for Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving. Well, now we’re seeing them before Halloween. Christmas is like the Blob (if you’re as old as I am and remember the movie), sprawling to possibly encompass the entire year. We already have Christmas in July in many stores. Unless we are the business owners or unless a law is passed to prohibit anything Christmas except in the month of December (a great idea, don’t you think?), we must accept things as they are and as they may be in the future. The Serenity Prayer has helped me with this.

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.
    Amen. ~
    Reinhold Niebuhr

  4. Of course, we know we can change our own focus. Instead of the take attitude, have a give attitude. Reach out to those in need at this time of year. Open our hearts and pocketbooks to the poor of this world—whether poor in money, or poor in family or friends. We may not be able to change the world, but we are capable of changing self.
  5. Also, we need to let go of unrealistic expectations. In some distant galaxy far, far away, there may be the “perfect” Christmas, with smiling children eagerly sharing, with a perfectly cooked Christmas dinner, with gifts elegantly wrapped, and each gift just what the other person wanted. I haven’t seen it here on earth. Here we are imperfect people going through trials and tribulations, learning to be more Christlike, yet failing more often than succeeding. We need to change our perspective and see each challenge as a way God is molding us into who he wants us to be. We need to change our perspective and see others as God sees them and not place unrealistic expectations on them.
  6. And when we fail those challenges, forgive ourselves and others, just as thoroughly as he forgives us. Enjoying the good, forgetting the bad.

Learning to accept death, not being afraid to reminisce about those who have gone on before, to accept the commercialization of Christmas we have no control over, to change ourselves by focusing on those in need, to let go of unrealistic expectations, and to forgive ourselves and others when we fail our goal of a perfect Christmas are six ways to create gifts from the heart and a more peaceful and joyous Christmas.  

MM900283881[1]

 

 

 

Random Thoughts: Fearing Success

 

CW Blog Chain Participants: Woops! I forgot today was my day. I’ll post tomorrow. Thanks for understanding!

I’ve been working on getting Thundersnow ready for publication. Trepidation is dogging my footsteps.

I’ve beaten my fears back to a certain extent by focusing on God (and with a little help from my friends). It has nothing to do with me. Success or failure. It is all about pleasing God.

I fear success almost as much as failure. Why, you may ask? Several reasons.

One is because if I’m successful with the first book, people will expect me to duplicate that success. I may have only one book in me. On that point, we’ll just have to wait and see.

The second reason is because success may jar me out of the world I live in at this moment. Things may change. A disruption in the status quo. Do I want that?

The odds for success are against me. I don’t remember the average number of books sold per author, but I remember it’s not high. And, the definition of success varies. What if I sold 1000 books? Would I consider that successful? Yes. That would be awesome.

If I sold 10,000? That would be scary.

It reminds me of this quote by Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Wait. Did she say shine? And the name of this blog is Rise, Write, Shine? Hmmm . . .

I am a child of God. On this earth to serve God. Not to worry about success or failure. It’s not about me. It’s about God and laying down my life for him.

Even if it kicks me out of my comfort zone. Or especially if it kicks me out of my comfort zone.

Whew. Okay . . . Talked myself out of the fear of success, even if I feel it is a bit farfetched. Now, how about failure . . .

 

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