I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Don't Settle for Salad--or Poor Opening Lines

By Jennie Atkins

The other day my husband and I were driving through a nearby town and we passed a bulletin board that read, “A good story never starts with a salad.” The sign was outside a local beverage store, so the meaning was obvious, but I decided to ponder the statement a little further.

I do like a good salad, but given the opportunity for steak, shrimp, or perhaps dessert, I’m more apt to bypass the leafy greens.  Why?  Because even though the tastier meals have an adverse effect on my bathroom scale, I enjoy those hearty meals and sweet treats, they are comfort foods, and make me feel good. My emotional food meter is instantly engaged.

So shouldn’t our readers immediately experience some sort of emotion response to the opening lines and scenes of our stories? How many books have you read where the opening was so non-descript that it left you wondering what the “rest of the story” was like? Or, it left you hoping the book would, somewhere in the next few pages, get better?  I’ve opened many books by well-known authors (even some who have the privilege of hitting the New York Times best-seller lists), who put little effort into the creation of their opening statement. In other words, they settled for bland salad.

You’re probably thinking, yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve read it a thousand other times in craft books and heard it at conferences and seminars. If that’s so and it’s so important, how come I can pull more books off my shelf that have bad opening lines (and opening scenes) than good ones?  It’s the one chance we have to grab the attention of editors, agents, and hopefully readers. 

Make it concise. Make it emotion packed. But most of all, take the extra time to hone your opening lines. Never settle for status quo. You'll find it's worth the effort.

Your turn: So I ask you, what percentage of books that you’ve had the opportunity to read, were less than stellar?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spell marriage proposals correctly if "you care enough to send the very best”

Delores E. Topliff

Proverbs calls words in due season apples of gold in settings of silver. Whether we're creating real-life conversations or dialogue in books, only well-chosen words convey emotion and build successful character portraits.

Omitting names, I remember years ago when a nice-enough graduating college senior I hardly knew mailed me, a freshman English major, a marriage proposal tucked inside a book of poetry. Written in pencil, his proposal contained three spelling errors.

Emphasizing the importance of writing well, I tell students I circled the misspelled words in red and mailed back his proposal. In actual fact when he phoned for my answer, I mumbled that he was a nice man but I was too young to make that commitment.

We didn’t stay in touch, I heard he married and lived a reasonably successful ordinary life, but that experience impressed me with the importance of always caring enough to send our very bestlike Hallmark. It was also important to me not to live an ordinary life.

What about you? What note, conversation, or encouragement has meant apples of gold in silver bringing you joy and blessing?

Tell us how you've done that in return?

Monday, October 12, 2015

The One Person I Have Big Trouble With

Boy, oh boy, I do!  This person sets off my fuse in an instant. No, it’s not Hilary Clinton. (Well, maybe a little, but this isn’t about politics.)

The person who irks me is Mr. or Mrs. Naysayer. The nerve of them.  They are like the people who once said “man will never fly.” Why, look at that jet trail in the sky. Or like the people who warned Columbus he’d sail off the edge of the world if he took off on his foolish journey.  Hello, America!

Or the person who told Angela Bell to forget writing because it’s too hard to get published. Ha! Not one, but two books contracted are on the way!

How about the man who told us we’d be sorry if we adopted children. Our best decision ever!!

These naysayers want to extinguish our dreams. Are they trying to scare us away because they fear trying themselves? There's an old Chinese proverb that says, "The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."

If you have such a person in your life, ask yourself why they are coming from a negative position. If they persist and drag you down, you have my permission to ignore them. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What's in a Name? Or, Why the Genesis 5 Genealogy is Important.

By Heidi Larson Geis

I was excited when I found out that my church’s ladies’ Bible study will be working our way through the Old Testament this year. It’s a fairly major undertaking, but one that I think will be worth it, since the Old Testament is such a critical foundation for the New Testament. I think the church should spend a lot more time in the Old Testament; I think a lot of Christians would be surprised to see how often Jesus pops up there.

Like most on a journey through the Old Testament, we began our study in Genesis. Anyone who knows me well knows that Genesis is probably one of my favorite books in the Bible. This is likely true because I’m slightly obsessed with the Genesis Creation account. And dinosaurs. I could probably write a hundred blogs about Creation (and dinosaurs), but I will save those for another day.

Today I want to focus on those parts of the Old Testament that a lot of people tend to skim. You know, like the “Boring Begats.” Too often we get to portions of Scripture like the genealogies and we cannot imagine how they could possibly be important, so we sort of cruise past or even skip them. Take chapter 5 of Genesis; does it really matter who fathered whom?

It really does! Here’s the thing: every verse in the Bible is there for a reason, and this genealogy from Adam to Noah is no different. Get ready to have your mind blown!

When I was pregnant with each of our sons, we took great care in choosing their names. I couldn’t help but remember that Naomi’s sons (in the Book of Ruth) had names that meant “sickness” and “wasting,” and they died very young leaving Naomi with just her daughters-in-law. With that in mind, my husband and I opted to give our boys the strong, healthy, positive names “Provider” and “Heard by God” (aka Spencer and Samuel).

Given how often Scripture lists them—and even tells us their meanings—we can surmise the importance of names in the Bible. So, let’s take a closer look at the ten men in the Genesis 5 genealogy and the meanings of their names.

1.)  Adam.  His name means “man” because, well, he was the first man. That makes perfect sense, right?

2.)  Seth.  He is the son born to Eve after the death of Abel, and she gave him a name that means “appointed” because she believed that God appointed his birth.

3.)  Enosh.  Seth named his son Enosh, which means “mortal” or “miserable.” This may have been a reference to circumstances surrounding his birth or to the fact that it was right around this time that men began to defile the name of God.

4.)  Kenan.  Some believe this name is synonymous with Cainan, but it is more likely tied to the Kenites, in which case his name could mean “sorrow” or “dirge.” Perhaps for some reason, his birth brought sorrow to his father.

5.)  Mahalalel.  Mahalal means “blessed” and El means “God.” Therefore, the name given to Kenan’s son means “blessed God.”

6.)  Jared. This name can mean “he who descends” or “he shall come down.”

7.)  Enoch. Enoch means “training,” “instructing,” or “teaching.” Interestingly enough, Enoch was the first recorded preacher and is quoted in Jude as prophesying the Second Coming of Christ.

8.)  Methuselah.  Most people know this name because he has the longest recorded life span. When we think of old guys, we think of Methuselah. His name means “his death shall bring,” which means when Enoch named his son, he prophesied the flood because   the flood came the same year Methuselah died!

9.)  Lamech.  Given how much the name sounds like the word lament, it shouldn’t be surprising that it means “despairing.”

10.)  Noah.  As Lamech explains in Genesis 5:29, the name he chose for his son means “rest” or “comfort.”

These names are interesting on their own and might even give us some insight into the lives of each of these men or the times in which they lived. But when you string the names together, one after the other, you get something even more interesting:

Man...Appointed...Mortal or Miserable...Sorrow...The Blessed God...He Shall Come Down...Teaching or Training...His Death Shall Bring...Despairing...Rest or Comfort...

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.

In other words, we find the Gospel of Salvation embedded in the very first book of the Bible…laid out in the names of the first ten generations of men! Could this be a coincidence? Or is God just that awesome?! (answer: God is just that awesome!) For me, this confirms that Scripture truly is God-breathed, and that every word between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 has been included for a reason. And the more we study His Word, the more we will understand it!