Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I wanted to let you know that I have a guest post appearing at Almost an Author: Sculpting a Masterpiece. What does Michelangelo’s David have to do with writing? I invite you to take a look and find out.

And now, here are some great reads discovered this week, the first few related to Mother’s Day:

Prayer Warrior Challenge: You Don’t Have to Dread Mother’s Day this Year! “I remember clearly the momentous day when, deep in the weeds of Toddler Parenting, I realized I could do everything ‘right’ and still end up with a wayward child.”

Great Is His Faithfulness, HT to Challies. “My guess is that in this messy life, many are experiencing a measure of both joy and grief tangled up together this Mother’s Day week.”

How to Pray for Your Teen When You’ve Run Out of Words. “Handing our children over to God when they were infants was relatively easy compared with the task of entrusting them to God’s care now that they are jingling car keys in their pockets and making their first financial decisions.”

Training Children to Honor Their Parents by Honoring Our Own, HT to The Story Warren. “As I think about training my own children to honor their parents, I’m realizing how much is caught more than taught. The way I treat my parents will likely have a direct impact on the way my kids treat my husband and me.”

Beautiful Mother’s Day Gift Ideas Handmade with Love, if you need any last-minute gift inspiration. The Skip to My Lou site is a treasure trove of neat ideas.

The Childless Man or Woman, wise words from Elisabeth Elliot. “Children, God tells us, are a heritage from Him. Is the man or woman to whom He gives no children therefore disinherited? Surely not. The Lord gave portions of land to each tribe of Israel except one. ‘The tribe of Levi… received no holding; the Lord God of Israel is their portion, as he promised them’ (Joshua 13:14, NEB). Withholding what He granted to the rest, He gave to Levi a higher privilege. May we not see childlessness in the same light? I believe there is a special gift for those to whom God does not give the gift of physical fatherhood or motherhood.”

What God has Made Crooked. “Sometimes God makes our way crooked to slow us down. He has something beautiful to show us. He wants to be seen along the way. He has designed even the crooked ways with beauty.”

Aging Doesn’t Make You Faithful. Jesus Does, HT to Challies. “It is folly to expect to wake up more faithful to Christ twenty years from now if we’re not feeding our faithfulness today with the means of grace God has ordained for our growth. God has invited us into the process of spiritual growth.”

What Is Anxiety? HT to Challies. “Most of our sinful anxieties are tied to proper concerns. It is proper to do your job well, to support your family, to care for your children, to fulfill the duties that God has called you to do. We should be concerned with all of them. The question is, When do these proper concerns turn into sinful ones? When does godly care become godless worry?”

The Dull Conversation, HT to Challies. I’m sorry to admit I chafe during seemingly meaningless conversation. I recognize that’s unloving toward the person I am listening to. Ed Welch has some good ideas to discern “What is that person saying in the litany of information?”

I have to say, though, I disagree with this part of the last post: “With those who are closer to you, each day deserves these two questions: What was the best part of the day? What was the hardest part of your day?” My difficulty with superlative questions (best, worst, favorite) is the way my mind works. To figure out the best part of the day, I’d have to look back over all the events of the day, line them up, compare them to each other, weigh the two or three that rise to the top. It’s exhausting. So, instead, I usually reply something like, “Well, one good thing from the day was…” You might think that whatever floated to my mind first was the best. But later, as I think back over the conversation, some other part of the day with come to mind, and I’ll think, “Oh, I should have said that instead.” Am I the only one who overthinks like this?

Forgive me for that rabbit trail. 🙂

Finally, this is a cute video about mom superpowers:

Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow to those who mother in any way.

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some good reads discovered this week.

The Bored-with-Reading-the-Bible Antidote, HT to Challies. “As one who’s been at this awhile, I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some thoughts with every intention of encouraging your pursuit of God.”

The Onliest Way, HT to Challies. “What seals our lips shut when the voice of the Lord echoes in our minds while we talk of snow and coffee and the kids? Why do we press Him back to the corner when we know He is the only way for our friends and acquaintances to be saved?”

The Character of a Christian Writer. “We can’t offer what we don’t have. If we’re not allowing God to continually transform us, our writing cannot have that effect on others. The first person God should change through my writing is me.”

4 Pitfalls of Writing Bible Studies. This is good advice for blog posts and devotionals, too.

Faith Over Fear, HT to Challies. “‘Faith over fear.’ It’s one of those Christian slogans that is undeniably true, and, at the same time, less helpful than it may seem.”

5 Things About Family Devotions I Learned the Hard Way, HT to The Story Warren. They rarely look or feel inspirational, but they accomplish much.

Inside Planned Parenthood’s Gender Factory, HT to Challies. It’s alarming that powerful hormones are given to teens with little evaluation or explanation.

If your Apple Watch was a person. Funny, and not far from the truth. I turned off almost all my notifications on my watch and phone a long time ago because I couldn’t stand them.

Have a good Saturday, and Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow!

Book Review: Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me)

In the very first workshop of the very first writer’s conference I attended, the speaker commented that publishing had changed significantly over the past ten years.

He didn’t say how publishing worked before. I assume writers wrote books and sent them in to the publisher, who did the rest. The author would have to fix some things after editors combed over their manuscript. But the publisher would market the book to the waiting world. And that makes sense: the publisher has a much bigger reach than individual authors in their homes.

Now, however, publishers expect authors to do most of the marketing on their own.

One reason is the rise of online book purchasing. Publishers have lost the opportunity to create attractive signs and displays to catch shoppers’ eyes as they browse a bookstore. Many brick and mortar bookstores have closed.

Additional reasons are the success of bloggers with big followings who then publish books and the availability of “influencers” on social media. And though I have not read this, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a cost-cutting measure to significantly reduce a marketing department by having writer’s do their own marketing.

So in these times, one can’t publish a book with a traditional publisher without a significant “platform.” In the blogs and Facebook writer’s groups and Twitter accounts I follow, would-be authors have lamented multiple times that they were told their concept, writing, and style were all good, but they were rejected because their platform wasn’t big enough (as determined by their social media followers and newsletter subscribers). One recent tweet I saw said the writer was told he needed upwards of 20,000 followers. I don’t know if that’s the norm. But all of this is discouraging.

Sure, anyone can self-publish these days. But a self-published book won’t get much beyond family and friends without taking some measure to get it out in front of the public.

All of this puts unknown Christian writers in a quandary. We’re supposed to humble ourselves, not exalt ourselves. We’re not supposed to be self-promotional. Drawing attention to ourselves in that way is distasteful to most of us. And we don’t want to annoy friends by constantly sharing “Buy my book!” posts on social media. So how in the world can we build a platform that publishers require and still maintain a clear conscience and a Christian testimony?

Kate Motaung and Shannon Popkin have wrestled through these issues and shared their conclusions and experiences in Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me). They begin with this helpful analogy: instead of viewing platform like a stage where celebrities seek attention and applause, think instead of a lifeguard’s platform. He’s not there to elevate himself, but to see who needs help and get a life jacket to them. He “puts himself out there” not to be admired, but so those who need help can find him.

As Christian writers, we have a message the world needs. Focusing on serving others will help us maintain the right perspective.

Then there’s the other side of the problem: What if my book is a success? What if my blog post goes viral? How can I guard against getting big-headed and puffed up?

Kate and Shannon acknowledge that praise, attention, “likes,” and such can be addicting. They discuss pride and humility and the biblical foundations necessary for a right perspective.

They also go into envy, comparison, heart motivations, disappointments, dealing with unexpected wrenches thrown into the works. They look at how people in the Bible got their message out.

And they discuss “imposter syndrome”—the feeling that we’re fakes, that we really don’t have anything worthy to say.

The right perspective is to realize and admit that we can’t do it on our own. That we are nothing without Him. That we don’t have anything to say without His enabling. Humility is essential for the people of God. It’s a good thing to think less of ourselves. But it’s not biblical or honoring to the Lord if we doubt His ability to use us for His purposes and His glory (p. 19).

If He has called us to something, He will enable us. He doesn’t want to hide our talents in the ground. He wants us to let our lights shine where they can be seen and point the way to Himself.

There’s no need to shrink yourself down or deflate your gifts. That’s not humility any more than inflating your importance is (p. 77).

Finally, the authors discuss conquering anxiety over our platforms, times to turn down opportunities, and trusting that God is in control over all.

They’re not only grounded in Scripture, but they are transparent about their own struggles.

There are discussion questions at the end of the book for personal use to to facilitate group discussions.

The one thing I wish they had included was a chapter or appendix on practical ways to build a platform. They mention some in passing. But it would have been helpful to have a list and a brief description. No one can do all the things. Each person can only do what resonates with them and works within their time constraints and personality. But such a list might have given some new ideas to try.

Overall I thought this was an excellent book. It’s one I can highly recommend and one I should probably reread once a year or so.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Grace and Truth, InstaEncouragements,
Carol’s Books You Loved)

Friday’s Fave Five and Writer’s Conference News

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

Usually for Friday’s Fave Five, I make a list of at least five things I am thankful for from the previous week. I’m going to do something a little different this week, though.

One of my faves is that I attended an online writer’s conference this week! The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference was supposed to be in May, but was postponed to November due to the pandemic. Since the virus still had not abated, they could not take as many people due to social-distancing recommendations. And some couldn’t come anyway due to travel restrictions. So they had a virtual option this year.

The conference started Sunday night. Then Monday through Wednesday, we had two online morning sessions, two afternoon sessions (75 minutes each), and one each evening (an hour and a half). Thursday morning we had two, then the conference ended at lunchtime.

One other favorite is that I had a manuscript critique via Zoom through the conference with a woman who owns a publishing house with her husband. I appreciated her expertise. I thought she was very balanced: she pointed out some mistakes and practices I need to work on but also what she thought were good features.

I got tons of good information and inspiration from the sessions this week. But as I write this on Thursday afternoon, my brain is fried! And since this was the primary focus of the week, I don’t have much else to share—unless I think of something between now and in the morning.

Just a few more thoughts about the conference: one thing you miss by not being there personally is the networking with others. A couple of ladies set up Zoom meetings for about ten people at a time, apparently with great success. I didn’t join in because they often took place when I was spending time with the family. Maybe, if they do it this way again, I’ll try to get in on at least one or two.

Also, when you go to a conference, it’s exhausting, but it’s also a break from routine. At home, you still have your everyday responsibilities. I didn’t do much besides meals, dishes, and laundry. But I wished I had planned some super-easy meals for this week. We did have frozen pizza one night, so that helped (and that’s my third fave!)

I am inspired but tired! So I’ll leave my faves there for now.

Hope you’ve had a good week as well!

Laudable Linkage

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Not to “laud” my own link, but I wanted to let you know that a devotion I wrote for the Christian Devotions site is up today: Unsteady. It’s takes one point from a longer earlier post, How to Have a Steady Soul. I enjoyed the exercise of writing for a smaller word count with just one focus.

Here are some great reads discovered this week:

Is Soft Totalitarianism Coming to America? I sure hope not, but there are troubling signs.

Don’t Pitch a Fit When You’re Writing. I love how this is written. It’s written in the context of writing, but a good reminder for us all.

A Song of Salvation at Weihsien Prison Camp, HT to this post at The Story Warren. I had read in several other books and biographies about the Chefoo Mission School in China which was taken prisoner and the students and personnel all moved to Weihsien Prison Camp during WWII. Eric Liddell, famed Olympian featured in Chariots of Fire, taught at the school and died at the camp. This post is the testimony of one of the students there, a great-granddaughter of Hudson Taylor. I’m amazed at the teachers and staff doing everything in their power to maintain structure, buoy spirits, continue classes, and turn work and killing bedbugs and rats into games.

Christian, Be a Peacemaker, HT to Challies. This doesn’t mean we never take a stand for truth. But “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).

You’re a Reconstruction Zone. Great analogy between road work and life. Bumps and delays are part of the process to a smooth path.

Francis James Grimké – Through a Pandemic and Social Unrest, HT to Challies “We are not the first generation who must deal with a pandemic and racial unrest at the same time. The Spanish flu of 1918 hit America at a time when racial segregation and lynching of blacks were commonplace and largely ignored by the majority of Americans. Francis James Grimké led his congregation through both challenges, while defending human rights in his speeches and writings.”

What to Do When Life is Miserable, HT to Challies. “Reach into a miserable, painful, hopeless situation in your dead of night with prayers and songs. Someone may be quietly listening.

Why We Should be More Familiar with OT Sacrifices, HT to Challies. “For the first time in my life, I’ve been spending significant time studying the book of Leviticus. You know, that book you and I have always avoided, except perhaps for annual reading plans? It’s all been fulfilled by Jesus, so we don’t need to know it very well, right?” Probably most of us feel that way about Leviticus, but it has some rich nuggets to mine.

Gold in the Laundry:Finding Value in the Mundane. A friend who went with her family to the mission field reported back that she was surprised to be spending so much time in her kitchen instead of doing “missionary” activities. It’s all part of our calling.

Since we’ve had this season’s first days of cool weather here in TN, I identified with this:

Yes, I have had the same struggle with foggy windshields and trying both hot and cold air! 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here my latest round-up of good reads online. Many are about the pandemic, but a few are not.

On Easter. I had never seen this poem by John Updike before, but I really like it.

Celebration of the Resurrection’s Not Canceled. “We may forfeit long-celebrated Easter activities and traditions. But if we miss celebrating the resurrection, we end up missing the greatest celebration of all time. He is risen!”

Corona Virus Could Kill Consumer Christianity. “Because coronavirus has rapidly taken away the excesses of church, all the bells and whistles, all the nice-to-haves we’ve come to see as must-haves. What remains are bare essentials: Jesus, the Word, community, prayer, singing. What remains is the reality that the church can never be vanquished: we are Christ’s body and will live eternally with him. Things are suddenly spartan in how we do church—but what we are remains as vibrant as ever.”

What Might God Be Doing With the Coronavirus? Lots of good possibilities listed.

Along the same lines, Do We Really Want to Go Back to Normal? HT to Challies. “But the truth is, whatever will become ‘normal’ on the other side of the coronavirus crisis will not be the old normal. It will be something new. We are not going back. So here’s the question I hope we will begin to ask instead: Do we really want to go back to normal? Was the old normal good?”

100 Days that Changed the World, HT to Challies. A timeline of how quickly the virus spread.

Hard Times Are Coming. “We can trust God and be completely convinced that what He does is good and right, yet still hope to avoid tragedy, pain, suffering, hard times. The real testing of our faith comes when those hard times hit.”

We’re All Children Now, HT to Challies. A recent tragedy reminded the writer how little control we have in life. But that helps us acknowledge our need, like the children Jesus said we should be like to come into His kingdom.

The Art of Remembering How Good You Really Have It.

A Strong Conscience or Immaturity? HT to Challies. It’s hard to tell sometimes. But the person who doesn’t do a questionable thing is not always the “weaker brother.”

The Record Keeper. I love this picture of Matthew using his gift of record-keeping to tell others about Christ. I don’t know why I never made the connection between his record-keeping as a former tax collector and his gospel account.

Remember the Wonders. A neat way God answered a young son’s prayer.

Covid-19: Anxious About Money? “‘Your heavenly father knows that you need them [life’s essentials].’ Since you are especially valuable to your Father, he knows and remembers what you need. Your needs are impressed on his heart.”

And along the same lines, HT to The Story Warren, this is a sweet song inspired by Matthew 6:

Book Review: On Writing Well

 On Writing Well by William Zinsser is on just about every list of books recommended for writers. The subtitle, which I assume is not originally Zinsser’s and was added later, is “The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.”

Zinsser lived from 1922-2015. He began as a journalist, later wrote for magazines, wrote books on a wide variety of topics, and then began to teach writing. That vast experience informs this book.

On Writing Well was published in 1976 and has been updated numerous times. My copy was published in 2016 with a 2006 introduction by Zinsser explaining the most recent update to include the computer era.

The first of the book’s four parts covers “Principles”: grammar, style, word usage, eliminating clutter, etc.

Part 2 deals with methods: the unity of the piece, the lead and ending, and various other aspects.

Part 3 discusses a variety of forms: the travel article, memoir, science and technology, sports, business, arts, humor. I might have been tempted to skip or at least skim through this section, as most of my writing doesn’t fit those categories. But I have a compulsion to read all of a book. And I am glad I did. A couple of the principles in this section are:

De-jargonize. Almost any field has its own vocabulary. One business hired Zinsser specifically to help them with communication, because even their engineers couldn’t understand each other any more. In one exercise, he had educators rewrite “Evaluative procedures for the objectives were also established based on acceptable criteria,” keeping in mind “clarity, simplicity, brevity, and humanity.” The best result: “At the end of the year we will evaluate our progress” (pp. 171-172).

Focus on the human element no matter what you’re writing about. He gave an example about race car driving, something I have zero interest in. But the piece grabbed me because it shared one person’s story rather than a detailed technical report.

Part 4 explores attitudes: developing confidence and your own style, etc. In one chapter in this section, he gives readers a window into his thought processes by taking them through a longer piece he wrote and discussing why he made the choices he did.

The “clarity, simplicity, brevity, and humanity” mentioned earlier are what the author calls his “four articles of faith” (p. 171). Those are his main themes, demonstrated by example time and again.

This book is chock-full of good instruction and tips. I have markings and sticky tabs on almost every other page. Here are a few of the standout quotes:

Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard (p. 9).

The race in writing is not to the swift but to the original (p. 34).

Every successful piece of nonfiction should leave the reader with one provocative thought he or she didn’t have before. Not two thoughts, or five—just one. So decide what single point you want to leave in the reader’s mind (p. 52).

Don’t annoy your readers by over-explaining—by telling them something they already know or can figure out. Try not to use words like “surprisingly,” “predictably,” and “of course,” which put a value on a fact before the reader encounters the fact (p. 91).

True wit, however, is rare, and a thousand barbed arrows fall at the feet of the archer for every one that flies (p. 194).

Don’t alter your voice to fit your subject. Develop one voice that readers will recognize when they hear it on the page (p. 231).

Now, if I could only keep all these wonderful helps in mind all the times I’m writing! I generally only read 3-4 pages at a time so I could process as I went. But I think this is a book I’ll need to reread often in the coming years.

Have you read On Writing Well? What was a major takeaway for you?

(Sharing with Booknificent, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Honorable Mention

I mentioned this a few weeks ago on a Friday’s Fave Five after I was notified, but I just got official word recently.

I entered a Writer’s Digest contest and got an Honorable Mention in the Inspirational/Spiritual category! There were over 4,600 entries covering nine categories.

Writer’s Digest sent us these nifty little stickers:

A list of all the winners is here.

I am honored. Winning an Honorable Mention encourages me that I am growing in the right direction.

If you are interested in next year’s contest, more information is here.

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest collection of good online reads:

Seven Deadly Sins for Writers. Even though this post is aimed at writers, its discussion of the pervasiveness of pride applies to anyone.

Tolerance Trouble, HT to Challies. “The Corinthian church boasted about its tolerance of the incestuous man who was permitted to retain membership and acceptance within the Corinthian church. They were congratulating themselves for such open-mindedness when they should have been weeping.”

And concerning tolerance of a different kind: What Does 2 John Have to Teach Us about Partnering with False Teachers?, HT to Challies. This was refreshing to read because this is what I’ve believed for years, but have not seen many people writing this publicly.

What It Means to Pray “Your Kingdom Come.” The True Woman blog, which is under the umbrella of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Revive Our Hearts ministry, is doing a series on the individual phrases in what we call “the Lord’s prayer.” I thought this one was particularly good.

Wives Who Churn About Husbands “Leading Spiritually,” HT to Lou Ann. Though this is addressed to home school moms, it applies to any Christian wife.

Sorry, Banning Plastic Bags Won’t Save Our Planet, HT to Challies. “As with other environmental issues, instead of tackling the big-picture problems to actually reduce the plastic load going into oceans, we focus on relatively minor changes involving consumers, meaning we only ever tinker at the margins.”

A True (Humorous) Look at the Writing Process. Although I have only reached the first three stages, and I’m writing nonfiction, I can relate!

Finally, I thought this was funny: a dog’s melodramatic reaction to having its nails clipped:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest collection of thought-provoking posts:

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God? HT to Challies.

When You’re Tempted to Hate People, Part 10. Aspects of God’s forgiveness that we don’t often think about: He knows whether our repentance is sincere and He knows we’re going to fall again in the same way, yet still forgives.

For Childhood Fears, Bible Memory is Not Enough. “Did you notice how God doesn’t just speak to the mind, but also to the imagination?”

Exactly Where I Need to be When I Need to Be There. “Recently the Lord took a frustrating situation that tested my patience and reminded me my timing and priorities are different than His and that He often places me exactly where I need to be when I need to be there.”

The Importance Of Doing What Anyone Could Do, HT to Challies. “It’s a good thing for all of us that people have developed these skills. It’s also true that the world is always in need of the non-specialised abilities that all of us are capable of using: Love. Friendship. Shared time. A listening ear. A hard day’s work. Loyalty. Respect.”

Embodying Masculinity in a World that Rejects It.

A Writer’s Evening Prayer.

Getting Your Digital Accounts Ready in Case of Death, HT to Challies.

101 Fun Fall Activities for Kids, HT to the Story Warren.

Finally, someone posted this on Facebook. I couldn’t figure out who originally made it to give them credit, but it made me smile.

Happy Saturday!