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Friday, January 25, 2008

Don't Write Me Off!

My copy of Sally Stuart’s 2008 Christian Writers’ Market Guide arrived today. Its 628 pages are crammed with helpful information, everything from resources for writers to 1,200 markets for the written word. It is worth far more than the $34.99 price. But writer wannabes would be wrong to think getting published is a piece of cake. It isn’t. The Christian who thinks he doesn’t have to write, rewrite, and rewrite a manuscript needs a reality check. If he thinks the Lord gives him every word, he may be surprised to find a publisher shaking his head and asking if that’s the best the Lord can do. A publishable manuscript, like a work of art, demands skill, creativity, and patience.

I mentor more than one hundred aspiring writers. Some will get published; many will not. Some have obvious talent; some obviously have very little, if any. Some will persevere until they acquire talent; but some should have repeated fifth-grade English. But I admire every student’s desire to launch a ministry of writing.

Christian publishing companies would quickly go out of business if they accepted articles and books on a purely emotional basis. So they ask hard questions: Does this article have take-away value? Is there a market for this book? Does it meet our literary standards? Is its theology consistent with ours? What makes it different from other books that deal with the same topic? How can the author help sell his book? What sales figures can we project for this book?

Often, I receive a request from a friend or a friend of a friend to read a manuscript and register my opinion. The expectation is I will evaluate it free of charge and render a favorable verdict. I have lost friends and friends of friends by insisting I can’t afford to work for nothing and by rendering a negative verdict after reading a manuscript that falls flat. Usually, I hear something like this: “My family and friends have read my book, and they all thought it was great and should be published.” I guess those family members and friends either didn’t read from a professional perspective or they were too loving (cowardly) to give the book a two-thumbs-down.

The world seems to be at its worst today, so it needs Christian writers to be at their best. We have a powerful, restorative message for readers, but we must present it skillfully, accurately, and persuasively.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

DOW Down

The stock market has Americans shaking like saplings in a hurricane. If anyone thought investments equaled security, he or she is thinking otherwise now. True security is found only in God. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to urge his congregation not “to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Material prosperity is not inherently evil, but the love of money is. More than a few materialistic individuals have learned too late money cannot stave off death or purchase heaven.

When Lot lived in Sodom, he may have felt secure and successful. However, when God rained judgment upon that vile city, Lot had to leave his house and material possessions behind. Someday, Christians will leave houses, cars, bank accounts, investments, insurance policies, and high tech equipment behind. Only what we have laid up in Heaven will matter then.

Woodrow Wilson observed, “Unless our civilization is redeemed spiritually, it cannot endure materially.” Today may or may not be a good time to invest in the stock market, but it is a good time to invest in eternity.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Susanne Pleshette Has Died

Suzanne Pleshette, age 70, died two days ago of respiratory failure. She had received chemotherapy in 2006 for lung cancer. I remember her best as Emily Hartley,
Bob Newhart’s wise and amiable schoolteacher wife.

When the Bob Newhart Show entertained a faithful TV, our family laughed along with millions of viewers. Having worked in Chicago’s Loop during my student days at Moody Bible Institute, I chuckled every time the program’s introduction showed Bob walking across a Chicago River bridge on his way to the office. I took the same route every workday afternoon to reach my jobsite at 22 W. Madison Street, just west of State Street. Sometimes, the trek across the bridge in winter was brutal. I know how Bob must have felt.

A couple of Christmases ago, our son Brian gave us a DVD series of Bob Newhart shows. I wish TV programming would return to the simpler but funnier times of the likes of Bob, my favorite psychologist, and his wife Emily. We don’t have much wholesome entertainment that makes us laugh about now.

Suzanne Pleshette’s death offers a stark reminder that death is inevitable and life is brief. I used to think 70 was a ripe old age. Now that I am 72, 70 doesn’t seem old. I suppose, if the Lord keeps me alive until 82. I won’t think 80 is old. But life does move along at a fast pace, bringing us inevitable to our final breath on planet Earth.

Unlike life on Earth, life in eternity never ends. But each of us must choose in this life where we will spend eternity. I’m glad the Lord persuaded me a long time ago to trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior. Heaven is my eternal home.

The experience of walking across the bridge over the Chicago River is etched in my memory, but the experience of crossing the bridge from sin to salvation and from Earth to heaven is etched forever in my soul. Jesus is the Bridge.