CNN Got Jesus Wrong

I have not read a piece about the wrath of God as it fell upon Jesus that explains it as well as this post does. It makes perfect sense. It is very well written, and quite inspiring. It’s both comforting and mind blowing to realize that Jesus wanted to die for us. What he wanted to avoid, if it be the will of the Father, was that foamy cup of God’s wrath poured out to purify and sanctify. Thank you Jesus for all you faced in my place. I will forever love you and serve you.

Some Mistakes Made by Beginner Writers

I recently read an online article regarding the four major faults of beginning writers. It was written by Caro Clarke, who is an editor by day and a writer by night. She said it is easy to know when she’s reading someone’s first novel. She has cute nicknames for the four giveaway faults of new authors. She calls them “walk and chew gum,” “furry dice,” “tea, vicar?” and “styrofoam.” She sees at least one of these faults in every manuscript where the writer has not mastered the craft of writing before submitting his or her work.

Walk and chew gum.

This happens when the writer has not integrated action and dialogue, internal monologue and action, or internal monologue with dialogue. It is as if the characters can do only one thing at a time. Here is her rather unique example:

“If you think you’re going to town you’d better thing again,” said Ralph.
He put down his can of beer.
“I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!”
“Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth cried.
Then, hunting in her pockets for a tissue, she dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly.
“If I want to go, how can you stop me?” she demanded.
Ralph knew this would happen. She had always been independent, like her mother.
“You little hussy!” he bellowed.
Running up the stairs, JoBeth turned at the landing.
“I am going, do you hear? I am.”

Not integrating action and dialogue makes for jerky, lifeless prose. Combine, combine, toujours combine:

“If you think you’re going to town you’d better think again,” Ralph snapped, putting down his can of beer. She was too damn much like her mother. “I’m not having any daughter of mine going to a Cantrell boy’s party, and that’s final!”
“Oh, Pa! How could you be so cruel!” JoBeth hunted her pockets for a tissue, dried her eyes and stared at him defiantly. “If I want to go, how can you stop me?”
Ralph half-lurched to his feet, bellowing, “You little hussy!” But JoBeth was already upstairs. “I am going, do you hear? I am.”

This might not be award-winning prose, but it reflects the reality of the action and feelings better by having action, thought and dialogue knitted together.

Furry Dice.

Ms. Clarke says adjectives, adverbs and prepositions are furry dice hanging from a car’s mirror. They don’t do anything for the car’s performance, they simply clutter the place. She once stripped a fifth of a novel by removing words and phrases such as very, up, down, over, about, some, a little, a bit, somewhat, whole, just, and other modifiers.

For instance:

She picked up the gun and aimed it straight at him. His smile disappeared as he lifted up his hands into the air. She waved him over to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em out, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked all of his pockets for the money, then stepped back. “Okay, I’m convinced. You haven’t got it.”

This would be better without the modifiers, and with the tighter language you’ll have to write to replace them:

She snatched the gun and aimed. His smile disappeared as his hands climbed. She waved him to the wall, saying, “Spread ’em, and no funny business, you hear?” She checked his pockets for the money, then retreated. “Okay, I’m convinced. You don’t have it.”

59 words have become 44, and even then the passage could be trimmed. But the first, necessary action, before you seriously begin to rewrite, is to grab that swimming pool net and remove clogging, unnecessary modifiers that muddy the water. Earnest Hemingway didn’t need them, and you don’t either.

Tea, Vicar?

“More tea, Vicar?” Angela asked, taking his cup and placing it on the tray beside her.
“Don’t mind if I do,” said the Rev. Phelps.
“That was two sugars, wasn’t it?” she asked, pouring the fragrant liquid from the heirloom pot into his cup and stirring in the milk. When he nodded, she dropped in two sugar lumps, stirred again, and handed him back the cup.
“Thank you, my dear,” he said, accepting it with a smile.

Clarke said she has often read loving descriptions of cups of tea being poured, pots of coffee being made, even whole meals cooked and eaten, rooms cleaned or decorated, or journeys made. Too darn often. Writers get a high out of conjuring a tableau from thin air, and in the white heat of creation forget that tableaux of mundane details are not exciting. The reader will not share that euphoria.

Reading about a cup of tea being poured is about as exciting as watching paint dry. How does this scene help further the plot or character development? It doesn’t. The writer simply gets carried away with describing everything. Fiction is supposed to be like life, but with the dull bits removed, not spelled out in excruciating detail. Examine your work. Test every scene. Is there anything that you think of as setting the scene or capturing the atmosphere? If there is, cut it. Every scene needs conflict and movement to give it life, and tea for the Vicar has neither.

Styrofoam.

This is related to Tea, Vicar?, but it arises not from self-indulgence, but panic. Styrofoam is the padding novice writers stuff into their novels because they haven’t enough story to tell (or think they don’t) and need to create word count. Padding is distinguishable because suddenly the forward movement of the story stops dead. Nothing happens for a few pages. You read, you read, and at the end you’ve learned nothing about the characters you needed to know, nor have the characters done anything essential to the story. Every scene has to propel the plot to the crisis that will resolve the story. Styrofoam does neither.

Clarke advises that if you fear you haven’t enough narrative, add more conflict. Don’t give the reader tours of the countryside, long rambling chats, the characters making travel arrangements, or any other lifeless block of prose. The reader wants action. Inexorable movement towards the crisis. The reader wants to be gripped. So cut the padding. If that makes your novel too short, re-think your premise, your plot, your primary and secondary characters, and rewrite.

Ms. Clarke says, “If you want to be published, you’ll have to cure these faults yourself, because your editor won’t do it for you. She’ll just send it back.”

If I Knew You Then (A Poem)

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Your past would be part of our yesterdays.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Those others would have gone their own ways.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Your life would be filled with less pain.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
Ten years would be our love’s reign.

If I knew you then,
Rather than later,
I would have told you how great you would be.

But I know you now,
Rather than then and
I’m so grateful that you’ve chosen me.

And knowing you now,
Rather than then,
Is better than never at all.

Overcoming Depression

Nearly everyone at one time or another experiences sadness. Most people get over it with the passage of time. But for some, the sadness continues. It just seems to linger. It covers some people like a wet blanket. If you are caught in a prolonged period of sadness, you may recognize one or more of the signs that accompany depression: a growing distrust of God; resentment of others; difficulty making decisions; guilt; inactivity; sleeplessness or oversleeping; not eating or overeating; doubting; complaining; worrying; hopelessness. It can feel like you’re in an inescapable pit.

Thankfully, as desperate as everything may look, there are real reasons for hope. God loves you. He wants to fill you with peace and joy and happiness. The Bible says Jesus came that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly. Abundant life means bountiful, plentiful, more than enough. It means amply sufficient. John 10:10 in the Amplified Bible says, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that you might have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, until it overflows).” Certainly, depression is not abundant life. But you can be assured God wants you to find his peace and joy. He will help you because you are very, very important to Him.

When you accept Jesus as your Savior, your Sacrificial Lamb, and turn your life and your will over to Him, you become a new person. But you need to learn a new way of living. God will help you. Luke 11:13 tells us that our Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him. The Holy Spirit gives you the power to live like God wants you to live. The Holy Spirit guides, comforts and teaches. He empowers us and produces within us the actual characteristics of God. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, which His presence within us produces, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (that is, meekness and humility), and self-control. (See Galatians 5:22-23). It is when you are living the way God wants you to that you will experience the full and joyful life God has for you.

But what if you are now a Christian and you are depressed? You are not alone. Many people of faith have experienced periods of deep depression. The Bible stories of Moses, David and so many others show us how God’s love continues even during times of great sadness, and that He eventually brings great hope. What can you do to overcome depression? It depends on why you are depressed. There are many possible reasons. Some depression is caused by physical problems. Improper diet, lack of exercise and not enough sleep all can lead to depression. So if you are feeling “down,” make sure you are taking care of your body.

In addition, many illnesses can cause depression. Others may be caused by depression. Also, some medications can cause depression. But remember God can heal any physical problem, including one that is causing depression. (See Psalms 103:3) If your doctor has diagnosed a particular problem, ask your prayer partner, pastor, Christian counselor or other believer to pray with you for God’s healing. (See James 5:14-16)

When something you see as bad happens to you, it’s normal to feel hurt. You might have lost your job or financial security. You may have been wronged in some way, recently or in the past. You may have a bad relationship with a friend, family member or spouse. A loved one may have died. Or you may be hurting about something you’ve never had, but always wanted. It is okay to hurt over a situation like this. Tell God about your hurt. He already knows what’s going on, but it is important for you to talk with Him about it. Also, tell a trusted friend or pastor, or consult a Christian counselor. Allow yourself to cry if you want to. Normal grieving, including crying, is healthy. Just remember, the Bible says that Jesus bore our griefs on the cross. (See Isaiah 53:4-5) He feels our pain as strongly as we do. Give your hurt to Him. Then resolve not to dwell on it again.

Sometimes depression is rooted in sin. You will never know peace if you ignore something in your life that you know is displeasing to God. (See I Tim. 1:19) If you know you are doing or have done something against the will of God, admit to God that it is wrong. Then ask His help in doing what is right. If you admit your sin and turn from it, God has promised to forgive you completely, and cleanse you from the sin. (See I John 1:9) Trust Him to do it. If it is an ongoing sin, and seems too big for you to deal with, just deal with today. This moment. Tell God that with His help you will do the right thing right now. In addition, you may need to take some action to make up for your sin with those you have wronged. Making amends. You may need the help of your pastor or a Christian counselor to help you decide what to do.

Don’ forget to obey God in the small things. Very often it is because we choose to ignore Him that we slowly slip into deeper problems. You can reverse this downhill slide. If you obey God in the small things, it will help put you back on track with the bigger things. What about wrong thinking? What do you think about right before you feel depressed? Do you think things such as, “I’m no good,” or “I can’t do anything right?” Perhaps you think to yourself, “This situation will never change.” It is vitally important for you to find out what God says is the truth about you and your life. Read the Bible closely to find out what is the real truth. (See Ephesians 1:18-19) Once you find out the wonderful things God says about you, meditate on them and stop repeating negative things to yourself. Instead, memorize and repeat to yourself the truths you find in the Bible that contradict negative thoughts. Write theses truths down as daily affirmations.

Fill your thoughts with such truths as “For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and the power.” (See Phil. 4:13) The Bible says it is Christ who will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. (See Phil. 4:19) The Holy Spirit does not want you to be afraid of people or situations, but to be wise and strong and to love people and enjoy being with them. (See II Tim. 1:7) Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. (See Rom. 8:37) He personally carried the load of our sins and iniquities in His own body when he died on the cross so that we can be free of sin and live a good life. His wounds have healed ours! (See I Pet. 2:24)

Rebuild your spiritual life through Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians. If your depression continues, seek help from a qualified professional. There are answers for your depression and sadness. However, finding the root of the problem does not always happen overnight. As you pray, ask God to reveal specific thoughts and actions He wants you to change. Agree with Him when He points out sin in your life and ask Him to help you change. Forgive others who have wronged you. Do not harbor resentment. Thank God for His love and ask Him for healing and a renewed joy in your life.

Some tips for managing your depression include not expecting too much from yourself too soon, which will only accentuate feelings of failure. Avoid setting difficult goals or taking on new ambitious responsibilities until you’ve settled on a solid treatment plan for your depression. Break large tasks into smaller ones and enjoy the small victories along the way. Recognize patterns in your mood. Like many people with depression or chronic sadness, the worst part of the day might be the morning. Participate in activities that make you feel good. Try exercising. Participate in church or Christian activities. At a minimum, such activities may distract you from the way you feel and allow the day to pass more quickly.

You may feel like spending the whole day in bed, but don’t. Do not get upset if your mood doesn’t improve right away. Feeling better takes time. Don’t get discouraged if you start feeling better then backslide into a sad mood. Sometimes the road to recovery is like a roller coaster ride. This is true emotionally and spiritually. The devil will want you to fail and remain defeated. He does not want you empowered by Christ and leading a spirit-filled joyful life. If you do that, he loses. People around you may notice improvement in you before you feel it. Encourage feedback from your significant family members, Christian friends and others.

Lastly, do not expect to snap out of your depression on your own by an exercise of will power. This rarely happens. Reach out and ask for help from others. Remember to remove yourself from negative situations and keep your faith in the Lord. Always remember to pray. Recognize that even Christians can suffer sadness and depression. There is a way out of the storm. Remember Peter? Keep your eyes on Jesus and you can walk on the water and wade out of your depression.