Write the Vision ~ Wednesday

While recently reading the book of Jonah a thought hit me--as writers of Christian fiction perhaps there are stories we don't want to write, yet those characters and plots keep coming back to us and just won't leave. Perhaps the message is a powerful one, or a painful one. Maybe we don't feel we can handle such a topic-kind of like Jonah didn't feel like going to Ninevah.

While preparing for this I found a post from the blog site of Rev. Michael Duncan on being led that seemed to touch on the points I'd been pondering. I want to encourage you if there is something that has gripped you, something maybe you don't want to tackle, a painful topic, a difficult story--remember God never asks us to do more than we can and no matter what, He will be with us every step of the way.

With Michael's permission, I've reposted his blog.

“Feeling Led” – A Dangerous Principle to Live By

Some time ago I presented to a congregation of Christians an opportunity to reach into the community with the Gospel. After I shared with the church the great potential to bring God’s light into a dark corner of the world, I was approached with a common, but troubling statement: “Pastor, I don’t feel led to do that.” Was this statement a response to a prayer? Several weeks prior to this presentation a dear saint prayed: “Lord, bring those who feel led to participate.”

Several days passed as I pondered the twin statements and wondered if “feeling led” was at all a Biblical principle to live by. As I studied and thought and prayed through this issue I came to the conclusion that if obedience to God is built on feelings it becomes little more than trumped up spiritual anarchy, transforming personal reluctance into a spiritual virtue.

I could be mistaken, I could have missed the passage that says: “Go forth if you feel like it,” but I suspect that if the truth were revealed, those who claim that they don’t “feel led” actually just don’t want to.

But is a feelings-based obedience a Biblical truth? There are specific commands that God gives in His word where obedience is the only acceptable response, commands that call upon God’s people to join with God through sacrificial faithfulness—but what if a believer doesn’t “feel led” to do it? Is that God’s way of telling the individual believer that they are exempt from personal obedience?

Let’s begin by applying that standard to the Lord Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane, He told the disciples that His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mt. 26:38). His feelings were very clear—he wanted to be freed from the great sacrifice that loomed before Him. Jesus cried out to the Father, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Mt. 26:39). However, the rest of the story is clear when Jesus commits to the Father’s will, “Not as I will, but as you will.” Apply this to the disciples and you will discover the same truth, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). As I said, I could have missed it and there could be a Biblical principle of feelings-based obedience, but I’ve not found it.

I think the issue is not whether a believer “feels” led to obey God but whether that same believer has fully committed to following God no matter what they feel. It may be that participation in the church will require a sacrifice of time, talents or treasure and that some might not want to participate. However, don’t cloak reluctance in the garb of some over-spiritualized feeling. As a pastor, I would much rather have one of our members simply say they don’t want to do the work rather than tell me they don’t “feel led” by God to participate. It might be that God has other duties for the believer, but I’ve not discovered where He leads them to obedience through their feelings.

Every believer is called upon to be a living sacrifice. From what I understand, the sacrifice is never asked if it feels like going to the altar. Perhaps, if church members would discover that their feelings are not God’s direction, there would be far more workers laboring for the Master.

Thank you to Rev. Michael Duncan, author of Shadows: Book of Aleth Part I

Count Your Blessings

Sometimes I’m so caught up in the day-to-day bustle of life that I forget how very blessed I am. The holiday season is a time to reflect…and hopefully take a moment to slow down long enough to draw a breath, step back, and count the many blessings that fill my life.

I’m thankful for a loving husband—a man with whom a share a real-life romance filled with love and laughter, adventure and fun (I tell my husband he’s cheap entertainment). Tim supports and encourages my passion for sharing the written word. I’m so thankful God brought him into my life.

I’m thankful for my daughter, Danni, who has grown into a beautiful young woman. Danni illuminates my life with her loving, generous spirit. She’s friend to everyone, and has a special place in her heart for the elderly and the hurting. She is truly a blessing to me.

My friends, especially my precious writing friends, are a reason to give thanks. These wonderful people completely understand when I mention the ‘voices’ that speak to me while I’m writing. I love them dearly.

But, most of all, I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, who has given all of this and more to me. What an amazing blessing to know His love and grace are never-ending.

So, as this holiday season begins, I wish you blessings and peace, dear friends. May you take a moment to draw a breath, step back, and count the many blessings that fill your life.

Tactical Tuesdays: Advice for Self-Editing

Let’s talk about the power of the paragraph. A story, no matter how small, cannot be told without this form of punctuation. Yes, that’s right. A paragraph is a form of punctuation—a mark of separation. Used correctly, it can build your story. Use it incorrectly, and it will tear it apart. Add some panache to your paragraph style, and you take your story to an all new level.

Many modern readers will often subconsciously scan a page. Why? Because we’re a fast-paced society. A long, drawn out paragraph slows us down.

Here’s a secret. Many editors consciously scan a page. Why? Because readers live in a fast-paced society, and long, drawn out paragraphs slow them down.

Don’t misunderstand. In self-editing your paragraph structure, an author doesn’t necessarily want to eliminate every lengthy block of text. She does want to scrutinize every word, making sure each one relates to the main idea of that particular paragraph. If a sentence isn’t part of that main idea, it’s time for a new paragraph.

Dialogue without an attribute or a tag should stand alone as a paragraph. Add character action, and a self-editor must be sure that the action and the dialogue of the same character stay together and are not intermingled with the action or the dialogue of another character.

“Susie went to the store.” Mary pulled the cookies from the stove. Joe sat at the table. “She’s buying more flour.” She stole a glance in his direction.

Most readers would need to reread that paragraph. As structured, you can't be sure who's speaking the last line. Do this too many times to a reader, and an author stands a strong chance of losing the reader’s interest.

"Susie went to the store.” Mary pulled the cookies from the stove.

Joe sat at the table.

“She’s buying more flour.” She stole a glance in his direction.

The proper break, keeping a character's dialogue and action together, prevents the reader from being jarred out of the story trying to determine who did or said what.

And what about the panache that can take your writing to new levels?

The paragraph below is in proper format. The main topic, as written, is the heroine’s description of the hero.

Not a tall drink of water. His under six foot height complements my five foot six frame. There’s something raw and attractive about his wispy brown strands that seem to settle anywhere they wish on his head. A touch of an overbite keeps him from appearing like a cardboard cutout of a Ken doll. No, he isn’t perfect. Who needs perfect? But it’s not his good looks alone that capture my attention. He bears a look about him of danger, as if he lives life on the edge. Yet in his coffee-colored eyes he wears a cloak of calm composure. He has something under control, but what it is I’m too afraid to discover. He’s hot—like the diamond I lifted from the counter of Tiffany’s. And his British accent only completes the package.

Using the paragraph break to her advantage, putting an emphasis on certain portions of the text, an author can show the reader there’s much more to the heroine’s description than first meets the eye:

Not a tall drink of water. His under six foot height complements my five foot six frame. There’s something raw and attractive about his wispy brown strands that seem to settle anywhere they wish on his head. A touch of an overbite keeps him from appearing like a cardboard cutout of a Ken doll.

No, he isn’t perfect. Who needs perfect?

But it’s not his good looks alone that capture my attention. He bears a look about him of danger, as if he lives life on the edge. Yet in his coffee-colored eyes he wears a cloak of calm composure.

He has something under control, but what it is, I’m too afraid to discover.

He’s hot—like the diamond I lifted from the counter of Tiffany’s.

And his British accent only completes the package.

Oh, no, from start to finish this information isn’t telling us about the hero’s looks. A few well-placed paragraph breaks and the reader is shown a very indepth look at the heroine. Even the seemingly innocuous last line lets the reader know that despite her reservations, she's still going to pursue her man. And why shouldn't she? Our little jewel thief is as dangerous as the hero.

And that’s how styling your paragraphs can take your writing to an entirely different level.

Until next week, happy editing!

Make-A-Story™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

A crystal vase
A fancy box of chocolates
A smart dog

Write the Vision ~ Wednesday

1 Chronicles 16:8
Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people.

1 Chronicles 16:34
O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever.

Thanks to each author who has answered the call to Write the Vision.
Happy Thanksgiving

...let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Colossians 3:15

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self Editing

Point of view versus head hopping—what is the difference? A fine line, or in writer speak, a scene or chapter break, is usually the determining factor. Quite simply, point-of-view changes become head hopping when they are done within the same scene. Head hopping short changes the reader. The omniscient take, knowing things outside the purview of the POV character, does not allow the reader to fully emotionally connect with characters.

Single point of view within a scene or a chapter allows the reader inside the character's head, experiencing what that individual is experiencing. The deeper the point of view, the more satisfying the story.

A self-editing checklist for point-of-view (POV) would include eyeing your manuscript with the following in mind:

1) Does each scene of your story start with a paragraph which plainly sets the stage and lets the reader know which character is the lead character? Note: the POV character should always be the character with the most to win or lose in a scene.

2) Is there anything mentioned within the scene that would be outside the knowledge of the POV character? For instance, does the character know another character’s name though they’ve just met and have no previous knowledge of one another?

3) Within the scene, does any narrative betray the POV character’s mindset? In other words, if the hero believes the heroine is at fault for a tragic accident, though the reader (and the character) will find out later this is not true, narrative within the POV character’s scene should not tell the reader otherwise. There is nothing wrong and something totally satisfying about a reader learning the truth when the POV character learns it.

4) Are titles and names consistent with the POV character’s pattern of thought? If Mary Henderson has always been known to the hero as Mom, he isn’t likely to refer to her in thought or narrative as Mrs. Henderson or Mary. She’d most likely be referred to as Mom or his mother.

5) Does the POV character have a tendency to describe herself? Individuals don’t usually describe themselves to themselves. It is best to let description of a character flow through the POV of another character. An exception to this rule could be a character studying herself in the mirror—but make sure there’s a good reason for this to occur, other than simply providing description.

6) Are your POV characters prone to reading minds? This is the most subtle POV change of all, and these show up primarily in action tags. For example: Paul snorted at Terri in disgust. This sentence is fine if Paul is the POV character. Make Terri the POV character, and you’ve ever-so-slightly changed POV. Terri could guess that Paul is disgusted, but she can’t know for sure. Better: Paul snorted at Terri in what she assumed was disgust. Better yet: Let Terri respond: "What was that about? You have no reason to be upset with me."

Along with telling as opposed to showing, certain words also draw readers a step away from a character’s POV. Watch out for the following phrases: He knew, she saw, he realized, she thought, she understood, and similar wording. Whenever possible, eliminate these from your narrative. Allow the reader to experience the scene as if they are the character. For example: “He saw her run into the street” is stronger when written “She ran into the street.” If POV is clearly established at the first of the scene, the reader understands that this is what the character is seeing.

Until next week, happy editing!

Make-A-Story ™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story ™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

A rocking chair
A stolen baby
A boat

Write the Vision ~ Wednesday

Habakkuk 2:2
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables...

Inspirational books are not just stories. Christian fiction has that extra ingrediant in addition to a great plot, compelling characters, and active dialog. They're more than three dimensional. There's that important fourth dimension... a Christian message. Without that component we have — fiction.

So what are some guidelines and pointers when writing an inspirational to ensure that fourth element of spirituality is addressed? Prayer is always a great starting point.

For research, by far the best place to look is Scripture. Jesus often spoke in parables those earthly stories with heavenly meanings. The Old Testament as well is filled passages that speak on so very many different levels. The book of Esther comes to mind-a vibrant story of a woman who saves her people, but there's so much more!

Here are some general questions that may be of assistance as you write and proof your inspirational fiction.

1. Will it help the believer grow?
2. Will it share the Gospel with unbelievers?
3. Will the Lord be glorified?

Happy Writing!

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

When self-editing, authors should put their back stories through a rigorous interrogation, or a vetting process, to determine the necessity of the information. Here are some important questions to ask when self-editing your back story content:

Mr. Back Story, how do you plan to show yourself?
If Mr. Back Story stutters at this point in the interrogation, it’s because he most likely didn’t plan to show anything. He wanted to tell the history, probably in one massive block of information and most likely he wanted to dump it all into the first chapter. There’s something every writer should know about this technique. It doesn’t work unless the author’s intent is to slam the front story to a screeching halt and spin the reader in a 180-degree turn for a visit back to the past. This is a sure-fire way for an author to have his novel tossed onto a rejection pile.

Mr. Back Story, what relevance do you have to the plot?
As in front story, everything brought to light through back story must be relevant to the overall plot. A reader doesn’t care if a character received a bike on her seventh birthday unless the writer gives them a reason to care. For example, the bike is the last gift the heroine’s father gave to her before he disappeared one cold, February night.

Mr. Back Story, how do you plan to present yourself in the manuscript?
If back story is necessary, it is most effectively delivered via layering it into the manuscript in such a way that the front story doesn’t even slow for a stop sign. In other words, the showing of a character’s history should make the reader want to keep turning the page to discover more about that character. Let’s look at the gift from the heroine’s Dad again. Our heroine, Maggie, is currently twenty-eight-years-old. Dad has been out of her life for twenty-one of those years. Maggie’s little girl, Ellie, is also growing up without a father. Maggie hasn’t thought of her dad in a while. What brings on the thoughts of the past?

Maybe Christmas morning has arrived. Maggie awakens and slips by the room where her little girl is asleep. She tiptoes past the guest room she’s given to her visiting mother. Downstairs, she moves to her living room to take a last moment look at the beautiful lights on the Christmas tree and the unwrapped packages underneath its branches. There to the side of the tree is a shiny dark blue bike with a silver bell and blue and silver streamers flowing from the handlebars. Maggie walks over and bends down beside it. She runs her hand over the seat. Tears well up in her eyes. “Just like the one Daddy gave me years ago before he left me.”

Not only is there potentially powerful back story in a few words spoken by the heroine, but there is room to let the back story continue to unfold. Layers keep the audience reading because they are asking questions that must be answered later in the book. In this example, the reader is sure to want to know the answers to two questions: Why did Maggie’s dad leave her, and where did he go? And this leads us to the next question in our interrogation.

Mr. Back Story, what do you have of offer to the front story that can’t be done without you?
If the answer isn’t conflict, emotion, or surprise, or better yet, all three, it might be time to rethink its value.

Let’s say the story is a romance. What kind of conflict does a missing father bring into a romance? The possibilities abound, but here are three: Maggie’s trust in men could be shaken by the abandonment of her father. Maybe Maggie is drawn to the wrong type of man because she grew up without a father in her home. Thinking herself in love with bad boy Josh, she doesn’t see how badly he treats Ellie. When handsome hero, Brian, enters the picture, she isn’t willing to let him into her heart. What if Maggie is constantly looking for her father in the men she dates, but none live up to the fairytale image she has of him. Conflict. Conflict. Conflict. And where there is conflict, there is most often emotion.

On the other hand, what happens to the story if Maggie’s mother walks into the living room? “Maggie, how did you ever find a bike for Ellie exactly like the one your father gave you?” Maggie turns to her mother. “What? I thought you bought it for her?”


In the end, the vetting process for back story should result in a manuscript that presents its characters’ histories in a way that 1) is shown and not told (usually in small blocks at integrals throughout the manuscript); 2) is relevant to the story; 3) tends to leave the reader wanting to know more about the character; and 4) develops conflict and emotion or presents a surprise for the reader.

My Life With Bears…

I was not born an adventurer. I married into it. This because the Captain -- besides being a captain -- was a naturalist. Every chance he got on land, he wanted to walk in the woods, along the beach, or on some mountain. Not that I minded, as I am rather enthralled with nature, myself. However, as our forays into wilderness places went deeper and deeper, we began to encounter wildlife that was larger than simply birds in the air, or crabs on a beach. And eventually, we ended up in that place of all places… Alaska. Where most of the remaining bears on this continent reside (whether that's true, or not, I am convinced of it). 

First of all, let me say that there are a lot of real characters who live in Alaska. And every one of them has a bear story. Usually more than one. The most popular of which is, "If you ever go hunting, or fishing out in the bush, make sure it is with somebody you can outrun." This because it is a known fact that bears can outrun humans within a mere few seconds, and one's only hope for survival lies in a good  distraction. Which I did not find very funny. 

Imagine my dismay, then, when -- to the Captain's delight -- we were able to acquire a bit of land within two miles of one of the three known denning areas for Grizzly bears in the entire state. We could build ourselves a cabin there! My first look at it was appalling. Not that it wasn't breathtakingly beautiful. We could see Denali (the highest peak on the continent) from there. What appalled me was the fact that it was overgrown with foliage that was over my head in most places. And if it was one thing I knew from listening to all those stories: bears do not like to be startled when they are resting in places like that. Or when they are eating berries. There were multiple varieties of berries from one end to the other of our new property. A veritable paradise for bears. 

I am ashamed to say that the cabin was well under way before I even ventured off the running board of the truck while we were there. Not only that, I had taken to singing, or reciting poetry, at the top of my lungs (truly out of character for me, as I am usually quite the shy person). Which really irritated the Captain, since he wanted to observe these giant carnivores in their own native habitat, and I was forever scaring them away. But I couldn't help it. When our neighbors -- a Native family, nearly half a mile away through the woods -- confided to us that the most important thing when encountering bears was never to run away from them (stare them down!)… Well, I even took to running off like a crazy person, at the slightest stirring of underbrush. Which is what started the "grabbing each other syndrome." 

The Captain would grab me by the scruff of my jacket and force me to stand still, whenever we heard a noise. Which almost always turned out to be nothing even remotely close. In turn, I would grab the back of his coat when he tried to dart off to catch a glimpse of something he had heard. If anyone had seen us, they would have thought we were fighting. Well, we were. And the only thing that saved my sanity was the eventual familiarity we began to share with the bears, themselves. 

They didn't want to encounter us anymore than we wanted to encounter them.

They actually changed their route down to the salmon stream for us. Instead of cutting through our property like they had for many years, they started going around. In time, they learned our habits as much as we learned theirs. And somewhere along the line, we have mutually agreed not to invade each other's territory. In the more than twenty years since we have been visiting our cabin there, we have never had a confrontation with each other… though we often see one another through the trees. Which is more than I can say for the black bears in the area.

But then, that's another story.

Make-A-Story ™ Monday - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our new feature - Make-A-Story ™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time frame, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.

A lantern
A recreational vehicle
A National park

A Pear Tree Becomes A Legacy

Over 30 years have passed since my father transplanted a pear tree in the back yard. He was big on fruit trees, nurturing them and watching them flourish. Ten years after we moved from Hickory Valley, Tennessee, Dad drove 110 miles back just to dig up a fig bush we'd left behind. It now grows on the south side next to the house.

Today, both the fig bush and pear tree produce abundantly. Daddy lived long enough to taste the figs, but passed away before the pear tree produced. I remember him digging around it, fertilizing, and wondering aloud if it ever would bear fruit.

Over the years the fruit continues to increase. In the past month while visiting my mother, I've gathered three bags full of the delicious fruit. Mama has called in friends and neighbors to share in the bounty besides giving loads of pears to us kids. Still, innumerable pears hang on the tree and at least a hundred are scattered beneath it.

While gathering the pears, I contemplated on what Daddy would think if he knew what his efforts had wrought. What if he does know? What if God allows people to look down from heaven and see the fruit their life has produced in the lives of others?

I picked up my heavy sack and returned to the house to find Mama seated in the kitchen working on a Word-Find. She laid it aside as I heaved the sack up onto the table and asked, "Do you think Daddy ever considered he might be leaving a legacy behind when he planted the pear tree? I wonder what he'd say if he knew people come from miles around to gather pears."

She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, but it seems the tree produces more fruit every year."

A gift that keeps on giving. Who can count the jars of preserves that have been canned from that one tree? I know my dad would be pleased to share his bounty with his small community. You see, he was a giving person.

This brought something else to contemplate. Does everyone leave a legacy? I knew the answer as soon as I asked myself the question. Yes. Whether we know it or not, something we say, or an act of kindness we show to another can become a legacy--changing the person's life. Who knows what results may someday emerge from those kind words or deeds?

My fifth-grade teacher did not live long enough to learn she'd planted a dream in my heart when she announced to our class, "One day Laurie will become an author."

Her words were planted in my heart and not forgotten. Even though I nurtured them through the years, (journaling and writing poetry) three decades passed before I acted on them.

My prayer is for the words I write to become my legacy. For this reason I must always write what God directs and inspires. My desire is for readers to be emotionally healed and blessed through my stories.

The highest compliment I've received? When a reader turns to me and says, "Thank you. Don't ever stop writing. You will never know how much your story helped me."

Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

Do you realize that when an author sends a manuscript to an editor, she is sending an extension of herself? What an editor sees in the first chapter is the first impression of the author—a faceless interview of sorts.

Is your chapter appearing for an interview dressed in cargo shorts and a t-shirt? Is it wearing a baseball cap? Maybe your chapter has walked into this very important first meeting sporting flip flops. On the other hand, has your chapter arrived for the appointment dressed in a nice suit, carrying a briefcase, dress shoes sounding on the marble floor as it approaches the office?

Just as it takes an employer a few moments to sum up an unworthy job candidate, an editor will often make a decision to take or leave a manuscript within the first chapter, and sometimes all it takes is one or two pages. The difference between a manuscript dressed for the beach versus one dressed to impress is in the care given to it by the author before sending it off to represent him or her. A carelessly edited manuscript shows up for the interview like a job candidate who’d clearly rather be anywhere other than interviewing for a highly desirable position.

How does an author prepare her manuscript for a favorable impression? She studies the overall fashion: grammar, punctuation, plot, structure, technique, style, and voice. Then she reviews her work to assure it is appropriately attired for the marketplace.

When an author learns to outfit her manuscript—understands where a comma is expected, the main function for a semicolon, the difference between active and passive sentences, the building block of scene structure to develop a dynamic plot, the necessity of conflict, the reason we adhere to a single point of view in each scene—she can then use this knowledge to maximum effect. In other words, she can dress her manuscript for success.

Join us each week for Tactical Tuesdays where we’ll provide helpful advice for self-editing so your manuscript can walk into an interview prepared to win the position.

Monday Make-a-Story™ - This Week's Writing Prompt

Writing to spec – you’ve heard the term. It means writing what the publisher wants. Can you do it? In our Monday writing prompt feature - Make-A-Story ™, we ask you to create a story with these elements. The story can be set in any time period, any length, must adhere to our guidelines and have our standard Christian world view.
Submit your story to us at any time using our regular submission guidelines, but be sure to note which Make-A-Story ™ prompt (note the date and the prompts) inspired your story.

Today's prompt:

A balcony scene
A cantankerous old guy
A doughnut

Never Too Late

I was in Utah, serving the Lord and the U.S. Air Force at Hill Air Force Base. The chaplain of the base, a friend and encourager in my life, asked me to fill in for him at a rescue mission in the city of Ogden. It was my first time to preach a sermon in front of a live audience. I had led Bible studies, shared my testimony and generally spent some time in a variety of “public” ministries, but never had I preached in front of an actual gathering of people. I was young (far younger than I am now).

When I arrived at the mission I encountered a man who, to see him, looked like one of those wizened prophets from a movie like The Ten Commandments. He sat in a small, constricted cubicle, little more than a closet with a desk and chair. The grey-haired man poured over the Bible as if the words might fall off the page lest he read it. I watched his shriveled fingers work a pen on paper and his head move back and forth as he studied.

In the crowded room, as other men ate the meager meal, the mission director approached me. He had noticed my interest in the old man and placed his hand on my shoulder.

“What do you see?” he asked.

“An old man, studying,” I said, curious as to the obvious nature of the question.

“Why don’t you go and talk with him.” So, at his encouragement, I entered the small chamber and stood over the desk. The man looked up. His wrinkled eyes smiled and he offered a bearded, toothless grin.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

My curiosity was in full vigor but I simply asked, “What are you doing?”

“Preparing for the ministry… God’s called me to preach!” His enthusiasm rumbled in his graveled voice.

I left that night, but returned week after week to help the work of the mission. Each night he was there, alone in his hole, eyes fixed on the Bible. He was little more than an oddity to me, a sixty-two year old man who lived on the streets most of his life and didn’t fit the picture of a man behind a pulpit. Then one day he was gone.

To make a long story short, I asked the director and he told me what happened. Several weeks prior, the old man sent his information to a small church near Chicago. God opened a door for that man and, at the spry age of sixty-two, he took on his first pastorate.

It’s never too late.

God calls a man who is eighty to take a nation and lead them to a promised land. God calls a man who is one-hundred and gives him and his ninety-year-old wife a son. God calls a man who is five-hundred to build a boat—a boat that won’t be finished for one-hundred and twenty years.

A good friend of mine struggles with the idea that it is too late for him. He wonders if, perhaps, opportunity has passed him by and all that is left is to wait for the end. What I’ve discovered from God’s word is that there is no such thing as an expiration date when it comes to serving the Lord—except when God says that your time on this earth is over.

In Ezekiel 37:11 it says, “Then he said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.”’”

There are many who feel this way. I know I have. You might feel as if your time is up, that you are dried bones with no life left to give. Or you might think that the hope of accomplishing any ambitious goal for the Lord has vanished like mist off a meadow. You might even believe God Himself has abandoned you and that you are cut off from all opportunity.

You need to read verse 12: “Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.’”

God can and does work restoration for His people. You might think that death is the final loss of opportunity—except for Lazarus, Tabitha, that fellow who fell on Elisha’s bones, all those who escaped their graves at the death of the Lord Jesus, a young man who fell out a window, and the list goes on. Not even death can thwart the plans that God has for His people.

Have you struggled with the notion that you’re work is shelved? It’s not. The idea that you’re time has passed is not from God. Even if you think that you have wasted precious moments and squandered opportunities, you must believe that the chance for momentum is not beyond your reach. Josiah became a king at the age of eight, and Moses didn’t start his ministry until the spry age of eighty. Time is not the deciding factor when it comes to serving God. Because God can put an old man in the pulpit, long after society gave up on him.

Your call to serve the Lord is not just about this moment. It has the potential to reach far beyond you but you have a choice to make. Will you wallow in the mire of self-doubt or rise up and lay claim to your calling from God. Don’t dwell on how much time has passed, focus on how much time is left and use it for the glory of the Lord.

Michael Duncan, Author
Shadows: Book of Aleth, Part One (find it also at Amazon.com)

Changing Names & Address

Good morning,

We'll soon be changing our look and our blog address. As most of you know, White Rose Publishing has been a division of Pelican Ventures, LLC for a couple of years now. With the October launch of our new Christian fiction imprint, Harbourlight Books, we've decided to build one "roof." Soon, this blog will be a "Pelican" blog that will include all things relevant to both White Rose and Harbourlight.

And yes, I know we've been a little AWOL on this blog for a while, but we'll get back to regular posts shortly. Thanks for sticking around.

Hope you enjoy!

Nicola Martinez, Editor-in-Chief