An Illustration and Invitation by Author Erik Guzman

There’s an old song that says, “You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.” That’s a fact proven by physics. There’s a formula and everything. The ability to achieve sufficient velocity via wheeled bipedal locomotion is inversely proportional to the number of cow patties within a limited amount of unobstructed surface area. Don’t even try it. It’s a mess.
I’d give the same advice to most people who want to illustrate the Trinity. There are too many land mines and you’re bound to get stuck in a thick pile of heresy. But I just happen to have 22 earned credit hours toward a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree, so I figured I was up to the task. You can see how that turned out in my book, The Seed: A True Myth. I now realize just how insane I was to strap on my skates and take off into the herd.
What was I thinking? I probably wasn’t thinking enough, but the love of the Trinity compelled me. I’m not talking primarily about my love for the Trinity, rather the love within the Trinity. It’s a love that has always existed between God the Father and God the Son in the shared delight of God the Spirit. It’s a love that has graciously overflowed to me, filled me, and invited me into a divine life that has always existed and will never end.
You’re invited too! That’s really what my book is, more than an illustration, it’s an invitation into the life and love of the Godhead.
In John 17 we read Jesus’ high priestly prayer. He prays for those with whom he walked and then in verses 20-26 he prays for those who would believe in him through their word. That’s us.
Jesus prays that we would be one, just like he and the Father are one, the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father… and Jesus, by his Spirit, in us. (In the previous chapter, John 16, he talks about the work of the Spirit.) In John 17, Jesus asks that we would know and experience the glory and love that he shared with the Father before the foundation of the earth. That’s talking about eternity, and that’s a mighty long time… or it’s no time at all. That experience of glory—of the Father’s love that Jesus asks for on our behalf—comes by the Spirit, the Spirit in us that cries out Abba, Daddy!
So here in this intimate moment of prayer, we see God the eternal Son who, before the foundation of the earth, knew the love of the eternal Father in the communion of the eternal Spirit who is the very delight the Father and Son have in each other. And our high priest, God the Son, prays we would be one in the glory and love of this Trinity.
Do you think God the Father will say yes to that prayer from God the Son? Of course he will.
Now here’s the thing, I talk and write a lot about grace: the message that because of Jesus’ finished work, God’s not mad at his kids. Grace is mind blowing. We have to use words like “radical” and “amazing” to describe it. But grace is just a door. It’s access to share in the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, to become one with God. That’s what Jesus asked for in John 17. 
Grace is the door to the Trinity, and it’s always open. Grace is just an open door. 
One more thing, the path to that open door of grace is weakness and brokenness and failure and sin. When you walk that path to the door of grace, you don’t even have to knock. I mean, there’s nothing on the hinges… just an opening made out of the wood of Jesus’ cross.
So in my book, The Seed, and with this little scripture meditation, I invite you to step through the door to the eternal relationship between Father and Son in the shared delight of the Spirit. Come just as you are, burdened and broken, and you will hear, “Welcome. Welcome Home, child. Come in and rest in my love.”
Erik Guzman is Vice President of Communications and Executive Producer at Key Life Network. He’s the co-host of the nationally syndicated talk show Steve Brown, Etc. and announcer for Key Life. Guzman’s writing has been featured in the organization’s magazine and website as well Liberate.org, Burnside Writers Collective and Sojourners (sojo.net). He has a BA in mass communication and an MBA and is perpetually working toward a Master’s in theological studies. He is also the author of the soon-to-be-published book The Gift of Addiction: How God Redeems Our Pain.

Guzman is also a Lay Eucharistic Minister, a drummer and a fifth-degree black belt in Aikido. He lives near Orlando, Florida, with his wife and their three children.

Keep up with Erik Guzman on Facebook and Twitter, or read his articles at www.keylife.org.

In Honor of Memorial Day

Today, we’re taking a break in our usual programing to remember the men and women who have bravely fought and died for our country. If you see a soldier today, please stop and thank him for his service.                                                  

 The Greatest Soldier of All
by Patty Smith Hall

     He was a simple man. Sprigs of snowy white hair peeked out from under a dirty ball cap, framing a wrinkled face that had weathered a lifetime of storms. Wearing worn blue jeans and a button-up shirt that had seen better days, he was probably someone’s daddy or granddaddy, stopping by the magazine aisle for the newest puzzle book. But right now, he stared at what I held in my hands. A photo essay of Pearl Harbor.
     Being a child in the 1960s, the surprise attack that drew the United States into World War II was just a history lesson to me. But in this man’s eyes, I saw memories of a time and place so real, I could have reached out and touched them.
     “Nice book, isn’t it?” I asked.
     The muscles in his throat moved, and for the briefest of moments, I felt ashamed for disturbing him. Then he spoke. “I was there,” the quickly added. “Not for the attack, but later.”
     He’d been a boy of eleven or twelve when the Japanese bombed Hawaii, but he remembered the days afterward. The call to arms. The boys of Paulding county marching off to war. The star that hung in the windows of those who didn’t make it home.
    The attack affecting him. Nine years later, he joined the Marines. He shyly glanced at me. “I’d been raised in church and was saved when I was a young boy, but the service changed me. I slid away from the Lord. That was before I went to Pearl Harbor.”
     His orders came in. After a brief layover in Hawaii, he would report to duty in Korea where a new conflict brewed. Scared about what laid ahead, he decided to go see Battleship Row, particularly the entombed Arizona. Standing where so many had died, he watched as the infamous drops of oil rose to the surface. So many lives for the sake of freedom.
     “Then the Lord spoke to me in His still small voice,” the man said. “He reminded me that one day, the oil would run dry and people would forget what happened here, but His Son shed drops of blood for my freedom that will last for all eternity.”
     The man gave his life back to the Lord that day, certain that whatever happened in Korea, his everlasting freedom was secure. He tipped his hat and scuffled away.
     A lump formed in my throat as I  gazed at the book through unshed tears. So many lives lost in the cause for freedom . One battle fought for our eternal deliverance. The nameless man had changed my textbook view of Pearl Harbor. Never again would it be just another documentary on the History Channel,  but a constant reminder to give thanks for the men and women who serve our country every day. And to give wholehearted praise to the loving Warrior who stormed the gates of Hell to ensure my liberty from death’s sting.
     For Christ truly is the greatest soldier of all.
   
   

Dwell in the Land, and Cultivate Faithfulness

I’m pleased to have my friend Joylene M. Bailey do a guest post today. I trust you will be inspired by her thoughts on apprenticeship.
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The problem with me is that I want to learn everything at once. I love learning. But I often don’t take the time to learn something well before I’m off to the next thing. (Which is a strange practice for a perfectionist, now that I think about it.)

I just want to know everything. I can’t begin to explain how disappointed I was at the age of 34 – married with children – to suddenly come to the realization that I would never know everything there was to know in the world.

Devastated doesn’t even come close.
*****

Apprenticeship is very different from learning something quickly and moving on to the next enticing thing. When I picture an apprentice, I picture a student walking with his master. Watching closely, listening carefully, mimicking the movements, learning the tone of voice.

Apprentices of the Middle Ages actually lived with their masters’ families. For several years!

By the end of their apprenticeship they would have understood the meaning in every raised eyebrow, every twitch of the lips, every “harrumph!” that they encountered in their master’s actions. And they would have understood their craft inside out and backwards.

This week I have been pondering Psalm 37, with regards to my writing. Verses familiar to me that I have had highlighted for many years:

Verse 3. Trust in the LORD, and do good …

Verse 4. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Verse 5. Commit your way to the LORD …

Verse 7. Rest in the LORD …

But what’s this? Artfully tucked between Trust in the LORD and Delight yourself in the LORD are two little lines conveniently skipped over time and again:

Dwell in the land

and cultivate faithfulness.

That, to me, is apprenticeship at its core. Dwelling in the land of writers is an apprenticeship with community. I like to dwell in the land of writers.

I am fresh off a Spring WorDshop, (sponsored by InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship) where it was invigorating to breathe the same air as like-minded people. And I learned so many things I had never thought about in quite that way before.

I love my writers group, where I can bounce ideas off of trusted writer friends, get constructive feedback, and grow in my craft.

That’s dwelling in the land of writers.

Cultivating faithfulness takes work and attention, and is part of the apprenticeship that is often done alone.

The definition of cultivate is:

– – to grow and care for

– – to foster the growth of

– – to improve by labour, care, and study

There is something about this part of apprenticeship that is just so … daily. It’s not something quickly learned, enabling me to blissfully skip off to learn something new. It’s a step by step, day by day growing, improving, and knowing.

It’s being faithful to the word and the Word.

Day in and day out, sitting my bottom in the chair and putting my fingers to the keyboard. This is the hard part for someone who likes to go off to learn the latest thing. Someone like me. But I think that dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness with my writing is the best possible apprenticeship I could have.

LORD, I trust in You. I commit my writing to You. Grant me the motivation, determination, and focus to be faithful in my apprenticeship. Above all, may it bring You glory.
Amen.
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Joylene
M. Bailey writes because. What began as making up childhood stories to put
herself to sleep at night, became creating stories and songs for her three
daughters. This entertainment morphed into writing articles and stories
for children’s publications, writing rhymes for her grandson, and blogging at www.scrapsofjoy.com
Her current work
in progress is a novel about a wandering little girl and her flawed but loving
mother. Joy and her husband live in Alberta, Canada, and are relishing their recent
transition to empty nesting.

Hook Your Reader by Knowing Their Habits

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Tweet this: Hook Your Reader by Knowing Their Habits
 

Your books keep me glued to the page!

The best compliment a writer can hear is, “Your book kept me up all night. I was hooked from the very first line.”

We’re pumped! What wonderful affirmation for our hard work. All the hours, tears, rewrites, digesting critiques, and muscle-cramped fingers just paid off. A 
lovely nap is in order.

But in addition to all the effort it takes to write a dynamic story, a wise writer understands her readers have certain habits. Those peculiarities and preferences are vital to creating a novel that leaves the reader satisfied and wanting more. Our desire is for our books to be shared with others, via word of mouth and social media.How can we writers determine the best way to engage readers? We can begin by understanding the demographics of our readers. Know who they are and write to heartfelt needs. By penning the answers to the following questions, we writers can ensure our books are well received.

  • Who is the reader? Can you describe her (him)?
  • What is the reader’s age? How can a story appeal specifically to that reader, and what she is experiencing at this stage of her life?
  • What is the reader’s career? Can the writer pen a story that relates to the reader’s expertise or interest?
  • Where does the reader live? Is her home the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, etc? Does the story idea draw in the reader’s home or travels? If the reader lives in a different area than the book’s setting, does the story paint a vivid image of the location? 

Keeping a reader glued to the pages of our books is more than crafting
unique characters, a strong plot, vivid setting, witty dialogue, appropriate emotion and body language, correct grammar and punctuation, and all the other techniques involved in writing a quality story. A bestselling novel caters to the world of the reader and invites her inside with an adventure that promises to live on in her heart. 

How do you hook your readers?

Tweet this: Hook Your Reader by Knowing Their Habits

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.