Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Age-Old Battle in Vietnam

This was in the Voice of the Martyr's newsletter this morning.

Government Plan to Subdue Spread of Protestantism - Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Christian Solidarity Worldwide learned about an internal Vietnamese government training manual, which outlines a plan "to resolutely subdue the abnormally rapid and spontaneous development of the Protestant religion." This plan seeks to dampen the spread of Protestantism among ethnic minorities in the country's northwest highlands. Pray God will continue the "abnormal" growth of His kingdom in Vietnam. 1 Peter 2:9, 10

Praise God who grows His beloved abnormalities no matter how Satan howls; and pray for our brothers and sisters who are as light living in darkness and suffer it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Will Write For Chocolate

There's so much creativity kicking around the internet, sometimes it's overwhelming :). I just finished reading the archives for Debbie Ridpath Ohi's online comic strip, "Will Write for Chocolate." I suspect non-writers may not find it as hilarious as I do, but then, she's following the advice in my last writer's tip and writing for her audience.

This one's my favourite:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Writing Tip: Choose Your Readers

New authors are often asked who they think their work will appeal to. "Everyone will like this book," they gush. That is an unfortunate reply.

None of us writes for the whole world. We each have a special group of readers who will read what we write--our ideal audience. Will people from outside this narrow group read your writing? Possibly. But you cannot write for "everyone." Choose your readers, and write for them.

Your readers are key to what you write, especially in nonfiction. They determine the language you'll use, the issues you'll address, the degree of personal or professional tone you will take. For example, if you're writing an article on the influence of Greek in English vocabulary, you will write differently for a group of college professors who are proficient in Greek than you would for a group of primary school students who are just learning about root words and their ilk. If you're writing about motherhood, you will take a different tone if you write for feminists than if you write for homeschool moms--your audience determines how you speak.

If you find that you have trouble focusing in your nonfiction, ask yourself who you're writing for. How can you best help them? What do they need to know? Why are they listening to you?

Write for your readers. It's just good sense.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

ARCs and Laughter

The Family Review Copies (variation on the traditional "Advanced Reading Copies") for our temporarily titled big family/homeschool humour book came in today. Since it mentions various siblings by name, we thought it would be best to have our families "approve" them before going to press.

My sister Naomi, quite the gratifying giggler, got stuck on the Table of Contents and kept reading them over and laughing at the one-liners. Being a typically insecure author, I'm going to be hovering around over eggshells until everyone's read and approved the whole thing.

Still: they're here. Yay!


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Homeschool Reading from Bloggers

For a plethora of great articles on Homeschooling, Thankfulness, Family, and other topics close to our hearts, check out the 47th Carnival of Homeschooling on Tami's blog! This is my first time participating in a Carnival. It should be great!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thanksgiving As the Will of God

"Thanksgiving is one of the most powerful acts of faith we can possibly carry out. It is a grand announcement that our allegiance is fixed. It is a joyous defiance of Satan and all of his works. It is the singing of praises in prison that leads to the bursting of the prison doors (Acts 16:25). It is the simple reaching of a child to a Father who is there, and that Father has never failed to reach right back."

With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I'd post an article that I originally wrote three years ago for Letters to a Samuel Generation. Whatever circumstances you may be in, I hope this article encourages you to embrace the will of God in this moment--that you give thanks.


For This Is the Will of God

by Rachel Starr Thomson

"One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go well."
- St. John of the Cross

At one time or another, we all find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control. Jobs are lost and once-stable finances reach a crisis point. Illness strikes. Churches lose sight of their vision and split into factions--and someone is always caught in the middle. Death comes.
And there is nothing we can do about it.

In crisis times, life becomes a complicated dance. We try to keep our feet in the path God has laid out for us, but His will isn't always clear. We are stepping in the dark. God is a god of light, and He does not keep us in the dark forever, but the fact remains that we often "see through a glass darkly." Things will become clear--later. For now, we are called to put our hand squarely in the Lord's and step into the mirk, believing that He will lead in the right direction. My problem is that I don't want to go where I can't see. I have a strong aversion to walking in faith. I want to know exactly what God is thinking and doing every second, so that not one of my own movements will be risky. I am a believer in the common misconception that if I know God's will, everything will go smoothly.

If you're doing a mirky dance of your own, I have one piece of good news for you. I don't know if God wants you to go east or west, spend money here or save it there, pray for recovery or for strength to be weak. Those things you must discover for yourself. Those are the minutae of God's will--the specific steps that will lead you in the right direction.

But there is a broader will of God, one that applies to you and to me no matter where we are, and it is that will that I want to share with you. It's written in the Bible, in black and white, where anyone can see it. Obedience to it in the dark times, I find, brings an amazing amount of light. In this article, I'm only going to deal with one aspect of this greater will of God, and I hope that it encourages you as it does me.

It is God's will that we give thanks.

I'm not telling you that you must go leaping and skipping, strewing flowers in your wake, when you feel more like laying down to die. God does not ask us to manufacture emotions where there are none. God's will is not necessarily that you feel thankful--it is that you give thanks. The giving of thanks is an act of obedience, a matter of the will. Anyone can do it. And because God is a merciful, loving God, who knows what it's like to feel despondent and helpless (if you doubt it, read the Gospel accounts of Gethsemane), our act of thanksgiving is often followed by joy and peace, which are gifts of the Father and do not come out of our own strength.

"In everything give thanks," Paul says, "for this is the will of God concerning you."

Something almost mystical happens when we give thanks in times of trouble. We proclaim to the world, to the devil, and to ourselves that God is still in control, that we are still His children, and that He is still blessing us--no matter what it may look like. The beauty of this is that it's true. He is in control. We are His children, and He is actively working everything for our good (Rom. 8:28).

When we choose to give thanks in a difficult situation, we choose to believe in God. We choose to believe in His promises. And because His promises are true, this choosing on our part brings light into darkness. Satan can do a great deal with a bitter heart. He can't do a thing with a heart that stubbornly insists on blessing God when the world seems to be falling apart.
Witness Job, whose own wife told him to "curse God and die." True, the Book of Job does not seem at first glance to be a shining example of thankfulness. Job spends much of the book lamenting. But on closer examination, the oldest piece of writing in the Bible reveals a heart that is dead-set on being thankful. True, Job is at a loss to find anything to bless God about in the ash heap where he sits. So, he looks for something he can be thankful for--and finds it in the past.
"The LORD gave," he says, and how many beautiful memories are involved in that word "gave!" "The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)

A remembrance of God's faithfulness in days gone by not only gives us something to thank Him for, it also reminds us that the same faithfulness is working now, and we will see the fruit of it in the future. As Job declares, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and he shall stand on the earth in the last day."

David also knew the secret of determined thankfulness. The shepherd king spent years on the run--from his king, from his conscience, from his son. Yet he continually exorts himself and his followers to bless the LORD. Psalm after psalm begins with an admonition to thankfulness. Here are the opening verses to Psalms 103-106:

"Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name."
"Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty."
"O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people."
"Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever."

Thanksgiving is one of the most powerful acts of faith we can possibly carry out. It is a grand announcement that our allegiance is fixed. It is a joyous defiance of Satan and all of his works. It is the singing of praises in prison that leads to the bursting of the prison doors (Acts 16:25). It is the simple reaching of a child to a Father who is there, and that Father has never failed to reach right back.

Whatever circumstances you face today, or tomorrow; whatever decisions you now pray and mull over, do not forget the greater will of God.

Shout blessings in the desert caves that hide you from your enemies.

Sing praises in the prison cells where life has beaten and shackled you.

Remember His faithfulness on the ash heap; look to His promises when you are most in pain.

Give thanks, people of God.

And know that your Redeemer lives.

* * *

Read more devotional articles at, soon to be compiled as a hardbound book: Letters to a Samuel Generation: The Collection.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Little Dozen update

There are, as always, various projects on the go: including a couple of new ones. Here's what's going on right now with Little Dozen Press:

1. The Web site is being updated! Things are changing every day, so come check it out.

2. Letters to a Samuel Generation, my old devotional ezine, is being posted in pieces on under "Devotional Articles." Access to the articles is totally free. At the same time, I'm gathering the articles, along with some personal notes and the quotes and poetry that originally accompanied them in the ezines, into a hardbound book which should be available in the next few months. This is for everyone who would rather have Letters sitting on their shelf than on their hard drive, and it will make a great gift item. The ISBN for it came in this morning, so look for it to be available soon!

3. New prayer guide for small group leaders (and pastors, fathers, mothers, good friends... anyone who has a hand in discipling). This will be a booklet or ebook that will be offered FREE to small group leaders with a purchase of Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer. It's based on a study I did last year on Paul's prayers for the churches. It's in development right now... my major project for this morning, actually.

4. The temporarily titled Tales of the Hopelessly Homeschooled is in pre-publication approval stages. Proofs are in the mail and I'm excited about getting this one on the road :).

On the fiction front...

1. Taerith has been updated with its fifth chapter. Be sure to leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

2. My old Seventh World Trilogy (Worlds Unseen, Burning Light, and The Advent) is in for an exciting revamp. Worlds Unseen will be released as a free ebook (available in paperback as well). Burning Light will be coming out in paperback. As for The Advent--well, I have plans to develop it as a subscription-based serial.

Looking over this makes me realize again how much there is to do, so fare thee well! Back into the wonderful world of words I plunge...

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yippee! (or, Who Knew a Bad Query Could Cause Me So Much Joy?)

I winned! I mean, I won! The editor of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine ran a fun contest which I entered. Check it out to see the most hilariously horrible example of how NOT to write a query letter that I have ever seen.

On another note, I finished uploading a few more devotional articles to today. When I originally wrote them they were sent out to a private email list of subscribers worldwide. Those were the good ol' days :). Since then many of them have been reprinted in Home School Digest and An Encouraging Word. Anyway, I'm hoping to get the whole collection up on my Web site over the next few days so you can ALL read them.

And since this post is mostly about contests, I entered an excerpt from my novel Worlds Unseen in a contest run by my friend Inky. I won "Best Suspense." Thanks everybody who voted!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writing Tip: Tighten Up

The tighter your writing, the stronger it will be. You should always be on the lookout for words, phrases, and even whole sentences that can (and should) be pitched. No, I don't mean you need to sap all the artistry out of your words--

"Now is the winter of our discontent" is a lot better than "Our discontent is over," even though the first sentence is almost twice as long. Still, I hope you can see that either of the above is better than "Now is the time when the winter of our discontent is here."

The key to creative tightening is not to shorten your sentences as much as possible: it's to make sure that every word counts. Write potent words, reeking with significance. When every word is essential to clarity, beauty, and power--when there isn't a single word that can be thrown out without leaving a dearth--you're done tightening.

It's a subjective art, of course. No one will ever do it perfectly, but to come close is a writer's peculiar joy.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thy Kingdom Come - Excerpt from "Heart to Heart"

Any view of Christianity as fire insurance or a feel-good morality tale is missing the reality of the kingdom. The kingdom of God is that place wherein God has His unhindered rule, and that place is in our hearts. "The kingdom of God is within you," Jesus told a listening crowd. And to live in accordance with His kingdom necessitates a total change of life. "Repent," Jesus told the people of Galilee, "and believe the gospel." Belief in the good news of the king's arrival in our world goes hand in hand with repentance: with a complete about-face in our way of being, an absolute surrender to God's rule and reign.

The fact is, the kingdom of God runs totally counter to anything we have learned growing up in the world. Jesus, the Servant-King, is the heart and center of His realm, and His character defines its laws and principles. There is no room in the kingdom for our self-serving games, our divisions and petty offenses. The King is love, and oneness, and grace. In the world, we preserved ourselves by fear and cunning; Jesus calls us to trust and childlikeness. In the world, we value possessions and position; in the kingdom, we value people and poverty of spirit.

In a sense, we who have repented and believed the gospel are outposts of heaven. We are a new and living world within an old and dying one. It is ours to walk in the light, to live as children of the day, to worship the True King and oppose the rebellious stewards who have tried to claim this realm for their own. To the darkness, we are the worst sort of traitors, because we dare to live eternal lives while the world tumbles ever nearer its ultimate destruction. The Bible speaks truly when it says that we are at enmity with the world. But at the same time, we are the world's hope: because we have not just been left here to wile away the hours until Christ returns. Rather, we have been left here as colonists with a mission: to preach, as Jesus and His disciples did, that the kingdom of God has come, and that if we will surrender ourselves to the King, God has promised to "deliver us from the power of darkness, and translate us into the kingdom of his dear Son."

* * *

I just finished putting a complete collection of chapter excerpts from Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer up on Little Dozen. Come check it out!

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

radio interview

My radio interview is tomorrow at 10:00 central time on It should be accessible any time during the day. Let me know if you listen in! If you miss it I believe it will be archived and you can listen to it later, though I can't guarantee that.

Topics including writing, publishing, homeschooling, God, and some blither.

Feeling rather insecure about this... I do not talk anywhere near as well as I write :).


radio interview

My radio interview is tomorrow at 10:00 central time on It should be accessible any time during the day. Let me know if you listen in! If you miss it I believe it will be archived and you can listen to it later, though I can't guarantee that.

Topics including writing, publishing, homeschooling, God, and some blither.

Feeling rather insecure about this... I do not talk anywhere near as well as I write :).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

this Book

I've been out of the "usual life" loop for a little while, so I'm enjoying getting back in. Alexis and I went to Bible study tonight (a sort of college & careers group based out of our church, but with an interesting mix of people at varying stages of life). We've been going through the Book of Hebrews, and it's really been good. I just love getting into Scripture with a bunch of people and sinking our teeth into it, verse by verse.

I'm just so amazed by Scripture... I think I'm learning to appreciate it more and more. There was a time in my life when my spirituality (for lack of a better word) was largely based in "experiences" with God. I had a very emotional connection with Him. I'm not downplaying that... it was incredibly formative, and I still thank God for that time. And then things dried up. I fully believe that God orchestrated that "desert time." And He promised me (when I begged for an explanation) that I would learn that "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." Life since that time has been a deep and holy lesson in living by the word: eating it, standing on it, studying it, embracing it. He's given us SO much in it.

The last year has been really rich in Bible study. At the moment I'm studying on my own (Luke... I've been going through the Gospels), listening to an interesting sermon series on Romans, and reading through Hebrews with my Bible study group. I love the way everything fits together, how more and more pieces fall into place all the time. Our discussion tonight brought to memory a verse I read when I studied Leviticus last year, and that verse suddenly snapped into focus for me for the first time. Not only that, but it applied to what I read in Romans... and something Jesus said... and a discussion I was having with a friend the other day.

I know I'm rambling... I'm just impressed with God all over again tonight, and I thought I'd mention it :).

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

return of the radio star

I just did a radio interview with Quite a new experience for me, and I'm sure I talked too fast and said "ummm" far too often, but I had a lot of fun talking about writing and publishing and serving the Lord and other connected things. Leland and Kathie Fleming, the hosts, were very nice.

The show should air sometime next week, possibly Monday, at 10:00 Central time (11:00 EST). I'll let you know for sure as soon as I find out!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Church as a Community of Disciples

"I just returned from Vietnam where the church is exploding. What I saw on this trip, and have seen on past trips, is a church growing. It's not because of Western involvement, or any other that I could detect, but from unique stories of how individuals came to faith in Christ through unexpected ways, and then wound up leading friends to faith in Christ.

"That led them to starting groups to pray and worship and reach out. I've yet to meet one who deliberately started out to start a church. It just happened because they were leading their friends to faith in Christ--just like Acts 11. Church wasn't something they intentionally started to reach all these lost seekers. It was community that developed and emerged from relationships that grew due to their following Christ together."

-- Dr. Bob Roberts, Jr., founder of NorthWood Church in Texas, on why Asian churches move while we plan movements and often fail to see them. Check out the full article on (You may need to register to read some of the article... it's free and worth it.)

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

wild with the winds of September

"Now had the season returned, when the nights grow colder and longer,
And the retreating sun the sign of the Scorpion enters.
Birds of passage sailed through the leaden air, from the icebound,
Desolate northern bays to the shores of tropical islands.
Harvests were gathered in; and wild with the winds of September
Wrestled the trees of the forest, as Jacob of old with the angel.
All the signs foretold a winter long and inclement.
Bees, with prophetic instinct of want, had hoarded their honey
Till the hives overflowed; and the Indian hunters asserted
Cold would the winter be, for thick was the fur of the foxes.
Such was the advent of autumn."

-- from Evangeline, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I enjoyed that :).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Writing Tips: Say What You Mean, Part 2

There's a whole coterie of words out there whose life mission it is to plague our work with ambiguity. Don't get me wrong; they DO have their place. But these pushy little fellows will run rampant all over your writing if you let them.

Their ringleader is ye olde state-of-being verb "seems."

Look at this sentence: "The sky seems to be grey."

Ahem. Is the sky grey or isn't it? Stand up to your writing: say what you mean! No more beating around the bush.

Here's a few more:

"She felt a feeling like anger rise up inside."
"It seems that the answer is found in our human nature."
"The buildings resembled 17th century homes."
"The river is probably the nicest place in town."

All too often, we haul out words like "seems" and "probably" and "like" because we're feeling apologetic or we're not quite sure of what we're saying. If you find yourself doing this, stop. Make sure of your facts. Solidify your opinion. And deliver it whole-hog. Have the courage to say what you mean. It makes for much better writing!

Was she angry or wasn't she?
Is the answer found in human nature or not?
Are the buildings 17th century homes?
Is the river the nicest place in town?

Saying what you mean will make your writing tighter, sharper, and more impactful. Excelsior!

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

quick excuse

The Writing Tip is coming tomorrow; I have fallen tragically behind on my work and have spent all day trying to mark and upload twenty papers by tonight. A failed trip to Starbucks to work on the papers in new scenery put me behind schedule still further. As a consequence, it is half an hour till midnight and I am still marking... the Tip can wait, I say!