May those with children feel appreciated,
May those grieving empty arms be comforted,
May those mourning and missing the one who gave them life
Be wrapped in goodness and love today.
Happy Mother’s Day, friends.
To the survivors of abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministry (SGM) churches, who are enduring heartache as men (who should know better) defend the indefensible and choose to stand with the man whose spiritual responsibility it was to rid his flock of evil … SGM Survivors, your cries are heard today and you are not alone. Survivors of abuses within other faith communities, for whom this turn of events triggers old wounds, your cries are heard today and you are not alone.
Trigger Warning: Child abuse and spiritual abuse
How long will the wounded sheep stumble? How long will they be beaten down unjustly? How long will your justice be stayed, oh Lord?
As for me, I wish that the wolves would be slaughtered—I have no use for those who use children to satisfy their lusts. Take them away. Lock them up tightly, and throw away the key, for they do not deserve to freely roam. They anger me, yes. I abhor their wicked deeds and the blood that drips from their mouths. But, God, I have to tell you, it is the errant shepherd who turns my blood cold and keeps me up at night.
The man armed with his staff and your Word, who binds tongues instead of wounds. He looks the other way as the wolf enters the pen. He busies himself plucking fleas from the fold, while a ravenous beast gnaws away the very souls of the smallest sheep. And then, only when the cries can no longer be ignored, he will survey the damage, shoo the wolf to his neighbor’s farm, and nudge the injured to keep on keeping on.
This is the enemy, God. This is the enemy, and my soul aches that sheep still trail after his sandals, never questioning, never realizing that a better shepherd exists.
The wolf will always be a wolf, but the shepherd, God, the shepherd has a higher calling. He was called to follow in your footsteps, God the Shepherd of All. To provide green pastures, protection and comfort—not a cozy-on-the-couch comfort, God, but the comfort of compassion and safety. That was his calling. And he failed. He failed to be a good shepherd. He failed to protect the sheep, but it was so much more than a momentary lapse in judgement. He failed to stop the wolf from hunting again and he failed to gently treat the tiny sheep whose life blood seeped from ragged gashes both seen and unseen.
A few good shepherds have noticed, Lord. I know they have. They wave the wounded into the safety of their own flocks where healing can begin. They are watchful for the wolves and they keep a steady eye on the shepherds who lack a gentle hand. But I long for a day when you will set the errant shepherds before you and unleash your holy judgment. I long for the day you will remind them that their duty was to the sheep, not the fence, because they love their fences, God, they really do. And they will brag for all to hear about the quality of their fences, the walls between them and the rest of the world, even though these walls fail to keep out the wolves. And I long for the day you will remind them that their duty was to keep the wolf from biting another, even if it meant facing off with the beast. Even if it meant losing the fight. Because there will always be another shepherd, God, waiting to take in their sheep. A good shepherd. A better shepherd, as those who come after us usually are. And the sheep will not forget the sacrifice of a good shepherd. No, the sheep will remember, just as they remember the shepherd who busied himself with pesky fleas while the wolves had their way
I have loved writing from a very young age. (No, seriously. Since before I could write in full sentences.) As a five-year-old, I’m pretty certain I defaced every writing surface in the house with what I thought was a pretty awesome little line of poetry: Love, love, love is hot.
Two years later, I rewrote the ending to Gone with the Wind on a single page of my father’s stationary. (No offense, Margaret Mitchell, but it had to be done.) Then my first writing classes came shortly after, as Christian devotional writer Jeannette Lockerbie was the mother of one of my teachers when I was growing up on the mission field in Bangladesh. Every time Mrs. Lockerbie visited the country she would bless us with her writing wisdom, which for me was from about second grade onward. Though I don’t remember all her rules of the craft, she had some that stuck with me. The first and most important was read, read, read. If anyone said to her (or her daughter, my teacher, who was also a great writer) that they would like to write, her response was always the same: What are you reading? If they couldn’t answer, she was likely to tell them quite politely that something had to be done about that or they’d get nowhere.
The truth is, yes, technically you could write without a love of reading, but you are quite likely to be shoddy at it. Fantastic writers are in love with words and can’t get enough of them. Fantastic writers are also students of the best authors in the world. I would add to this widely heralded rule of reading and writing that great writers don’t just read, they read with pen in hand. (I’ve broken a separate writing rule from another mentor in that sentence, but I’ll save it for another post. If you can spot it in the comments, you win.)
While not every book you read will be pen- or highlighter-worthy, it’s a practice worth developing. A lot of people will make the mistake of assuming all the circling and underlining is only for non-fiction, marking words to live by or facts to win an argument. However, fiction—provided you are reading authors worth your time—should also be read with pen in hand. As you come across beautiful sentences or paragraphs, those that move you or inspire you to write better, mark them. Memorize them. I don’t care if it’s as silly as the brilliantly witty line from Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It—“There is no god but Mummy, and Daddy is her prophet”—or something much more moving and intricate.
The first fiction I recall memorizing was a line from the original ending of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations. (Yes, there is an original ending, of which Dickens’ idiot novelist friend did not approve, because he had no taste and thus in my humble opinion was a crap writer. Never heard of Edward Bulwer-Lytton? He’s credited with the line: “It was a dark and stormy night.” As well as: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” But I still think he should have been tarred and feathered for the blaspheme he perpetuated by talking Dickens out of the most beautiful ending of all time.)
It went like this (SPOILER ALERT: Pip and Estella don’t end up together) and, yes, I still know it be heart, 25 years after my first reading:
“For, in her face and in her touch, and in her voice,
she gave me the assurance that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham’s teaching,
and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.”
The beauty of it was both the poetic justice, the true-to-real-life lack of a neatly happy ending (sorry, Ms. Mitchell, I learned my lesson), and the way Dickens deftly uses repetition and rhythm to soothe his readers as they come to the very last line. I wrote this out and pinned it to my wall at age 14 like the nerdy word lover that I was, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Sure, now and then everyone needs to read something altogether un-quotable. I’ve gone through phases where all I wanted was silly chick lit, plain and simple. (I’m not gonna lie to you, friends, Bridget Jones’ Diary changed my life in 2001, and remains the pinnacle achievement of the genre.) But currently I’m on a UK mystery kick that just won’t die. (Kate Atkinson and Tana French are only marginally quotable, but they have amazing vocabularies and—trust me—they are to die for.) As you can see, get me out of my head for two hours, please, is often my reading motto.
But the world is still brimming with incredible fiction talent and I adore learning at their feet for the simple price of a book: Khaled Hosseini, Jude Morgan, Ian McEwan—just to name a few. So when you come across memorable sentences, take note. Read them repeatedly until you understand exactly what makes them work. Write them in your own hand. Say them out loud. Love them until you tire of them. (But we both know you won’t.)
I promise you, this won’t just make you an obnoxiously well-read bibliophile who quotes Jude Morgan at dinner parties, it will make you a better writer, no matter what your genre.
So, my friends, do tell. Name one of your favorite authors (because, puh-lease, I know you have more than just one), and do share what books you are currently reading. Better yet, share a wonderful line that has stuck with you from a book. I can’t wait to read all about your love affair with words!
Quote by Barbara Kingsolver. From Animal Dreams (Harper Perennial). I hope you enjoy this quote from prize-winning author Barbara Kingsolver as much as I did. Let’s not admire hope from a distance. Let’s live under its roof …