What Your Next Bible Study Book Should Be…

disruptive-messiah-coverweb

I don’t read very many Christian books, mostly because I don’t like 50 different people resaying the same things, so I’m very selective with my Christian reading list. But every so often I’ll pick one up that really stands out on its own.

The one I recently ran across is by a new author, Ken Ruggles from Southern California, who writes about a Messiah who doesn’t come to give peace, nor offer comfort, nor sit idly by as a mere observer. He writes, instead, about the Jesus of the Bible who comes as a disturber – a Disruptive Messiah, if you will.

Ruggles walks his readers through thirteen separate instances of Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth and ending with His entry into Jerusalem. Ruggles’ vast knowledge of the mid-Eastern landscape and culture, particularly in regards to biblical times, aids his readers in having a clearer understanding of the background surrounding the particular stories he calls to attention.

You can read The Disruptive Messiah on your own, but I think it would best be discovered as a small group discussion guide as each chapter is conveniently bookended with thoughtful questions for reflection.

Ken Ruggles isn’t the pastor of a church, nor some high-profile missionary, which is to his credit because he is able to relate to his readers on their level and meet them where they’re at. It is his many years of study and teaching and traveling to the Promised Land that affords him the credibility to teach us about Jesus from a unique perspective.

So grab a copy for yourself and talk to your Bible study leaders about making The Disruptive Messiah your next discussion guide.

Order your copy here.

So You Want to Write Part 11 – How to AVOID Writer’s Block

Pages and pages of suggested cures and tips for overcoming writer’s block are easily accessible to the afflicted all across the Web. With a quick Google search there’s no end of  advice for overcoming the author’s worst enemy.

Jon-Acuff(A good page I came across recently is on Jon Acuff’s page – he often gives sound advice.)

But rest assured, I’m not going to add to the potpourri of suggested writer’s block cures.

Read on.

 

I appreciate when my GPS warns me of potential roadside construction, traffic jams, and tumblr_mz0tciaEZ11t35jb8o1_400large bodies of water that might obstruct or delay my end goal of reaching my destination.

So instead of giving you some cures for writer’s block, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to avoid it in the first place. But keep in mind, nothing is a guarantee – and the absolute best tool you can put to use is your own ambition, which is something no one can give you but yourself.

 

HOW TO AVOID WRITER’S BLOCK

1. Keep your story interesting

I’ve found that most of the time I run out of something to writer or get stuck, is not because I’ve lost momentum, but because I’ve lost interest. The book (or story) might still be a great concept, but somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn, or I’ve lingered too long on an anticlimactic scene. Avoid this by always having an ending point in mind for each particular scene. If you’re writing at point A, know the steps you need to take to get to point B, and take them. Remember, if you lose interest, your readers will certainly give up reading.

2. Write different

In X-Men: The Last Stand, there’s a scene where big, tough Wolverine gives this super-Joey-dave-coulier-30111015-300-225cheesy speech about how “we’re X-Men; we stand together.” I mean, seriously? Look kids, it’s Joey Gladstone with claws and sideburns! It’s a painful scene to watch. We’ve all heard the “We are united” speech a million times. Blah, blah, blah. Avoid stuff like that. If you don’t, you’ll read over your work in a week, realize how bad it is, and lose stamina and fall into a permanent writer’s block. Stop copying templates; write your own template.

3. Don’t read too much

e0fc57b64b14ce730c828ca088394c1b_answer_4_xlargeI cannot agree enough with all of the advice for curing writer’s block which says, “Read great books.” Yes, read books of your book’s genre. Read award-winning books. Read! But don’t read, read, read. I struggle with this more than anything else. First off, reading takes time away from writing. Secondly, you might end up with more good ideas or ah-ha moments than you know what to do with. And though that’s better than having no ideas, it can become overwhelming and next thing you know, a block has been dropped in your writing groove.

4. Always, always, ALWAYS have something unpredictable in mind

Whether your outlining your book or writing by the seat of your pants (plotter or pantser), tumblr_m8fcinfzZT1r76lino1_400you should always have some major plot point in the distant future that’s so unpredictable, so unthinkable, so surprising that you just can’t wait to get to that scene and shock the life out of your readers. This makes for great storytelling and plot twists, but it also provides gallons of stamina to keep those fingers flying over your keyboard at 230 wpm. (Tip: resist the urge to write that scene ahead of time; work up to it. It’ll be like a reward when you finally reach it. If it’s shocking enough, you won’t even need to take note of it.)

5. Write multiple books at once

This might not be feasible for most people, since everyone has a good book in them, not “books.” But since my end goal is to be a bestselling author, I’m working on three books right now (all very different genres). If I need a change, I simply switch over to another book just to help keep things fresh.

6. Observe the world as though it’s your book

alien-invasionOne of my books is about a world-wide alien invasion. Quite often I stop and look up at the sky and wonder what the guy walking his dog would do if he were being shot at from an invisible spaceship. Or when I’m watching The Office with my wife, I’ll catch myself wondering what we’d do if everything just went black and things started blowing up around us. This helps me add scenes or thoughts or feelings that otherwise would not have been in the book, thus more material to write.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be that much closer to that coveted “The end.” Happy writing! And remember, it’s the weekend; not the work-end.

Book Rec: The Presidents Club

61iyNBdczoLI’ve been reading through the biographies of our presidents and so far have been enjoying getting to know them. It’s interesting to learn about their accomplishments, what drove them toward their failures, and how history has decided to label them.

But there’s one thing that their biographies tend to overlook.

We may learn about each man’s upbringing, his habits, his fierce run for the top job, what made him tick, etc. But even the most in-depth biography touches very little on the behind the scenes story of how each president interacted with one another before and after their arduous campaign battles against one another.

The Presidents Club by Nany Gibbs and Michael Duffy undertakes this task, with every post-WWII president (beginning with Truman and Hoover).

The wonder of this book is in the telling of how unlikely friendships – and rivalries – formed because of stark differences of ideology and running the White House.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is toward the end when we learn about the unforeseen friendship between Clinton and both Bushes, the iconic polar opposites in the political arena.

A colleague of mine a few years back became one of my very good friends, even though we had completely different political views – he a Carter supporter, and me a Bush man. Thing is, we never had a fight or argument. We explained our views and we listened to the other with respect and understanding – understanding that we each want what’s best for our families and the country. But, as he often said, we just have different ways of getting there.

Here is an eye-opening excerpt from The Presidents Club that I think every American can learn from.

“…George W. Bush did me one of the great favors of my life,” Clinton [said]. “He asked me not once, but twice, to work with his father. We took 7 trips together. This man who’d I’d always liked and respected and run against … I literally came to love … and I realize all over again how much energy we waste fighting with each other over things that don’t matter … He can virtually do no wrong in my eyes …” 

The Bush family paid Clinton back at this particular gathering, “conferring on him the highest possible honor: a family nickname … Laura Bush asked all twenty-seven Bushes in attendance to gather for a family picture … Clinton [was] standing quietly off to the side backstage, watching the big family take its places for a photographer when the call came from Neil Bush rang out: “Bill, Bill! Brother of Another Mother! Get in here!” 

And so he did, taking his place in the back row, near some grandchildren. “Yeah,” Clinton mused, recalling the moment a few months later, “the family’s black sheep. Every family’s got one.”

Even in this party-split nation we can still live as one country, in unity and love for one another.

US-POLITICS-PRESIDENTS

A Hero Has Died

WK-AV921_COVER__DV_20101110182743Louis Zamperini has died. He is the subject of the international bestseller Unbroken by Seabiscuit’s biographer Laura Hillenbrand.

The only reason I didn’t put this book on yesterday’s post, “Reading List for Patriots” was because I was saving it for when the movie comes out this December.

Louis Zamperini died of pneumonia yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 97. And what a life he led. Unbroken details his life as a Olympic distance runner who so impressed Adolf Hitler that the Fuhrer insisted on meeting the young runner.

Later he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the Pacific. He was shot down and survived 47 days at sea in a raft with two other men.

And that is only the beginning.

Unbroken is quite possibly the greatest World War II book (or nonfiction subject) I have ever read, and there is no better time for you to read it than now, in honor of a great American hero.

Unbroken will be Angelina Jolie’s third directorial project. Watch the three minute trailer here.

Unbroken

Reading List for Patriots

I’ve put together a few patriotic books that I have really enjoyed – so much so that I plan on returning to them for a second, third, or fourth read.

John Adams 2

John Adams by David McCullough

It’s my goal to read a biography on every U.S. president and John Adams not only depicts one of the best, moral, upright men who have presided over our country, but McCullough’s book is quite possibly one of the greatest, gripping, and engaging biographies I have ever read, and probably will ever read. You will frequently hear readers of the book lament coming to the end of the book, aching for more, long as the book is. It reads like a movie, and you will actually feel like John Adams is a true friend by the end.

close to shore

Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo

Think small-town America off of a New Jersey coast. The year is 1916. Beaches were just recently seen as recreational turf for outings and vacations. The ocean was seen as a big, safe, swimming pool. And the great white shark was believed to be as harmless as a puppy. Close to Shore captures the first known recorded shark attacks on American soil, in an age where violence in the waters was unheard of. This story inspired Peter Benchley’s Jaws which gave us one of the greatest American films of all time by director Stephen Spielberg. But Close to Shore is so fascinating, so unimaginable, that it would not be believed if it were written as fiction.

1776

1776 by David McCullough

In McCullough’s detailed account of the monumental events in 1776, you have a much clearer and polished appreciation for the odds our forefathers were up against in the Revolutionary War. Not surprisingly, General Washington’s genius will blow your mind. And you will understand just how devastatingly close the Americans were to not winning our freedom. An intriguing, and sometimes suspenseful read. Another great by McCullough.

DWCity

Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

History and fiction buffs unite! There’s something about America’s past that makes me well up inside. This book recreates America’s prime, and the author never bores when describing the pure-white city “as bright as Heaven itself, and so majestic that the Court of Honor alone brought grown men to tears upon seeing it.” Suspense seekers and history buffs ought to check this book out. It’s a lot of fun and very fascinating. And you will walk away with a deeper appreciation of the roots of America’s greatness, and why we are still the greatest country in the world 120 years later.

Bottom-of-the-33rd

Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry

No other sport screams American pride like baseball, and in this book you will get a lot of both – baseball and American pride. Another book set in New Jersey, two triple-A teams pitted against each other on the day before Easter, April 18, 1981, neither knowing that they are about to go down in history as the longest professional baseball game ever. Even baseball naysayers will get caught up in the poet-like writing of Barry’s fascinating account. This is one of my all-time favorite books.

disney

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Mr. Disney. Walt. One of my favorite men in history, who created the most beloved empire the world has ever known. Gabler’s meticulous account of Walt Disney’s life is eye-opening and truly fascinating, and is a true rags-to-riches story that will make anyone believe that if you are persistent enough, clever enough, and talented enough, you can make it anywhere in America.

washington

George Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

And of course, no patriotic reading list would be complete without the life of George Washington, our nation’s first President. Earlier I praised McCullough’s John Adams as being the best biography ever written – this book is just a tick below, only because Washington, as a man, was not as personable and warm as Adams was. So no biographer in the world could create a personal attachment between the great Washington and his readers. But Chernow, I believe, did the greatest job that could ever be expected. Thought this is probably the longest book I have ever read, I will gladly be revisiting it as soon as I can, so fascinating it was.

Please feel free to share some of your favorite patriotic book recommendations below, we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

They Risked All

The-American-Patriots-Almanac-365-reasons-to-love-AmericaThe following is taken from The American Patriot’s Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb.

On July 4, 1776, delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence. The men who issued that famous document realized they were signing their own death warrants, since the British would consider them traitors. Many suffered hardship during the Revolutionary War.

William Floyd of New York saw the British use his home for a barracks. His family fled to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees. After the war Floyd found his fields stripped and house damaged.

Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his from his bed, thrown into prison, and treated liked a common criminal. His home was looted and his fortune badly impaired. He was released in 1777, but his health was broken. He died a few years later.

At age sixty-three, John Hart, another New Jersey signer, hid in the woods during December 1776 while Hessian soldiers hunted him across the countryside. He died before the war’s end. The New Jersey Gazette reported that he “continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriot in the service of his country.”

Thomas Nelson, a Virginian, commanded militia and served as governor during the Revolution. He reportedly instructed artillerymen to fire at his own house in Yorktown when he heard the British were using it as a headquarters. Nelson used his personal credit to raise money for the Patriot cause. His sacrifices left him in financial distress, and he was unable to repair his Yorktown home after the war.

Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge, three South Carolina signers, served in their state’s militia and were captured when the British seized Charleston. They spent a year in a St. Augustine prison and, when released, found their estates plundered.

Such were the prices paid so we may celebrate freedom every Fourth of July.

Write “Mississippilessly”

Spray-Tan-02Do you remember that scene in Friends where Ross keeps getting 2’s sprayed on his face in the tanning booth? It’s probably one of my favorite scenarios in the series.

In the scene, Ross goes to a tanning salon where he is told to count to five after his front has been sprayed, then turn around so his back can get sprayed.

Once the first spray goes off, he begins counting:

“One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. Three-Miss-“

And the spray goes off again before he turns around.

The result is Chandler sarcastically suggesting he went to the sun to get his tan.

We’re like that sometimes with our writing, aren’t we? We get stuck in a system, or what we think is our “groove.” We think the only way to count is “Mississippily.”

When really, all we need to do is let go of some of our inhibitions or habits and let the story (or blog post or essay or article) tell itself. We just need to be there to dictate the words.

I’ll sometimes follow an outline when I write, but then when the story starts taking its own course, I get nervous thinking that I shouldn’t be straying from the outline. But I’ve got to be willing to go with the flow and see where the story is taking me.

Think about the steps you can take today to write “Mississippilessly” and let your story take on a life of its own, without you getting in the way.

 

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