Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Gol, dang it!

I think that's what Gabby Hayes used to say, when the "seven deadly words" still reigned on TV.

I was writing a scene today that I hope is powerful and emotional - an argument of verbal violence at the crux of a disintegrating marriage.

Tell me, are Christians really so insulated to think that real people say, "Dag nab it" (Walter Brennan?)? I did have a girlfriend once whose mother always said, "Christmas" as her one and only epithet. Very thoughtful, genteel.

So much not like me.

I get in a shouting match and that match ignites my mouth in ways that embarrass me but reveal both my ancestry and upbringing. You can take the kid out of the street ...

Aren't there a lot of people like me - saved by Jesus, alive by his grace - but still with a mouth that, at times, invites a thorough soaping?

So, to my point.

Why can't my characters talk like me? Or like my accountability partners - sweet, wonderful men of God who at times could burn the paint off a barn?

It seems so phony and arbitrary to have a character, who's about to blast a gasket, come out with polite prose instead of street vernacular. Some of my characters are dying to let it fly.

Or ... or ...

Is that just lazy writing?

Truth be told, I'm not sure.

Truth be told, there are times when I'm not disciplined enough to keep the odd 'damn' from slipping past my lips. Truth be told there are times when I think that kind of language is just normal.

Then I write a line like this.

“Shut your mouth,” he growled, hair-trigger danger boiling in his eyes and balled in his fists. “Shut your mouth, do you hear me. Or you may not be able to open it.”

Don't need no 'damn' in there, do I?

Ah, but it feels so good to let some spicy language fly onto the page, doesn't it?

Dag nab it, I just don't know. What am I'm going to do? Christmas!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Out of the Ashes

There's nothing like talking to someone else to put your own miseries in perspective. Or, to look at the glass half-full, there's nothing like talking to someone else to make you more thankful for your blessings.

Take Mike Dellosso, a bright, energetic, inventive young man who is launching his first published novel, The Hunted, today. Mike is a teacher in Hanover, Pennsylvania, has a wonderful wife and, I believe, two young daughters.

Mike is also battling colon cancer.

Take Marlene Bagnull, a faithful servant of God. Marlene is an author, editor and speaker. She is, perhaps, more famous for organizing the annual Christian Writer's Conferences in Philadelphia and Estes Park, Colorado. There are so many labels you could attach to Marlene ... prayer warrior; faithful servant; tireless worker; ambassador of Christ; adversary of the evil one ... but not one of them would be sufficient to fully encompass all that Marlene is, or does, every day.

Marlene is going to the doctor today to try and get answers about some "abnormal results" to recent blood tests. Her husband, Paul, has just 13 weeks to go before he can retire, but his ankles are so painful he needs braces and still has trouble walking. And tests last month revealed spots in his lungs. Marlene's daughter is pregnant with her third child and may have labor induced after 39 weeks ... with Marlene to watch her two grandkids. And the Philly Conference is only two months away.

Why is it, do you suppose, that so many of God's people appear to be getting clobbered at the same time? I can't tell you how many faithful, earnest Christian families in our church are going through the most difficult 'pressing'. How many faithful warriors are discouraged and beaten down. It appears a plague has been unleashed upon believers; that we live in a time that makes you wonder what will come next.

These continuing reports of trial and trouble have at least one salutory effect. At least for me. They keep me humble. And protect me from self-pity.

I lost my job of 11 years at the end of October. My daughter, who worked in the same parachurch organization, was dismissed May 8th. I've had three interviews for a position I'm perfect for and got the call yesterday that I'm no longer in consideration. (I hate being unemployed.) And the book I love, that I had so much fun writing, still can't find a publisher willing to take a chance on an unpublished writer.

Me ... I'm Irish ... I can easily get in a black mood.

But then I think of Mike Dellosso, whose day of triumph today is being tempered by chemotherapy. I think about Marlene Bagnull, whose tireless service is being tempered by health alarms. And I think about how all of us are tempted to take our eyes off our Loving Father ... who will never leave us as orphans ... and put our attention on our problems or circumstances.

Please, if one person reads this, please pray with me today for ALL our Christian brothers and sisters who are captured in the midst of God's pressing. For all of us who are battered and wounded and weak. Pray that the God of heaven and earth, the Almighty Creator of all things, will burst through our circumstances and seize all of us in his arms, holding us close to his heart until night turns into day and despair into shouts of joy.

For the first time I understand this verse - Psalm 63:3 "Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." (NIV)

Christ's love and hope is our fullness. Hang in there.