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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Hole in Our Gospel: Faith... or works?

By On September 21, 2016
Yup, we've got a book review for today. Because I recall in a previous post that I mentioned trying to do a book review once a month aaaaannnddddd it's the 21st. So I figured I better get one out. xP



Image result for the hole in our gospelIs our faith just about going to church, studying the Bible and avoiding the most serious sins--or does God expect more?

Have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it?

Ten years ago, Rich Stearns came face-to-face with that question as he sat in a mud hut in Rakai, Uganda, listening to the heartbreaking story of an orphaned child. Stearns' journey there took much more than a long flight to Africa. It took answering God's call on his life, a call that tore him out of his corner office at one of America's most prestigious corporations--to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world.

"The Hole in Our Gospel" is the compelling true story of a corporate CEO who setaside worldly success for something far more significant, and discovered the full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change his own life. He uses his journey to demonstrate how the gospel--the whole gospel--was always meant to be a world changing social revolution, a revolution that begins with us.

my review 
Image result for two stars

While I would probably agree with the main points being made about Christians needing to help the poor and such, there was still a lot in this that I wouldn't necessarily agree with. Not the least of which, is the whole concept of a 'hole' in our gospel. 

Because here's the gospel I know: Jesus died on the cross so that those who believe on His name can be forgiven of their sins. I'm not seeing any holes there. It's a beautiful, perfect plan of God and there's nothing missing from that. God's way of salvation involves belief. It's not a matter of anything you do other than believing in the name of Christ to save you. 

That's where this book gets a little tricky. While the author doesn't explicitly state that the works are absolutely necessary for salvation, and while I don't think he would hold to that view himself (although not sure on that honestly), the book definitely walks a fine line in dealing with salvation, faith, and works. I felt like it should have been more outspoken in the fact that salvation is by faith alone. Good works are definitely going to be a part of any Christian's life, because we should be striving to be more and more like Jesus. But the point is: the good works are a result of the faith, and the result of Christ working in you and through you. They have absolutely nothing to do with your salvation. Here's just one confusing quote taken from the book. 

(this is after citing James 2:14-19) 

"Here James stated in black and white that belief is not enough. It must be accompanied by faith demonstrated by actions."

And then on the next page over, after citing 1 John 3:16-20, we get this: 

"The conclusion is inescapable. Jesus asks much more of us than just believing the right things." 

I'm honestly just plain not sure what the author meant by these and other statements like them. Was he trying to make a point that you're only truly saved if you're showing fruit, or was he advocating faith+works? The whole concept of how one is saved was super vague throughout the whole book, the focus being placed almost entirely on what one should be doing to 'advance the kingdom.' (Which is another whole matter in and of itself.) Primarily helping the poor in third world countries and donating money and such. Which brings up another issue I had. 

The focus was entirely on other nations, and I felt like it ignored the fact that there are suffering people everywhere. We see suffering around us all the time, and being a light to the world doesn't necessarily entail starting a nonprofit organization to help supply clean water to developing nations. (no matter how beneficial such an action would be.)

Now, I understand that the author is big on missions, but for a book of this length, I think a chapter about the suffering people around us right here in America would have helped keep things in perspective. You can make a difference wherever God has placed you right here, right now

But the author does get credit for being an amazing writer, so there's that. :)

How about you guys? What have you been reading? ALSO ALSO ALSO ALSOOOOOO GUESS WHO'S ON GOODREADS NOW? ;) (Nope wrong, not me.) 



Kay fine I confess, it was me. XD BUT I LOVE IT. So yeah if you're on there and I haven't already stalked you (which, let's be real, that's not likely xP) you can stalk me here.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Three Random and Easy Writing Tips

By On September 14, 2016
Everyone's writing could use a little extra sparkle, right? (the answer is yes trust me) Today we're going to discuss a few easy writing tips which I'm mashing together into this post. This totally doesn't mean that I was scrambling for a post and just ended up with a random assortment of simple tips. Nope, not at all.

(No, this post has nothing to do with hot air balloons. But this pic is glorious and I couldn't resist.)


Names are like super important in a novel. You guys are smart so you probably already know not to use too many names that begin with the same letter. 

But try giving your characters unusual names to make them more memorable. Just think about it. There's a reason we remember names like Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), Sage (The False Prince which incidentally has pretty unusual names in general so there's a great example), and Long John Silver (Treasure Island). All of which are classics or NYT bestsellers, in case you didn't notice. Just don't take too much liberty here. I like to know how to pronounce the names, thank you very much. XD


This is another thing you can (and should) use to make your characters more memorable. A quirk is defined as "a peculiar behavioral habit." Aka, something they do that's weird. Giving your characters these is especially great for keeping distinctions between characters.

For example, in Jill Williamson's Blood of Kings series, there are a couple of characters that are the same age and gender, which could be easy to confuse. But they aren't confused, because first, they all have differing personalities. But also, because they have quirks. One of them is superstitious, and one of them is almost obsessively fastidious. *uses big word* (Time to drag out the dictionary, right? XD)

Just make sure your quirks aren't too out there. It's not believable that a grown man would have a strange obsession with gummy bears. But a little boy (or a monkey *winkwink*)? That could work.

Sensory Details

This one is probably the hardest to incorporate, but it can be really helpful. Weaving in sensory details throughout your narrative is a great way to draw your reader in. And remember, there's five senses! It's often too easy to focus on sight alone.

But the other senses can be used in powerful ways, and this is more what I'm focusing on. This tip goes beyond describing your setting or characters. For example, what if your character associates the villain with what he smells like? (Like in A Time to Die. IT CHANGED MY ENTIRE PERCEPTION OF LEMONS. THEY ARE EVIL.) Or maybe a certain taste sparks realization in your character , or brings to your character's mind certain memories, or makes your character feel a certain way. Maybe your character is adverse to a certain texture (oh and hey look that could be a quirk also. XD)

So yup. Those are my random and relatively easy to incorporate tips. What do you think? Any tips you want to share with me? 

~ Jonathan

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Wisteria Writer Tag (at last)

By On September 06, 2016
OK SO A COUPLE OF PEOPLE TAGGED ME FOR THIS ONE. (like aaaagggeesss ago XD) But confession: I actually waited on purpose so I could pick which set of questions I liked best. (#evilmastermindgoals) Yes, I know. It was brilliant really. *swooping bow* Because none of you want to filter through 40 questions about me and my writing. XD

BUT A BIG THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO TAGGED ME: Rebekah, Emily, and Aidan. I thought Aidan's questions were really good and interesting and relatively easy to answer so I'm going to be answering his. :D 


1. Thank the blogger who nominated you. 
2. Answer the ten questions asked. 
3. Add ten (writing or book related) questions of your own. 
4. Nominate people. 

Aidan's questions: 

What is your least favorite book, and why?

Least favorite book? Haaaarsh. XP While I probably couldn't pick one book that is my absolute least favorite, I would say that the Mindwar trilogy by Andrew Klavan was extremely disappointing because I really liked his Homelanders series. 

Favorite author?

WHYYYYY I CANNOT CHOOSE ONE FAVORITE AUTHOR I'M SORRY.  But a few of my favorites are Clare Vanderpool (naaavigaaaatiiiinnnnggg eeaarrrllyyyyy), Nadine Brandes, and S. E. Hinton. 

If you could only write one more novel, what would it be about? 

O.O Woooooow um okay then that's a rather depressing scenario. XD Buuuut right now in the back of my head I have this idea for a Prince and the Pauper retelling which is sort of on hold at the moment. So I would probably write that. :D

What is your favorite genre to write in?

Well I've completed a contemporary novel, I'm drafting a dystopian novel, and I'm planning a fantasy novel so... yeah I don't really have a favorite. XD However I WILL SAY that I really like to write in first person present tense, which is probably a bit unusual. 

Do you model your characters after people you know, or do you try to avoid it? 

Well I don't really try to avoid it? I don't really see a reason to. However, I don't consciously model my characters after people in my life. Although I think that the people closest to me do definitely influence what goes in to my characters. :D

How long does it take you to finish a novel? 

Well, that depends on the length of the novel. (Obviously. XP) The Raven Project took me aaaaggeeess to write. (I think I started it in October and I'm just finished the first draft at about 90k words.) My dystopian novel that I'm just starting already has about 30k in it (ok maybe not 'just' starting XP) and is hopefully going to be around 60k. I hope to finish that one by November. 

Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? 

No. And no. XD Music distracts me if I'm trying to read or write. :D

How often and for how long do you write? 

Well I write every day, normally more than once. Typically when I sit down it's for at least twenty minutes or so, sometimes longer. Normally I sit down and write more than once in the day though. (Like typically a little before school and more after.)

Current project you're working on? 

The dystopian novel. Yes, I knooooow that's super vague but I'm working on getting a page up. XD But also I'm planning my fantasy novel We Are the Guilty. (also random but I'm thinking I might change the title to Guilty as the Dust and I was wondering if that sounds better or not. :D) 

Which of your characters is your least favorite and why? 

Bleeeeh probably Solomon Crane from The Raven Project simply because in my first draft he's super flat and undeveloped so it's gonna take some work to clean him up. XD

tagged humans



Bookworm Boy











AND ANYONE ELSE WHO WANTS TO. Don't worry you're not obligated to do this if I tagged you specifically and you don't want to. :D

my questions for YOU 

1. Which of your writing projects is your favorite and why? 

2. Can you share some snippets from your favorite project? (and no you cannot say no to this IT IS MANDATORY) 

3. What is your favorite tense (past, present, future) and voice (first, third; I don't think it's actually called that but I'm using that word because it makes sense to me and I can't think of the right one. XD) to write in? 

4. When is your favorite time to write?

5. What is the the most unpleasant thing you've put one of your characters through? (random note but this question stems almost entirely from a Camp NaNo April conversation in which we discussed why it's good to be mean to your characters. XP Yup, I still remember it.)

6. Are you a more character-driven writer or a more plot-driven writer? 

7. Are you a plotter or a pantser? 

8. What is your favorite word processing system to write in and why do you like it? (SCRIVENER FOR THE WIN) 

9. If you were left on an abandoned island with the last character you wrote about, how would that go for you? (I know it's super original but unfortunately not from me. XD I pulled it off a meme.) 

10. What is your favorite writing resource? (this could be a blog, website, newsletter, writing book, that one pet who listens to all your writerly ramblings, anything basically XP)

So what do you think? Anyone going to steal this? What did you think of my answers? :D

~ Jonathan 


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