FloridaWritersConference

It is such a joy to be at the Florida Christian Writers Conference: hanging out with writers and editors . . . and warm weather! Perfect! Here are some links for those I’ve met:

ACW Press An independent publisher with the highest quality and lowest possible prices. I serve as editorial advisor.

Wesleyan Publishing House A royalty publisher focused on books that encourage readers to grow in their faith. I serve as associate acquisitions editor.

Hope and humor for writers A whole ream of writing resources on agents, conferences, editorial services, publishers, self-publishers and the writing life including . . .

I’d love to meet you, so stop by my table at lunch or dinner or make an appointment.

Share

chocolatediamond

Did you see all those commercials before Valentines Day trumpeting Le Vian’s “unique chocolate diamonds”?

The only problem is that brown diamonds are the most common and least valued for jewelry. (The most valuable are white and blue.) So, for centuries, brown diamonds were used only for industrial purposes. Then the Le Vian family decided on a creative marketing strategy. Instead of calling them ubiquitous and virtually useless brown chunks of compressed coal, they hyped them as “Chocolate Diamonds.” Everyone loves chocolate! And Le Vian family has been making a whole mine of money selling them!

Or maybe you have seen the ads for Snyders of Hanover’s “Flavored Pretzel Pieces.” The TV ad claims that they contain so much “intense flavor” that no one can eat a whole pretzel. Another genius marketing plan! They’re selling off the broken pieces from the pretzel line.

Kellogg’s did the same thing with “Corn Flake Crumbs.” I worked at the cereal company four summers while I was in college. One night, I worked the corn flakes line. (There is nothing better than hot, crisp corn flakes right from the oven.) But what do you do with all the broken flakes? You install a giant vacuum over the line with the suction carefully calculated to suck up crumbs and dust, but not the whole flakes. Voila! Corn Flake Crumbs!

What once were considered rejects, scraps, damaged goods fit only for the dumpster, are now proudly marketed as something truly wonderful. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)

What in your life is a brown diamond? A broken pretzel? A Corn flake crumb?

We all have areas in our lives that are not perfect, investment-quality Grade-A Fancy. But often our weaknesses turn into our strengths, our failures into our successes, and our worthlessness into our greatest value. The apostle Paul writes:

      That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

How can you turn what appears to be a dark, cold “shaft” into a diamond mine?

I actually score over 100 on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder scale (150 and under is still “high functioning”). But I have managed to turn “quirky” into creative. I’ve used my clinical depression as motivation to write with hope and humor. And my OCD seems to balance out my ADD, so I am extremely organized and, thus, extremely productive: over 30 books, 2,000 articles and hundreds of blog posts, along with hundreds of speaking engagements. (I don’t suffer from mental illness, I thoroughly enjoy it! And I think my readers do as well.)

So, how about you? How can you turn dinosaur doodoo into “chocolate” diamonds?

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related sites
Are authors in their “write” mind?
I’m a mess. You’re a mess
You may be depressed if . . .

Note
Thanks so much for the support and encouragement in my honesty about my own mental health issues. However, a good friend loving emailed me to say, basically, “Don’t call yourself—a creation of God—mentally ill.” I so appreciate that, but one of my “hope and humor” goals is to educate the church on mental health issues affecting God’s creations.

Telling someone with depression to get off anti-depressants and “just have a positive attitude” is like telling someone with high blood pressure to get off their meds and “just think lower BP thoughts.” Those “voices” probably need Haldol rather than an exorcism. And someone born with a propensity to addictive behaviors needs support and encouragement rather than condemnation. It’s often bio-chemical imbalances not sinfulness.

If we have cancer, the whole church will rally behind us. If we have schizophrenia, most of the church will stay clear of us. But mental illness is not a “spiritual” issue any more than a broken leg is a sign of lack of faith. We live in a fallen world that causes brokenness physically, socially, spiritually . . . and mentally. Help is available, so see a licensed professional if you’re struggling with mental health issues. And find a Christian group or a trusted friend from whom you can receive prayer, support and accountability. Prozac and prayer is a powerful combination!

Share

Just 47 days until Easter

February 18th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

EasterEggs

Today is the first day of Lent: the 40 days plus Sundays until Easter—and hopefully, warm weather!

Here is an Easter basket full of entertainment and encouragement:

Top ten thing I (Jim) am giving up for Lent

Hope and humor for Easter (A whole basket of Easter entertainment and encouragement)

Easter cartoons

Have a meaningful Lenten season!
jimlogo2

Share

Becoming like little children

February 16th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)


I’m turning 63 today. Old enough to draw Social Security while it’s still around and young enough to enjoy life while I can still get around. So, I’m taking the day off and running an old newspaper column on the importance of being young at heart.

My wife would often roll her eyes and refer to pre-school Faith and Paul—and me—as her three children. Maybe it was our wrestling matches which involved pummeling each other with decorative couch pillows or all three of us making funny faces when Lois scolded us to “Be serious!” for family pictures. She probably had a point. Now that I’m a bit older—okay, a lot older—I can still act I like a 60-year-old pre-schooler. But I take comfort in the words of Jesus:

      “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

There is, however, an adult-sized difference between being child-like and childish. The apostle Paul writes:

      When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I really have worked hard on knowing the difference and acting accordingly—most of the time. I still get the look from not only my wife but now from my children as well!

Child-like adults are trusting; childish adults, gullible

A sign at an old general store read, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.” We are taught to “trust in the Lord with all our heart” (Proverbs 3:5), but Jesus warns us to examine the “fruit” of those who claim to be His followers. Paul teaches “prove all things” and John warns to “test the spirits.” So, even though I admire the trust when children and grandchildren jump off furniture into my arms, I also want them to jump into the arms of trustworthy people.

Child-like adults are innocent; childish adults naive

Jesus teaches us to be “gentle as doves, but wise as serpents.” Or, as the Chinese proverb warns, “Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault.” I want to extend grace to everyone I meet, but as I was warned by hosts in Third World countries, I’m going to always keep my back to a wall.

Child-like adults are enthusiastic; childish adults, impulsive

I’m still learning to look before I leap, weigh options before acting, discern long-term consequences and be careful that my ADD doesn’t get the best of me.

Child-like adults are imaginative; childish adults, delusional

This explains the lottery, Internet scams and grandiose dreams that often turn into disastrous nightmares. The neurotic builds castles in the sky; the psychotic moves into them.

Child-like adults are creative; childish adults, destructive

Does our unique approach to life build up or tear down, lift up or put down? A college president for whom I wrote promotional material once called me “dangerously creative.” At the time, I viewed it as the highest compliment. Now, I’m trying to be “cautiously creative.”

And child-like adults are curious; childish adults, nosy

Nothing was more fun as a pre-schooler than rummaging through my grandmother’s purse. I’m not sure why. There was little in there of interest to a four-year-old boy. I still have that curiosity, but now I have to watch myself that I am being curious about life, rather than a voyeur, gossip, or scandal-monger.

Child-likeness is essential for being a trusting, innocent, imaginative, creative, and curious child of God. But we need to be careful that it doesn’t become immature childishness.

C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “[God] wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.”

Put away childishness? Yes! Put away child-likeness? Never!

Copyright © 2008 James N. Watkins

Related posts
I’m 8 pills old
Top ten wishes for my 50th birthday
Introducing JamesWatkins 60.0
Your best year yet

Pic: Lois with kids and grandkids: Hannah, Faith, Kaylah—and me

Share

‘It is finished’?!

February 13th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


It seems a strange claim to make before his resurrection . . .

I have to admit my childhood memories of Good Friday are not that “good”. As a seven-year-old I sat through seven pastors preaching seven sermons on the seven sayings of Christ on the cross. My favorite was always the seventh, “It is finished.” It still is, but now for very different reasons.

On a dark Friday afternoon nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus declared His work was finished. It seems a strange claim to make before His resurrection, His Great Commission to go and make disciples, His return to Heaven, or the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

What was “finished” on that dark day?

1. Spiritual death was crucified on the cross

Since the time of Moses a huge curtain had separated men and women from the presence of God. Only once a year, the High Priest alone dared enter the Holy of Holies. And only after blood sacrifices to atone for His sins and the sins of the entire nation, and only then with bells tied to the hem of his robe and a rope around his leg. If the ringing stopped–signaling his death–his fellow priests could drag him from the awesome presence of God.

But after Christ cried “It is finished,” look what is recorded in Matthew 27:50-51: “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.”

Hebrews 10:19-22 explains the significance: “Therefore . . . since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

After centuries of a God hidden behind smoke, fire, and a heavy curtain; after centuries of the blood of bulls and lambs to atone for sin, God rips the curtain from top to bottom and invites us to “draw near with . . . full assurance.”

Unfortunately, some man-made “curtains” keep us from drawing near. In one of the most remarkable seven sentences from the cross, Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” (Matthew 27:46). We may not have used those exact words, but we have sensed that awful feeling of separation. Perhaps it has been unanswered prayers, unrelieved suffering, or unresolved questions that have been woven together to create a heavy curtain in our hearts. Or sin that we believe in unforgiveable. And yet the Apostle Paul declares “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” As we dwell on that amazing truth, slowly the curtain begins to unravel and we begin to get a glimpse of God through the threads of doubt and despair.

A second kind of curtain had been spun on the looms of the Pharisees. If we can just be perfect enough, we can draw close to God. The Pharisee sect actual began during a time of feeling forsaken. Israelites living in captivity in Babylon believed if they could follow the Law perfectly, perhaps God would free them.

The most extreme form of trying to save ourselves occurs on Good Friday in the Philippines where religious zealots allow themselves to be nailed to crosses in hope of receiving spiritual power. We may not do it literally, but many attempt emotional self-crucifixion: “I must punish myself for my deeds.” “I need to ‘clean up my act’ before I can become a Christian.”

But Christ claims, “It is finished.” There is nothing for us to do but to accept Christ’s death and resurrection. The curtain–and curtains–that separate us from God are torn from top to bottom.

2. Physical death was crucified on the cross

Even as Christ’s earthly life bled out of His body, He promised one of the thieves crucified with Him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

But an even more remarkable thing occurred: “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matthew 27:52-53).

Even before Christ’s own resurrection Easter Sunday, death was defeated. Paul could write, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

(Paul is not implying that Christians shouldn’t grieve, but there is hope in the grief. Click here for a helpful articles on death and grief.)

Are there curtains that are separating you from enjoying the presence of God in your life? On Good Friday, the law that separated us from God was finished by unconditional love that draws us to God.

Has grief kept your heart and spirit entombed so it’s difficult to enjoy life? On Good Friday, death that separates us from loved ones was finished by unending life in Jesus Christ.

It is finished!

Copyright • 1990 James N. Watkins

Related posts
1 Easter Hope & Humor

Share

Fifty Shades of Grace

February 10th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

FiftyShadesOfGrey2

February 2015

Someone asked me, why am I so bent out of shape by the best-selling book and now major movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s certainly not because I hate sex. I’ve written three books celebrating sexuality and lifting up the sex act as the highest form of intimacy and pleasure on earth. It’s because I am so pro-sex that I am so anti-Grey!

The apostle Paul writes: “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Throughout the Bible, sexual intercourse has been used as a symbol for the unity and intimacy that God wants to have with himself and his people. (He used circumcision as a symbol of faithfulness to him! And called unfaithfulness to him “adultery.”) God is so pro-sex that the Bible devotes an entire book, The Song of Solomon, to the celebration of sexual pleasure—with some pretty graphic images!

I believe that’s why God gave us strict and detailed commandments on how sexuality is to be expressed. And that’s why I believe the enemy tries so hard to degrade, demean and devalue sex. We see it in porn, in child sex trade, sadomasochism, and many, many other perversions of God’s original design.

So, that’s why I’ve spoken out so strongly against Fifty Shades of Grey. (I suspect the sadistic main character’s name, Christian, is a not-so-subtle attempt to further sully the name of Christ—and sex.)

But here’s the good news! God’s grace has made a way for everyone—no matter his or her sexual past—to experience a relationship with him that far exceeds any earthly symbol. (Sex is just an pale preview of what pleasure awaits Christ’s followers in heaven.)

Click to learn how you can experience God’s love and fifty shades of grace!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related posts
Love, marriage and sex (14 posts)
Three secrets to XXX-ceptional sex

Share

Love, marriage and sex

February 9th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

ChocolateAndRosesWallwuzzcom

It’s Valentine’s Day week, so welcome to my annual celebration of love, marriage and sex. Here are excerpts from my three books on the subjects as well as some original posts.


Love
Falling in love—and getting back up
Lookin’ for love in all the right places
Men and women are different—from the neck up!
¡No hablo, estrogen! Becoming bilingual in relationships
Breaking up without breaking down


JIM AND LOIS' WEDDING 1974

Marriage
Children who marry their parents: the psychology of courtship
Top ten secrets to staying married 30 years
Top ten reasons I’m not divorcing my wife


FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

Sex
“Coming Out” My sexual identity crisis
Fifty Shades of Beige “Reel” sex is a pale imitation of “real” sex!
Fifty Shades of Grace Why I am pro-sex, anti-Grey
Guy’s guide to cars . . . and sex
Hangups with hookups
Three secrets to xxx-ceptional sex
Top ten turn-ons for women
Why are guys such boobs about breasts?

Top photo from wallwuzz.com, middle photo our wedding, bottom photo from Fifty Shades of Grey.

Share


As a young believer, one of my favorite verses was Philippians 4:13:

      For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

I believed that through Christ, I would become a best-selling author, speak to stadium-sized crowds and overcome every obstacle in my way. Maybe you have used that verse to assure yourself that you would have a successful marriage, a winning athletic career, become a billionaire philanthropist, pastor a mega church, overcome every temptation or [fill in the blank].

And maybe like me, you’ve found you are not doing “everything” you desired. Was Paul lying? And a more disturbing question: Is Christ powerless to do “everything”? But here’s the most important question: What is this verse actually promising? To answer that, we need to look at the promise in context.

      How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ,[d] who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty (Philippians 4:10-14).

Notice that Paul is referring to being content with “nothing,” an empty stomach and having “little.” What?! Nothing about a successful marriage, a winning athletic career, becoming a billionaire philanthropist, pastoring a mega church, overcoming every temptation or [fill in the blank]? Nope. Simply being content in the state that you find yourself.

We can’t do everything physically

In high school I weighed 115 pounds and had absolutely no athletic skills. So, I was always picked second to the last for teams—and only because the last pick was the kid in the wheelchair. No chance for a Super Bowl ring, gold medal or even a “participant” ribbon. Sigh.

We can’t do everything mentally

In high school I got an A in freshman algebra, a B in sophomore geometry and a C in junior algebra. I was good enough at math to sense a pattern, so never took another math class. The part of the brain that processes higher math apparently never developed for me! I did have a 4.0 average in grad classes in journalism, and in one class I got 10,000 points out of 10,000, so apparently a few parts of my brain function. This is why you never want me to balance your checkbook, but if you need an editor or ghostwriter, I’m your guy.

We can’t do everything in our relationships

There’s that pesky thing called “freewill” that allows holy parents to raise holy terrors heathens and godly people to be married to less-than-godly partners. We can consistently model our faith, we can pray for their spiritual lives, but they still have free choice to embrace or reject our faith. (Here’s an encouraging article for parents of prodigals.) It’s one of the many areas we have to simply turn over to God’s grace and mercy.

We can’t do everything in our careers

We can control excellence in our work, but there are too many variables to guarantee “success.” (Here’s an entire article on that dilemma.) For instance four of my books have won national awards, but as I mentioned, never a spot on the best-seller list.

Timing. Competition. Current events. Co-workers. The economy. Reviews. All these these variable—if not in perfect alignment—can lead to excellence without success. I’m really trying to be content being “critically acclaimed” but commercially ashamed. (Christ has some more work to do on me!)

We simply can’t do “everything”

We all have a God-designed blend of strengths and weaknesses that all the prayers and promise verses won’t change:

      You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
      and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
      Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
      Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
      You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
      as I was woven together in the dark of the womb (Psalm 139:14-16).

So, it’s simply wrong to promise people, “If you believe it, you can achieve it.”

But God can help you become “content” with the marvelous person he created you to be. Paul continues the psalmists theme by describing the church as the Body of Christ—with unique parts to each play vital roles:

      But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it (1 Corinthians 12:18).

      All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

It’s not easy to be content in our ego-centric, success-oriented, sports-obsessed culture. After a lifetime of writing and speaking, I still haven’t earned a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. My largest live audience has been 1,500 at Indiana Wesleyan University. But I have experienced contentment (on good days) that I’m doing what God has designed me to do.

      For I can be content through Christ, who gives me strength to resist the world’s values and rejoice in how he is using me right now, right here (Philippians 4:13, loosely paraphrased).

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

More related posts
First Corinthians 12 for writers
Jesus on “prosperity” gospel
What does the Bible really say?
Which path is right path?

Share
WordPress Backup