Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Joanna Penn, How to Market a BookPenn Attracts Readers to Books

Joanna Penn. 2017. How to Market a Book. Bath, UK: Curl Up Press.[1]

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

One of the banes of postmodern life is that successful professionals must communicate effectively across multiple media. Communication is more important than ever because technology has made all of us more productive. If one 2017 professional can now do the work of a dozen 1960 professionals, then that professional effectively functions as a team, including the team manager. Production, marketing, and sales all need to be done by that one professional. As an economist, I faced this challenge; it has only gotten worse now that I am an author and publisher.

Introduction

Joanna Penn in her new book, How to Market a Book, advises authors on trends in marketing and sales of self-published books. She sees five non-negotiable activities for all book marketing:

  1. Make sure that your book is the best it can be…
  2. Identify your comparison books and authors.
  3. Optimize your book sales page…
  4. …use paid promotions to send readers to your book page.
  5. …set up a professional looking website and an email list sign up. (281-282)

In my experience, each of these activities can keep you busy. During the past year, for example, I spent more than six months working with different webmasters to upgrade my three websites (T2Pneuma.net, T2Pneuma.com, and StephenWHiemstra.net), which is Penn’s item 5. Meanwhile, I spent an equal amount of time moving my titles from exclusively with one printer to be jointly with another printer, Penn item 1. These two activities ostensibly prepared me to be more effective in my promotions, Penn item 4.

Who is Joanna Penn?

Penn is an interesting writer for self-publishers to pay attention to because she is one of the few authors who has succeeded in quitting her day job and living off the proceeds of her writing. Less than five percent (one in twenty) of independent authors sell a thousand books (I have sold about six hundred) which implies that even fewer authors have broken even on their book sales. Most independent authors are supported by a dhealthy or by a spouse. By her own accounts, Penn started seriously writing in 2006 and quit her job in 2011, five years later (7-9). This track record makes Penn a credible source of recommendations for how to succeed in self-publishing.

A Healthy Mindset

Part of Penn’s success arises because of a heathy mindset. She writes: “marketing is sharing what you love with people who will appreciate hearing about it.” (13) This mindset is a form of “attraction marketing” which means that you find out what people want and offer it to them.

Why is this important? Two reasons stand out.

Attraction Marketing

First, when I studied marketing in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was taught “push marketing”. Push marketing means that the firm bought advertising and pushed it out to the reading, listening, and viewing public. Attraction marketing is new and many people have not yet caught on to it. Penn has done her homework which is an important reason for her success.

The Mindset Advantage

Second, Penn mindset comes as a relief for those of us who doubt our own credibility as authors. It is one thing to write a book; it is another to believe that anyone other than your mother would want to read it. This fear of being an unworthy author is pervasive and it prevents many authors from succeeding in their marketing. Penn mindset shows that she believes in herself and does not get in a muddle in reaching out to others who will appreciate her writing.

The Book Launch Thing

Another gem arises when Penn writes that “marketing is more than a book launch” (20). While I have learned to sell books in person and online, my failure to have a great book launch has always bothered me. Penn offers an important piece of background information on this point.

 Traditional Publishers Focus on the Launch

Traditional publishers, who work with retailers to stock and toss books all the time, focus on the book launch because they have limited time and resources to devote to each book. The launch is coordinated with a media campaign and a month later they are on to another book.

For small publishers who have no retail connections, no publicity team, and no media budget cannot easily host a successful launch following this model and probably should not try. Book marketing is more of a marathon than a sprint for the small publisher because resources are tight, relationships need to be built, and learning is an ongoing necessity.

Assessment

Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book is a useful, readable, and timely book for authors who publish. I found her comments on podcasting and publishing audio books particularly insightful. Perhaps you will too.

[1] http://CurlUpPress.com. www.TheCreativePenn.com. https:/JFPenn.com. @TheCreativePenn.

 

Also see:

Penn Whispers to Professional Speakers 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Chapter 1 of Revelation: Alpha and Omega

Clouds

I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God,
who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8).

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Revelation is a mysterious book. The metaphorical language in Revelations makes it a difficult book to understand. The question arises whenever an artist paints a picture: what colors does he favor?

Prophecy

The Apostle John is unique when he says that he is speaking prophetically (Rev 1:3). We should not be surprised about this because the New Testament word for prophet is really apostle—the sent one. The confusion arises because we normally define a prophet in the narrow Greek sense of the word as someone who forecasts the future. Hebrew prophets also do this but a Hebrew prophet’s job description is defined covenantally. A prophet is someone who either introduces a covenant (like Moses) or reminds people of their obligations under a divine covenant and the consequences of covenantal disobedience (like Elijah).

The Covenants

Biblical covenants are modeled after ancient treaties. The full description of a covenant contains these parts: A title or preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, deposition and regular reading, witnesses, blessings and curses. If the stipulations (laws articulated in the covenant) are kept, then the covenant provides for blessings. If not (sin under the covenant), then the covenantal curses are evoked. The five major Old Testament covenants are: Adamic/creation covenant (Genesis 1-2), the Noahic/recreation covenant, (Gen 9:1-17), the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15), the Mosaic covenant (Exod 20-24), and the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:1-17).

The Apostle John paints his picture of the future focusing on allusions to two covenants: the Adamic/creation covenant and the Davidic covenant. For example, John writes: To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev 2:7). This is an obvious reference to Eden in Genesis 2:9. The Davidic covenant is likewise brought to mind every time John mentions words like reign or kingdom or takes images from the Prophet Daniel who likewise evokes many images of kingly power. Revelation evokes an image of an uncreation event as the end-times draw near and we find ourselves in a new relationship with animals and exotic creatures, like angels, and a new kingdom (Isaiah 65:25).

The New Covenant

What about the New Covenant that we have in Christ? Covenantal language is all over the New Testament, but is especially obvious in the book of Matthew. One outline is: preamble (Matt 1:1,21), prologue (Matt 1-3), stipulations (Matt 5:18-20,14:28-29, 17:9, 19:16-21, 22:36-40, and 28:18-20), reminder (Matt 26:26-28), witnesses (Matt 1:1-17, 1:18-2, 3, 3:17,17:5), blessings (Matt 5:3-11), curses (Matt 23:13-30, 26:24).

Can you identify the covenantal language in Revelations that Apostle John uses to outline his version of the new covenant in Christ?

Interesting Resource

Bauckham Writes Theology of Revelation 

Questions

1. Do you have questions from last week? Did any important events happen in your life this week? Do you have any thoughts that you would like to share?
2. What is the purpose of the Book of Revelation? What is the basic theme of chapter 1? (vv. 1, 19)
3. Who is it addressed to and by whom has it been delivered? (vv. 1, 4, 9)
4. How does John describe himself? (vv. 1, 9-11)
5. What is a prophet? What is the point of prophecy? (vv.2-3, 9-11, 19)
6. Who is Jesus Christ? (vv. 5-7, 12-16)
6. What genre(s) does John write in? (vv. 1, 4, 10)
7. Seven churches are named? Who are they? Where are they? (vv. 4, 11)
8. What is the significance of the number seven? (vv. 4, 12, 16, 20)
9. How do you interpret verses 4-6?
10. Read Daniel 7:13. Where else have we seen this verse cited? What is the significance of this reference? (Matt 26:64) (vv. 13-15)
11. Read Zechariah. 12:10. How do you interpret this verse?
12. What is significant about verse 8?
13. Who is writing this epistle? From where is he writing? When? (vv. 9-10)
14. What are the lampstands? What is their purpose? (vv. 12-13, 20)
15. What are the keys? (v. 18)

References

Niehaus, Jeffery. “Covenant and Narrative, God and Time” pages 535-59 of Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 53:3, 2010.

 

Also see:

Christian Spirituality 

 Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Prayer for the Potter

Remembering the Potter by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayer for the Potter

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty God, Father of our Lord, Spirit of Truth:

Why have you formed me, all-knowing potter, the way that you have? (Jer 18:2-7)

In your creative urge, did you have a special use in mind?

Did you mean me for everyday use, something to hold the baked beans

or maybe a casserole or a tuna salad?

Are my colors plain to all who see me even as I am wholely blind?

Did you mean me for a special holiday, stored away in a special place until the season,

only to be displayed on a particular day, highlighted and remembered and cherished?

Am I brightly colored, festive, memorable even if only for a day?

Thank you, Lord, for veiling your purposes from me.

That I may serve you as you see fit, each and every day.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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John David

Cover for Called Along the Way
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

John David

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

My brother, John David, arrived on April 9, 1963. He was ten years younger than me, but I knew reasonably well even as a tot because we shared the room in the basement in the house on Trexler Road. He was an angel from an early age. The brother I always wanted, he was, ironically, too young to share my childhood blues. Three incidents remained embedded in my memory.

The Incidents

The first incident came in fifth grade when a kid down the street sold me half a dozen cherry bombs that I eagerly tested in the backyard placing it in a coffee jar next to my bedroom window. Forgetting how powerful these explosives were, the blast knocked me down, bloodied my right side with glass shrapnel, and blew out my bedroom window. My room was also sprayed with glass. John was not there but I remember seeing his crib and feeling guilty about what might have happened had he been there.

The second incident came several years later. In the middle of the night in the dark, John got up from bed and began sleep walking around the room. I freaked out, began screaming, and mom ran downstairs and turned on the light. Poor John woke unaware of what had happened and began crying. Mom comforted us both and we all went back to bed.

A final incident happened when John was a youngster and I was in high school. John climbed up the steps in a tree behind the house where I had attempted to build a treehouse years earlier. The step collapsed; John slipped; and an exposed nail sliced the skin in John’s leg open from the ankle to the knee.

Scout Emergency Training

By the time I heard about it, John was sitting the kitchen. He did not cry, but my mother held onto him as I cleaned and bandaged up his leg, holding the skin together and taping it together inch by inch. I was surprised that there was not more blood and that John did not cry. The emergency room doctor that treated John later complimented my work and praised my Scout training.

Football Wonder

John went on to play football for the New Carrollton Boy’s Club at the age of seven, even though I had been discouraged earlier from playing—mom told me: “Football is too violent.” By high school John was a star athlete, quarterbacking the only winning team in twenty years, and president of his class for several years running. Instead of being my younger brother, I became known around town as his older brother, which was fine with me. I always wanted a brother.

 

Also see:  Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Bell: Sharp Characters Spirit Dialogue

James Scott Bell: How to Write Dazzling DialogueBell: Sharp Characters Spirit Dialogue

James Scott Bell.[1] 2014. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript. Woodland Hills, CA: Compendium Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What dazzles editors? Journeying from nonfiction to fiction writing, I have had to learn new things. Where nonfiction authors write articles, reviews, and reflections, fiction authors focus on writing scenes. While nonfiction authors focus on analysis and description fiction authors focus on plot, character, and dialogue. When I stumbled across James Scott Bell’s How To Write Dazzling Dialogue, I knew that I had to learn how to dazzle.

Introduction

Bell starts by comparing three manuscripts. The first begins with description. The second begins with descriptive dialog. The third begins with dialog between two people in conflict. Which has the most rapid pace? Which is most likely to get noticed by an agent? Bell describes the third manuscript as “crisp and tense”. It is taken from Michael Connelly’s The Last Coyote (9).

Dialogue Defined

Bell defines dialogue citing John Howard Lawson’s Theory and Technique of Playwriting who described dialogue as “compression and extension of action.” He goes on to say that: “Every word, every phrase that comes out of a character’s mouth is uttered because the character hopes it will further a purpose.” In other words, every character has an agenda. (12) Thus, dazzling dialogue arises from the intersection of two characters’ agendas in opposition. (13)

 Five Functions of Dialogue

The role of compression is important. Bell writes: “Dialogue is not real-life speech. It is stylized speech for which the author, through the characters, has a purpose.” (16) Focusing on the character’s agenda, the dialogue must cut to the chase and reveal underlying conflict, even if in good natured banter. (17) Bell sees five functions of dialogue:

  1. Reveal story information
  2. Reveal character
  3. Set the tone
  4. Set the scene
  5. Reveal theme (22).

In weaving a story, Bell advises the author to act first, explain later and to hide story information (exposition) within confrontation to avoid appearing too preachy. (25) How people talk reveals their character in terms of education, social position, regional background, and peer groups (35-36). Tone is revealed in how characters talk to each other (36). The scene is described through how characters react to it and to each other (37). Theme can be revealed without being preachy by embedding it in the dialogue. (38)

Practicing Dialogue

Bell suggests that the best way to learn to write dialogue is to practice acting out or writing out different roles with a voice journal. He writes:

“How do I know what a character’s voice sounds like? I prompt them with questions and then let them talk. I do this fast, without thinking about it much. What I’m waiting for is the moment when the character starts talking to me in a voice I did not plan.” (40-41)

He advises writers to take time in writing these journals out and reading them out loud (41-42). Another way to practice dialogue is to convert movie scripts into scenes in narrative form. (42). His example is taken from Cool Hand Luke, a film starring Paul Newman (1967), one of my favorite movies.[2] Bell also suggests trying improvisation. (45)

Increasing Tension

Dialogue can also benefit from new agendas, arguments, barriers, and addition of fear. (61) Bell recommends that characters who simply act out who they are in dialogue makes for natural conflict that simply flows out of their personalities.

The classic film that Bell returns to over and over is Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (28-30). In the film, Humphrey Bogart plays a closed mouth private detective, Sam Spade, who interacts with talkative socialites, manipulative millionaires, and sleazy women who have trouble telling the truth. Conflicting agendas break out everywhere because the characters differ deeply from one another. This is what Bell refers to as orchestration because well-formed characters ooze conflict. (62)

Arguments can be playful or serious. Barriers can be cultural—think of someone that thinks so differently from you that communication is difficult—or situational. Have you ever had a job interview where the interviewer was constantly interrupted with phone calls or an assistant breaking in? Sometimes barriers to communication can be downright funny or simply discouraging.

Assessment

James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue is a fascinating read for authors needing tips on how to improve dialogue and follow convention in writing it. Bell writes thrillers, teaches writing, and works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. His advice on dialogue runs deep.

Footnotes

[1] www.JamesScottBell.com. @JamesScottBell

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cool_Hand_Luke.

References

Connelly, Michael. 2003. The Last Coyote. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Lawson, John Howard. 1936. Theory and Technique of Playwriting. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

 

Also see:

Bell: How to Plot a Good Novel 

Karr Voices Memoir Clearly 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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A Risk Manager’s Prayer

Doldrums, Sand Dune in Ocean City, MarylandA Risk Manager’s Prayer

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

Forgive me for leaning on insurance policies rather than my faith in you.

Forgive me for building barns while children go to bed hungry (Luke 12:18).

Forgive me for a hard heart taking my cues from Pharoah when Jesus has shown us a better way (Matt 6:26).

As the hymnist [1] writes:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Oh Lord, shape me in your image again in spite of my ignorance, my selfishness, my greed, and my self-pity.

Turn my heart to you, that I might live a better way through the power of your Holy Spirit.

And in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Be_Thou_My_Vision.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

 

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Appearance: Looking the Part

Cover for Called Along the Way
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the LORD
without wavering. (Ps 26:1)

Appearance: Looking the Part

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Seminary students must grow academically and relationally which requires transitions in both the student and the community. Pastors work for their congregations as well as lead them in a covenant relationship, where one cares for the other. This relationship can, however, get complicated.

When I entered seminary, I worked as clerk of session at CPC and worked closely with the pastor on church business. Because the pastor often serves as a mentor to inquirers and candidates of ministry and session oversees both, my roles conflicted. This conflict proved stressful and within a few months I resigned from the clerk’s role and from session.

The role conflict between clerk of session and pastor in training symbolized a larger conflict in identity. As clerk, my background as economist underscored my technical competence in managing the business affairs of the church. As pastor in training, technical competence can get in the way of relational competence when people become intimidated by one’s technical competence and step back relationally. This dilemma posed a question—how do I get people to reboot their image of me, from economist to pastor?

Call Sermon

In the summer of 2009, CPC invited five former members who had been called into ordained pastoral ministry back to the church to preach a sermon series on God’s call; as a seminary student, the pastor also invited me to preach on August 23. In view of my struggle with pastoral identity, I enlisted the assistance of a couple of friends to introduce the sermon with a little skit designed to kill off the “Dr. Hiemstra” persona at CPC:

Heckler 1: Is this going to be one of those boring sermons that you just read?
SWH: This? [Holding up script]
Heckler 1: Put it right in here [Holding up a trash can].
SWH: [Ripping up script and depositing in can].
Heckler 1: [Walking off a few steps…]
SWH: [Smiling and pulling out a backup script]
Heckler 1: Oh no you don’t….[Returning with the trash can]
SWH: [Ripping up second script]
[Standing there holding jacket lapels and staring…]
Heckler 2: Do you think you can be a pastor by dressing the part?
SWH: [Pointing to self]
Heckler 2: You don’t need a suit coat—what you need is a call from God.
Here take this. [Tossing a CPC tee shirt]
SWH: [Taking off jacket and putting on the tee shirt]

Someone warned me that ministry is a team sport at CPC!

After a prayer, I preached on the story of Stephen in Acts chapter seven, which was my first sermon without notes.

After the sermon, my mother asked for my CPC t-shirt and I gave it to her. The sermon itself softened my pastoral image and after eight years friends and family still remind me of it.

 

Also see:  Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Marion Roach Smith Writes Memoir

Marion Roach Smith, The Memoir ProjectMarion Roach Smith Writes Memoir

Marion Roach Smith. 2011. The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Hiemstra’s rule: once a project is complete, the best cites appear. Sometimes this rule follows from slow snail-mail delivery; other times it follows from inefficient networking; may be new eyes of expertise reveal a diamond in the rough. It is frustrating to find a resource that could have reduced the number of prior drafts by a factor of two. Such is my experience with Marion Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project.

Three Guidelines

Smith offers three basic guidelines for writing a memoir:

  1. Writing memoir is about telling the truth.
  2. Every page must one single story forward.
  3. Just because something happens, doesn’t make it interesting (14-24).

While I have described memoir as an autobiography with a theme, Smith is addressing writers who publish for people that they do not personally know. This marketing imperative burdens every paragraph in the memoir to move the theme forward as in a novel. This is unlike an autobiography that could be written more like nonfiction. The pacing and intensity are different.

Telling the Truth

The nature of truth, accordingly to Smith, starts with writing what you know (14). Actually writing what you know is Smith’s mantra and part of the title of a prior edition of this book. She cites Emily Dickinson’s poem 1129: “Tell All the Truth but tell it slant.” For Smith, slant means writing in your own, consistent voice; your take on the world (15).

In a postmodern context, telling the truth can be a challenge because philosophically postmoderns have trouble with the idea of objectivity—one truth that we can all agree on. This might sound liberating but for the writer in means being careful to describe not only the physical context for your life but also the social and economic context. Your slant will not only define your authentic voice, but also the prospective audience that will be willing to listen to it.

In my memoir, I write to my family in my own voice. Knowing that others will be eavesdropping, however, I have hired a first-class editor and pay careful attention to her advice.

Moving the Story Forward

Smith interprets theme in terms of case studies. She suggests identifying your theme (what’s this story about) and thinking of your story as an illustration of this theme. This change in focus is helpful because your life is no longer the story; it is the illustration, a case study of the theme. This lifts a burden from the author because, as an illustration, exact details are less important than advancing the theme (23).

At a minimum, this attitudinal shift towards theme and away from autobiography simplifies both the creation of a reasonable outline and the editing of the drafts that follow.

Everything that Happens Isn’t Interesting

Smith writes:

“thinking of memoir as laying out only a few cards from an entire deck, one at a time, each card moving forward the one story that you choose to tell.” (32)

Obviously, what is interesting in a memoir are the events in your life that are consistent with and advance the theme of your book. As someone with a terrible memory and lacking the gift of gab, this guideline seems unduly burdensome. Smith finds solace in focusing on telling big stories with little details.

Dog People

Smith offers some fascinating details about how attitudes about dogs have changed in recent years. Back in the day, dogs used to mind the territories of their owners, often posted in the backyard to keep strangers from jumping. Trips to the vet were rare and pet food consisted primarily of leftovers from dinner. No longer. Today, dogs are treated as members of the family with their own healthcare plans, toys, and exclusive treats. Socially, dogs provide a focus of neighborly interaction and, if you are single, a reasonable alternative to online dating.

In this vein, Smith recounts the story of the death of a neighbor’s dog and how that played out for neighborhood sisters (39). The little details of this encounter offer insights more interesting than a description of the big story of lonely people living in isolation. Her slant on the big story is to notice and write down the defining characteristics of this encounter (a woman wearing her husband’s swim trunks) and a trip with a dead dog to the doggie hospital (40). While a dead dog looks to me like garden fertilizer, Smith’s story provides more insight into today’s culture.

Marion Roach Smith

Marion Roach Smith is a graduate of Saint Lawrence University[1] in Canton, New York and worked for the New York Times. Her books include: The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair, (Bloomsbury, 2005), Another Name for Madness, (Houghton Mifflin, 1985) and others. She has written for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, The New York Times Magazine, Prevention, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, and The Los Angeles Times.[2]

Marion Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project is a fascinating and helpful book of interest to authors who take memoir seriously.

[1] www.stlawu.edu.

[2] http://marionroach.com. @MRoachSmith.

Also see:

The Christian Memoir 

Karr Voices Memoir Clearly 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Giving Thanks

Photograph of Clouds by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Giving Thanks

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

We praise you for your compassionate presence, your redeeming love, and your boundless blessings.

For we are often absent when we are needed, unloving in our relationships, and grasping when we should be generous.

Forgive our sin; overlook our iniquities; redeems us from our own trespasses.

Thank you for hearing our confession, forgiving our wrongs, and healing our wounds.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

save us from ourselves; teach us to order our lives on your word; restore our sense of right and wrong,

that we might survive the storms of this life.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Also see:

Prayer for Healing, Comfort, and Deliverance 

Prayer for Shalom 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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Christian Spirituality

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality
For more information, see: T2Pneuma.com

Christian Spirituality

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Spirituality is lived belief. When we pray, worship, or reach out to our neighbors, we live out our beliefs. Our beliefs structure our spirituality like skin stretched over the bones of our bodies. These beliefs start with faith in God the Father through Jesus Christ as revealed through the Holy Spirit in scripture, the church, and daily life. Our theology orders our beliefs. Without a coherent theology, we lose our identity in space and time having no map or compass to guide us on our way. In the end, we focus on ourselves, not God.

Spiritual Foundation

Christian spirituality accordingly starts with God, not with us. Like the woman Jesus cured of a spinal disfiguration, our only response can be to glorify God with songs of praise (Luke 13:13). We experience lasting Christian joy, not with recognizing Christ as savior, but with recognizing Christ as Lord. Spiritual disciplines and experiences are part of this spirituality, but they are not necessarily the focus (1 Cor 13:8).

This focus on what God has done begins in verse one of Genesis where God is pictured creating the heavens and the earth. What exactly have we done to deserve being created? Nothing. In fact, our first independent act was to sin. What exactly have we done to warrant forgiveness? Nothing. Christ died for our sins. The only meaningful response to these gifts of creation and salvation is praise.

Early Church

The early church interpreted and summarized God’s revelations in the biblical text and early creeds. It later developed the catechisms to summarize key church doctrines. The Heidelberg Catechism, Luther’s catechism, and the Catholic catechism focus on three key statements of faith: the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments (Chan 2006, 108). Not surprisingly, Sunday morning worship has for centuries focused on these three faith statements, often being memorized and put to music. The Heidelberg Catechism, for example, encourages a focus on worship and is itself divided into 52 sermon topics for weekly use.

The key spiritual discipline in the Christian faith naturally is Sunday morning worship. The worship service includes prayer, readings from scripture, the spoken word, the sacraments, music, statements of faith, and other expressions of faithful worship. In worship, music binds our hearts and minds.

Spiritual Practices

This worship experience is strengthened daily through personal devotions as well as devotions with our spouses, families, and other small groups. The original small group is the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—our template for healthy community. And when we take our spirituality into the work world, it too becomes an opportunity for worship.

Hear the words; walk the steps; experience the joy!

Reference

Chan, Simon. 2006. Liturgical Theology: The Church as a Worshiping Community. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Thielicke, Helmut. 1962. A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

 

Also see:  Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2wVZtbb

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