Christmas and the Slaughter of Innocents

Christmas Devotion 2012

YET AGAIN OUR NATION MOURNS the senseless slaughter of innocents. The news from Sandy Hook Elementary School hits us particularly hard since it comes as we are singing Christmas carols, hanging festive ornaments, baking cookies, and wrapping presents, knowing that the seasonal preparations of families in Newtown, Connecticut have been interrupted by the horrific and unexpected task of funeral preparations. Festive joy mingles with cries of anguish.

Just like the first Christmas.

For as in Newtown, Connecticut, so in Bethlehem—

“. . . there a voice is heard,
lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
and would not be comforted,
because they are not.” (Matthew 2:18, KJV)

Though you won’t see displays of the nativity slaughter depicted with plastic figurines on lawns, or acted out on stages by children dressed in First Century costumes, the first Christmas was also scarred by the killing of innocents.

Of the gospel writers, Matthew alone records the incident. He records the visit of the Magi to the court of Herod, King of Judea; of their being received by this ambitious madman, who murdered his wife and killed two of his sons; of Herod’s feigned interest in worshipping the newborn king; and of his subsequent order to kill all the male children two-years-of-age and under to thwart the perceived threat of the Christ child.

Matthew also records the inconsolable weeping of the mothers of the slaughtered children, a mournful sound that echoes in the hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School; parents weeping for their children, refusing to be comforted, for their children are no more.

Great joy and bitter grief, both are inherent in the Christmas story. For only when we hear the angelic announcement in the heavens mixed with the mournful sobs on earth can we understand the true meaning of Christmas. It was no accident that God, a father, placed his infant son — his very human son — in a region ruled by an infamous murderer. For the light shines brightest where the world is darkest.

This Christmas, in the year of our Lord 2012, as we mourn the unspeakable loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School, every colored light that is hung burns a little bit brighter, every song that is sung sounds a little bit sweeter, and every gesture of goodwill and love serves notice to all those who bring evil and pain into our world, you will not win. Hope lives in us still.


Winston Churchill on Personal Libraries

245px-Sir_Winston_S_ChurchillI’M CURRENTLY READING William Manchester’s excellent biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion. Churchill loved books and often wrote about them. In the following quote he expressed my own behavior with regard to my 3,000 volume personal library — 

“If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or, as it were, fondle them — peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on their shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you will at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances.” 

[Friend Andy Glass directed me to the blog post, The Libraries, Studies, and Writing Rooms of 15 Famous Men. Kindred spirits all. Click here to see some great studies and writing rooms; included is Winston Churchill’s study.]


The Making of C.S. Lewis

CslewisIF CHRISTIAN PUBLISHING has a patron saint, it is probably C.S. Lewis. The man is revered for both his non-fiction writing and his fiction. His Mere Christianity has been read by millions of devotional readers; his Chronicles of Narnia has thrilled millions of fiction readers; and his The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition is still used in academic study.

Years ago when I wrote Postmarked Heaven, a series of letters penned by four believers in heaven to people still living on earth, the bookstores didn’t know on which shelf to place it. The letters were devotional in nature, but they were written by fictional characters. Should the book be placed with the devotional books or in the fiction section? I said, “In a way, it’s similar to C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. On which shelf do you place it?” Their reply? “On the C.S. Lewis shelf.” 

To what does C.S. Lewis attribute his prodigious output of writing?


[Read more…]


Heroines in Fiction

Years ago I met Sherri Wilson Johnson at a writers conference and recently she contacted me with great news — her first published novel was coming out! As we rejoiced together, we decided the debut of her novel would be a perfect opportunity to exchange blog posts — I’d write about the role of heroes in fiction for her blog and she’d write about heroines for my blog. 

A little about Sherri — besides being an inspirational romance novelist, she’s a speaker and a former homeschooling mom who loves sharing God with others, while sharing her life experiences with them.

I am honored to present Sherri Wilson Johnson to you. 

Sherri-wilson-johnson-oak-tara1Heroines in Fiction
Sherri Wilson Johnson

There are many great heroines in fiction…too many to list here. But one thing is for sure: You’ve got to have a great heroine to make a story worth reading. The last thing you want is for your heroine to park herself there on the page like a limp piece of lettuce when she is faced with a trial. Yes, there has to be hardship. She has to be up against a villain which seems almost too great to conquer.

One of my favorite fictional heroines is Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery. She is the melodramatic orphan who makes much out of nothing most of the time and gets into more trouble than most of the folks in town think she is worth. She is misunderstood and bumbles her way through most of her encounters with people. Her arch nemesis is Gilbert, who teases her, calls her carrot, and makes life miserable for her. She refuses to believe that her heart could fall for such a young man. But it does. Eventually, she rises to the top and conquers her villains and goes on to win the hearts of many.


[Read more…]


What Is Hero Fiction?

Heroic Living quote

HERO FICTION is stories of ordinary people caught up in events far greater than themselves—

  • A family swept up in the vast panorama of American history 
    (American Family Portrait series) 
  • Ordinary believers who dared to read outlawed English versions of the Bible 
    (Glimpses of Truth; Beyond the Sacred Page) 
  • A German pastor and his wife who never bowed a knee to Hitler, rescuing disabled orphans from the gas chambers 
    (Songs in the Night series) 
  • An American nurse captured by a German soldier in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge 
    (Dear Enemy) 

The goal of hero fiction is that after reading it readers will be inspired to live nobly in whatever situation they find themselves.