Establish the Work of Our Hands

A Front Porch View

He sat on a rustic cabin’s front porch.
Mountain peaks in front for him to see.
Back and forth moved his old wooden rocker.
The view framed by pine and juniper trees.

Some dog’s bark echoed in the distance.
An engine wails, straining to climb the pass.
A western tanager lands on top of a telephone pole.
And a deer looks both ways before crossing at last.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
September 2, 2020
Written in Alto, New Mexico

Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace by Mary Potter Kenyon

I Have Experienced Grief and Still Am.

I bought and read the Kindle Edition of Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace by Mary Potter Kenyon. Having my mother pass away in December 2014, my father dies in June 2017, and cancer takes my wife of 43.5 years in April 2018, I have experienced grief and still am.

She Walks The Journey as Your Guide

The author has walked the grief highway and shares not only her experience and insights but helps the reader be aware of what they may encounter on the journey. One area I could relate to was my concern for how my children were handling grief and I felt the need to take their feeling into consideration when I made choices I knew would impact my family. Starting new traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas was a struggle for me.

I had my middle child, then 38, graduate from seminary earning a master’s degree just three weeks after my wife’s death. One of my wife’s goals had been to live to see him walk across the stage. Five weeks before the graduation while she was in hospice she said she wouldn’t make it and my heart broke realizing death was imminent.

I drove across the country in May 2020 to attend a writer’s conference. During the drive I started talking, forgetting my wife was deceased. I drove past a Cracker Barrel Restaurant between Birmingham and Huntsville Alabama I said we had stopped there to eat on several previous trips to see her sister that lives in eastern Tennessee. I had to pull over and cry for about fifteen minutes.

Experienced Comfort

Mary sharing similar events in her book had me realizing my experience was normal for me and needed Kleenex to get through the book which I found hard to read – not because of the writing, but because of the memories reading caused me to relive. I recommend the book. Read in August 2020.

Going Out to Eat

Please enjoy my reading of the poem “Going Out to Eat.” Going Out to Eat was written in May 2013 in Estes Park, Colorado, and originally published in vox poetica Magazine on January 27, 2014. Annmarie Lockhart is the founder of vox poetica. Nathan Gunter is the current managing editor of vox poetica. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did writing it.

Going Out to Eat

Sweetheart, do you have a preference for where we go out to eat?
…..No. Anywhere you want is ok with me, dear.
Great. There’s a McDonald’s. They have a senior coffee discount.
…..Oh, but look! There’s a Subway. I think that would be better.
OK. Subway it is. I’ll let you off at the door and then park the car.

Do you see anything on the menu you prefer?
…..No. Anything you want is OK with me, dear. We can share a foot-long sub.
Great. How about a foot-long Italian meatball sub?
…..Oh, but the Black Forest ham … I think that would be better.

OK. Make it a foot-long Black Forest ham on wheat bread, please.
…..Oh, get whatever you want, dear, but white bread …
Ma’am, can you change that to white bread, please. And American cheese.
…..Dear, pepper jack … I think that would be better.
OK, make it pepper jack cheese.

We’d like lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos …
…..Anything you want, is OK with me, dear, but maybe not the tomatoes and pickles.
Ma’am, hold the tomatoes and pickles, please.
…..What if we skipped all the peppers and just got black olives?
OK. Make it black olives and mayonnaise instead of green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos.
…..Maybe you should go with light mayo. Remember your waistline.
Yes, dear. Ma’am, we’ll take light mayo instead, please.

“Sir, do you want to make that a combo with chips and drink?”
Sure, that sounds–
…..Dear, we’ve got water and apple slices in the car. No need to splurge, but …
OK. Just the sub, not the combo.

That was a very good lunch.
…..Yes. Thank you for taking me out to eat. Aren’t you glad I let you have whatever you wanted?

And I recalled the words of the Apostle Paul,
…..Love is patient, love is kind.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Written in Estes Park, Colorado
May 2013

“Going Out to Eat” was originally published in vox poetic in print and electronic form. The electronic version can be accessed at: Kepler, Jimmie A. “Going Out to Eat,” vox poetica, January 27, 2014, Retrieved January 27, 2014, from http://voxpoetica.com/eat/.


When I read the first draft of this poem to my late wife, I was shocked at how visibly upset it made her.

“You’re making fun of me and telling the whole world!” she said.

I was taken aback by her comment.

“I don’t understand,” I said with honesty.

“That’s what I did at the Subway Restaurant at Amarillo,” she said. She didn’t smile. She only lowered her head.

It was apparent the memory was fresh on her mind.

“It’s a composite of so many of the older couples we see at restaurants. It seems the wife frequently tells the husband to order what he wants. As he orders, she tweaks the order to what she wanted,” I said.

Again, she did not smile. She rolled her eyes.

“It’s not about you,” I said attempting to reassure her.

“It’s about me. Everyone will know it’s about me.”

“But it isn’t about you. Even if it were, who do you know that reads poetry?”

“So you admit you wrote it about me.”

“Sweetie, it’s a composite of so many of the older couples we see at restaurants,” I said trying to reassure her.

“And you’re going to submit it for publication?”

“Only with your permission. I don’t want it to upset you.”

“So it’s my fault if you don’t submit the poem?”

This time I rolled my eyes.

She glared at me for a minute and then sat silent for another five minutes. Finally, she started laughing and said, “I guess if I’m honest wives do that to their husbands. Go ahead and submit your silly poem.  No one publishes or reads poetry these days.”

I submitted it. It was accepted for publication. And no, it wasn’t about Miss Benita. It really is a composite of so many of the older couples I’ve seen at restaurants. It seems the wife frequently tells the husband to order what he wants. As he orders, she tweaks the order to what she wanted and then hands him a coupon to use.

 

He Won’t Let You Down

Did You Know God is Faithful? 

Yes, God is faithful. He won’t let you down. God’s word says in 1 Corinthians 1:9 English Standard Version (ESV), “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Definition of Faithful

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives this definition of faithful. The definition of faithful:

  1. Steadfast in affection or allegiance: LOYAL a faithful friend
  2. Firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty: CONSCIENTIOUS a faithful employee
  3. Given with strong assurance: BINDING a faithful promise
  4. True to the facts, to a standard, or to an original a faithful copy
  5. Obsolete definition of faithful: full of faith

What Does it Mean to be Faithful?

  • It means to be reliable.
  • It means to be trustworthy
  • It means to be dependable 
  • It means to be consistent.

Four Ways God is faithful.

1. God is Faithful To Protect

Psalm 34:4 ESV, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”

Takeaway: “I sought the Lord.” If you seek the Lord you will find that God is faithful.

Psalm 34:17-19 ESV, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Takeaway: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” If you cry to the Lord, he hears  and delivers. He is faithful.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Takeaway: God is faithful. When you are fearful remember he has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-control. He is faithful.

2. God is Faithful To Pardon

1 John 1:9 ESV, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Takeaway: “If we confess our sins …” God is faithful. God is faithful

3. God is Faithful To Provide

Philippians 4:18 ESV, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Takeaway: God will supply every need of yours” (not your greed). God is faithful.

4. God is Faithful To Preserve (that is to Keep Us Safe).

1 Peter 5:10 ESV, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Psalm 57:1 ESV, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.”

Takeaway: “I will take refuge” (in God). When you do he will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Yes, God is faithful.

I am reminded of a little acrostic I have heard many preachers use. It is GRACE. It stands for:

G – Gods

R – riches

A – at

C – Christ’s

E – expense.

Others may let you down but God promises to be faithful. Yes, God is faithful. 


Video Source: From YouTube. Fountainview Academy, British Columbia, Canada. Fountanview Academy is a Christian high school based in southern British Columbia, Canada, which holds Province of BC Ministry of Education accreditation. Students from all over the world are attracted to Fountainview because of its balanced approach to education. Each staff member is personally committed to the eternal success of every student, and together they strive for the highest standards in every respect.

The Influence of a Writing Mentor

Mentor

One way a writer can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. While writing groups can serve as a mentor, the right personal mentor will help improve your writing by giving you guidance each step of the way. Let me share an example of the influence of a mentor.

In 1919 a young veteran returned from World War I. He moved to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood for the purpose of being close to the author Sherwood Anderson.

Sherwood Anderson

The critical praise for Anderson and his book “Winesburg, Ohio” impressed a young, beginning writer. This hopeful writer had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.

Ernest Hemingway

The aspiring writer brought his own works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing contacts. The aspiring writer did okay with his first book “The Sun Also Rises.” The aspiring writer was Ernest Hemingway.

William Faulkner

Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orléans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He became roommates with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book “Soldier’s Pay” published. This young author was William Faulkner.

John Steinbeck

Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell were also mentored by Sherwood Anderson.

Ray Bradbury says Sherwood Anderson’s book “Winesburg, Ohio” was on his mind when he wrote The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury basically wrote “Winesburg, Ohio” placing it on the planet Mars.

Mark Twain

Arguably, only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in shaping modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he?

Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prizes

William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.

If you are serious about writing I urge you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The people in my writer’s and critique group keeps me encouraged and motivated.

Encourage your writer friends, keep reading and writing.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.


Photo Source: Public Domain

5 Principles for Christian Writers

Ephesians 4

Five Principles for Christian Writers: Walk in a Manner Worthy of Your Call to Write

Text: Ephesians 4: 1 – 6
Focus: Ephesians: 4: 1b – 3

Are you a Christian writer that writes inspirational fiction or devotions to encourage Believers in Jesus Christ? Maybe you are a writer whose drive is sharing Christian themes and principles for the mainstream market. Whatever your motivation, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” Ephesians 4:1b.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (English Standard Version) says,

I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

These verses give five principles that will help you: Walk In A Manner Worthy Of Your Call To Write

Principle One: Humility – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility” – Ephesians 4: 1b—2a

As a Christian writer, you should be full of Jesus, not self. The temptation is to be full of ourselves. When this happens, we are at risk of treating others with contempt. It should be about others, not ourselves.

Principle Two: Gentleness – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,” Ephesians 4: 1b- 2a

As a Christian writer, you should be bold but under control. This does not mean to be a wimp. Just as the power of a racehorse is under the control of the jockey, as a Believer, we need to be under the control of the Spirit of the Living God. Share the love Jesus and his teachings without beating the reader over the head with the Holy Bible. Share how God’s Word is applicable to everyday living.

Principle Three: Patience – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,” Ephesians 4: 1b- 2a

As a Christian writer, we need to trust God believing His word would come true. We need to keep on keeping on. We need to accept the fact that it takes time to develop our writing craft.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but wish patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9

It is better to have a limited audience and impact lives for Christ than to be a New York Times bestselling author and have no impact or testimony for Christ.

Principle Four: Forgiving Love – “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” – Ephesians 4: 1b – 2.

As a Christian writer, we need to realize Christian love covers a multitude of sins. We should write with a love that loves no matter what. We have all heard it said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Unconditional caring is what we must demonstrate as writers. After all, as a Christian, you are, by grace saved through faith, it is the gift of God.  Ephesians 2:8-10

In Christ, we need to love people from where they are to faith and growth in Christ.

Principle Five: Unity of the Spirit in the Bond Of Peace – “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:3 English Standard Version

Principal five is the sum of points one through four. All four points equal a bond of peace. We are bearing one another in love. Our writing should share and bring people to Christ, not drive them from Christ. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:4-6 (English Standard Version).

We need to realize it is not a geographical or a denominational thing; it is a Jesus and a God thing.

Encourage your friends, keep reading and writing.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Feel free to share as the Lord leads.

This is an original devotion written by Jimmie Aaron Kepler.

Anyone Ever Laugh When You Say You’re a Writer?

You Need a Real Job

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

“Why can’t I be an author?” I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

“Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades you could even aspire to be a medical doctor or dentist,” she said.

I was heartbroken. Raised to believe I could do anything, now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing? Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only…

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.

Read

Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.

Write

I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.

Edit

This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.

Submit

To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.

Rejection

Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. The photo is a rejection I received from the New Yorker Magazine. I’ve been rejected by the best.

Acceptance

Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good.

Writers’ Groups

Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late.

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.


Photo Source: Pixabay

One Great Way To Write A Book Review

Keeping Track of What You Read

Over twenty-five years ago I read Louis L’Amour’s book, “Education of a Wandering Man.” L’Amour kept a journal recording the books he read year by year.

About the same time, I attended a writer’s conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Christian author Dr. Calvin Miller was the featured speaker. He also mentioned keeping track of what you read. He suggested writing a one-page summary and your thoughts about the book. I thought L’Amour and Miller’s ideas were good. I added a twist of my own. Instead of just a summary, I wrote a brief book review.

An Editor Approached Me About Writing Book Reviews

In the late 1980s, a magazine editor approached me about writing book reviews. At the time, I was an associate pastor and Christian school principal at First Baptist Church in Jasper, Texas. I edited our church newsletter. In addition to writing a weekly column, I wrote and included reviews of Christian books from time to time. The book review became a popular feature. It significantly increased sales of the reviewed book at our local Christian bookstore. The magazine editor received my church newsletter and read my reviews. He asked me to write reviews for his publication. I started receiving review copies of books in the mail. Free books! For a reader like me, it was wonderful.

Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews

In 2003, I started Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews. Since then I have read and reviewed hundreds of military history or military historical fiction books, about 22 per year. The website was named a “100 Best Book Blogs for History Buffs” by OnlineSchool.org in 2009. I receive over 25 requests a month to read and review books. I accept very few of the requests.

What Do I Get Out of It?

First, I get the satisfaction of reading the book. I love reading and history. This is a great way to read new material and get review copies of the books.

Second, I share my love for history in general and military history specifically.

Third, I try to be a good finder in what I read. I will read the entire book. Sometimes it is a struggle, but I look for the good.  I do not say it is wonderful if it is tough to read, but I do not read looking for the bad.  I am blessed getting to review the books. A few times, I will not post a review, instead of giving a one-star review. Most authors prefer no review for a bad review.

In recent days, the newspapers and the Internet have had negative articles about some book reviews. Regarding any review, I have written on Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews; I received no payment. The only compensation was the book that I read. The publisher, author, publicists, or media groups sent it to me or I purchased it.

One Great Way to Write a Book Review 

Read the book.

I know; it seems obvious, but read the book! You might find out the author did a very good job. He or she probably invested one to four years of their lives in the book project, so read the book.  Do not even think about writing a review of something you only skimmed or only partially read. Reading the book is critical to a good review.

Know what you are reading.

If you don’t understand the book or subject area you are going to write about, you cannot write a good review. If you are reading a nonfiction book on a topic you know little about, make some effort to learn something about the topic. I write military history book reviews.  I have a formal background in history with a bachelor’s degree in the subject. My emphasis was in military history. I am widely read in history with a general background in all areas of English History and United States history. I am a serious student of US Military History.

Make notes about what you read.

You may want to make note of key phrase or sentences as you meet them. You can quote them in the review. As you read, ask yourself:

Who is telling the story? Is it in first person or third person?

What is the book’s genre? Narrative history, historical fiction, memoir?

What about the style of writing? Is the author a good storyteller? Is it serious scholarship with footnote after footnote? Is the style conversational or is it full of big words that need a dictionary at your side? Does it paint a word picture in your mind? When was it written? Was there a ghostwriter or co-author?

Does the book touch your heart and mind? Does it move you to an emotional or volitional climax about the topic?

Keep track of the story-line or chronology of the book. It will help you when reading long, complicated works.

Know the author and his or her works.

When you finished gathering the information, and you have enough notes, then you are ready to write the article.

Start with an introduction. The way you start will depend on your target audience. Consider beginning with a paragraph that describes your first impression of the work, or an interesting story that you had experienced through the book, or a more technical introduction where you briefly state the author, title, publisher, and any other information about the book you see pertinently.  I like to ask a thought-provoking question. An example is “Have you ever wondered what it would be like being a marine in Iraq?” It gets the reader thinking. Give a brief history of the author with some relevant information such as earlier works and awards.

Cover the structure of the book without giving away the plot or ending.

Explain your opinion of the book and give a summary of the review.

Finish by recommending the book. State who would benefit and enjoy the book, using general terms (students, veterans, seniors).

I like to tell the reader where and how they can get the book.

Include your full name in the end with the date of the review. On my book review site, I allow feedback. I have had a few authors contact and challenge me. I have had some authors point out grammar or spelling errors I have made in the review.

An example of the most frequent comment is in the words of David Laskin of the University of Washington. He wrote, “The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War.” He thanked me for reading the book. He said concerning my review that he had no doubt I had read the book. By the way, the book was amazing.


Originally Publication: Author Culture
Publication URL: http://authorculture.blogspot.com/2014/10/one-great-way-to-write-book-review.html
Date Retrieved: July 31, 2018
Original Publication Date: Monday, October 6, 2014
Photo Source: Pixabay

Kepler’s Aphorism #3 – One Page a Day

Kepler’s Aphorism #3 – One Page a Day

  • The average page has 250 words.
  • If you write 1 page a day 5 days a week you will end the week with 5 pages or 1,250 words written in one week.
  • If you do one page a day, 5 days a week for 52 weeks you’ll end the year with 65,000 words.
  • If you write 250 words a day (one page) every day for 1 year you end up with 91,250 words.
  • Somewhere between the two numbers are enough words if you are telling a story to have the first draft of a book.
  • To write a book put your bottom in a chair, write one page a day, and you’ll finish the first draft by this time next year.

Photo Source: Pixabay