Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

In case you didn't know, November is National Novel Writing Month. A challenge. Call it a dare if you like, plenty do. This is the month when tens of thousands of ordinarily sane writers around the world challenge themselves or one another to a ridiculous feat of endurance: Write a 50,000 book in a month.

You get thirty-one 24 hour days, and not one word is allowed before November 1 or after November 30. Prewriting and plotting are great, the planning of characters and conflict are fine, too. But not one word of the book.If we reach that coveted 50,000 word mark, we win... what? An icon much like the ones above, only it says WINNER! You get the satisfaction of having done it. The words don't have to sing or even yodel. They just have to be.

How many people long to write a book, to be published, to communicate... something. They yearn for the time when their children are older, more independent. They wait for the time when they can devote themselves full time to the task. Many promise themselves they'll do it after they retire. They never do it, sadly.

The thing about this challenge that brings me joy is knowing that so many people are actually doing it. It's just for a month, you know. They can write every day for a month. Some will enjoy the exercise, then put their manuscripts away and never look at them again. And that's fine. But some will continue even after November. They'll go back to those words they wrote in such a hurry and they'll revised and rework them. They'll strengthen their characters, cut out the deadwood and prune their dialogue. Some will polish their books and send them out, only to have them come back in what seems to be return mail. Or, they'll hear nothing at all for months. Eventually, some of those books will get published. Yes, it has happened. Either way, I applaud them.

Oh, there are those that take offense How dare these people call themselves writers! Just the mention of NaNoWriMo Director Chris Baty's book "No Plot, No Problem" makes them crazy. A novel needs a plot!! Often, they resent someone who spent a month typing 50,000 thousand words of unintelligible drivel calling themselves a writer, or worse, an author.

In a way, I understand where they're coming from. They've worked long and hard, many for decades sweating blood over each book, each word. They've struggled to understand and learn this business. After rejections and despair they get "the call". They're published. Then, one day at the gym someone announces that they've just completed their first book and wants to know the name of their agent. They want fast action because they worked on it for a whole month!

My response: You can't fix a blank page, only one with words on it. I still support this program. In 2005 they had over 59,000 participants. Almost 10,000 people world-wide wrote their 50,000 words.In addition, in 2004 and 2005 the NaNoWriMo organization contributed over $20,000 to Room to Read to build libraries for kids in Cambodia. Those libraries are up and running now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who, Me? A Hypocrite?

The Encarta dictionary says a hypocrite as, "somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise."In Matthew 23:27-28 Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
This commentary isn't about those who make a habit of sin, or those who deliberately teach false doctrine. There are plenty of those individuals hidden within the body of Christ, who have done unspeakable damage to other Christians, the church, and the name of Christ among unbelievers. Believe me, God will deal with them justly. (See Matthew 13:24-30.)

But, I think the term is too often and too easily applied. To me, a hypocrite is someone who claims to be walking righteously before God and yet in secret—knowingly and willingly—violates the standards to which they hold others. There's a huge difference between that person and one who tries and sometimes fails to attain the high standards God’s Word sets. Need convincing?

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

So, was the Apostle Paul a hypocrite? I think not. He was a Christian who fell short of the high standard of perfection. In my opinion, a better measuring stick would be not what am I as a Christian, but what am I becoming. Compare who I am, now, to who I was when I came to know Christ. We cannot expect a new babe in Christ to walk with the same wisdom and constancy as one who'd been walking with God for many years. Am I growing? Am I becoming more like Him? Am I beginning to yield spiritual fruit? Am I allowing God to work on my “stuff?” Working on it myself? Do I harbor ungodly habits, thought patterns and attitudes?

As my husband puts it: God says, “I AM that I AM.” Popeye says, “I yam what I yam.” Greg Morgan says, “I am what I am becoming.”

In Matthew 7:2 Jesus warns us all, "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." It’s not that we don’t render judgment at all. It’s that in our dealings with others, if we judge harshly and dispense little mercy, that is how God will judge us.

I can hear someone screaming. But Jesus, himself, called some of the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. But take a look at the scripture again. He knew their thoughts. He knew the condition of their hearts and deepest motivations. Can we truly know what a person is thinking? Their deepest motivation? It isn’t that we’re not supposed to judge actions and even attitudes, at all. But we must do so with the same wisdom and compassion that God does. In my opinion, we are to judge an action or attitude, not the person.

If my attitude or actions fall short, I pray someone close to me will speak the truth in love and call me on it. I want never to bring shame to the name of Christ. If what we want is to help an erring brother or sister, we’d best approach them with love, even if it needs to be tough love.

Chocolate-Filled Cream Puffs

This evening I'm making a batch of chocolate-filled cream puffs to take to our Precepts Bible study brunch in the morning and thought you all might like the recipe. This little cookbook came with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Of course, when my husband bought it for me, I was anxious to try it out. I have changed the recipe a little, but basically it's the same. Sometimes I substitute pudding from a box, either vanilla or chocolate, for the filling.


1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Pillsbury Best All-Purpose Flour
4 eggs
Powdered sugar (optional)

Chocolate Filling:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (12 ounces) PET Evaporated Milk
1 1/3 cupts water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla

Hot Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup PET Evapoeated Milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat water, butter and salt in 1 1/2 quart saucepan over high heat to a full rolling boil. reduce heat and quickly stir in Pillsbury Best Flour, stirring vigorously with wooden spoon until mixture leaves sides of pan and forms a ball.

Place mixture in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition. Stop and scrape bowl. turn to Speed 4 and beat 15 seconds.

Drop scant 1/4 cupfuls of dough into 12 mounds 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Cool slightly on wire racks, then slice in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Scrape insides of puffs gently with fork to remove any soft dough, then cool completely on wire racks.

Meanwhile, prepare Chocolate Filling. Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt in large saucepan. Gradually stir in Pet Evaporated Milk and water. Add unsweetened chocolate. Cook and stir over mediium heat until mixture is very thick and chocolate has melted completely, frequently scraping bottom of pan with flat spatula. Bring to a simmer and simmer for one full minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until chocolate chips have melted completely. Pour into medium bowl and cover refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, prepare Hot Fudge Sauce. Place all incredients in heavy saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts completely.

To serve, fill bottom halves of cream puffs with about 1/3 cup Chocolate Filling, place cream puff tops on filling. Lightly dust with powdered sugar (if desired), then drizzle with the Hot Fudge Sauce.

Per serving: about 363 calories. 7 G PRO, 42 G CARB, 20 G FAT, 102 MG CHOL, 36 MG SOD