Mockery

mockeryOne of the lessons 2016 has driven home to me is that, of all possible forms of humor, mockery is the one I appreciate least. Unfortunately (in my opinion) mockery remains popular across a wide spectrum of people seeking a way to belittle others for anything from physical disabilities to differing views on religion or politics.

I do understand the temptation to mock. Mocking can make the mocker feel smug, intelligent, and witty at the expense of his target. Mocking provides a verbal way to shoot at someone we don’t like without the danger of getting arrested. So in a sense, mocking brings the mocker a reward, particularly if the mockery succeeds in inciting others to join in the jeering and finger-pointing. And I’m sure I’ve mocked before, but I hope in the Lord to have outgrown this particular form of humor.

As a follower of Christ, I do find many incidents of mocking in the Bible. A few include:

– Job was mocked in the midst of his calamity and depression (Job 21:3; 30:9).

– God’s messengers, the prophets were mocked by ungodly listeners (2 Chronicles 36:16).

– Local civic leaders mocked Nehemiah and his followers when they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:19).

– David was mocked by his enemies, people who resented God’s hand of blessing on the young man (Psalm 35:15-16).

– Soldiers mocked Jesus with words, but added their spittle, slaps, whip lashing, and a crown of thorns (Matthew 26:67-68).

– The Jewish king, Herod, joined in mocking Jesus (Luke 23:11)

– The apostles were mocked by a crowd, who accused them of being drunk early in the morning (Acts 2:13).

That’s only a quick sampling. Many more Bible verses speak of mocking, and they provide food for meditation. But the truth that strikes me over and over is that the mockery in the Bible generally comes from people with whom I wouldn’t care to associate. In contrast, Jesus certainly pointed out sin, and He didn’t hesitate to tell people when they misapplied the Scriptures. Jesus definitely got angry when He drove out those money-changers who turned the temple created for worshiping God into a place for buying and selling animals to sacrifice. (Even without divine power, Jesus was definitely no weakling!) But did Jesus ever put on goofy faces to mock Herod or faraway Caesar to the cackling of His followers? Did He draw slapstick caricatures of the sinners who refused to heed His teachings? I’m not finding it.

I won’t dictate what others should or shouldn’t do with mockery. But if I have to make a choice, I’d rather be mocked than stand among the ranks of mockers. If someday I slip from this goal, somebody please give me a kick in the backside and remind that I’m not being the kind of person I aspire to be!

“Be Careful.”

be-carefulWhen I was young, my family lived one whole block from Dublin elementary school. So, I walked to school every day. But no matter how short the distance, as I headed out the door armed with my brown paper sack lunch, Mom would say, “Be careful.”

That parental warning has always hovered over me in one form or another. When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, Mom’s goodbye warnings changed from “Be careful” to “Drive careful.” That was decades ago, but to this day when I visit, Mom’s parting words are “Drive careful!”

Dad (now 88) gives me the same warnings. If I cook him a meal and need to step out to his breezeway to fetch something from the freezer, he’ll say, “Be careful.” Or if I head to his basement to use the weight bench or to bring up canned green beans, I know he’ll call out to be careful.

Now, understand that I’m not a reckless person. I do drive defensively. I don’t text while driving. I watch where my feet are going on stairs. But those parental admonitions still pop out, and I’m they always will.

Then, just over a week ago, I noticed something. I’d driven my young grandsons to Falls Park on the Reedy in Greenville, SC. It’s a beautiful place for photos. There are footbridges, waterfalls, pools of water, ducks and geese. My grandsons are still at that young age where water lures them with magnetic attraction. As five-year-old Jonny peered into the pool where geese bobbed along, I heard a voice caution, “Be careful!”

Surprise — the voice was mine. Even though the water was shallow and the danger mild, my automatic response was to repeat the same warning I’ve heard all my life. Life is full of accidents, dangers, and various causes of unhappiness. They happen. We can’t always shield loved one from life’s scrapes and bumps, so our inner voice (or actual voice) urges them to take care. And that’s a good thing.

Friend, the world is fraught with dangers. Some dangers are small, such as stepping into a puddle and getting a shoe wet. (Yes, Jonny managed it despite my vigilance!) Others are life threatening. None of us can save the whole world, but we can care enough to show concern for loved ones. So, friend, if you cared enough to pause and share these thoughts, then I care enough about you to say, “Be careful!”

(And Mom would be proud!)

 

Radio Interview with Author Rick Barry

Triumphant LivingI enjoyed being interviewed for radio by Beth Stewart of Triumphant Living Ministries. We discussed my inspirational World War 2 novel The Methuselah Project, writing, and Christian living.

You missed the interview? You can still hear or download it using the link below. Blessings to you!

http://bethstewartministries.libsyn.com/interview-with-rick-barry-the-methuselah-project

 

 

Politically Incorrect? There’s Something Better.

 

Politically-IncorrectAmerican society is infected with an absurd notion. Generally speaking, that notion is that any opinion, symbol, or statement that might somehow displease another is “politically incorrect.” In fact, we’ve reached the point where many might argue to omit the word politically. If you offend them—no matter how unintentionally—they will declare you as incorrect, period.

Years ago, we laughed at verbal gymnastics as some folks suggested rewordings to avoid the least possible offense. For instance, instead of describing a man as short, he was “altitude challenged.” It sounded silly, but we played along. Even some of us non-proponents of PC joined in the game by concocting our own nutty PC labels.

Now, the virus dubbed political correctness has morphed and infested society. Today, if a person displeases anyone at all, he or she no longer risks being frowned upon. The new knee-jerk reaction is to slap a harsh label on the offender.

“Bigot!”

Or the dreaded “Hater!”

Of course, even many of those who shoot the insults realize you’re not actually bigoted or hateful. But they also realize harsh labels can cow the timid, and thus—without the aid of laws or brute force—manipulate the opposition into submitting to their wishes.

Imagine yourself as the manager of a restaurant. On your walls are poster-sized photographs of your lunchtime combos. A woman approaches you and says, “Your photographs of bacon offend me. Bacon is against my religion.” Who’s wrong, the restaurant manager or the customer who expects all others to bow to her standards? I would say the customer, yet many PC adherents would say, “The manager would be wrong. She was offended; he should change the menu.”

Has the USA reached the point where we all must bite our tongues and bend over backward doing whatever necessary to avoid the least offense? I say no. But in the same breath I’ll say we shouldn’t give free reign to rudeness and insults either. There’s an older term that’s superior to political correctness. The word is polite.

Good old-fashioned politeness is kind. So, if a neighbor or coworker is shorter than average, taller than average, wider than average, then the polite person refrains from mocking remarks or embarrassing that person. Good ol’ politeness also refrains from attempts to coerce others into thinking and behaving according to our will.

Jesus gave another behavioral guideline that’s superior to political correctness. He said, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Wow. Treat others the way we wish they would treat us? If everyone truly lived up to that principle, the world would be a better place, and political correctness could join the scrap heap of history.

The Methuselah Project on the INSPY Award Shortlist

I’m pleased and excited that The Methuselah Project has made the shortlist for the annual INSPY Awards. Winners will be announced June 28, but no matter what happens, it’s an honor to be in the final running.

From their site: “Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.”

Office-Desk-2

2016 INSPYs Shortlists Released

April 30, 2016—The INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce that the following books have been shortlisted in the fifth annual INSPY Awards. Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs — http://inspys.com — were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.

Debut

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham | Vinspire Publishing

Jaded by Varina Denman | David C. Cook

A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter | Bethany House

Love’s Rescue by Christine Johnson | Revell

Irish Meadows b y Susan Anne Mason | Bethany House

 

General Fiction

A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner | Kregel

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert | Waterbrook

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke | Tyndale

Wat er From My Heart by Charles Martin | Center Street

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay | Thomas Nelson

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

London Tides by Carla Laureano | David C. Cook

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer | Zondervan

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K . Vogt | Howard

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade | Bethany House

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren | Tyndale

 

Historical Romance

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton | Waterbrook

Not by Sight b y Kate Breslin | Bethany House

The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz | Revell

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund | Waterbrook

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin | Revell

 

Speculative Fiction

The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry | Kregel

Heir of Hope by Morgan L . Busse | Enclave Publishing

The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr | Bethany House

The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey | Thomas Nelson

Embers by Ronie Kendig | Enclave Publishing

 

Mystery and Thriller

The Last Con by Zachary Bartels | Thomas Nelson

A.D. 33 b y Ted Dekker | Center Street/Hachette

Vendetta by Lisa Harris | Revell

Falcon by Ronie Kendig | Shiloh Run Press/Barbour

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks | Thomas Nelson

 

Literature for Young Adults

Season of Fire b y Lisa T. Bergren | Blink/Zondervan

Shades of Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon | Blink/Zondervan

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker | Tyndale

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund | Zondervan

Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber | Thomas Nelson

 

The innovative INSPY Award is designed to help readers in their search for the preeminent faith­inspired literature of today. The INSPYs were created to select and showcase books with the highest literary standards that grapple with the Christian faith. To find these works, the INSPYs net is cast wide, accepting nominations of books aimed at the Christian bookstore market as well as those from the general market.

The winners of the 2016 INSPY awards will be announced June 28. In the meantime, http://inspys.com will feature author interviews to introduce readers to the creative minds behind these books.

Contact: InspyAwards@gmail.com

 

“How do you overcome writer’s block?”

Writer's block...in Russian

A writer’s block…in Russian 😉

Because I have several novels to my credit, hope-to-be writers sometimes ask how I overcome writer’s block. If you’re afflicted by that dread malady, the following thoughts are for you.

First, many author friends agree that the best remedy for writer’s block is simply self-discipline: to force yourself back to the keyboard and to resume working, even if you’re not feeling “inspired.” In fact, if you wait for the the perfect creative mood, you will probably never write. You must be a strict boss with yourself. Plumbers don’t plumb only when they’re in the mood. Surgeons don’t cancel surgery because they’re rather spend the morning playing Solitaire or catching up with friends on Facebook. They do their jobs, inspired or not, and save playtime for later. So must the writer, whether that discipline translates into a specific number of new words added per day, or simply a certain amount of daily time spent pushing the story forward. (Feel free to give yourself a break on Sundays and holidays.)

Second, here is some encouragement: When you woodenly keyboard word after word without feeling motivated, you might conclude you’re typing junk. And maybe you are. But “junk writing” can always be edited and improved and polished at a later date. However, that blank Word document that is waiting for you to be in the mood? There is absolutely no way anyone can ever improve that empty document. When I was developing my third novel, The Methuselah Project, I often felt bogged down by lack of creativity. More than once, I didn’t know how to handle the next chapter. But I pushed through the tough spots. Later, I came back and reworked each scene of every chapter. You know what? Now I can’t tell the difference between my inspired writing and my forced writing. Both types underwent revisions and ended up better than that first draft.

So go ahead and jump in, even if the sentences feel boring and the dialogue clunky as you create it. Sometimes, the mere act of writing and exercising your imagination helps to prime the pump of creativity, enabling scenes to flow faster and with more enjoyment than when you began!

The Invisible Ones Around Us

Gray-haired womanA casual remark by a senior citizen pierced my heart and has stuck with me. Out of the blue, this woman noted, “Being an elderly woman is like being invisible. Nobody notices you.”

This woman was not bragging about a super power. Nor was she a Ninja in training. Rather, she was sad. People didn’t notice her. They didn’t give compliments. And sure, younger folks might hold the door if she was ambling out of McDonalds as they were trying to enter, but they didn’t go out of their way to meet her or to strike up conversations as they might have done when she was younger and more physically attractive.

My acquaintance’s remark sparked a memory of a double-decker boat I’d recently been on. While visiting California, a group of us boarded the chartered vessel for an evening cruise along the bay. The passengers included authors, screen writers, doctors, a physician, people involved in non-profit organizations, and others. Fascinating clusters of people stood chatting all over that boat, and I enjoyed meeting and networking, too. Yet, off to the side sat three elderly women. They kept to themselves, and exchanged few words as they watched the crowd around them. Who were they? How had they ended up on this chartered cruise? I had no clue, but I didn’t approach them either as I discussed writing with “more important” contacts. These three gray-haired ladies weren’t literally invisible, but they may as well have been for the lack of attention they received that evening.

May I make a suggestion? When we cross paths with the elderly or “unimportant” people, let’s keep in mind that they are real people with genuine feelings. They deserve respect even if they don’t walk or think as fast as they once did. Offering a smile or a kind remark requires little time, but simple acts of kindness or sixty seconds of conversation can make them feel noticed and appreciated.

Jesus declared that the second greatest commandment concerned the people around us (even the “unimportant” and aged ones): “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:31). Being caring and others-centered bucks the trend in this self-centered age. Yet, that’s the path recommended by none other than the Son of God.

I think it’s time we stop letting people around us fade into invisibility. Don’t you?

 

 

No, You Can’t Please Everybody

To please, or not to pleaseThere I was, sitting in a writers’ critique group led by a famous author, when a woman burst into tears. The reason? Every time someone had offered suggestions on her manuscript, she rewrote her story. But many suggestions contradicted each other.

“I can’t make everybody happy,” she sobbed.

Truer words were never spoken.

That woman wasn’t yet published and faced frustration in trying to please every reader. But that’s not possible. Amazon reviews for The Methuselah Project, my third published novel, provide amusing evidence that it’s impossible to please every type of person.

To illustrate this point, here are excerpts from reviewers (I don’t know them) who left Amazon comments on The Methuselah Project:

 

How was the writing style?

“I did have a bit of trouble with the writing style, especially in the beginning.” (By Ashley)

“Great book! I really enjoyed this story and the writing style. The progression of the story and characters was interesting. Hope to see a sequel soon.” (By grams)

  

Was this novel the right length?

“Really good read but a bit overly long” (By Janine)

“I really wanted it to be longer….” (By Marali)

 

How was the story’s pace?

“It took me a bit to get into the story.” (By Rebecca)

“This exciting book is fast paced, intriguing and a page turner! I would highly recommend this book to any one!” (By Jennifer)

 

Could you figure out the ending?

“Entertaining, fast moving, but predictable novel.” (By Jude)

“This book was so unique and I loved it even more because of that fact. Books tend to follow the same type of patterns so I can usually figure out what is going to happen before the books end and because this book was so different from anything I have read before I didn’t figure it out until it was ending.” (By Margaret)

 

Did it capture your imagination?

“It held my attention and then it fell flat in other parts.” (By Andrea)

“One of my all time favorite books!!!!! Couldn’t put it down. Finished it in two days. If you like WWII Historical fiction look no further. Strap into your seat in the cockpit and prepare for a wild ride!” (By Rosevine Cottage Girls)

 

Was the story memorable?

“I found The Methuselah Project to just be an ok read. I didn’t hate it, but I closed the covers thinking it could have been better. I am definitely in the minority with my opinion — it has great reviews on Goodreads.” (By B. Burnham)

“This is one of the most awesome books I’ve read in a while. Surprising. Suspenseful. Believable. Reminds me of the movie with Mel Gibson ‘Forever Young.’ I wanted it to be a series.” (By Del)

 

I hope you’re smiling at these contradictions, all by anonymous readers, who gave their unbiased opinions on my story.

The bottom line: No, you can’t please everyone in life. Listen to suggestions, sure, but weigh the advice. Act on what’s good; ignore what’s bad. Try to please God, and of course be true to yourself!

FREE? Pre-Valentine’s deal on 4 ebooks!

It’s true! Today ONLY, Kregel Books is offering a sweetheart of a deal on four ebooks–your choices for FREE.

Check ’em out now, because tomorrow this deal will be gone! Here are the 4 links:

The Methuselah Project: http://ow.ly/XRTx1
A Thousand Shall Fall: http://ow.ly/XRTAt
The Bargain: http://ow.ly/XRTHI
Fatal Loyalty: http://ow.ly/Y4wCo
Free ebooks

Free ebooks

The Power of a Kind Word

Dear friend, did you realize you might have a superpower and not even know it? Simply by opening your mouth and expressing a few thoughts, you might make a super difference in someone’s life today.

Let me be vulnerable and explain. I’ve been going through some tough times lately. No need to delve into details. Suffice it to say that my world has flipped upside down. Changes involving family. Changes involving work. Changes involving where I live, and I plan to move soon to a neighboring state to care for my aging father in his home. Those who study humans and emotions say that every large change in a person’s life becomes a stressor. Multiple changes at once can feel crushing. That’s where I am right now–feeling the heavy weight of many changes and countless decisions, including some fairly sad ones.

Sure, my faith in God is intact. Sure, I pray every day and read my Bible too. Still, it’s easy to bottle up emotions in hard times and not show the world how alone and hurting we feel.

That’s where I was this morning. Then I dropped into a Chick-Fil-a for a breakfast biscuit and coffee. Working behind the counter was a young lady from my church. As it turned out, we had a customer-free moment to exchange a few words. At the end of that brief talk she said quietly, “I want you to know that I’m praying for you.”

I teared up right there. It was a simple statement, but it was from her heart. A reminder that I’m not alone. There are friends who know and care.

Last week a Facebook friend announced his utter shock that a friend had committed suicide. He’d had no clue his friend was despondent. Evidently, neither had others. Yet, some of them wished they had known so they could have expressed some kindness to him and possibly lifted up that sinking soul. But they didn’t know, so they hadn’t said a word. I’m certainly not suicidal, but today’s incident reminded me of the power of even a few sincere words.

We people are such fakers, aren’t we? We don’t like the world to know when we’re hurting. “I’m fine,” we declare when people ask. So we might not know when that friend or acquaintance needs a word of encouragement or appreciation. But perhaps we would do well to practice those kind words even when we’re not sure they’re needed. After all, amidst all the gloom and anger in this world, a kind word is never wasted. And it just might make a super difference!