Tuesday, December 21, 2021

He Played His Drum: Gifts for Jesus


“The Little Drummer Boy” is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. I love the bass “Rum-pum-pum.” I love the lyrics as a poor little boy agonizes over what gift he could possibly give to this newborn King of Kings. I love when the music swells to victory as the boy understands he does have a gift for the baby, and he plays his drum the very best that he can—all for Jesus.

Before I devoted my life to Christ, I didn’t realize that every perfect gift from above should naturally return to the Giver. While I was still a baby, born-again Christian, the Lord taught me this lesson through a small dose of tough love. At that time of my life, singing was my known talent. (Maybe that’s why I have such an affinity for the Little Drummer Boy!)

I had joined a charismatic church, so different from the staid, traditional churches of my childhood. I joined their choir, fully expecting the opportunity to solo. After all, I had graduated college with a music degree and had soloed with its prestigious choir. I had sung in churches all over the country and in Europe.


Can you see where this story is going? My gift. My glory.


The Christmas cantata rehearsals arrived. The director did not offer me a solo. Well, I was new, I reasoned. Maybe I hadn’t earned my stripes in his book. Time passed. The Easter cantata was rehearsed. No solo. Now I was insulted. Should I even stay in this choir?

My tender little, baby Christian heart took my sorrows to God. His voice was gentle in my mind. “Who are you singing for, Linda? Why are you singing in this choir?”

His simple questions clarified everything. I'd been using my God-given talent for myself. I had basked in the praise from previous performances. I’d stood tall and proud wearing the mantle of "soloist." But I was no longer the old Linda. I was a new Linda, God’s beloved child, and He refused to spoil me.

From that little talk with God came repentance from my old, selfish attitude. I told the Lord I wanted to sing for Him. Everything else was a distant second. Within weeks, the choir director offered me a solo, and I knew God was telling me, “You’ve learned the lesson well. I look forward to your gift of song for Me.”


Everyone in ACFW has been given the talent to write.


Some of us have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Others haven’t published one story yet.  But we all have the opportunity to bless the Lord using the gift He’s bestowed on us.

Once God opened the whole new world of writing to me, I’ve tried to remember the lesson from my singing days. My songs were dedicated to Him, and my stories are written for Him. I want to check and recheck that my books and my articles glorify Him and no one else.

Like the Little Drummer Boy who’d been given musical talent and offered his performance to Jesus, so each of us has the opportunity to offer our King the gift of our words.

Over the course of the year, I periodically evaluate my motives regarding writing. I challenge you to rehearse the same exercise, if you don’t already do so.

1. Were my words written for God’s glory?

2. What were my other motivations? To have fun? To teach? To earn money? To gain applause? To share what I’ve learned?

3. Have I asked God what He wants me to write? And if I did, was I obedient in regard to His answer?

4. Did I pray for guidance before I typed one word for the day?

You get the picture. You can probably add your own questions to mine.

May every story you write and every article you publish be an offering to your King, to the Babe in the manger who came to earth for your sake. 

And may He smile on your gift.


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!

Where Linda can be found on the web:









Thursday, December 16, 2021

More Tools for Your Writer's Toolbox coming January 8!

Gone are the days when an author’s only job was to put words to paper, to craft an engaging story. The rest of the book publishing business belonged to someone else, including the marketing of the author’s engaging story. While the publisher tended to those business-type details, said author set about writing another book. And all was well.

But now, it’s not enough to write an engaging book, even one presented in an error-free manuscript. Today’s would-be authors are told to build a name for themselves and gather a following of potential readers while pulling together an amazing story in a perfectly formatted manuscript. 

Some publishers require an author to amass what most of us would consider an unrealistically huge number of followers via social media profiles and a massive email list of contacts. While one expects an indie published author to have to wear the marketing hat atop his/her writing cap, even those who pursue a traditional publishing route no longer have the luxury of relying on their publisher to handle all things marketing related.

At whatever point you find yourself in your writing journey, building an author platform should be on
your radar. And for that you will need to fill your writer’s toolbox with tools, such as the services offered by Book Brush Media. So, mark the first Saturday in January with a big star for the first ACFW Indiana 2022 meeting, featuring a presentation by Kathleen Sweeney from Book Brush Media. Watch your email for more details coming soon!

What are your favorite tools relating to marketing and building an author platform? Jot your answers in the comments.





Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Reading Evangelicals, By Daniel Silliman

 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2021)

News editor of Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of American evangelicalism, Daniel Silliman has given us a candid assessment of the movement, based on five blockbuster books or book series. These crossover books are the public face of evangelical Christianity for most secular readers. Silliman argues they have also set the agenda for current evangelical thought and redefined how many conservative Christians see the world and their role in it.

For example, most Christians once held that an abundant life is one of proper belief and orthodox religious practice, so they looked to books of doctrine and biblical commentary for guidance. Then Jeannette Oke’s novel Love Came Softly dared to reimagine “spiritual fullness as falling in love, and feeling safe, and knowing someone has the best plans for you” (32). It marked a watershed.

Oke’s novel convinced readers that the Christian life is not a solitary intellectual experience, but a relational odyssey with God and those who love us. In the tidal wave of Christian romances that followed, we saw that God can give a believer more than a correct belief system. The pleasure, personal fulfillment, and joy of a romantic relationship are equally important gifts of divine love.

Silliman shows that blockbuster Christian novels have also had a significant impact on evangelical philosophy and doctrine. Crossway Books produced apologetic volumes by Francis Schaeffer, C. Everett Koop, and others who argued that the Religious Right was Christianity’s last bastion against secular humanism. But these books appealed primarily to intellectuals and the discussion of secular humanism was primarily an effete topic. Then Frank Paretti’s novel This Present Darkness catapulted it into the public square.

Another example: Only a few Christians believed dispensational teachings about a global Tribulation and an endtime Rapture of faithful believers until the Left Behind novel series was published. These doctrines were then embraced by many evangelical Christians who had not given much thought to the Bible’s endtime teachings until then.

I believe we can find instructive insights in Silliman’s book. I most appreciated his bios of the authors, which reveal how they came to write these landmark books. Nearly all of them were first-time authors who wrote their books to draw readers into a more meaningful understanding of the Bible or to reexamine their own relationship with God, as William Paul Young did with The Shack.

Another vital subtheme of the book is the current realignment of the evangelical book pubishing industry.  Silliman mourns the loss of Christian bookstores as "discourse communities" where such theological ideas can be discussed and compared. They are fast disappearing along with other brick-and-mortar bookstores. Silliman describes how Christian publishers viewed these blockbuster books with suspicion, then delight and amazement as they racked up sales in the tens of millions of copies. But as bookstores disappear, the cost of marketing books skyrocket and profit margins plummet, so publishers are slashing their plans and merging to survive. For these reasons, the whole landscape of Christian publishing is changing dramatically.

He concludes with two criticisms of these five blockbuster novels:

·       “The novels promoted individualism, first of all. In Oke’s romance novel, the heroine flourished when she realized God’s love for her…[However,] that woman was never asked to imagine how her abundance related to her neighbor’s needs, or how her fullness and flourishing were bound up with that of other people” (190).

·       “The best-selling fiction, second, encouraged readers to oppose pluralism. Pluralism is imagined as the cause of cultural upheaval, and readers are asked again and again to imagine how upsetting difference is. In Left Behind, it is pluralism that prompts crisis.…The novel asks readers…to imagine feeling attacked and imagine defending themselves. Every encounter with difference is presented as a site of struggle” (191).

Fair or not? Constructive or not? Most important: How does our work look in light of Silliman's critique?

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.