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A Forty Day Experiment with Music

by Steve Laube

eps10 vector music note background design

I tried something new this year. During the 40 days prior to Easter, also known as Lent, I chose to listen to one and only one CD while driving in my car.

From March 5th to April 20th the only music playing was “Lent at Ephesus,” the #1 bestselling Classical Music album of the year. This means during that period I heard this music at least thirty times from start to finish. (Click to listen to samples from the album.)

The music itself is sacred acapella sung by the nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, in Missouri. There are 27 songs in the collection, everything from original compositions to a piece from Bach’s “St. Matthew’s Passion.”

There is something special about the clarity and peacefulness in the pure vocals in a female chorus. The lofty heights of the voices and when multiple parts dance together it is like the weaving of a tapestry. I found myself waiting for the CD to cycle through to hear particular songs in their turn. The seven minute “Improperia” has a single note sung the entire song with the melody floating above it. The classic “All Glory Laud and Honor” is one that embeds its melody into your mind and replays itself throughout the day…in moments of praise and beauty.

The music isn’t for everyone. My tastes, as I unveiled last week, are rather eclectic. But this is one reason for the experiment…a discipline in some ways. To let all the other cacophony of the world with its commercials blaring or the thrumming bass countering my own heartbeat, to let that go away for a season. At the same time immersing myself in an art form.

As an agent in the literary world I can be bombarded by writers clamoring for attention. My own passion for ideas and creativity can pull me from one page to another very different page. It is good to be reminded of the power of creativity and to occasionally slow down and savor something that is unique and exquisitely executed.

Next time you find a great book, a great album, a great performance of any kind in the arts, consider stopping longer than normal and let that work wash over you like a stream of mountain water. And once refreshed, step back and say, “Now it is my turn to create.”

Dark Friday

I wrote this piece a few years ago and thought it appropriate to post every year on Dark Friday.

Take Me, Break Me
(a prayer)
by Steve Laube

Take my eyes Lord.

Strike me blind.

* * *

Then heal me Lord
That I may see with Your eyes.

 

Take my hands Lord.
Crush every bone.

* * *

Then heal me Lord
That I may touch with Your tenderness.

Stories in Hiding Places

by Dan Balow

The Hiding Place

Since I blog on Tuesdays and the next April 15 to fall on a Tuesday is not for another eleven years, I felt like I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Corrie ten Boom was born on this date in 1892 and died on this date in 1983.  If Evangelicals were in the habit of naming saints, she would among them.

For those unaware of this great Christian woman, she and her family helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War Two in occupied Holland.  The classic book, The Hiding Place (Chosen Books, 1971) and movie (1975) by the same name chronicled this dramatic story.

Seventy years ago, in early 1944, an informant told German soldiers about a secret room in the ten Booms family home in Haarlem, Holland used for hiding Jews so they would not be sent to concentration camps. (The picture above is the entrance to that secret room, now preserved)

The Nazi’s raided the house and arrested the entire family.  After a stop in a nearby prison camp, Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually transferred to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, about 50 miles north of Berlin. 

Shortly before she died in December 1944, Betsie told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still.”  They would become words burned into Corrie’s soul and the souls of people who heard Corrie speak in the 70’s after The Hiding Place released and became an international bestseller.

Twelve days after Betsie died, Corrie was unexpectedly released from the camp in what was discovered later as a “clerical error” on the part of the Germans.

During my freshman year at Wheaton College (IL), Corrie came to campus to speak at a mandatory 10:30 am chapel for students on November 12, 1974. Forty years later I can still see the little 82 year-old woman speaking quietly to 2,000 wide and teary-eyed college students and faculty…giving testimony to God’s love, grace, forgiveness, faithfulness and mercy.  And for a brief moment, self-absorbed college students got a taste for what it meant to completely surrender to Jesus Christ.

John and Elizabeth Sherrill wrote The Hiding Place, but according to some accounts, they came to hear about Corrie in the mid-1960’s while researching another book, God’s Smuggler, the story of another Dutchman, Andrew van der Bijl (Brother Andrew) which was published in 1967.  Brother Andrew and Corrie travelled for ministry together.

I started out wanting to write about Corrie ten Boom on the date she was born and died, because she is a Christian hero in our definition of the word, but undoubtedly, in God’s as well. (Sometimes those two definitions are not the same)

But once I had a chance to revisit her life and consider her impact on the Christian publishing world, as well as that of John and Elizabeth Sherrill, I was reminded that the greatest stories are those where God is involved throughout a journey and often unseen. Sometimes the plot and characters are unexpected and the outcome is even more surprising. 

God is in the process of writing our stories every day and giving those of you who write, new material, often from unexpected places.

Corrie ten Boom once commented on how we should trust God’s faithfulness and work in our lives through all circumstances when she said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

Be still, and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)

Music to Write by

by Steve Laube

Latino student wears earphone using a laptop while sitting on a sofa

Some write in silence. Some write with music in the background. Some write with music playing through their headphones (or earbuds).

I’m curious as to what you, our readers, listen to while writing. Or if you write in silence. In the comments below let us know your favorites. Maybe we can discover some new musical inspiration together.

I read somewhere that Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, credits the group Muse as her inspirational background music. She even provides a playlist on her web site of the songs she listened to while writing Eclipse. (Here is that playlist.)

Years ago Ted Dekker mentioned that he listened to hard rock while writing his intense thrillers.

When it comes to music I am wildly eclectic. Most of the time my work day is silent. It can be a challenge to find the mute button when the phone rings. But when I feel the need for some background music to cover the hum of the fluorescent lighting I go in multiple directions.

1) A classical Baroque station on Pandora radio. I could listen to Bach and Vivaldi all day.

2) Solo piano music. I have a playlist of 90 albums that would play continuously for 26 hours without repeating a song. Artists like George Winston, Liz Story, Kurt Kaiser, and Jon Schmidt.

3) A contemplative contemporary artist playlist. The playlist is entitled “Thoughtful Music.” It includes artists like Vienna Teng, Melody Gardot, A Fine Frenzy, Charlotte Martin, Natalie Cole, Imogen Heap, Natalie Merchant, and Sara Groves.

4) Other days the mood trends toward acapella music with artists like Glad, Rescue, The Real Group, Take 6, Manhattan Transfer, and The New York Voices.

But if I need to let off some mental steam the playlist gets a little louder. This one includes artists like Flyleaf, Red, Fireflight, Skillet, Hoobastank, Linkin Park, Muse, etc. Or classic rock from Boston, Queen, Three Dog Night, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, etc.

What do you play when the Creative Mood is in full swing?

God’s Timing

by Tamela Hancock Murray

ringtone

Since he is a wise businessman himself, my husband almost never calls me when I’m at a conference. He knows how hectic business travel can be. But on a recent trip, he had asked me to call him when I reached the venue. Excited and pulled into a meeting immediately upon my arrival, I forgot to call. So right in the middle of a later worship service, my phone summoned me. Hubby’s special ring tone for me? “What’s New Pussycat?” Um, hardly a good match for the reverent mood.

I’m always glad to hear Hubby’s ring tone, no matter what the time. But after the phone rang, I couldn’t help but think of God’s timing and how perfect it always is, regardless of our own forgetfulness, laziness, circumstances, or mood. I forgot to call my husband even though he is never far from my mind. But God never forgets us, even when our prayer lives seem lacking or lethargic. 

God’s timing is perfect, even when His answer is, “No,” or “Wait,” in spite of our passionately pestering Him every hour.

I can’t recall how many times writers have told me, “The publication of this book shows God’s perfect timing.” 

My prayer is that you will see God’s perfect timing for yourself.

Your turn:

When have you seen God’s perfect timing?
How do you bide the time when waiting for God’s answer?

Just for fun:

What are your special ring tones?

An Atypical Time in an Agent’s Life

by Tamela Hancock Murray

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I have enjoyed reading various “typical day” posts lately on other blogs, so I thought instead of sharing a typical day, I’d share an atypical month:

Sad News for Us

My father-in-law, a Baptist minister, passed away at age 89 after two strokes. While our family is sad to lose him, his funeral was a celebration of his life. 

Snow, Snow Everywhere!

I realize snowfall in Virginia is laughable in comparison to other places, but the number and intensity of our storms has been atypical this winter. We drove to Connecticut in between storms, only to be greeted by a storm when we arrived. Instead of visiting my mother-in-law on our first full day in town, we had to hole up in the hotel room.

And Speaking of Hotel Rooms…

Because of a variety of circumstances, my father-in-law’s funeral in one state and internment in another state required that my husband and I be on travel for eight days. So we stayed eight days at the Hampton Inn. 

Contracts Abound!

All the while, I kept getting messages that contracts were pending, on their way, or attached to emails arriving on my smart phone. Thankfully, this is the one aspect of this time period that is not atypical. My 88-year-old mother-in-law asked if all the ringing notifications got on my nerves. “Oh, no!” I assured her. She also said, “You are always on the phone.” I forget that not everyone is as plugged in as I am.

Are You in a Cult?

The nice lady who prepared our free breakfast every morning (Yay, Hampton Inn!) asked us why we were there and we said we were there for a funeral. And we were there. And we were there. And we were still there. On our last day, I asked her if she wondered if we were part of a weird religion where burial requires eight days. She laughed, but I still wonder if anyone there did a Google search on weird religions.

Florida Christian Writers Conference

No time to settle in before leaving for the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference! http://www.floridacwc.net/

This conference is headed up by the lovely Eva Marie Everson and the awesome Mark Hancock. Of course, Hancocks are always awesome. Everyone was wonderful and understanding about my late arrival. By the way, this is a very good, informative, and enjoyable conference. This year, several key note addresses were given by our agency’s own Ellie Kay! (www.elliekay.com) Do consider attending next year.

And finally, Snow!

Today is Monday and in honor of my arrival home, more snow! So a-shoveling I will go.

And there you have it: an atypical time in the life of an agent.

Your Turn:

What has been the most atypical time in your life?

What Will You Give Up for Lent?

by Karen Ball

Lent

Believe it or not, Easter is just around the corner. Which means something else is almost upon us:

Lent.

I love the idea of a 40-day preparation for Easter, of refocusing our hearts and minds to spend more time in prayer and contemplation of what Christ has done for us. And I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “giving up” something for those 40 days. Even more intriguing—and sometimes amusing–is what people choose to surrender. For example:

Watching TV
Playing computer games
Chocolate (now there’s a sacrifice!)
Going online
Sugar
Caffeine (just shoot me now!)
Wearing shoes

And on and on it goes. (In fact, check out the websites at the end of this blog that share the multitudes of things folks give up for this season.) But I want to suggest something a bit different for those of us who make our living in publishing. How about giving up something really tough? How about giving up something like:

Spring is Here!

by Karen Ball

[caption id="attachment_7939" align="aligncenter" width="456"]2014 spring flower A picture of a beautiful flower I took this morning in our garden.[/caption]

It started two weeks ago. Little green sprouts poking up through the frozen, barren ground. Ground that, thanks to a winter of record-breaking cold, was so hard just a month ago that not even my shovel made a dent in it. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted those bits of green pushing their way through that same, dead earth. I checked them every day, watching and waiting. Because I knew what was coming. And sure enough, last week those hardy green shoots boasted buds. With unseasonable frosts in the forecast, I worried they wouldn’t make it. But hallelujah! Not only did they survive, but this week they exploded in beautiful blossoms. Now, instead of empty ground, crocuses and miniature irises paint my yard with purple and yellow. And today, the daffodils and jonquils joined in, bringing a smile to my face and heart with the news:

Spring is here!

A Valentine’s Day Message

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George Eliot wrote in the novel Adam Bede:

What greater thing is there for two human souls,
than to feel that they are joined for life –
to strengthen each other in all labor,
to rest on each other in all sorrow,
to minister to each other in all pain,
to be one with each other
in silent unspeakable memories . . .

In those beautiful words is a question. “What greater thing is there?”

I think I might have an answer. It is when those two souls are joined together in the bond of Jesus Christ. It is there, and only there, where the power, joy, grace, peace, and exhilaration of that unbreakable union soars among the highest places and slogs through the muddiest swamps. Together. Always.

To my Valentine, Lisa.

Steve

So Long, 2013…HELLO, 2014!

by Karen Ball

happy new year dog

2013 was an amazing year full of ups and downs, gain and loss, joy and sadness. I lost 3 dear friends, one of whom was in his 30s, one of whom was just a few years younger than I, and one of whom I’ve known since I was 2 years old. We in the industry lost so many–some, like wonderful agent and friend Lee Hough and the amazing Diann Hunt–far sooner than any of us wished. The joy? They all were solid in their faith in Christ, so we’ll see them again. But saying good-bye is never easy. Thank God for his peace and comfort. And HOPE!

Professionally, it’s been a whiz-bang year. It’s always such fun to discover and sign new clients, and it’s even more fun to see clients, existing and new, find publishing homes! As I’ve walked through the many steps on this publishing journey with clients, from the blissful “We’ve received an offer!” to the turbulent “Whatever made me think I could write??”, I’ve been reminded why I love this industry so much.

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