A Review of Stephen Lawhead’s Skin Map

 

The Skin Map

The Skin Map

 

When I got The Skin Map from Booksneeze (at no charge, no obligations, very awesome), I really had no idea what to expect. I had already read a few of Stephen Lawhead‘s books, and I knew that he had a diverse range of style. So I dug in with no preconceived notions about what it would be like.

And I loved it.

His mastery of the art of description is beyond belief (I had to stop several times to jump up and down because I loved his style so much, seriously). His level of attention to details like period mindset and speech is a delight to behold (especially for die-hard background-first novelists like me).

My only quibble was that he doesn’t end the first book as a stand-alone. He makes you need to read the next one to continue the story arc properly. And that isn’t out yet, which is maddening.

And for those of you who are worried about inappropriate content (I was a bit, since his Song of Albion trilogy had some), don’t be. It is completely clean. Utterly. I couldn’t have been more pleased on that score (and promptly gave it to my little siblings to share).

5 out of 5 stars, very recommended.

Everyone Communicates…

…But Few Connect.

Well I just finished Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell. I am almost ashamed for getting such a good book for free from BookSneeze, and even though I wasn’t required to give a positive review, that is the only kind I can give it.

Out of the hundreds of books that I have read that are really good, this one is definitely in the top ten. John Maxwell brings Biblical, Christian, practical, applicable, powerful, and profound principles, tactics, illustrations, and humor together in this book with a vital message: how to connect with everyone you come into contact with.

Connecting is the most important thing you can do in any relationship (family, spouse, parents, boss, co-workers, subordinates, clients, everyone). And every single step that John Maxwell gives you here will by itself revolutionize the way you connect. Integrating them all is hard work, but it is worth it. Five stars isn’t enough: this book is crucial for your life.

Shoot Straight; Listen Up

Greetings,

That is a strange title for an article which proposes to deal with children’s songs, but as I meditated on what I would write, I discovered that I needed to address several other, very important, and foundational concepts before hand. And it is from these that I drew the inspiration for my title.

I have been accused of superfluous obfuscation of my verbiage multitudinous times in the past, and I will undoubtedly be arraigned for that fault many more times in the future. I do not apologize for using words that are perceived as gargantuan, or words which exclusively pertain to higher vocabularies than those commonly utilized and recognized in ‘normal’ society. This article is where I intend to expain why.

Although I find it amusing how easily I can confuse people with my words, I rarely do so in malice or pride aforethought. I sincerely strive to use the words that fit the place and time that I use them in. Of course I fail in this many many times, resulting in either undue confusion, or in a perception of arrogance on my part, and for those times I apologize.

But I will not stop using big words.

Why?

Because we need them.

Each person has a certain level of vocabulary, intelect, and comprehension. These three are inextricably tied into one another: when one increases, the others increase with it, when one decreases or atrophies, the others fail with it.

This personal level determines a person’s ability to function ably in life and in society. It is therefore important as humans and as Christians, that we strive to improve ourselves in these areas. This is not so that we can show off or boast ourselves over others, but so that we can ably serve our Lord and Master in all that we do.

There is a common idea going around that promotes ‘talking below your audience’ so that they will have no problems at all understanding you. This has some application, I have no doubt, but that application is not where many people generally apply it.

People like things simple and easy.

Therefore we should make things simple and easy for them so that they will like us, right?

Sometimes.

Not all the time.

And certainly not most of the time.

If you do not use a muscle, it atrophies. If you do not use an ability, it vanishes. If you do not push harder, you will grow weaker. That is how everything works (there might be some exceptions, but I really can’t think of any at the moment). If you do not think, you will become dumb. Think about it.

If everything a person takes in is below their level that I talked about, their skills of perception and comprehension will atrophy. Their skills of outward communication deteriorate with them, and their overall level will drop. If people continue to aim below their level of comprehension, slowly, the process will repeat and continue to repeat until you have someone like the average teenager today (I will kindly refrain from a precise description of that miserable state).

This same thing occurs in maturity and in spiritual growth as well. If everyone gives you responsibility lower than your capability, your level of responsibility will decrease. If everyone constantly gives you only milk, you will never be ready for meat.

The only way for people to grow is for those who interact with them to talk and be higher than them, so that they have to work to understand, and thereby they grow and strengthen.

Therefore, for the most part, each of us should talk at our own level. Shoot straight. We need to only talk below our level when the situation demands it. We should rarely try to talk above our level, the few situations where we would need to would be when we are deliberately striving to grow in a particular area by talking to someone or about something that is higher than us.

But in those situations, you should mostly be doing the other half of my title: Listen up. Always strive to find input that is bigger and higher than you: waters you need to swim in. Hard things. That includes reading deep literature (the Bible, the Dictionary, old books, etc.), and finding and talking with mentors. Mentors are so crucial that I am planning a whole article on them.

But what in the world does any of this have to do with children’s songs??

Everything.

What is a children’s song? In the context that I am referring to in particular, a children’s song is a song about Christianity that is made to be easily understood by children. In other words, it is watered down milk, fit only for lazy people and sick people. Not made for helping anyone grow strongly. Of course, there are some “children’s songs” that are truly classic, and give strength and growth to people no matter where they are, but they are by virtue of that fact alone, not children’s songs.

What is wrong with children singing hymns? Nothing. In fact, there is much good to be got out of that.

Much.

That is how children grow. That is how they learn. That is how they understand. That is how they realize that Christianity is something that is important, and which needs to be taken as important.

But how can they understand all those archaic words??

How do they understand any words? That is how they learn! And that is how we ought to learn. If they are exposed to it, they will learn it, period. The sooner the better (learning is easier at young ages, especially when it comes to vocabulary and language).

My five year old sisters walk around the house singing constantly: singing ooooold hymns with biiiiig words in them. They might not always get them right, but they try, and they learn from them.

(By the way, if you think that this would also apply to Sunday School and Nursery: it does.)

So.

Expand your vocabulary.

Get a mentor.

Sing hymns.

Shoot straight.

Listen up.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

Free Book for Free!

Greetings,

I am trying out the BookSneeze service, and so far, it looks good. I got to read a good book and write about it all for free! Humorously, the book I chose is called Free Book. Hahaha… Unfortunately they want a shorter review than I would naturally give, and for those of you who know me, you can well imagine that I am champing at my bit! Oh well, here goes.

I received this book recently for free from BookSneeze on condition that I write this review on it. I was only too happy to oblige, and here I am. I agree with many of the other reviews that I have read on Free Book that the first impression is one of “What is this guy thinking!” But once I got a chapter or so into it, I got a better understanding of what he was trying to say, and by the end of the book I was fully reconciled to it, and ready to recommend it to others.

The main thing that I found troublesome with it was that he neglected to define his terms until the end of the book, rather than at the beginning. Of course, that got him more attention, but he might have lost a lot of readers due to misunderstandings. Just read through to the end though, he explains himself.

I disagree with a lot of his conclusions (when do I ever agree with everything anyone says?), but his premises, his passion, and his foundations were solid, and very important. He spoke out passionately about something that is very often missed and left at the wayside in our ‘churchised’ culture: Biblical Freedom (what I would call liberty). This is something that needs to be read and understood at any cost.

For your information, here is a link to booksneeze, and a link to Free Book on Amazon.

How to change your world for the better (and someone else’s)

Greetings and salubrious salutations!

There are very few things that I get excited about, but when I do, I get really excited. Things like Radiant Sunsets, Glowing Nature, Powerful Messages, Intriguing Movies, Infinite Truths, Absolute Statements, Good Books, and Book Bombs.

I want to give you an opportunity to make a difference in this world. Imagine that you could read a book that is fun, easy to understand, and powerful enough to get you moving in a direction that will change the world for the better, and for God’s glory. Imagine that by getting that book, you are getting that book also for someone who cannot afford it.

That is what you will get if you get Alex and Brett Harris’ new book, Start Here. Watch the short video below to find out about it.

Excited yet?

Now listen to this:

When Alex and Brett Harris published their last revolutionary book, Do Hard Things, they drove it to #5 on Amazon.com with the help of rebelutionaries all around the world. Amazing for a bunch of teens and a little hardback non-fiction book.

They are going to do it again, and not just to #5 this time: they aim for #1.

And I believe that they can do it.

With your help.

They want you to get your copy on February 23rd – at the same time as thousands of other teens, parents, teachers, and pastors. This will drive the ratings on Amazon sky high, and get the message out that will change lives forever.

And for every copy sold, they will give away, free, one copy to someone who can’t afford it.

That is why I want you to not only buy one (or two) for yourself, but also one for your friend, your pastor, your teacher, for your library, or even for your distant relatives.

And why I also want you to tell everyone you know about this amazing opportunity

To

Change

Your

World

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes

Introduction to our Character Fractalling System

Character Fractalling System

We just made a system for fractalling out deep characters: characters that will make your story stand out from everyone else’s, and which will make your readers want to read it again and again. A truly deep character will not only be able to make any plot fascinating to read, but will make plots that are fascinating in their own right. Good fiction is character-driven, no matter what the genre, and so that is why we developed this system for aiding you in making your own deep characters.

The focus of this system is developing your character independently of his appearance, skills, or physical mannerisms. These are dealt with in due time and order, but these are not what makes great characters. You need to be able to have a real person in your story, someone who the readers can recognize and get to know like none other. Therefore, you need more than just their favorite food or their hair color or their preferred martial art system.

We avoided using genre-specific attributes and questions. It is very possible to use the system no matter what genre your character is going to be in.

We have set this up in seven stages with seven steps (or questions) each. This is to aid in natural flow, memory retention, comprehension, readability, and just for plain old fun. We are not saying that real people (or made up people) are limited to what we have here, or that everyone is somehow mystically made out of seven sevens (although that sounds cool). This is simply for your and our ease and organization.

I will be posting these sections one at a time over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes

What is Biblical Lexicology?

LEXICOL’OGY, n. [Gr. a dictionary, and discourse.]
The science of words; that branch of learning which treats of the proper signification and just application of words.


Greetings and salutary felicitations of the Christmas season,

I am a Biblical lexicologist and a semantic purist. I study the proper uses and meanings of words, phrases, colloquialisms, and cliches with a Biblical perspective and set of beliefs. I believe that we ought to examine our speech and our listening to discern whether what we are saying coincides with what we are trying to say. Surprisingly, it is rare that this actually occurs. It is a fine art to articulate effectively. And it is an art that needs to be learned, especially by Christians.

Lexicologists are many times associated with the utilization of profound, obscure, gargantuan, and intimidating words. Sometimes this is true, but the actual fact of the matter is that lexicologists do not strive to use big words merely: they strive always to use the correct words. So do not be afraid, gentle reader, I will not attempt to impress you, but to teach you a little of what little I know of the art and science lexicology.

Every language has a set of definitions. Every language has a different set. There are definitions and meanings that might be in one language and not in another. Some languages have whole parts of speech and grammatical differentiations that are completely absent in other languages. This is because each culture governs the language, and each culture has a unique set of ideas and priorities that are integrated into its vocabulary.

Every language has a set of words. Every language has a different set. Every language has a system of grammar. Every language has a different system. There is never a perfect one-to-one relationship between the definitions and the words, though. Many things prevent this, and I will not go into them now, so suffice it to assert that it is true. Each word has several variations of meaning, and each meaning (generally) has several words that can represent it in slightly different ways. These variations work with idiosyncrasies, exceptions, accepted norms, and rules of grammar to create a dizzying situation calculated to incite confusion in communication.

Now, this situation also creates unimaginable opportunities to communicate uniquely in each language and dialect of language. Each language has its own signature, if you will, of how and when you say certain things to get across certain ideas. These must be examined and learned if we are to communicate effectively for the glory of God.

Many things change these patterns of language over time. Common usage, clashes with alternate languages, and technological innovations are but a few of the currents that mold the riverbank of language. Sometimes we need to deliberately make an alteration in the lexicon to provide for a dramatic transformation in the prevailing thoughts of a community. Sometimes we need to go back and revive a dying set of verbiage to recall a worldview and mindset that is likewise dying. Sometimes we need to clarify and separate the meanings of multiple words that clash with each other, rendering their use dangerous to effective communication. Sometimes we need to make new words entirely, because we have discovered an entirely new concept.

All of these changes can be good, or they can be bad. They can be used for evil, or they can be used for the glory of God. Our duty as Christians is to combat the bad and champion the good. Therefore we need to discern these. Therefore we need skilled lexicologists, and a thriving community of Christians with a heart of semantic purity.

Half of any debate is defining the terms. Each word has a specific meaning in a specific context. Each conversation or article or book has a unique context which determines what each of its words mean. If a worldview controls the definitions of a community, that worldview in effect controls that community’s communication, which means that it controls its effectiveness and output.

If we let the world control our definitions, we let the world control us. Therefore, we as Christians need to take back the lexicons and dictionaries of our world, and champion the definitions and meanings advocated in the Bible. The devil has calculated to eliminate our effectiveness as witnesses and warriors for Christ, and he has partially succeeded by neutralizing our language so that we are tied hand and foot when it comes to talking to anyone. We need to fight back and redefine our terms, on our terms (pun intended).

Therefore, I will be posting a series on Biblical semantics, analyzing the meanings of several words that are key to several areas of the Christian life. Pray for me that God would grant me the insight and the wisdom to discern and articulate effectively.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes