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What’s Your Passion in Life?

Diana Savage’s passion in life is to help others succeed.DianaSavage2015

Using her writing, speaking, and editing skills, she’s already helped hundreds of others on their journeys to success. Browse this site to learn what she can do for you. Below, you’ll find her blog—an eclectic assortment of observations about writing, life challenges, and spiritual journeys.

Rose-Hensley-pork-chops-potatoesSM

Rose Hensley’s Recipes for Breaded Pork Chops & Scalloped Potatoes

Have you ever wondered why authors select certain foods for their characters to eat?

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Doc Hensley and I handled the issue in our novel Pseudonym. For instance, in the following passage, Derek Mason is giving Sheila Gray a report concerning his trip of almost 4,000 miles.

He picked up the backpack and beckoned for her to follow him into the kitchen. Then, unzipping the pack, he asked, “Ever seen more than a hundred sixty thousand dollars in raw cash before?”

Sheila looked inside and gasped. “Oh, my goodness,” she said, her tone subdued, almost reverential. “It’s real?”

“Must be,” said Derek, “’cause I’ve been spending money all across this vast country of ours. Go ahead, touch it. It feels good.”

Sheila started to reach for a bundle of bills, then stopped herself. “No, that can wait. Close it up and set it aside. We’re going to eat this little banquet I’ve prepared while we catch up on news, and then we can turn to business later. Sit down, sit down. Start talking. I want to know every detail of the trip, even if it takes all night.”

During the meal, Derek shared the specifics of his trip. When he described the condition Dan was in, Sheila shook her head.

Throughout the previous 22 chapters, our publisher’s content editor had already asked us several times to add culinary details, so we weren’t surprised by her comment on this passage:

Editor: You know what I’m going to ask . . . what did they eat?

Diana: I’ve created the menus for the past several meals . . . . Doc, what do you think Sheila would have prepared on this occasion?

Doc: A meal of breaded pork chops, scalloped potatoes, and mixed vegetables.

So, we revised the final paragraph slightly to read as follows (emphasis added):*

During the meal of breaded pork chops, scalloped potatoes, and sautéed mixed vegetables, Derek shared the specifics of his trip.

The interesting thing is, I had enjoyed that same menu as a guest in the Hensley home. It’s a favorite of Doc’s. His wife Rose, a marvelous cook, has been spoiling him with scrumptious meals for more than four decades.

Since Derek and Sheila were going to be eating the same dishes, I asked Rose if she would share these recipes with our readers. She graciously obliged. Now you can try them yourself:

Rose Hensley’s Breaded Pork Chops

  • 1 cup crushed saltine crackers OR 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 6 pork chops
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Place cracker/bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Mix egg and water in another shallow bowl. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet.

Dip each pork chop into egg mixture, then coat with crumbs. Cook pork chops in skillet over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, turning once, until golden brown. Place chops in a single layer in a baking dish that you have lightly greased or sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Rose Hensley’s Scalloped Potatoes

  • 3 Tbsp. butter or margarine cut into small pieces, plus 1 additional Tbsp. butter or margarine cut into small pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-1/2 cups milk
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole with shortening or cooking spray. In the casserole dish, arrange potato slices in four layers. Dot the top of each of the first three layers with enough pieces of butter or margarine to equal 1 tablespoon, plus 1 tablespoon of flour, plus salt and pepper to taste. On the top layer, dot with 1 additional tablespoon of butter or margarine and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, heat the milk until small bubbles form around the edge and/or it begins to steam. Pour over the potatoes. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 60 to 70 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving (sauce thickens as it stands). Makes 6 servings.

While you savor these hearty dishes, you can read the rest of the details concerning Derek’s trip and what else, in addition to the $160,000 in cash, he brought back to Sheila.

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© 2016 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.

*Book excerpt from Pseudonym by Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage (Whitaker House, 2016), page 310. The novel is available in softcover and Kindle editions.

Brilliant Plot and Insightful Characters Exceed Expectations

A 5-star book review, by guest writer Jeanette Levellie, of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym by Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage.

Book reviewer Jeanette Levellie sent Diana this cap to celebrate the novel's release.

Diana is wearing the “Got Pseudonym?” cap that book reviewer Jeanette Levellie sent her to celebrate the novel’s release.

When I bought Pseudonym by prolific authors Dennis Hensley and Diana Savage, I expected a stunning novel that held my interest. And I was right! The superb writing, gripping plot line and in-depth characters caused me to complete this 351 page-turner in three days—and I’m not a speed-reader!

What exceeded my expectations was the delightful dose of insight into human psychology that the characters in Pseudonym gave me. I found myself repeatedly wondering how the main character, a true victim, would extricate herself from her abuser—her own husband. The way Hensley and Savage weave every detail of Sheila’s complicated story into a vibrant, satisfying conclusion is brilliant.

My favorite character was Gracie—a lovable, godly mother-figure who often confuses common idioms for laughable new phrases, like “home wasn’t built in a day.” I hope she factors into the sequel!

If you are looking for a mesmerizing read sprinkled with humor and a super feel-good ending, Pseudonym will exceed your expectations as it did mine.

______________________________________________________

JeanetteAndDocJeanette Levellie is a humorist, author, and pastor’s wife who lives in Illinois and occasionally connects with Doc Hensley at writers conferences (pictured here). Her books include Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, The Heart of Humor, and Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers and Other Creatives. Visit Jeanette’s blog, Hope Splashes: Finding Gold in Life’s Puddles, for regular doses of cheer.

© 2016, all rights reserved

In the Shadow of Tradition

ShadowTraditionScriptureA woman lamented her family’s lack of holiday rituals. “We don’t have any traditions,” she bemoaned. “We just do the same thing year after year after year.”

As a child, I saw newscasters reporting on whether groundhog had seen its shadow on February 2. I wondered who cared and how an underground rodent could possibly predict the remaining number of weeks until spring. It seemed to me like a very peculiar tradition.GroundhogCaptioned

Years later I discovered that Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania German custom rooted in ancient European weather lore. Continuing the ritual each year—for fun rather than functional forecasting—thousands of people gather at various spots in North America to discover if a groundhog will observe its shadow.

In the United States, Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is the official location. An entire festival has developed around the spring-forecasting event. Attendees enjoy ice-carving exhibitions, trivia contests, a Prognosticators Ball, a chili cook-off, Groundhog Day weddings, sleigh rides, woodchuck whittling, music, and other activities, including the Phil Phind Scavenger Hunt.

Tradition can be a strong element in society, whether whimsical or truly meaningful. While many of our traditions help stabilize society and give balance to our lives, we must guard against allowing tradition to supersede God’s laws. If we don’t give top priority to God’s actual commands, we’ll end up in trouble.

In the 1993 comedy film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays the character of Phil Connors, an egocentric Pittsburgh TV weatherman whose priorities are clearly askew. While covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Phil becomes trapped in a never-ending cycle of repeating February 2.

His friend Rita asks how he can know so much about her when they’ve just met. He replies, “I told you. I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February second, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

In the real world, being bound by human laws can make a person feel trapped. The apostle Paul warned believers in Colossae, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

God’s authentic commands, on the other hand, give life and freedom. The psalmist expressed it this way:

I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:48–50 (NIV)

In The Message version, Eugene Peterson paraphrases that last line, “Your promises rejuvenate me.” I love how embracing God’s Word results in rejuvenation.

After Punxsutawney Phil retreats to his burrow this year, why don’t we think about what governs our lives—God’s precepts or mere human rules? Adopting a spiritual self-examination ritual every February 2 is, in my opinion, a much better use of our time than spying on Pennsylvanian groundhogs.

Lord, reveal to me whenever I’m following human tradition instead of your life-giving instruction. Amen.

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© 2016 by Diana Savage. “In the Shadow of Tradition” is a meditation from 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times by Diana Savage (2014, Harvest House). All rights reserved.

 

My Coauthor’s Wife’s Polish Barley Soup

When my coauthor, Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, wrote scenes for our novel Pseudonym, he added details from his own life. That’s what novelists do. One of those details was his wife’s barley soup.

Barley-Soup-CaptionedRose Hensley, a superb cook, reflects her family heritage whenever she prepares a steaming pot of Polish barley soup. Then she seasons it with her wonderful gift of hospitality. Perhaps that’s what Doc Hensley was thinking of when he wrote the following scene:

A year into Dan’s master’s program, Sheila finally found the nerve to show him a short story she had spent weeks writing, then struggled to perfect. Considering how many hours she put in at the office and how busy she kept herself in helping Dan, he expressed shock that she had found time to write at all. He read the story while Sheila fixed dinner.

When he returned with it to the kitchen, Sheila looked up from stirring a pot of barley soup. “Well? What did you think?”

His jaw seemed to tighten as he said carefully, “It’s not bad, honey. Really, it’s not. Of course, it’s not professional work. But, considering your background, it’s really quite good.”

Sheila swallowed. She had hoped for a more enthusiastic response, but she knew she had to respect Dan’s appraisal. He was far more of a professional than she was.

“As a matter of fact,” Dan continued, “I read recently about an annual short-story contest in Redbook magazine. Why don’t we enter your story?”

Sheila’s spirits soared. “Do you really think we should? I mean, do you think it’s good enough?”

(Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage, Pseudonym, Whitaker House, 2016, page 101. All rights reserved.)

Whether or not Dan thought that her writing could win a contest, I can assure you the barley soup recipe Sheila borrowed from Rose was tasty enough to win prizes. And now you can try it yourself:

Rose Hensley’s Polish Barley Soup

 Ingredients

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 bouillon cubes or equivalent
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. dill
  • 1Tbsp. parsley

Directions

Cook veggies in 6 cups water for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, simmer the barley, butter, and bouillon in 2 cups of water until the barley is tender. Combine barley with veggies, cook 10 minutes longer. Add dill and parsley; season with salt to taste. Makes 10 servings.

While you savor this hearty vegetarian meal, you can find out what Sheila decides to do about the Redbook contest—and the surprising result of her decision. Pseudonym is available in softcover and Kindle editions.

© 2016 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.

Mrs. Parks’ Spinach-Feta-Cranberry Salad

In the new inspirational suspense novel, Pseudonym, that I coauthored with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, Sheila Gray accepts a lunch invitation from her writing mentor and former English teacher, Mrs. Laureen Parks. As they discuss Sheila’s writing career, Laureen serves a delicious salad entrée. To set the stage for you, I’ll quote a paragraph from the book. You can find the recipe after the quote.

When Sheila arrived at Laureen’s home for their meeting the next afternoon, she was greeted by a mouth-watering aroma she soon learned was a loaf of sourdough, fresh from a bread machine. Laureen served the still-warm slices alongside a spinach salad topped with dried cranberries, crumbled feta, toasted almonds, and a citrus-balsamic vinaigrette.

[Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage, Pseudonym, Whitaker House, 2016, page 141. All rights reserved.]

During lunch, Sheila divulges the astonishing information she discovered while snooping on her husband’s computer, and Laureen outlines her plan to help Sheila fulfill a long-forgotten dream. You can learn more by reading the novel, but meanwhile, try the recipe:

SpinachFetaSaladCaptionSpinach-Feta-Cranberry Salad  (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound (4 oz.) spinach, washed and torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or other cheese of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon sliced almonds or other nuts, toasted

Directions:

Place spinach in a bowl. Add half of the cranberries and cheese and toss to combine. Pour your favorite citrus-balsamic vinaigrette over the salad (or try the one below), and toss to coat. Divide salad into two serving bowls and sprinkle each serving with remaining cheese and cranberries, along with the toasted almonds. Enjoy!

Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed, if possible
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or equivalent amount of preferred sweetener
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together and serve over salad.

When Sheila and Laureen were done with lunch and their discussion, Laureen concluded with a word of encouragement:

“Start with me now, and when the time comes, other mentors will enter the scene. You have a date with destiny.”

Sheila glanced at her watch and leaped to her feet. “Oh, no! I totally lost track of time. Oh, well, I’ll stay late tonight to catch up on my work. I wouldn’t trade our visits together for anything. I love you for believing in me this way.” She picked up her purse and the manila folder. “I let you down once before. But I swear it’s not going to happen again.

“No,” Laureen agreed solemnly, “it’s not going to happen again.”

[Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage, Pseudonym (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016), page 146. All rights reserved.]

Will Sheila be able to keep her promise? Discover for yourself the twists and turns her life is about to take. Pseudonym releases January 12, 2016.

© 2016 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.

A Review of Pseudonym by Gail Welborn

an inspirational suspense novel by Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage

Book review by guest writer Gail Welborn

What happens when a high school English teacher submits a student’s paper to a writing contest without her knowledge, and the essay wins the “golden quill award” for writing excellence? For eighteen-year-old Sheila Davis, the award “verified that her dreams of becoming an author weren’t all that far-fetched.” However, for her suspicious, domineering father it meant trouble, and she wasn’t surprised when he said, “Writin’ won’t put food on yer table the way gardening and canning will.”

It wasn’t until Sheila mentioned the $500 cash award, the $100 savings bond, and six-week college writing program scholarship that her father grabbed the envelope from her hand, studied the contents with disbelief and said, “What’s the catch?”

Sheila knew there was only one “catch.” Who would cook, clean, and take care of her father and brothers while she was away? She had once said, “I’d give my life to become a best-selling author,” the tagline for Pseudonym, Doc Hensley and Diana Savage’s January 2016 release. What Sheila couldn’t know was that her off-the-cuff remark would cost exactly that—“her life.”

Thus begins a riveting suspense with such true-to-life characterizations, twists, turns, and continual surprises, the pages almost turn themselves. Add naiveté, an upper classman’s diabolic agenda, a whirlwind summer romance, and a proposal of marriage with strings attached, and you have an emotionally charged mystery impossible to put down.

I kept telling myself, just one more page, but I was so emotionally involved with characters I came to both love and hate, I couldn’t stop. If you’re looking for a book that prompts bursts of laughter, “Oh, no’s” and outright cheers, Pseudonym belongs on your bookshelf, especially anyone who harbors the dream of writing!

When I reviewed Hensley’s Jesus in the 9 to 5 December 2013, I saw he not only told a good story, but also did so with a quirky dash of humor. These authors do that and more with the release of Pseudonym, which News-Sentinel.com reports “is the first part of a multi-book deal that Hensley signed with Whitaker House.”

That means there is more topnotch storytelling to come.

Dr. Hensley and Diana Savage seriously challenge the stereotypical phrase coined by George Bernard Shaw in 1903, “Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach.” This amazingly creative duo does both. The good doctor, more affectionately known as Doc Hensley, chairs the Department of Professional Writing at Taylor University. While Diana Savage, in addition to speaking and providing professional writing, editing, and website management assistance through Savage Creative Services, LLC, also directs Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference, which the Northwest Christian Writers Association sponsors.

Pseudonym, by Dennis E. Hensley & Diana Savage, Whitaker House, Releases January 12, 2016, 352 Pages, 978-1629116143, $14.99

Midwest Book Reviews: Gail’s Bookshelf, December 2015

Pinterest: GailWelborn

Twitter: @GailWelborn

FaceBook: Gail Welborn

© 2016, all rights reserved

How I Came to Write a Novel with the Prolific Doc Hensley

Sheila Davis Gray once said, “I’d give my life to become a best-selling novelist,” and that’s exactly what it cost her.

That’s the tagline to the novel Pseudonym that I recently cowrote with Dr. Dennis E. “Doc” Hensley, author of 60 books and more than 3,500 articles. The Sheila in the tagline is the novel’s protagonist.

Hensley_Savage_AtDesk7x7

While Dr. Hensley and I use the Internet for most of our collaborative writing, we do meet in person once a year when I teach his professional writing students at Taylor University.

I first met her in January 2013 when Doc Hensley asked me to evaluate a fiction manuscript he’d written 22 years previously. “Let me know if you think I should update it and seek a publisher,” he said. I’d been his copyeditor for several years, and he had come to value my opinion.

Pulled into the story from page 1, I was struck by how many similarities in background the protagonist and I shared. When I gave Doc my observations and editorial suggestions, he invited me to become his coauthor, and we worked on rewrites in our respective home offices, located some 2,000 miles apart. (Thank goodness for e-mail.)

We had great fun writing scenes and planning plot twists around new parameters that hadn’t existed in the late 1990s when Doc first wrote the manuscript. One of them had to do with an airplane blowing up due to a bomb on board. But increased US airport security after 9/11made that unlikely today, so we were forced to find a different way to destroy the plane for our intended outcome. (I interviewed an airline pilot who attends our church to get ideas.) In my opinion, the story became even more gripping with the revision.

Doc and I each have a unique writing style, and our differences contributed to the team effort, rather than creating any major problems. Doc has written books with other female coauthors, and on his own blog on New Year’s Day this year, he began a four-part series, “Mixed-Gender Coauthors Enhance Creative Dynamics,” where he explains the advantages of male/female coauthorship. (Fortunately, I’m his webmaster, so I was able to plan the timing to coincide with our novel’s release.)

CoverImageHere’s more about the story:

Growing up on an Indiana farm, Sheila Davis has one dream—to become a professional writer. But her farmer father sees no reason for his daughter’s fanciful thoughts to pull her away from her duties at home.

After winning a scholarship, Sheila convinces her dad to let her attend a summer writing course at a nearby school, where she flourishes, thanks in large part to the encouragement of her high school English teacher. It seems as though fate has smiled on her when a whirlwind romance with upperclassman Dan Gray turns into a proposal of marriage, with a promise to support her educational and professional dreams if she’ll delay them and hold a job long enough for him to complete his degree.

But Dan’s personal agenda sentences Sheila to years of menial work as he climbs the ladder of academia, meanwhile secretly sabotaging her every attempt to become a published author. The longing never dies, however; and when Sheila gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a shot at getting published, she risks everything and dives in—only to encounter some stunning twists and turns she never anticipated, never prepared for, and never even imagined she’d have to confront.

Pseudonym releases January 12, 2016, from Whitaker House publishers, and we’re writing a sequel now—via e-mail, of course. I’ll keep you posted on developments.

© 2016 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.

Try the Grilled Sandwich That Sheila Made for Dan

PestoCheeseAndGrapesW_CaptionIn the suspense novel Pseudonym, 18-year-old Sheila decides to prepare a special grilled-cheese sandwich for her boyfriend, Dan, to show him she’s a good cook. To set the stage for you, I’ll quote a few paragraphs from the book. You can find the recipe after the quote.

Dan had left his door unlocked, and when she entered his apartment, he was just hanging up the phone. He pointed to the grocery sack in her hands. “What do you have there?”

She grinned. “I thought it was time to show you I can do more than put subjects and predicates together. Do you have some butter and a skillet?” From the sack, she pulled out a pre-sliced loaf of French bread, a small container of grated Parmesan cheese, a package of shredded mozzarella, a jar of basil pesto, and a large cluster of black grapes.

Dan looked pleased as he got out the items she’d requested. “What are you making?”

“One of my specialties—Parmesan-crusted, pesto grilled-cheese sandwiches. They’re to die for.” She removed four slices of bread and buttered one side of each, then spread pesto on the opposite side. Then she spread pesto on the insides. She covered the pesto with mozzarella cheese, assembled the sandwiches, and sprinkled the tops of the buttered slices with grated Parmesan. “Now the magic begins,” she said, setting the sandwiches upside down in the hot skillet.*

She quickly washed the grapes and divided them between two plates. Then it was time to flip the sandwiches and sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top of the browned sides. The aromas of garlic and basil filled the small apartment.

“Mmm! That smells wonderful,” Dan said.

(Dennis E. Hensley and Diana Savage, Pseudonym, Whitaker House, 2016, page 71. All rights reserved.)

Was Sheila successful in proving to Dan that she could cook? Did Dan think her sandwiches tasted as good as they smelled? Find out in the new inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym that I coauthored with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley.

Meanwhile, try the recipe for yourself:

Parmesan-Crusted Pesto Grilled-Cheese Sandwiches

Ingredients that Sheila brought to Dan’s apartment:

  • a pre-sliced loaf of French bread
  • a small container of grated Parmesan cheese
  • a package of shredded mozzarella
  • a jar of basil pesto

The ingredient Dan already had on hand:

  • Softened butter, for brushing the bread

The amounts she used per sandwich:

  • 2 slices French bread (she could have also used ciabatta)
  • Enough grated mozzarella cheese to cover 1 slice of bread
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Assembling and grilling the sandwich:

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread basil pesto on the opposite side of each slice of bread. Spread enough grated mozzarella to cover the pesto layer. Top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese on top of that slice.
  3. Place the sandwich, cheese side down, on the heated pan. Grill for 2 minutes or until Parmesan cheese becomes crusted and turns golden brown. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on the unbrowned side of the sandwich (currently the top), and carefully flip it over. Cook for about 2 more minutes until the second side is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

Sheila served grapes with the sandwiches. What accompaniments do you think would taste good?

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* I didn’t notice until the book was in print how the editor had changed this line. See the actual recipe for a more understandable description. Note to self: proofread more carefully next time.

© 2015 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.

Passing as Artificial

by Diana Savage

A family decided to visit a Christmas-tree lot while the selection was still good. Soon they found the perfect tree. It was full and lush with absolutely no bare spots. Even the grown children were impressed. “Wow,” one of them said. “If you didn’t know it was real, it could easily pass as artificial.”

ChristmasTreeSome people put on an artificial front for fear their real self isn’t acceptable. I’m not talking about sprucing ourselves up (no pun intended). For one thing, I’ve noticed I get better treatment from salespeople when I comb my hair and brush my teeth before leaving the house to shop.

What I am talking about is when we don’t feel we can be honest with even our closest friends concerning doubts we may be dealing with or when God seems to be ignoring our prayers. Perhaps we’re in a spiritual climate that demands our compliance with stringent rules regarding our musical tastes, reading interests, or political views. There’s a fine line between striving to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and covering up our true thoughts because some religious group finds them unacceptable.

Here are a few examples of this type of pressure I’ve seen over the years in various corners of the Christian community:

  • Never tell anyone you’re coming down with an illness. That would be making a negative confession and doom you to succumb to the malady.
  • Never admit to committing a sin, such as telling a lie, coveting the neighbor’s swimming pool, or having a lustful thought when a scantily clad pedestrian crosses in front of you at a red light. If you do, everyone will think less of you.
  • Never question a leader’s demeanor or decision. You are not to touch God’s anointed (extrapolated from 1 Chronicles 16:22).
  • Never admit you can’t afford to exchange expensive Christmas presents and would prefer to give handcrafted gifts. Scrooge!
  • Never admit that you find the book of Leviticus a bit too dry for your liking. How unspiritual!

A friend of mine, Ann C. Sullivan, has gone public with her faith struggles. In her book Permission to Doubt she reveals the moment her faith and reason collided. Blindsided by doubts following a thirteen-year struggle with an undiagnosed panic disorder, Ann learned several valuable lessons: (1) Never shy away from the big questions; (2) always follow the evidence to its logical conclusion, and (3) understand that genuine truth doesn’t buckle under the bright lights of interrogation.

Ann is convinced that truth “isn’t threatened by our questions and doubts, nor is it determined by culture, opinion, the size of a church building, or evangelistic programs.” Truth will remain, while cultures, fads, trends, societies, traditions, and other human-installed devices fall away.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should air every flaw and failure of ours. But something is amiss if we cannot be honest with close friends and family members about our struggles. After all, the Bible promises that if we confess our sins to each other in the spirit of mutual prayer, we will be healed (James 5:16).

That said, it’s important to note that individuals to whom we make such confessions should be safe people. Jesus referred to that principle when he cautioned us not to give dogs what is sacred or throw our pearls to pigs. “If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6 NIV).

Using the Christmas-tree analogy, it’s all right to minimize our bare spots by turning them toward a wall where they’re not highlighted. But let’s not pretend we have no bare spots at all and thus perpetuate a dishonest approach to Christian living. That will merely corner us with no way out of our struggles. Also, like it or not, our behavior is being watched and used as a model by people around us. Whether they end up doomed or delivered may be swayed by our example.

The only perfect human who has ever lived is why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Yes, we should all strive to be like Jesus, but we’ll save our sanity and our spiritual health if we remember that we’ll never reach Christ’s level of perfection until we get to heaven.

And, at any time of the year, that’s much better than putting on a façade.

© 2015 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.

What Really Happens When You Pray for Patience?

by Diana Savage

When a three-year-old accompanied her mother to church for the first time, she grew tired of waiting for the service to begin. She turned to her mom and asked, “What time does Jesus get here?”

LightningStatueCaptionHave you ever prayed for patience—especially in stressful times—and wondered when Jesus was going to show up to answer your prayer? Or worse, perhaps well-meaning people cautioned you, “Don’t pray for patience. If you do, you’ll get tribulation.”

That notion is based on an illogical conclusion regarding a verse in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome: “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3–4 KJV). Some modern translations render the phrase as “suffering produces perseverance.” That merely tweaks the warning: “Don’t pray for perseverance, or you’ll get suffering.”

Here’s the faulty reasoning used to arrive at that conclusion: Since patience is the result of tribulation—and perseverance is the result of suffering—the only way that God will answer my prayer is to send me a load of trouble.

That’s like stating, “Squirrels are furry animals. Therefore, if I ask God for a furry pet, the only thing I’ll get is a squirrel.”

Our loving Lord is not limited in how he can produce patience and/or perseverance in us. That’s an important point, because the bogus warning paints a false picture of God. It assumes that God is so rigid and unloving, he must rub his hands in glee in the midst of our trials, zap us with more tribulation, and chortle, “You want patience? I’ll give you patience! Bwah-haha!”

This twisted view of God ignores other truths about the Lord’s interactions with us. Both the Old and New Testaments are replete with examples of how we are to pray whenever we’re in trouble:

  • Have confidence in a God who can grant all our requests (Psalm 20:5),
  • Present our requests to God instead of being anxious (Philippians 4:6),
  • Approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16),
  • Trust the promise of Jesus that if we ask, it will be given to us (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9), and
  • Believe that God views people as more important than birds or sheep (Matthew 12:12; Luke 12:24).

Instead of painting a portrait of a spiteful God, these truths reveal the correct picture we should have of him. And that’s enough to encourage us even when we become impatient for him to show up.

© 2015 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.