What is your first experience with the Bible?

When I write a book, it comes after years of experience, research, and writing in a particular area. I wrote a novel set in Uganda where I lived seven years and listened for hours on end to stories of ordinary and extraordinary Ugandans. I wrote a book on a doctor in Honduras after interviewing and conferring with more than one hundred people.

I’m researching for an upcoming book and I need your help to understand the wide range of experience people have with the Bible.

My experience with the Bible began in the 1970s when I was given my first King James Version Bible by my parents, Terrel and Charlotte Taylor. In the featured image of this post is the title page where my Mom wrote, “[Presented to] Gregory Taylor [by] Dad and Mom: We love you and pray that you will always want to study God’s Word and follow what it says. May God bless you. November 6, 1975. 

While I heard Old Testament stories from Bible class teachers as examples of faith, that two thirds of my first Bible seems untouched, unread. I read and marked New Testament passages about belief and baptism. For those first few years of my experience with the Bible, I wanted to believe and be baptized so I could go to heaven when I died and not go to hell.

To say that I read the Bible with confusion and fear would be an understatement. Anselm’s motto, “Faith seeking understanding” is a good description of my search for God as an eight year old. My early experiences were also marked with what felt like failure. We were given reading plans and encouraged to read the whole Bible. I never did, and tripped up weeks into any plan, growing bored, confused, and feeling like I was missing something.

One last and important thing: As Adam and Eve had a competing desire and sinned, so also in those early years I was introduced to a competing desire and sinned. I was living the early Bible story already and didn’t realize it. Television images, girls, and a magazine that my neighbor, aptly named Adam, pulled us breathlessly into the woods to show my brother and me competed with the words of God for my imagination. Doubts would come later, and I’ll write more about doubt and this competing for my imagination in my book.

What is your first experience with the Bible? I’m looking for brief responses about your first experience with the Bible, and I may contact you for an interview by phone about your other experiences. You are welcome to respond on comments below, or send email to gregtaylormail@gmail.com. Answer the question, “What was my first experience with the Bible?” as deeply and honestly as you can.

Thank you, and I look forward to your responses!

Greg

Armloads of books

I’ve written and co-written many books, but I’ve never seen people buying armloads of my books. In the last two days in Tulsa and Edmond I have seen and appreciated people carrying 6-8 copies of Lay Down Your Guns to give to family and friends.

Perhaps the reason is that several of those carrying books are family and friends of the doctor or mine. Or perhaps it’s also because the story of Dr. Amanda Madrid is a universally relevant and inspiring story. I suppose it’s a mix of both, but as the book moves out of the concentric circles of my closest family and friends, readers I’ve never met and who do not know the doctor still find the story resonates with them.

Thank you to all who came to the book signings in Tulsa at the Rock Cafe (next to Gardner’s Books) and Edmond signings at Half Price Books and at the Oklahoma Christian University campus. Books are still available at those three locations: Gardner’s Books, Half Price Books in Edmond, and OCU Bookstore.

Meet Dr. Amanda Madrid, heroine of new book by Greg R. Taylor

Book Signing
Meet Honduran Dr. Amanda Madrid, the subject of a new book titled, Lay Down Your Guns: One Doctor’s Battle for Hope and Healing in Honduras

Author Greg R. Taylor and Dr. Amanda Madrid will sign books in the Rose Rock Cafe (inside Gardner’s Books), 4421 S Mingo Rd) Monday, October 7, 5-6 pm

About the Book
When cartels traffic illegal drugs through the mountains of central Honduras and destroy the work of medical clinics she has established, Dr. Amanda Madrid goes toe to toe with the cartel’s paid mercenaries, the doctor in her signature red high heels and the soldiers in combat boots. This is the story about the life of a Honduran doctor heartbroken about the many killings and bad medicine of cartels. Can the same kind of love and prayer she gives her patients also cause these violent men to lay down their guns? 

Watch Book Trailer

Advance Praise for Lay Down Your Guns and Dr. Amanda Madrid
“. . . riveting tales of Dr. Amanda Madrid’s bold heroism in the face of adversity.” — Publishers Weekly

“Dr. Amanda Madrid is a true modern day Mother Teresa.” — Mark Manassee, Pastor in Culver Palms, California

“Lay Down Your Guns is a must read about life and death choices.” — Robert D. Garland, Paradigm Risk Management, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“Dr. Amanda Madrid shows me a great model of what it means to help the poor.” — Gilberto Guiffarro Montescleoca, Ranch owner, Catacamas, Honduras

Buy on Amazon

John Steinbeck is one of my favorites — How about you?

John Steinbeck is one of my favorites and very influential to me. I found the below quote to confirm my own experience and my hunch that good and average writers go through these kinds of excruciating thoughts in the writing and re-writing (and re-re-re-writing) process.

“I’m afraid this book is going to pieces. If it does, I do too … If only I wouldn’t take this book so seriously. It is just a book after all, and a book is very dead in a very short time. And I’ll be dead in a very short time too. So the hell with it. Let’s slow down, not in pace or wordage but in nerves.”

The book Steinbeck was writing was “The Grapes of Wrath,” the story of the Joad family leaving their failing Oklahoma farm at the nadir of the Great Depression for the chance at a better life in California.

The novel was published in 1939 and — Steinbeck’s gloomy prediction notwithstanding — has been a landmark of American literature ever since. It has never been out of print and served as the basis of the Academy Award-winning film by John Ford that starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

via Journey to celebrate Steinbeck anniversary – Tulsa World: News.

Who is one of your favorite authors?

Vigorous writing is concise

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.” William Strunk, Jr. (1869-1935)

 

Literary people William Faulkner associated with

American novelist William Faulkner, Oxford, Mississippi, won the

English: William Faulkner, Nobel laureate in L...

Nobel Prize in 1950.  Asked about literary people he associated with he said, “The people I know are other farmers and horse people and hunters, and we talk about horses and dogs and guns and what to do about this hay crop or this cotton crop, not about literature.”

First 15 years of writing

Typewriter

Typewriter (Photo credit: iandavid)

Here are some things I did in the first 15 years of writing, starting when I was 15:

  1. Kept a journal and wrote whenever possible, ideas, sermon notes, observations from Bible reading or prayers, funny stories.
  2. In 1990 I started a list of good stories.
  3. Got a degree in print journalism because I wanted to write.
  4. While doing that I wrote, working for the school newspaper, alumni office, public relations offices of my school.
  5. Edited the school newspaper my senior year of college.
  6. Wrote umpteen papers in grad school.
  7. Wrote letters, newsletters for various organizations, volunteered to write things for people, did resumes for people, wrote family stories and collaborated on a family book.
  8. Read good books and took note of what good writing is like, how I felt when I read it, the mechanics of making it happen.
  9. I met and stayed in touch with good people who write.
  10. I wrote when I didn’t feel like writing, but I wrote.

That briefly covers the first 15 years of my writing life, and I haven’t gotten to actually publishing a magazine article, book, or anything more public than a few hundred people. Next post I’ll tell you about the next 15 years.

Between the Ditches of Manifestos and Non-Sense

Ditch. Neatly cut ditch

Image via Wikipedia

Blogs fall into the ditches of either trying to write Manifestos or blithering over non-sense and slathering opinion about everything from politics to sports to fashion. I’ve tried over the years not to fall into these ditches. Granted, I write about a variety of things, and I try to keep this blog filled with original writing not just copied or quoted stuff, but I’m attempting to keep it to my experience.

Let me give an example. When I was a missionary in Uganda, we missionaries would often observe the nation we lived in and ask why the government didn’t just do this or that. We probably felt we had some answers, but the fact is we weren’t in position to really solve national problems. We had enough trouble just helping a small band of Christ-followers in a handful of churches to move forward.

In the same way, the blog I write ought to be about things I am experiencing, whether in my personal, family, work, reading, recreation, or prayer life. So I’ll try to spare you long manifestos about how to solve problems in your organization or non-sense about my favorite foods. What I try to offer here is something of a life that can inspire you to reflect on your own and how to be more human, more like Jesus, more of the person God is making you to be.

So you want to write?

Over the years I’ve heard lots of people say, “I think I have a book idea . . .” My first response is, “What have you written so far?”

“Oh, nothing, but it’s in my head.”

At this point I could go several directions . . .

  • Give said writer wannabe a swirly.
  • Tap the person on the head ever so lightly and say, “They’re called Readers (of actual text), not Mind Readers.”
  • Stare and blink a few times then walk away.
  • But usually my better self shows up to these conversations and here’s what I say.

If you want to write a book do one or more of the following:

  1. Write something. You don’t know what there is in there until you write.
  2. Go to a writer’s seminar.
  3. Take a journalism class at a community college or wherever you can.
  4. Get a book or two on writing. One of my favorites is Anne LaMott‘s Bird by Bird and right now I’m reading Tracy Kidder‘s and Richard Todd‘s Good Prose.
  5. Read good books and writing in the style you want to write.
  6. Journal for a year.
  7. Start a blog or just a private diary.
  8. Get a blank piece of paper and a pen and doodle and write till ideas come.
  9. Figure out if you really do want to write or if it’s just a fantasy.
  10. Write something. Did I say that already? Maybe because it’s the only way you are going to write, is by sitting down with the instruments of writing and putting an outline, ideas, a bad first draft, something on paper. Write something.

Still have that idea just “in your head”? Good writing takes time and energy and practice. Write me if you have questions about the writing life.

Related articles

Making a Writing Sandwich

Writing is not like asking someone to make you a sandwich. You don’t just have an idea and suddenly someone helps you get it between front and back cover with everything you want in it. It’s a slow cooking process. It ain’t just making a sandwich.

Make a list. When you go to the grocery store, what is the first thing you do before you go? You make a list on paper, right? So first, when you want to write, make a list of what you want to say, everything that’s “in your head” that wants to come out.

What resources are needed? Second, when you have a grocery list made you ask yourself, “What must I have to get everything on this list?” Time and money and a good grocery store. In the same way, you need to understand that writing that outline is going to take an investment of time, shutting off the TV, seeking some solitude or perhaps talking through some ideas with a friend, and you will also invest energy and effort, and depending on the subject matter pain and heartache because you are seeking to tell the truth about your life or the world or God.

Choose something healthy. Third, when you shop, you find what is nutritious at the store, things you like and your family will enjoy eating. You think about those you are buying for, cooking for, and whether or not they’ll eat it, and additionally whether or not it will be good and helpful to them. In the same way, when you consider what to write, you are choosing from what you know about the world or can learn that people might want to read, that can both be satisfying and helpful to readers.

Is the food nourishing? Fourth, when you bring home groceries, you either have pre-packaged stuff people open and eat quickly, or you slow cook meats, cut up veggies, make a dessert from the ingredients you’ve purchased. In the same way, what you write will either last like a fine nourishing meal in the guts of people who read you, or they will simply quickly open what you bring home, swallow it whole like a Twinkie in the mouth of a college student–oh, sorry, we don’t have those for now since Hostess is on hiatus. The choices you make in preparation are important to whether or not your readers will actually get much out of your writing. The more you put in, the more the reader will get out. Importantly, with certain kinds of literature, the harder it is to write, the easier it is to read.

Plating a nice meal. Fifth, the way you present the meal to your family and friends is important to whether or not they will eat it and enjoy it. Slop it on the plate, take little time preparing, simply tell people there’s frozen pizza in the freezer, and people are not going to be that interested. But present a fine plate with color and appeal to all the senses of sight, crunch that satisfies teeth and ears, tastes that blow up in your mouth from hot to cold, spicy to mild, sweet to salty, savory to smooth and rich. Readers want a variety of flavors and one flavor gets tiresome. But you have to get good at making one thing before moving on to another.

Clean up. Sixth and finally, clean up. No one likes a pile of dirty dishes the next morning. When you serve a meal, clean up the dishes afterwards. In my house, sometimes the cook gets a break while the rest of the family cleans up the dishes. When it comes to submitting something to an editor or friend, don’t send just a bunch of dirty plates with sloppy writing or ideas that are half baked. Think through what you want to write, research, take the time and invest the energy, write a draft, and clean it up and polish it well. Then submit it to a friend or editor.

Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of www.wadehodges.com, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

Continue reading

Ron and Gidget built a house of prayer in their trailer park

I have two friends named Ron and Gidget Marcinko. They lost everything in a flood in Nashville, Tennessee in 2010.

Ron and Gidget became homeless after losing their trailer in flooding of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.

Not only did their trailer flood and everything in it, including wooden carvings and crafts they lovingly made for friends and family, photos, videos, but they also lost their pride and joy that they’d put blood sweat and tears into for the past several years.

Ron Marcinko in front of the House of Prayer that was destroyed in the Nashville floods in May 2010. Photo by Greg Taylor in January 2010.

Together Ron and Gidget had build a House of Prayer in their trailer park. They are the first people I’ve ever known who built a prayer center inside a trailer park property or any neighborhood for that matter.

Due to some illness, Ron had temporarily lost his eyesight and at one point was literally blind. He talked Gidget through how to use a nail gun and Gidget did much of the actual construction of this house of prayer. When it was completed, they invited pastors to come and preach each Sunday for the trailer park residents. I visited the House of Prayer one time in January 2010. They were very excited for the dream of having a peaceful place to meet God in the trailer park to become a reality.

Ron and Gidget were even planning a wedding for a young woman who had grown up in the trailer park. Gidget and Ron had taken her under their wing when she would wander the park alone and neglected by her parents. They were excited about this wedding and were even getting requests for others. People would ask if they could just sit in the house of prayer and pray. Well, that’s why they built it, so of course they accepted and opened it frequently for residents of the trailer park to find God in the quiet moments there.

But then tragedy struck.

This small house of prayer was swallowed up in the flood so high that it was literally up in a tree when the flood waters receded.

Ron and Gidget were devastated, their trailer was full of sludge and ruined with water damage. Ron had been the caretaker of the trailer park and now the deluge had washed away his own trailer, the House of Prayer, and his livelihood of woodworking–many of the beautifully carved wooden pieces and baby cradles he made were destroyed in the flood.

Ron is Russian-Czech and Gidget is a Tennessean, but they met in Yukon, Oklahoma at a skating rink after both had been through some awful family situations. Gidget needed someone who would be faithful to her and Ron needed a woman who would help him through the sickening flashbacks from Vietnam combat.

They got together but never married until they moved to Tennessee and eventually had a traditional Czech wedding, complete with intricately stitched dresses and ceremonies such as the cutting of the feathers, which I can explain another time.

For a long time Ron was suicidal but the thought of Gidget coming home from Shoneys or Cracker Barrel where she waitressed to find Ron dead with a hole in his head prevented him from pulling the trigger of the Smith and Wesson .38 police service revolver in his dark moments.

I’ve stayed several nights in Ron’s and Gidget’s trailer and spent lots of time with them, and I have learned that they are two of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met.

I’ve been writing a book about them, a love story and tragedy of sorts with a redemptive ending about how Ron and Gidget make it through adversity and come out on the other side together. Last I talked to them, they were homeless and living with friends. I don’t know if they got another trailer yet until I make another visit, which I may be doing very soon.

I can’t seem to write the story good enough to do them justice, so it’s taken me six years so far and counting. There is much to tell and many parts of the story, so I’ll put out some chapters to see what you think.

On deadline

I learned my lesson a few years ago to never promise a book manuscript to a publisher or editing work to a writer just after Thanksgiving or Christmas. In other words, never tell someone, “just after the first of the year.” Bad decision. How easy is it to really get a manuscript done during the holidays? Doesn’t work for me anyway.

So I’ve promised to submit a manuscript Nov 21, just before Thanksgiving, for a book I’m hoping to publish in 2009. Now, I won’t expect to necessarily hear back till well in January or February on that manuscript for same reasons above.

So, I’ll try to give you some snippets of what I’m writing here and there in the next month . . . but for now it’s a secret. OK, one hint: the book is about a neighborhood that’s preparing to die.

Reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying to get some ideas.

Ideas come from unexpected places. Was reading the new book by Karen Zacharias, Where’s your Jesus now? and made mistake of starting the first chapter standing up next to my desk. Couldn’t sit down till I finished that first breathless and stunning chapter. And it inspired just the kind of approach I was looking for for a section of the book I’m writing, which is same genre (based on true story).

Light on Main Street

rudy-taylor.jpgMy uncle Rudy is one of my heroes.

In his lifetime he’s taken stands for truth and faith that have led to some family and friends distancing themselves from him because he professed a more open view of the body of Christ outside the particular little church community in which he was raised. No reason for me to go further into that story, which I would only get wrong but it’s enough to say that I believe Uncle Rudy stood for what he believed Christ would do were he in his shoes.

And, I respect Uncle Rudy also for one of the same reasons I respect my dad (Rudy is my dad’s younger brother): they’ve both settled into small towns and made their mark not just on the political, social, religious, and physical landscape of the town but upon people’s lives. They’ve displayed for nine decades (between them) in two communities how to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and mind and to love their neighbors as themselves.

My dad is a builder. Rudy is a small town newspaper editor, a dying but important and respectable breed who bring the vital local angles on the news that really news is meant for: to actually do something about. News that we typically take in is not depressing only because it’s bad news but depressing because it’s information we can do nothing about, actively participate in little that we read. So the small town newspaper is important to the social and political well-being of a community, and I predict that these will make a great come back in another form, currently in the form of town web sites and blogs, and the same is true for church communities and other political groups.

Rudy is a good man and one of the best storytellers I know. He gets that from my grandma Grace (who we affecionately called, “Amazing”) and her father, Spike Walker. Rudy also married into a newspaper family, so he’s part of the continuation of a local newspaper for nearly 100 years.

Rudy has had a book percolating under his lid for years, and a whole town and friends and family have been coaxing him to write it, and it’s now in print

The book is called Light on Main Street. Uncle Rudy’s office light was often cast out his window upon Main Street these last several decades. He’s burned the candle on both ends, but he’s still remained a family, church, and community light.

Rudy’s web site

To order books: rudy@rudytaylorbooks.com

Here’s a little more “official” bio that tells more about what Rudy Taylor does.

 

Rudy Taylor began his career as a publisher in 1970 when he bought his Rudy Taylorhometown newspaper, The Caney Chronicle. He is now publisher/owner of the Oswego Independent, Edna Sun, Altamont Journal, Chetopa Advance, Sedan Times-Star, Flint Hills Express,and Montgomery County Chronicle—all southeast Kansas weeklies—and publisher of The Coffeyville Journal. Taylor writes columns, editorials, and feature stories for all of them. His column “Off the Cuff” has won numerous state and national awards, and even one international award. But he does not write his columns to win awards—he simply writes from the heart. His articles are frequently nostalgic, reflecting back to his growing-up years in the 1950s. His commentary is often humorous, sometimes tearful, and even hilarious. Taylor’s first love was radio and television, and he still makes commercials for local broadcast stations and advertising agencies. He is in the process of publishing his first book, Light on Main Street. Taylor’s wife Kathy is a fourth-generation journalist, and they have three grown children and four grandchildren. The Taylors live in Caney.