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.

A Woman Disciple?

Gheorghe Tattarescu - Magdalena,

Gheorghe Tattarescu – Magdalena, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Received this question from a member of our church today about last night’s The Bible series segment (March 24).


We watched the Bible last night. (My husband and I) were discussing Mary with the disciples. I can’t remember that. What passages in the Bible could I find that? (BTW, It was a great day on Sunday!!!)

Great question! I would say that not only were there women traveling with the disciples, but The Bible series didn’t portray enough of the women! There were actually several. Luke 8:1-3.

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” (Source: Biblegateway, NIV)
Pretty cool what we learn along the way! Let me know if there are any other questions.

I listened to Francis Chan at the workshop, heard bits and pieces of this story, even Francis told it in very general terms after praying onstage that this would not be “from the flesh” and it is an important story. I most appreciate that you own part of the blame — that’s very hard to do, and I’ve been there in those situations, and it does no good to be reductionistic and only blame others. You are a man of God who has publicly put your heart out there and made bold moves, and God is faithful. God is faithful. Thank you for telling this story.

The Overflow

Confession time: I serve in church leadership, and I want people to like me.

Do you?

Because that can actually be a dangerous combination.

No, I don’t mean that church leaders should aspire to be jerks (though some wouldn’t have to try very hard), nor do I mean that a desire to be liked is inherently sinful – wanting to be loved by your congregation is quite natural and one shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

I simply mean that a desire for the approval of men can easily turn into an idol if we’re not careful, because it can keep us from doing God’s will when it’s socially or relationally uncomfortable.

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New Book Project: Clue 1

I’m writing my first book in ten years. My last was a novel called High Places. Have I been writing in the last decade? Yes. I’ve co-authored three books, ghostwritten (well, you’ll never know will you?), and edited numerous books. That’s what I’ve primarily done in writing and editing since stepping down from editing Wineskins Magazine a few years ago. I also write for national journals and magazines such as Publishers Weekly and Leadership Journal.

OK, so back to my first book in ten years. I’m going to post some clues and leads and some sample writing to draw you in to one of the best stories I’ve witnessed in my life. The story takes place outside the United States. The story I’m writing about is a true story. The genre is called “Narrative Non-Fiction.”

Can you guess what continent or region of the world the story takes place? Comment if you know, ask questions, and with each clue I’ll address any of your questions about writing, editing, your own writing, storytelling, preaching, whatever you want to ask or comment on.

Passover: Eat This Story

Cover of "Eat This Book: Study Guide"

Cover of Eat This Book: Study Guide

Eugene H. Peterson‘s book, Eat This Book is the basis for a series in which I’m calling Garnett Church of Christ to watch The Bible series on History Channel and rather than just watching to “get into the Bible . . . so the Bible can get into you.”

And so we’re using the metaphor of “Eat This Book” as a way to “get the Bible into us.”

Because, we tend to eat the Bible in little sweet morsels. We like Jeremiah 29:11 all right, “For I know the plans have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,” but we often don’t care nor even notice that this text is in the middle of a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. In the same letter God through Jeremiah says, “settle down, you’re going to be in exile for 70 years.”

Eugene Peterson notes that three times in Scripture God asked people to “eat this scroll.” He asked this of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and John. Each did what they were told. They did this in order for the message God had for them to tell would truly get inside them.

We tend not only to pick at Scripture like cotton candy for all the sweet parts, but we also stand above it, pick at it like little children at the table with their green beans. We analyze it. We study it. And Jesus says to his hearers (John 5:39-40) “you diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” We often ignore the Bible, critique or bash the Bible, pick at it for sweet parts, study it and stand above it and the characters in it, and even use it to thump others or simple pat it endlessly as a tome we say we believe it. But we refuse to truly get the word INTO us. We refuse to eat it.

So how do we eat the Bible? One way is to eat the feast God gave us. We have a weekly feast. The Jews had many annual feasts. Embedded in these feasts are stories. So we actually CAN literally Eat the Story.

So I read the recipe for a great church during a recent sermon and then showed Jill’s worn cookbook with the pages covered with butter and sugar, liked a page and said what God asked Ezekiel, Jeremiah, John to do is “eat the scroll,” and the Bible is not a recipe book for happy living, nor are we to pick at it like cotton candy for all the good parts. God wants to get the recipe book INSIDE us. He wants us to eat the story.

So during Passover time, it’s a great time to think about how the Passover is a story God called Israel to eat. We are what we eat. Remember that poster from the Cafe-torium in elementary school? Israel was redeemed from slavery and that is the Passover meal. The Passover became the Last Supper and the Last Supper became the First Communion.

Holy Week

As the concluding episode of “The Bible” approaches March 31 so is the climax of the story of good news for the world . . . Jesus Christ is crucified and buried but God raises Him from the dead in a glorious resurrection and it turns out this is not the end of the story. Even after The Bible series ends, stay tuned. Go back to the Scriptures.

This week is what the church for many years is called Holy Week. It refers to the week before the celebration of Easter. Today is also the celebration of the Jewish feast of the Passover.

Easter and Passover are strongly connected. The Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples was around a Passover meal, so the events of Holy Week were during the Passover, and so there is much overlap.

For Christians, Easter is the new Passover. It is liberation and celebration of freedom from bondage to sin and joyous exit from the tomb of slavery to the light of the promise in the Messiah who is not only king of the Jews but Lord and king of all the universe.

I’ve been reading Luke 22 and the story of the Upper Room and the conversation and the ritual meal is powerful when you read it for what’s happening politically, socially, spiritually in the world at that moment. Starting in v. 14, Jesus says to His disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you, but this is my last Passover till it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus breaks bread with the disciples, then says “I’m not going to eat this again with you until the age to come.” He goes on to share the cup again, to break the bread again and dip in the bowl again with the disciples. This time he’s “re-presenting” the Passover meal as His own body, his own blood of a new covenant with them, one that was taking effect as a new kingdom coming into the world. They would be his witnesses to the world of this kingdom come and references to the banquet in the life to come meant that the kingdom was already here but still coming to be fully fulfilled in the world to come.

These are powerful and important moments in the life of Christ, the disciples, the church, for us. I challenge you to read Luke 22 this week.

Recipe for a Great Church

Thank you to Janet Collins and Charlotte Burk, who published the 2013 Garnett Family Recipe Book. They asked for a recipe from me, so here’s what I gave them that you can see in the front of the book when you buy yours! Proceeds go to pay down Garnett debt! Ask about the cookbook by emailing Janet: Get copies at the Tulsa Workshop this weekend or after a Garnett worship Sundays in Cafe Mosaic.
Recipe for a Great Church
by Greg Taylor
Wash All Dishes Inside and Out
Add Overflowing Cups of Grace
Blend in One Box of 100% Truth
Pour on Heaping Spoonfuls of Love (To Taste)
Stir in Egg Whites of Encouragement (No Cholesterol)
Melt on Mercy in Abundance
Squeeze in Patience, Fully Peeled
Cover with Kindness (Non-Fat Substitute: Gentleness)
Scoop Patience Even When Grated
Saute Endless Supplies of Forgiveness
Pinch of Salt
Mix Ingredients Together with Joy
Sprinkle with Laughter
Fold in Godliness in Endless Supply
Have Faith and Let Mixture Rest
Baste in Hope
Bake in the Son
Serve with The Spirit and While Hot, Never Lukewarm
Enjoy with Fellowship and Hospitality
Optional When Needed: Serve with Crow or Humble Pie (Also Fat Free)
Share Freely with Friends and Loved Ones
Always Makes Enough to Go Around
Recipe for a Great Church by Greg Taylor