Archive for August 2017

Self Editing   1 comment

I’m in the editing part of my latest book and so I’m thinking about editing all of the time. A lot of writing gurus claim you shouldn’t edit your own writing … that you really can’t because you simply won’t see your own mistakes. I disagree.

Image result for image of manuscript editingSelf-editing is a valuable skill that will help you produce better work, improve the feedback you receive, and ultimately become a better writer.

Self-editing is not a substitute for working with an editor or proofreader. Getting a fresh, objective set of eyes on your manuscript is one of the best things you can do to improve your writing and its chance of success in the marketplace. There are editors out there for every genre and every budget, so please consider engaging one.

But, before you do, it’s well worth polishing your manuscript as much as you can before sending it to editors, beta readers, and proofreaders. Self-editing will save time and money by enabling your editor to work with fewer distractions. In a “clean’ manuscript, mistakes are more likely to stand out. And, in self-editing, you will become more aware of your weak points and less likely to make the same errors again.

“Editing” is an unfortunately broad term that covers everything from organizing the overall structure of a narrative to picking up minute spelling and punctuation errors. They’re actually very different tasks, and they require different approaches and, in many cases, different people to perform them.

So how do you self-edit in your writing process?

There’s a convention wisdom that says you should write a book without editing first. I’ve personally never been able to do that. When I feel a little stuck on the next scene, I often read earlier scenes to get myself going. Well, if I see a misspelling or clunk grammar, I edit that rather than waiting until later. But it is true that you should take a break between writing and editing.

The longer the manuscript, the more time you should take before picking it up again. Obviously, deadlines and other life pressures may make this impractical, but to the extent that it’s within your power, schedule your writing so that you can let it sit anywhere from overnight (for, say, a blog post) to several weeks (for a full-length book).

I suggest enlarging your display to a minimum of 200%. This limits the number of words that you’ll see on your screen at any one time, making you less likely to skim, and literally helps you see errors more clearly. In the same vein, consider changing your font or font color because this makes the manuscript you’ve been staring at for months seem fresh and new and actually helps you see errors.

What are you looking for as you edit your own manuscript? You want to improve it, to bring it closer to reader expectations for your genre. You want to have a clear, well-supported theme and excise extraneous or distracting material.

Content Editing

Get ready to kill some darlings … you know, those distracting subplots or multiple climaxes. I know that’s hard, but really, readers get bored by them.

If the first page—heck, the first sentence—doesn’t compel readers to keep reading, they won’t. I have a writer friend who says he doesn’t really write his first chapter until he’s pretty much done with his book and then he spends almost as much time writing his first chapter as he did writing the rest of the book. I don’t go that far, but I do tend to spend a lot more time on it in the rewriting phase because it is really that important. The first chapter is that crucial. It must give readers a tantalizing glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the book. You’re not done with the draft until it does.

One of the best places to create tension and compel the reader to keep turning pages is by crafting strong chapter endings that leave a little suspense. This doesn’t mean the chapters should simply cut off randomly in the middle of scene … at least not often. There is a place for “open” endings at the end of a chapter. You want the reader to want to find out what comes next. Use your chapter endings to showcase an important insight or action.

 

Copy/Line Editing

At this point, you’ve more or less nailed the content of your manuscript; now you want to be sure that the language flows—that it’s appropriate for your audience, conveys the right feeling, meets grammatical standards, and isn’t confusing or redundant.

Tighten it up! Most writers include more than they really need to in their original draft. Look for ways to shorten sentences and paragraphs. Sentences should be 75% active voice. Do a search for the word ” was ” and consider ways to rephrase sentences that use it as the primary verb. Consider whether you actually need a dialogue tag or if context can make it clear who is speaking.

Watch your metaphors. They’re a lovely thing that adds spice to your writing — unless they used badly, when they might confuse a reader or make them laugh when you don’t intend them to laugh. Double-check your descriptions to make sure that they’re in line with the tone you want to convey.

Check dialogue and action scenes carefully. Make sure that it’s clear who is saying what, either from context, accompanying action or dialog tags (they have their place).  With action scenes, carefully block out the action in your head to make sure that all your characters are where they are supposed to be and that the action is physically possible. You can even draw diagrams if you have to or invite your teenager to the backyard for a mock sword battle.

One of the best ways to “read” your writing objectively is to hear it out loud. Invest in some text-to-speech software or get a friend to read it out loud to you. You can also read it out loud to yourself, but I don’t find that as effective.

Know your limitations. Some of us can do these first parts ourselves because we have a background of editing others’ material. Some of us can’t. There’s one area where most writers really need some editing help.

 

Proofreading

It’s critical to have another person (ideally someone with proofreading experience) look over your work before you publish it. At this point, you’ve read your draft through too many times to be able to reliably catch tiny errors. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it as a proofreader before you send it off to your proofreader or critique partner. The cleaner the copy, the better.

Use your word processing program’s grammar and spell check. No, it won’t catch everything—and many of the things it catches won’t actually be errors—but it will almost certainly find some mistakes you’ve overlooked.

Use the find-and-replace function. You can change your single quotes to double quotes and your double hyphens to em-dashes (so, — to —) in a snap and far more accurately than if you do them one at a time. While you’re at it, replace all your double spaces with a single space—this is in line with current standards and will help the final product look more professional.

Just remember that find-and-replace is a double-edged sword; make sure that you replace only what needs to be replaced. Don’t get lazy and clip “replace all.”

Use the Search function. If you know you have a tendency to make the same errors over and over again (typing “from” for “form,” for example, or spelling a character’s name different ways) do a search for those mistakes and check them one by one to be sure they’re correct.

Print out your work, if possible, and proof on paper. Time-consuming and not always practical, it’s still one of the best ways to see your manuscript in a fresh light.

You Should Self-Edit

These are just a few of the many ways that you can improve your own manuscript before sharing it with readers and editors.

Posted August 23, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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7 Days to Cover Reveal   Leave a comment

Cover Reveal for A Threatening Fragility 2In just 7 days, I will reveal the cover of my latest book, 3rd in the Transformation Project series – A Threatening Fragility.

Fans maybe wondering what happened to Cai Delaney as he was fleeing military drones at the end of the book. I’m not telling, but don’t worry … the worst thing that could happen to him is a fire squad, so he’ll be fine … or not.

Right. When your novelist starts out a series by incinerating 30 million people, you just don’t know where she might go as the series goes along. Who is expendable and who is not?

And, what was Rob doing to Shane at the end of the last book? Yeah … that didn’t look good.

And what’s going on with the terrorists who escaped a power max facility? Or the electronic watchers that only Shane knows about? Or the critical surveillance information Shane is holding?

What’s going on with the 5,000 souls of Emmaus, Kansas and how is the USDA and corn field fires going to make their lives more complicated?

If an apocalyptic with libertarian influences sounds intriguing to you, the series is available here electronically or you can also order it in paperback from Createspace. And A Threatening Fragility will be up for presale by October.

Cruisin’ on the Dream Machine: an interview with Matthew Melton   Leave a comment

I’ve got an article coming up about this band, but I think you might enjoy another interview with them and a taste of the music.

savagehippie

dream_machine_the_illusionAs I sit in Starbucks, sucking the bandwidth off their free wifi signal while not actually buying anything (yeah, screw the man!), listening to the hypnotic, psychedelic fuzz rock of The Illusion, the debut LP from Dream Machine, I ask myself, “isn’t it strange how nearly half a century ago, the first Coven album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, was deleted by the record label that put it out only a month after they released it because they were worried about the shock and outrage it would have generated among Christian conservatives in America?” My mind continues to wander, and similarly I think, “isn’t it crazy how the same year that the first Coven album came out, the MC5 got in a WHOLE heap of shit just for shouting ‘kick out the jams, motherfuckers!’ at the beginning of the title track on their first album?” Times sure…

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Posted August 22, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Divvying Up the Political Pie   2 comments

There’s a battle coming over America’s political pie with the potential for creating a peaceful revolution that could conceivably return American society back to its liberty roots. I’m all for PEACEFUL (noncoercive) revolution. By 2050, I suspect some major changes in how our political pie is divvied up that might have profound effects on our freedom.

This 2015 chart shows us the political pie.

  • Social Security is 24% of that pie.
  • Healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid/ACA-AHCA/etc.) is 23%.
  • Defense Development (the military & intelligence agencies) is 20%.
  • Non-Defense Discretionary is 18%.
  • Other Mandatory Spending is 13%.
  • Net Interest is 6%.

Sometimes when we look at a pie chart like this, we think of it as static, but that’s not the case with the US budget. Social Security and Healthcare are going to expand for the next 25 years. Every day, 10,000 people go on Medicare. Medicare costs the government over $1,000 a month for each person enrolled. The inflow of eligible recipients is not going to stop for the next 25 years.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Baby Boom?

People in the 50s and early 60s bred like bunnies and those children are now getting older. Those born in the early part of that demographic bulge are already drawing on the system. The rest of us are following behind. As the right side of the chart grows, other slices of the pie must shrink. You see that category: Non-defense Discretionary? It was 16% in 2015, but it’s probably closer to 14% today. That $585 billion is all the available loot for Washington DC to fight over. The rest of the budget is already obligated. Politics cannot change the rest of the budget. Politics today, in terms of federal spending, is now down to under 14% of the budget, and it is probably heading toward 10% by 2022, regardless of who is president after 2020.

Sometime before the 20’s are over, there will be no more discretionary slice of the budgetary pie. You think Congress is dysfunctional now, just wait. There will be blood in the aisles and K-Street lobbyists jumping off the Washington Monument when political voting blocs that thought the size of their slice was guaranteed will find that it isn’t.

This outcome of battle is going to change the nature of civil government in the United States. A series of battles that parallel ours will take place in Western Europe, where it all began in the 1880’s when Bismarck introduced the welfare state.

Liberty in the West has been under relentless assault for at least a century by the expansion of the administrative state, which has extended the power of central governments into every nook and cranny of European and American life. Bureaucracies have created administrative law courts that have been substituted for civil courts all over the West, providing their own judges and acting as their own juries. They execute the laws that they have interpreted autonomously. This process is well developed, and appears to be irresistible. It is the overturning of the Western legal tradition. The process is relentless and unaffected by politics. It is protected in the United States by Civil Service rules. All over the West, comparable protections exist. Tenured, these people cannot be fired and their word is the law. Here in the United States, the system is manifested in the Federal Register, which publishes over 80,000 pages of fine-print regulations every year.

What stops that? Nothing, except probably budget cuts. There are a lot of schemes offered, but really, nothing else offers any hope.

I’m not suggesting defunding the federal government. I’ve stopped believing it is politically possible. What I’m talking about is default. Washington at some point in the near-future is not going to be able to pay its bills. The unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security will eventually force the bankruptcy of the federal government. The magnitude of these liabilities has been discussed by Prof. Laurence Kotlikoff in his testimony to the Senate Budget Committee in 2015. The only way to stop it will be to cut off Granny.

Reading this, my husband is thinking “Please don’t cut off my mother’s benefits. She’ll have to come live with us and that didn’t work out well in the past.” So, he’s going to vote against cutting off Granny, but Granny is also part of the best organized voting bloc in the United States. The senior citizen vote is unstoppable … as unstoppable as administrative law … and it’s a growing demographic.

I am supposed to retire in 2028, so I know what they’re thinking.

I’ve worked hard all my life to pay those stupid payroll taxes so that my inlaws and brother can live a decent life in retirement and now that I’m reaching retirement age, you’re not going to cut me off of what I bought and paid for.

It’s possible I’m off by a few years one way or another, but sooner or later, the entire budget will become nondiscretionary. Whenever it does, the political battles over who gets the loot will escalate into a bureaucratic war over funding. The gloves will come off the iron fists as the federal government hurtles toward a collision between these two unstoppable forces. One of them is going to prove to be unstoppable. The other one is not only going to be stopped, it is going to be reversed. Let me suggest that the senior citizens are more unstoppable than the administrative state because the senior citizens have family and friends.

“Who gets the loot when 100% of the federal budget is nondiscretionary?”

That central political question will begin around 2025 as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid continue to absorb the lion’s share of the federal budget. We’re discussing a statistically inevitability. The Great Default won’t begin with a cutback of checks going to old people. That’s too politically risky. Instead, it will begin with cutbacks to the Pentagon and the administrative state. The Pentagon and the administrative state haven’t organized voting blocs comparable to AARP and the Gray Panthers. The Granny Demographic is going to get an increasing share of the federal pie.

The politicians will respond to the electorate, which means they will be forced to cut funding to the regulatory agencies if they are going to expand the funding of Medicare and Medicaid, which they have to do if they want to maintain power. When money gets re-directed to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, it will have to be redirected from existing executive bureaucracies that make up the administrative state.

I hate the welfare state because I think it enslaves people to the government and strips them, knowingly or not, of dignity and value. So, it’s odd to say this, but the expansion of the federal welfare state offers a great mid-term hope for American liberty. The expansion of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is politically and actuarially unstoppable. Politicians are going to have to put everything else in the budget on the chopping block .. including the Pentagon and the administrative state, which includes.

Politics has always been about divvying up the loot. America has gotten away with having a lot of sacred cows and third rails for many decades because we were a prosperous nation with vast national resources that could innovate itself out of our own stupidity, but that era has passed and, at least for the next 25 years, we’re going to see increasing government debt and fights over divvying up the pie. It won’t be politically conceivable for the federal government to default on the debt in the next two decades (you’ll have to wait for the Baby Boomers to pass and then my kids will probably gladly be ready to shed that monkey), but a lot of sacred cows are going to get slaughtered before 2030 arrives and they will continue to be slaughtered all through the 30’s.

The administrative state, the great enemy of Western civilization, is going to be cut back as a result of the unstoppable expansion of welfare spending on the senior citizen voting bloc. Hooray for the early Baby Boomers. They are going to get their grasping hands on a growing percentage of the federal budget and loot my future. Hey, somebody is going to loot the Treasury; it might as well be my brother’s half of the demographic bulge. I’d rather he gets it than let the administrative state and the Pentagon loot it.

Nondiscretionary spending will be a political battlefield by 2025. At least initially, it will be a three-way battle. The Pentagon, the administrative state, and the senior citizens are going to appeal to the public for a greater share of the pie.

The voters, particularly at the conservative end of the wading pool, are generally gung-ho for the Pentagon. The general public does not understand the administrative state. It will be difficult for the various bureaucracies to make an effective appeal to voting blocs. Their own voting blocs are too small. Federal employees could vote as a bloc and still not move the needle. Special interest groups for particular kinds of regulations have a narrow effect compared to fear of Mohammed and sweet little Granny. It is easy to make fun of bureaucrats in general, but nobody wants another 9-11 and we’d all be loath to be accused of shoving Granny off the cliff. So, Granny and GI Joe win the propaganda battles. Conservatives will back the Pentagon while the Democrats will (probably) back the administrative state. One or the other will surrender a portion of its budget to the other, but both are going to lose out to Granny.

Which brings us back to Brad’s reaction to this article. When push comes to shove, the voters would rather see the money go to their parents than to the Pentagon. In a crisis, the voters would rather see their parents move in with them while still receiving federal checks rather than not receiving them.

Ronald Reagan warned us almost 40 years ago that Social Security would be bankrupt by 2025 and there would be a political clash between the generations: retirees vs. workers. His prophesy still stands: that day will come. But before it does, there will be a grand political alliance between working-age adults and their retired parents. Now, that’s an unstoppable alliance. Voters will become willing to cut back money that goes to the American Empire by way of the Pentagon if that is what it takes to keep the money flowing to senior citizens. There will be political agreement among the generations, so military budget will be cut, followed not long after by reduced funding to the bureaucrats who regulate and strangle the American economy.

The fundamental political questions that lie ahead of us are fiscal. Monetary reality is going to lead to political battles, but at some point, the federal government won’t be able to support Granny. Having already decimated the Pentagon and the administrative state, the federal welfare state will also implode.

We might have a decade or two to find ways to adapt during the transition period, but only if we start talking about it now. This won’t start with the progressive Democrats because they are too invested in the administrative state and lack a faith community to turn too, but the conservative movement and Christian churches should begin to sort out the issues of centralism versus decentralization. The US Constitution has proved remarkable durable, but eventually it will lead to dividing up the loot in Washington, ignoring and subjugating local governments and making individuals reliant upon government promises that it could not keep — exactly the centralization train wreck the anti-Federalists predicted in 1787.

I think we are going to have a decade in which the issue of decentralization will be one of the crucial political issues in America. When Washington’s checks bounce, because the money is going to Granny, America’s academics, intellectuals, social theorists, website editors, and the handful of pastors who speak to the wide breadth of the Christian churches  will have to deal with the fiscal and political reality that nobody is talking about today.

This is the grand opportunity today. It is time for serious thinkers to begin thinking seriously about a world in which the non-discretionary budgets of all national governments in the West must be re-allocated to meet the growing demands of the retired senior citizens. The outcome of this budgeting process and the re-thinking of this process will re-shape society around the world between 2050 and 2100.

Posted August 22, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in economics, Uncategorized

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Open Book Blog Hop – 21st August   Leave a comment

Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

This week we’ve been given the following topic:

‘Health and fitness for busy people – what little things do you do to stay healthy? Food, exercise, special vitamins, clothing, shoes, etc. What do you do that could help someone else?’

I don’t know that I could help anybody else, as it’s up to the individual to decide if they want to alter their lifestyle to become healthier or fitter.  I can only write about my own efforts to halt the march of time and (if I’m lucky) go into old age with my independence still intact.

On a non-working-at-the-hospital-day, after breakfast I take a long walk of about 40 minutes, rain or shine, before sitting down to write.  This would be followed by another half an hour walk after lunch, and another one after dinner.  If I’m off to work I walk just over a mile to the hospital from where…

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Posted August 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

On Staying Healthy   4 comments

Health & Fitness for Busy People – What little things do you do to stay healthy? Food, exercise, special vitamins, clothing, shoes, etc. What do you do that could help someone else.

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I have a full-time job and an author gig on the side. I have a husband and a son who still lives at home. I also do things in my community, primarily through my church. So, I am busy.

I’m also blessed. For whatever reason, I have a very strong immune system. I always have. But I’m half-way through my 50s in a family that regularly sees their 90s, so I’m trying to stay healthy for the long haul.

I typically wear flats or shoes with only a slight heel. It’s easier on your knees and back. The downside is plantar fasciitis which I developed for a while, but I started doing some exercises and it seems to have stopped.

Image result for image of walking in sunlightBecause the streets of Fairbanks are often covered with ice and snow, I go to the gym to work out. Some weeks I only make it once, other weeks I make it 3-4 times. I don’t do anything really spectacular. I ride an exercise bike or rotary trainer for an hour. Sometimes I lift weights. I don’t try to go fast and I’m not trying for any power-lifting records. I’m just trying to stay flexible and strong and to counteract the affects of living in a climate that doesn’t get enough sun in the winter.

So in addition to doing weight-bearing exercise, I don suncreen and use a suntanning booth once a week from October to April. I don’t strip all the way to bare. My goal is to get enough time in the “sun” to stimulate Vitamin D production. Like everyone else here locally, my Vitamin D production drops as the winter goes along, but tests show it doesn’t drop as much as many of my neighbors. That could be because of my Swedish blood (Swedes have adequate D levels, according to Alaska Fit), or because we eat a lot of salmon, but I suspect it has something to do with not being afraid of tanning booths. Cousin Rick, the immune system doctor, suggested it, with proper precautions.

D production is not just about bones. Deficiencies have been linked to daytime sleepiness, depression, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, complications during pregnancy, muscle and joint pain, obesity, and problems with the thyroid to name a few. To top it all off, it’s been found that low vitamin D levels increases your risk of death by 26%. Wow. If you catch a cold several times a winter, it might be because you are Vitamin D deficient. It’s also important for blood clotting, thyroid function, and heart health.

So why don’t I just take pills? I do take 1000 mg (in the winter), but you have to take closer to 2000 mg a day on the 64th parallel to get as much Vit D as a 15-minute daily stroll in the sun on the equator would provide and 2000 mg a day — well, it has effects on my bowels and as bowel cancer runs in the family, but skin cancer does not, Dr. Rick suggested I spread my risk around. So, I enter the tanning booth with a tank top and shorts on, coating the exposed parts of my skin with SPF16, and I only do 10 minutes once a week. I’m not trying to get a tan (and I don’t), but to provide my body with some “sun” exposure when it is impossible to get because of the latitude I live at. It works, according to my blood serum tests.

Other things that I do to stay healthy —

Image result for image of a balanced mealI try to eat right. My diet includes a little bit of meat and a lot of vegetables. That’s not easy here in Alaska because our food must be imported, so veggies arrive here essentially flavorless, having been in suspended animation for two weeks. We buy a lot of frozen vegetables. Frozen carrots actually taste like carrots, by the way. I do eat carbs – bowel cancer runs in the family, whole grains are necessary. I don’t care for fluid milk, but I eat cheese and yogurt. We also have to eat frozen and canned fruit a lot, but we grab fresh fruit when it is in the stores and affordable and actually smells like something. If it has no fragrance, it’s going to be tasteless. You probably don’t have this problem.

I try to stand on one foot and on my toes for at least five minutes each every day. Sometimes that’s 1-minute five times a day for each. This helps with balance and core strength. My daughter the ballerina once stayed on her toes with arms in first position for 20 minutes to show the football team that they weren’t that strong.  One football team member made it 19 minutes, but he needed assistance to keep his balance after two minutes. Mere ordinary people get a lot of benefit from five minutes a day.

I also do Kegel exercises at least once a day, about 20-50 of them depending on time. What are they? Google them. If you’re a woman and you want to maintain bladder control into your 90s, they’re a good thing to do. I’m just saying …. And, there are side benefits, but I’ll let the Internet inform you of those.

Drink lots of water. Most Americans are dehydrated and we often eat because we confuse thirst for hunger. And, no, sodas don’t count, but coffee does (though it’s only about 90% effective compared to tap water). Also know that distilled water lacks the minerals your body is craving when it tells you its thirsty. Filtered tap water is okay, but distilled water is really pretty useless. Read the label of your bottled water. Some of it is useless and some of it is worthwhile. In the US, tap water is almost universally safe … (provided some idiot muni doesn’t try to save money by not including a corrosion inhibitor in a town with lead pipes, but I think Flint’s woes have put all the others on notice).  You notice I don’t mention taking calcium supplements. Fairbanks water is loaded with calcium and iron.

One final thing I do is rinse my nasal passages occasionally. The winter air here is very dry, so many Alaskans have sinus problems. I discovered that using a low-flow, high-volume saline rinse opens up my nasal passages, allowing my sinuses to drain, preventing headaches and reducing colds and allergy symptoms. It will also substantially shorten a cold’s symptoms. I use a squeeze bulb so I can remain upright. The netti pot is too much like self-waterboarding to me, but your experience may vary. If you live in a dry climate or fly a lot, I highly recommend it.

Statistically speaking, people who are part of a regular faith community tend to be healthier than those who are not and those who laugh a lot also tend to have fewer health problems. I’ve got those covered too.

Posted August 21, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Body Language   Leave a comment

For just as the body is one and yet has many membersand all the members of the body – though many – are one bodyso too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodyWhether Jews or Greeks or slaves or freewe were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single memberbut many.  If the foot says“Since I am not a handI am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says“Since I am not an eyeI am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that.  (1Corinthians 12:12-16)

 

Related imageHave you ever tried to go a day without using your non-dominate hand? Most of us who are right handed don’t use our left hands for much requiring dexterity, but I think if we didn’t have use of it, we’d be at a serious disadvantage to all the people with two hands.

Now, imagine if you lost that hand entirely. You couldn’t get it back. Yeah. Most of us, if we had a choice, would not choose to cut off a limb, and if we had a functioning limb, we wouldn’t choose not to use it … except as some weird writer exercise.

The Corinthian Christians don’t seem to have seen it this way. In a spiritual sense, they effectively cut off every member of the body except those who had a certain kind of gift and ministry. The Corinthians didn’t esteem all of the spiritual gifts, but seemed fixated upon only one or a few gifts, while disdaining the rest. As a result, those who didn’t possess the prize gift(s) concluded they had nothing to contribute to the church body. Others who did possess the highly regarded gift(s) felt smugly independent of the rest of the body.

Paul used the term “body” nearly 20 times in Chapter 12. He indicated the church is Christ’s body, the image of which should be illustrative of the nature and function of the church. One of the serious problems facing the Corinthian church was disunity. Paul didn’t hesitate to bring up the problem of factions at the outset of the letter (1:10). These divisions were certainly related to allegiances to certain leaders (1:12, etc.), but they may are also tied to what we might call strengths and weaknesses (1:18-31). Divisions were so intense they had even resulted in lawsuits brought before secular courts (6:1). The Corinthian Christian who thought he was wise and knew so much was the one who believed he was free to participate in heathen idol worship ceremonies without any concern that his doing so might cause another saint to stumble (8:1-13).

Paul wanted the Corinthians to stop thinking and acting like their behavior didn’t affect anyone else and to begin to act with a sense of corporate identity and responsibility. In athletic terms, Paul wanted the Corinthians to begin to think and behave like a team, rather than like a bunch of spiritual “Lone Rangers”. Paul introduced the imagery of the body to correct the Corinthians’ misconceptions concerning spiritual gifts.

Many images are employed for the people of God … a priesthood, a race, a nation, and a temple (see 1 Peter 2:4-9Ephesians 2:11-22). God’s people are referred to as a vine or a vineyard, which is to produce fruit (Isaiah 5John 15, etc.). The people of God are described as the bride, or wife, of God (see Isaiah 62:5Jeremiah 2:32-35; Hosea; Revelation 21:2, 9; 22:17). We are also likened to a flock of sheep, of which God is the Shepherd (see Psalm 23John 10; 21:15-17), and elders are under-shepherds (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Only the Paul referred to the church as a body. I’m going to attribute it to his traveling companion Luke, a physician. The church of Jesus Christ is His body. Every believer, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, is joined to the body of Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (verse 13). There is one body into which every saint is baptized. There is but one people of God. The distinction between Jew and Gentile is abolished in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22).

The imagery of the church as the body of Christ underscores the unity of all believers (Ephesians 4:3-6). It shows how evil and counter-productive the divisions in the Corinthian church were. My identity is found in Christ, because I am a part of His body. My righteousness is Christ’s righteousness. His death is mine; His resurrection and new life, mine (see Romans 6:1-11). As a Christian, I cannot think of myself only as an individual. I must perceive myself as a part of the church … as a part of Christ’s body. To identify with Christ by faith is also to identify with His body, the church. No wonder Paul so quickly joins himself to fellow-believers (see Acts 9:19, 26). As a wife merges her identity with her husband, becoming one flesh, so the believer merges his or her identity with the body of Christ, the church. Those who fail to identify themselves with the body of Christ are disobedient in their refusal (see Hebrews 10:25).

Ah, but while we are one body, we have many functions. The Corinthian church was blessed with the full spectrum of spiritual gifts (see 1:4-7). Yet, in spite of this very broad range of gifts granted to this church, only a few select gifts were valued. Carrying forward with the metaphor of the body, if the Corinthian church had its way, the entire body would be only one organ.

If the whole body were an eyewhat part would do the hearing? If the whole were an earwhat part would exercise the sense of smell? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decidedIf they were all the same memberwhere would the body be? So now there are many membersbut one body. The eye cannot say to the hand“I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot“I do not need you.” On the contrarythose members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honorand our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, (1Corinthians 12:17-23) 

Repeatedly, Paul emphasized that the body is one, but the members are many (see verses 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 27). Christian unity does not mean uniformity. We’re not factory made. While there is only one body of Christ, there are many different members, many different limbs and organs, each of which has a unique role to play in the body. Paul emphasized that each member has a role that is essential to the health and ministry of the body, the church.

As a member of the church, the body of Christ, we find we are a part of a much greater whole—we belong to an organism whose “head” is Christ and whose function is to represent Christ to a fallen world. As a member of the universal church, we also find our true identity as an individual. The body imagery illustrates the individuality of every Christian. Each believer is, in body terms, an individual organ or member. Each believer is uniquely gifted with a blending of spiritual gifts and is given a particular function within the body. No two saints have the same place in the body. Thus, each believer is unique. In one sense, the Christian is inseparably joined to the whole body, and in another, each believer is absolutely unique in the body. We have our identity with Christ’s body and in His body.

Notice how this union with Christ’s body shaped Paul’s view of his own ministry, particularly of his sufferings:

but our presentable members do not need this. InsteadGod has blended together the bodygiving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the bodybut the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member sufferseveryone suffers with it. If a member is honoredall rejoice with it. (1Corinthians 12:24-26)

Paul saw himself as inseparably joined to the body of Christ. He viewed his ministry as Christ’s ministry. He viewed his sufferings for Christ as Christ’s sufferings. He saw his message as that of Christ and the power by which he ministered as His power, manifested through him. Paul summed up this matter in his own words to the Philippians:

For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:19-21).

Most of the Corinthian Christians wanted to be something they were not. The “foot” wanted to be a “hand” (12:15); the “ear” wished it were an “eye” (12:16). The matter of spiritual gifts and placement in the body of Christ is not something we control. Our spiritual gifts, our place of service in the body, and the results of our ministry are all divinely determined (12:4-6).

When we are discontent with the gift(s) God has given us, our protest is against the Holy Spirit of God, the sovereign Giver of gifts. To question either the Spirit’s goodness, or His infinite wisdom in giving us our gifts, is like my foot deciding it will no longer listen to my brain. While biologically possible, it’s not to my foot’s benefit. The Holy Spirit knows what the whole body of Christ needs far better than we do.

Spiritual gifts are “graces” sovereignly bestowed upon believers. Spiritual gifts, like salvation, are not a matter of merit. Gifts are not earned; they are sovereignly graced upon us. Because of this, those who take pride in their gifts reveal their own foolishness and ignorance (see 1 Corinthians 4:7).

Those who mistake gifts as an evidence of spirituality or of status are wrong, and those who mistake their gift as a symbol of insignificance are just as wrong in that they demean the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

This sovereign gracing is amply evidenced in the Book of Acts. Where are gifts ever given as a reward for service? Where are particular gifts granted because men sought them? In Acts 2Acts 8Acts 10, and Acts 19, the baptism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not sought; they came as a surprise to those who are granted them. I think that because the Corinthians highly valued a very few gifts and disdained the rest, these prized gifts were sought and perhaps even falsely pretended. I see Christians today trying desperately to obtain certain gifts, and I have to ask why. If they are sovereignly bestowed, why must we strive to get them?

A New Set of Standards

Now you are Christ’s bodyand each of you is a member of it. And God has placed in the church first apostlessecond prophetsthird teachersthen miraclesgifts of healinghelpsgifts of leadershipdifferent kinds of tongues. Not all are apostlesare they? Not all are prophetsare they? Not all are teachersare they? Not all perform miraclesdo they? Not all have gifts of healingdo they? Not all speak in tonguesdo they? Not all interpretdo they? But you should be eager for the greater giftsAnd now I will show you a way that is beyond comparison. (1Corinthians 12:27-31)

There’s a real surprise of our text! The imagery of the body amazingly illustrates that the most visible, most attractive parts of the body are not the most important. I have a friend whose son was born with a birth defect … he lacked a rectum. While you can live without a hand, you can’t live without the functions involved with rectum. The “child” is now an adult and living an active life, but it took dozens of surgeries to correct his problem and every one of those surgeries were necessary for him to live. Conversely, I have cousins who were born deaf. While that complicates their lives, they have never been in fear of death from their disability. Getting a cochlear implant is a voluntary procedure. Similarly, the more attractive gifts of singing and preaching get all the attention in churches, but most churches would find it difficult to function without the janitor and the treasurer. While often we think these people are not really gifted, the gifts of administration and helps are found in the New Testament listened right along with preaching and prophesying (but not singing, which might give you some pause).

Paul rebuked these status-seeking saints at Corinth when he turned their value system upside-down. The body illustrates what he is teaching. Those members of the body which are of the least importance are those to which we devote the most attention and effort. We paint our toenails, put rings on our ears, and noses! We put rings and jewelry on our fingers. Truthfully, we can live without ears (or hearing), eyes (or seeing), fingers, hands, legs, toes. The least needed members of our body are the ones which are most visible and to which the most “glory” is given. Yet, they are the lesser gifts. Those gifts which are most visible, most vocal, most glorified in the Corinthian church were, in reality, the least important gifts. The Corinthians had been storing up sand in their safety deposit boxes and using gold for stepping stones.

The most important gifts, like the most important organs, are those which are not visible or spectacular, those of which we are least conscious. You cannot see my spleen, my kidneys, my liver, or my heart, but I cannot live without them. They do not get a lot of attention, but they are the most vital members of my body, whether others value them or not.

The concept of the church as the body of Christ should change our way of thinking of ourselves and of the church.

Within the body of Christ, we are far too individualistic in our thinking. We are far too competitive in our thinking and actions, so that the advance or success of others is viewed as a personal setback for us. We must begin to think cooperatively, realizing that the success of other saints is our victory, and, more importantly, our Lord’s victory. We need to strive not only for our own growth in Christ, but for the corporate and collective growth of the entire church (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

The concept of the church as the body of Christ should cause us to think in terms of the local church, but also beyond the local church.

The “church” is the body of Christ, but in the New Testament the “church” is often bigger than just one local church. Paul spoke of “the church” as those believers in a certain political or geographical setting (e.g., the seven “churches” of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3). In contemporary terms, there are many local churches in towns across America, but we might also think in terms of the collective of several churches that is in a particular town, the entire body of believers in a town. We speak of the church “in America” or “in Russia”. In prison ministry, we speak of the church “behind the walls.”

Just as individual believers think and act competitively, so local churches can fall into the same error. There should be ways in which we, as individual believers and as a local churches, express our identification with the larger “church.” Southern/Great Commission Baptists express this through our Cooperative Program, but all too often, even that fails to expand our minds beyond the four walls of our own congregation. We fixate on a handful of people killed in a mass shooting in some American city, but we ignore the deadly virus killing hundreds of thousands in Africa, for example. There isn’t the same degree of concern or involvement, yet African Christians are part of the body of Christ. They depend upon us, as we depend upon them. We should avoid isolationism in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

While there is a sense in which the body is to support and provide for the needs of each individual member, let us never forget that this is not the primary purpose of the church. 

Too many people attend church to have their “needs met.” Too many people leave churches, complaining that the church has not met their needs. The church is to build up itself in love, but the goal of the church is to live out the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, to His glory. We, the church, are the body of Christ. This means we, as the church, are to carry on His ministry in the world today. The church ministers to itself, to build itself up so that it may carry out its mission, and that mission is living out Christ in a fallen world. We have become so preoccupied with the church’s ministry to us as individuals that we have failed to concentrate on the church’s mission to the world, and our obligation to sacrifice ourselves in ministry to and through the church to the world. The question is not, “What is the church doing for me?” The question should be, “What can I contribute to the church to participate in its fulfillment of its mission and calling?“

Christians who are a part of the church, the body of Christ, need to understand that while differences may be the basis for division and strife in the world, these differences are by divine design and are intended to enhance our dependence upon one another, and thus to illustrate true Christian unity.

Unity is not evidenced by uniformity but by harmony and interdependence as each individual saint carries out his or her unique function in the body. That which results in division in the fallen world in which we live should be the occasion for unity and harmony in the church. We should not all want to look alike or function alike, but each should function as God has made him or her, so that the body is benefited by our presence and ministry. As God made Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female, one in Christ, we need to demonstrate this unity in diversity, because we are one body.

The concept of the church as a body calls into question one of the important operating principles of the modern day “church growth movement.” 

For most of my Christian life, I have attended churches that lacked homogeneity, but that is not the standard practice of American churches. In fact, homogeneous groupings are considered “best practices.” The principle goes something like this:

  • Birds of a feather flock together.
  • People are more comfortable around “their kind.”
  • There’s statistical evidence that the churches which are growing the fastest are those whose membership is largely of the same racial, social, and economic class.

The churches of today are encouraged to appeal to, or target, a particular segment of society. Rather than apologize for this, they are assured they will enjoy the fruits of success. I think that flies in the face of the imagery of the church as the body of Christ. I think it’s an affront to the gospel itself. We shouldn’t seek to present a look-alike face to the world. That condemns us to our own cultural values and way of thinking. We should strive to be different, as God intended, with each church member contributing our unique gifts and ministries which He has given, to the edification of the church and to the glory of God.

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