Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fishin' for the Basics in Devotions

Fishin’ for the Basics in Devotions

“Gross, Mom.” My son giggled. “You’re a girl and you baited a hook.”

I smiled at my boys lined in a row and waiting for me to squeal at the cup of worms.

“You bet. I love to fish and you can’t fish if you don’t bait the hook.” I swiped the slime on my shorts, popped the release on my reel, and cast the line. The red and white float zinged through the air then plopped at the edge of a jutting rock. “Now we wait.”

Little did I know my fishing experience would later teach me to write good devotions. Seems like a real stretch, eh? Not really—not when you write with fishing in mind. As writers, we’re all gifted differently. Some of us love writing romance, others suspense, some historical or nonfiction. Regardless of your chosen genre, the basics lie in a devotion . . . well, in fishing and devotions.

When I ask writers to pen a devotion, their eyes roll. “I don’t write devotions. I write fiction.”

“And your point is?” I ask.

There’s great skill in writing devotions. Not only does it improve your relationship with God by dropping you into His Word, but there’s a certain consciousness to a devotion. You’re forced to say a lot in a very small space. The skill of writing tight is suddenly revived. One romance writer commented, “I’d forgotten how important writing devotions is. It’s hard. It made me work.” It’s true. Devotions are the perfect writing workouts.

So what does fishing and devotions have in common? We bait the hook, cast the line, set the hook, then reel in the catch. It’s all about fishing. I’d like to return you to the old school method of writing—Hook, Book, Look, and Took. When you write (whether it’s a devotion or a chapter) with these elements, your work will be well-rounded. The hook, book, look, and took method offers you a solid foundation.

Begin with a hook and bait the line early. As a writer you understand the importance of a good hook, but threading the worm early (in the first line or so) tempts and tantalizes the reader. The world is full of busyness, and if you want your reader to stick with you, then thinking through a good hook is valuable. Drawing your readers in immediately raises their curiosity, strikes a chord, and bonds them to the words. It makes them keep reading. A hook sets the tone and pace of the work. So let’s go “Fishin’.”

The Hook: “Trout like the cold water and they like bright lures.” He drew the rod back and cast. The lure whistled past my head and sailed gracefully through the air, landing with a plop into the cold mountain stream.

Once we’ve baited the hook, we have to cast the line. In writer’s terms, we move to the “book.” The book is where you present your point or interpretation of the Scripture. It doesn’t mean you repeat the Scripture you’ve chosen, but it means you lay the groundwork of the story. This is where you and begin to develop the paragraphs the reader will count as memorable. In other words, you begin to tie the Scripture to your story and make a “relatable” moment for the reader. One they remember.

The Book: I had the privilege of fishing with my uncle only once. I don’t think he made it a habit of taking along extra baggage, but Mom was in the hospital and Dad was forced to work, so

he’d volunteered to watch me for the day. I was just little, but I remember my uncle strapping a bright orange life jacket around my chest and then his allowing me to slip on the giant wader boots. If anything came from the day, the boots were a hoot.

I watched as he slowly reeled the line, jiggling the rod just enough to make the lure dance. “You gotta tempt the little scutters,” he said. “They’re easily enticed.”

The lure inched its way toward the end of the rod. My uncle smiled. “Watch now. We’ll catch us a fish.” Within moments, the end of the rod bowed and the line whirred as a rainbow trout leaped above the wash and slammed back into the water. The fight was on . . . my uncle carefully reeled and released, reeled and released as the fish fought frantically. When the battle was over, the fish lay sprawled on the rocks, lure hanging from its jaw. Dead

Once you’ve laid the groundwork then move on to “look,” or snagging the catch. The “look” portion of your devotion is where we observe the bigger picture and bring home a practical application. Readers love to feel our struggle but they love more to understand our resolve and this is what we do in the “look” portion of a devotion—we bleed our wounds and tie in how Christ has offered us resolution, even if it’s not what we expected.

The Look: I learned more than one lesson that day. I learned my uncle enjoyed tempting the fish almost as much as he enjoyed the catch. But I also learned how easily enticed I could be. My uncle warned me about the hooks hanging from the lure and still, like the fish, I wanted to touch it. So when the end of my finger felt the prick of the hook, it didn’t take long for me to suffer the consequence of sin.

That’s how sin works—tempting by desire, and once we’ve taken the bait, the ripple effect begins. A sin to cover the sin, to cover the sin . . . We give birth to a pallet of fallacies, and if we ignore the consequences, the ultimate result is our demise.

Finally, we reel in the catch—the “took.” Once we’ve given the hook, shown the book, honed the look, it’s time to offer the reader a takeaway. Many think devotions should be sweet, airy, or restful. But devotions are meant to make the readers think. Hopefully you’ll offer them a bit of unrest, a reason to want to change things in their lives. “Took” is the part of the devotion that allows you to pull in the catch . . . change a life. Offer the readers a challenge. Lead them to make a decision and accept the challenge to make a change in their lives. This is what makes the devotion powerful.

The Took: Life offers us lots of lures—shiny, tantalizing, and fun. Learning to seek the truth opens our eyes to the hooks. Don’t be enticed by the beauty of the lure. Christ can satisfy your desires.

Christ charged His disciples to be fishers of men, and He gives us that same challenge. Brush up your skills, take on a challenge and write a devotion. It’s a great responsibility to write a devotion. You’re responsible to Christ for your words, so choose them carefully. Apply the Hook, Book, Look, and Took method to your work—bait the hook, cast, set, and reel in the catch. You’ll be surprised what you can do for God and for your writing.

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Cindy is the founder of Mountain Breeze Ministries and cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. She has contributed to Novel Journey and Novel Reviews, and Christian Devotions. Her eldercare articles and devotions are published weekly in several newspapers across the country. She cowrites the He Said, She Said devotions with Eddie Jones. Cindy is a member of the ACFW. She attended Johnson Bible College and graduated from the University of Phoenix. She is a contributing writer to and speaks frequently for ladies' conferences, special events and teaches at writers conferences. Visit Cindy at or

Whispers of Rest Daily Devotional |

Read my devotion posting on for Friday, July 30, 2010.

Whispers of Rest Daily Devotional |

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Curse of Captain LaFoote - Eddie Jones

My dear friend and ministry partner and Port Yonder Press will release his new young adult novel in the fall. Check out the video and visit his site...he's looking for pirates to sail the seas with.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Changing Our Outlook on Eldercare

Changing Our Outlook on Eldercare
By Cindy K. Sproles
Contributing Writer – Caring for our aging parents has changed. As more families hire outside caregivers, the assumption that everyone can be trusted often rules over practicality. Families strapped with continual eldercare easily lose sight of the need of additional security. The rising cost of eldercare is devastating. Families look at small pensions and even smaller Social Security checks and wonder how they’ll manage to provide the care their parents need -- and deserve. In an effort for immediate help and a need to stretch dollars, safety sometimes slips.

When hiring a caregiver outside the confines of a reputable licensed and bonded company, certain issues should be addressed. Often caregivers are hired on a handshake rather than fact and reliability. Families trust and hope the person who stepped in to care for their loved one is all they appear to be. Hiring outside caregivers require families take the necessary steps to insure those providing care are reputable and trustworthy.

How can a family ensure this safety? The process begins with one or two intense interviews with the caregiver. Assigning this task to two separate family members or a trusted friend also can provide an objective view.

Run a background check. Background checks are not a luxury to be ignored. Like in other professions, dishonesty lurks. Predators feed off the innocence and faith of the elderly. They stand ready to win the trust of families, and then wreak havoc. Local law enforcement can help with city and county-wide checks. State Bureaus of Investigation can provide statewide checks, while reputable background-check companies can provide national inquiries for a nominal fee. Today’s economy has left many individuals transient, so reviewing complete local, state, and national background checks is important.

Protect possessions. Lock away valuables or have them moved to secure places that only select family members can access. This includes jewelry, money, checkbooks, and valuable items that can be easily carried away or kindly coerced away from aging parents. The rule of thumb is, if it’s worth something to you, it’s worth more to a thief. Our elderly came from an era where “giving” away items was an act of kindness and aging can cloud the importance of those possessions. Our parents may innocently give away valuable items if a caregiver shows an interest or need.

Set procedures in place for “giving away” items in the home. Post them in plain view so parents are reminded not to freely give away possessions.

Be pro-active. Make continued “surprise” visits to your aging parents’ home when caregivers are present. Being pro-active not only ensures good care, but it lessens the threat of questionable activity. Elder abuse is on the rise. We must make sure of their safety. Check arms, back, and legs for questionable bruising. Talk frequently with your elderly parents. Be inquisitive.

Financial Responsibility. Be mindful of your loved one’s finances. Frequently visit the bank to view banking habits and records. Make bank officials aware of spending limits and individuals allowed access to funds. Set small amounts of cash in the primary account, but keep the bulk of assets in a separate account, which requires your signature or presence to transfer funds. Cap limits on credit cards and keep track of the charges.

Communicate. Keep an open line of communication with aging parents. Avoid being pushy; develop a bond of trust and unity between family members and parents.

Provide a cautious, not fearful, environment for seniors. Remind them the world has changed and make efforts to prevent them from becoming the target of scams. Encourage them to report suspicious activity to authorities. It pays to be cautious whether you have family, company, or private caregivers, or even repair and maintenance people in the home.

As the roles reverse and we become our parents' caregivers, seek after their care with a joyful and protective heart. Even when illness takes their kindness and memories, remember they would be proud and pleased by your help.

May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice! (Proverbs 23:25)

Taking the appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of your aging parent should take precedence. The reward is seeing our seniors live a safe and secure life.

For more stories like this, sign up to receive the Family Email Update from every week.
Cindy K. Sproles

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, co-founder and editor of and She is the co-writes the popular He Said, She Said devotions and co-hosts the Internet radio shows, Christian Devotions Speak UP! and He Said, She Said Radio. She is a popular speaker for ladies conferences and retreats and teaches at Christian writers conferences. Cindy’s devotions and articles are published in Christian newspapers across the country monthly. She is a contributing writer to Faith and Finances: In God We Trust and also Spirit and Heart: A Devotional Journey. Visit

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Let Freedom Ring --Is that Cliche'?

I posted this photo on Facebook. Accompanying the photo was a post that said, We replaced our flag today. Seems we're the only one on the street who STILL keeps an American flag flying YEAR ROUND. To long as we have men and women serving this country--they deserve our loyalty and allegience. Thank you for keeping us safe. May God bless your service.

A couple of folks responded they still fly their flag, others had replaced their flags on a regular basis. And then I got THE ONE response that made me shake my head and sigh. "The picture is of confederate flags."

To that I had to respond with "Sigh." The point of the photo (other than it was a great' shot) was to honor ALL our service men and women. I wanted to say, "Duh....reckon! I'm from the south. And you know what real die-hard southerners say, "The South's gonna rise again!" But I didn't.

Instead, I started to think about the state in which our country resides. Those Confederate flags simply marked 18 young men who'd given their lives for FREEDOM...they believed deeply in what they fought for, and their sacrifices became a somewhat iconic representation of the faithfulness of the spirit of this country...even when we fight among ourselves.

I wondered if we've allowed our own cockiness and yes, complacency, to let "freedom" become cliche? We've become so comfortable and "fat" in our wealth (and yes, Americans are extremely wealthy compared to other countries. Most of us have at least two televisions, an iphone, two cars, a home, and a Wii. And let's not forget our cigarettes and liquor.) But we also have freedom.

Odd, don't you think, that we can't run to Wal-Mart and buy a bucket of freedom. We can't locate the newest version of freedom and download it to our computer nor can we really get our hands around it. Yet we have freedom and it cost us a heavy price.

I think about my dad's service during World War II, and how he literally bolted off of a landing craft onto a beach with bullets zinging past his head. My brother asked him, "Dad, where did you find the courage?"

Dad said, "It wasn't courage. It was a matter of survival."

Weeks later, he's shot through the neck by a sniper, patched up and sent back to the front--only to be hit by mortar fire and blown off a hill. Thank God he survived, not once but multiple incidents. Still with great pride, dad forged ahead...fighting for freedom. Grace was on Dad's side and he came home, but many of his friends didn't. The mental picture that lived with him after the war, never went away. What a price to pay...all for freedom.

I suppose my point of this soap box, is the flags this country has seen over it's 200+ years of history all represent men and women who went willingly into battle for the freedom we enjoy.

Sure, the flags in the photo were Confederate flags but the lives who stood behind them helped shape this country and bring her to the freedom she enjoys.

I can't pass a man or woman in uniform without sincerely offering them my gratitude. We are so fortunate to have faithful people who still believe in the values and freedom of this country.

We raised our American flag at the onset of the first Gulf war. This same flag has flown relentlessly on our front porch through every drop of rain, every ray of sun and every snow fall. It's never come down because our service men and women still serve in the rain, the snow and the heat.

Our flag is pretty worn, in fact, it's faded, tattered and fragile and I hated to retire it this week. Some said, give to to the Boy Scouts and they'll retire it properly. But I can't do that. In fact, I bought a special bag for my flag and today, I'm removing it from it's pole, folding it neatly and storing it in the bag. The new flag is beautiful and bright, but the old one still holds a great value to me. 24 years worth of honor for those who stand and those who have fallen for MY benefit.

Thank you soldiers! Every one of you. And thank you parents who sacrificed your babies. I pray that this country will go to her knees and pray and that God will hear us and heal us. We've become somewhat perverted in our thoughts. But I have hope. I have faith. I believe in Christ and in His blessings on the freedom we maintain.

No, to me...freedom is not cliche! What about you?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14