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