My brothers and me with Mom two weeks ago. Back: Me, Jay; front: Jim, Mom, Jeoff
Mom’s Old Bible
With yesterday's passing of my mother, I recall one night having taken a good look at her Bible. The crumbling cover and dog-eared pages brought back memories of bedtime prayers. I thought of Mom when she was Mommy.
An inscription from Dad dated the Bible from before my birth. Mom’s maiden name, Bonita G. Thompson, was barely readable on the cover. Two references were penned onto the dirty first page. One – John 3:5 – was unmistakably written by my oldest brother, Jim.
The backward scrawl reminded me of the years when the old Bible was passed around, carried to church, and claimed as “mine” by three different boys. Mom didn’t often get to carry the Bible herself while we were growing up, but we frequently found her reading it at home when we came in from paper routes or baseball games.
On another page is an inscription from Dad. “To Bonnie, in loving remembrance of October 21, 1942 – Your devoted Red. Matthew 19:6.” He had been nearly 19, she 16, when they were engaged. World War II and his 32 months in the Pacific delayed their marriage until December, 1945.
Scanning the pages, I noted several of Mom’s markings, countless underlinings of promises and passages that look to heaven.
The penciled markings had faded, and the inked jottings had bled through to other pages. But the evidence remained of well-listened-to sermons and cherished hours alone in the Word.
On the final page, she wrote “Psalm 37:4,” referring to the verse, “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” That last inscription is framed by the doodling of youthful hands. One of the desires of Mom’s heart was that her little boys would grow up and do something more profitable with those once-small hands.
Mom’s first desire, she often told us, was that her four sons would make decisions to trust Christ. We have all done that. Mom seemed to always delight herself in the Lord, a continual encouragement to do something constructive with the hands that scribbled in her Bible so many years ago.
Mom’s old Bible reminds me of her hands – hands that held, spanked, mended, and wiped tears; hands that produced a magic knot in the shoelaces on my three-year-old feet.
Mom’s hands turned the pages of her old Bible for me until I learned to read it myself. entually she turned them for her grand-children and great-grandchildren, passing along her love for the Word to yet another generation.
Today Mom delights herself in the very presence of her Lord, and her old Bible has become another evidence of her legacy of faith.
Among the many significant points Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul conference keynoter Angela Elwell Hunt (left) made at our meeting in 2005 was this: “Perfection is elusive; polished is certainly within reach.”
One of the questions that arose in CWG Managing Editor Andy Scheer’s (left) and my Thick-skinned Critiques writing workshop was, “How do you know when you’re finished editing, re-writing, and polishing?”
That varies for every writer, but the operative question is when do you quit making a piece of writing better and succeed only in making it different?
The answer — that intuitive knowledge — comes with experience.
When I was a child and it was my turn to clear the dinner table and wipe it down, my mother would say, “You’re not cleaning it. You’re just rearranging the dirt.”
I watch for that when I work on my own writing. Job one is to get the first draft down, that hunk of meat that now needs to be carved, that version I wouldn’t show anyone.
I begin each writing day by editing what I wrote the day before. That serves as a springboard to launch me into the day’s writing. Then when I have finished the entire manuscript, I go through it again for a final polish.
I know many people write and re-write chapters and sometimes entire manuscripts six, ten, a dozen or more times. If that’s what they need to make it the best they can make it, more power to them. I have learned that for me, writing one day, editing the next, and polishing when the whole thing is done, works best. Past that, I’m not making it better; I’m making it only different.
If I have any niggling doubts about the product, some conviction that I can still make it better, I work on it until I’m satisfied. I never want to turn in the second-to-last version and count on my editor to salvage something I know isn’t up to snuff.
I still need an editor, of course. Everyone does. But I am committed to make the writing the best I can do before submitting. As a former publisher and editor, I enjoy surprising my publishers with low-maintenance manuscripts. The thing I most long to hear from an editor is, “This manuscript came in really clean and won’t take much work.”
Whatever it takes to send in your best work, that’s what you want to strive for.