This post is a continuation of the interview I had with Deb Elkink about the spiritual views and lifestyle adopted by Brother Lawrence, whose writings I’ve been studying on the first Tuesdays of each month this year. Deb kindly offered me her educated opinion on the truths overlooked by Monk Lawrence in his mystical, contemplative approach to the Christian life…


DEB: Let’s get back to our discussion of Brother Lawrence, mysticism, and The Practice of the Presence of God. Remember that correct theology comes from what we read in the Bible, not on what we feel in our hearts (Psalm 19:7-9; Romans 10:17; Jeremiah 17:9). Our authority is Scripture; we trust the Bible’s propositions, not emotions—something Brother Lawrence, as a contemplative seeking a sense of peace, seems to have ignored in favour of looking within his “centre” to find “union with God by love” through direct experiences that bypassed the intellect. In his final letter, just days before his death, he wrote, “Let us seek Him often by faith; He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere.”

JAN: Reminds me of the song lyrics from Desiderata, played back in my high school days, “Therefore, be at peace with god, whatever you conceive him to be…” This language is vague and general, and definitely unbiblical.

DEB: Yes, we hear it used as well by Eastern religions desiring union with God by annihilation of the self. Call me a skeptic, but alarm bells ring when I read that “perfect resignation to God” gives “spiritual light” and a “sure way to heaven,” for God “reposes . . . and rests in the depths and centre of [my] soul.” Instead, we know that Scripture is the source of spiritual light giving assurance of salvation (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 5:11-13).

According to this book [The Practice of the Presence of God], we are to “enter into ourselves” and empty the heart of all things “so that God can possess it”; God cannot act and do in the heart what He pleases “unless it be left vacant to him.” But we know that it is God who works in us in our sinful state; He alone does the doing (Philippians 2:13). For all Brother Lawrence’s insistence that he’s focusing solely on God, he sounds to me as though he’s self-focused.

The Reformation was based on the return to the authority of Scripture over the traditions of religion. Brother Lawrence also seems to have disliked the traditions of religion—but in his overreaction against the authoritarianism of his ecclesial and legalistic milieu, it seems to me that he threw out the baby of Scripture with the bathwater of religiosity.

JAN: Thanks for explaining the theology behind that for me and for my readers. Are there any other discussions we can go to for further clarification on this issue?

DEB: Yes, I found a wonderful (if a rather long) article for the theologically minded about the effect of mysticism on Christianity, written by the Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield. I suggest your readers focus on the first dozen or so paragraphs, so as not to be overwhelmed by the volume: http://www.reformedliterature.com/warfield-mysticism-and-christianity.php

JAN: What are the basic points of this article we should keep in mind as we evaluate Brother Lawrence’s writings?

DEB: Concentrating on the first part of Warfield’s article, I’d say to keep in mind the following:

  • Religion is humanity’s reaction to the presence of God.
  • True religion that holds authority comes to a human from without and is not a creation from inside a person’s spirit.
  • Mysticism appeals to feelings as the source for divine knowledge, and emotions are pitted against conceptions (that is, articulate thoughts).
  • The form of religious expression resulting from these feelings depends upon personality and worldview so that, for example, mystics with a Christian background might substitute “the Christ within” for “the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Orthodox evangelical Christianity interprets all religious experience by the Bible, which alone guides, directs, and corrects.
  • A quote from Warfield: “We lack all criteria, apart from the written Word, to distinguish between those motions of the heart which are created within us by the Spirit of God and those which arise out of the natural functioning of the religious consciousness . . . Mysticism is simply . . . pantheism expressed in the terms of religious aspiration.”

JAN: Thanks so much for your input today, Deb. I value your opinion and your heart for truth. Let us continue to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 1:3).

JAN AGAIN: I’ve done some more reading, had some in-depth discussions and prayed about this polarity between “Christian mysticism” and “Bible only” mentality. While I believe we must run everything through the filter of God’s Word, and that Jesus Christ and His sacrifice is the only way we can know God, I am sensing more and more of a hostility toward anything that reflects personal differences and preferences, and it frightens me. My friends, let us strive for God’s truth, for unity of spirit, for love and for balance. Sometimes we must even agree to disagree and still be brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us present a unified front, a welcoming picture of what belonging to God’s family looks like. We are, after all, to be a reflection of Christ, the only one some people will ever see.

P.S. I am by nature a peacemaker and not a pot-stirrer, so this discussion has been a challenging and stretching one for me. I pray you will accept it in the manner in which it was intended. Discussion is always welcome, but I request that it remain a discussion of ideas, not a venue for personal offense.


As much as I love this writing life—the time alone to create and revise and dream—it’s hard on the body. I’m not a naturally athletic person, so my morning walk or afternoon bicycle ride is a continual struggle, never mind hourly stretches.body stretch

But we must persevere or we will become stoop-shouldered and myopic from staring at the computer screen, our hands frozen like claws over the keyboard, our butt one with the chair and our feet numb from lack of movement. What can we, as writers, do to ward off the effects of the repetitive nature of our calling ?

First, I think, is to move occasional1415252227q782rly. As I admitted above, this is a hard-won habit for some of us, but it must be adhered to if we wish to remain mobile and healthy. Excuse me while I fetch another cup of tea and run up and down the stairs

Second, a longer period of exercise is to be encouraged most days. I aim at a walk or bike ride at least 5 days a week, and if I get to it on the weekend, it’s a bonus. I’d rather get some exercise now than end up taking a lot of pills later for muscle issues and a crooked skeleton.

Third, an ergonomic desk and chair is a great addition to our workspace. Mine is relatively inexpensive. The important consideration is to make sure the chair adjusts for height and angle and armrest placement. I have no problem with changing writing locations. Some people write in their armchairs, or at a local coffee shop, or at the kitchen island. I’ve tried all of these and find I like my office desk in daylight hours, but will drift to the island or couch after supper. I can’t write in a coffee shop, but that’s a personal preference. I’m too distracted watching people and worrying about them watching me!file0001552953619

Some writers I know have standing desks so they can stand as they work at the computer instead of remaining in the chair for hours and days and weeks. It’s an option you might wish to look into.

One suggestion I have, besides finding a decent desk and chair, is to follow a fitness blog such as that of Kimberly J. Payne. She offers weekly fitness and food tips, books about fitness, a podcast on health matters, and other cool and healthy ideas.

Kimberley J. Payne

Kimberley J. Payne


So let’s unclasp our clawed hands, rise from our writing chairs, roll our shoulders back and breathe deeply. Grab another glass of water, and it’s back to work.

When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t even know if I could write enough of a story to warrant a book with actual covers. However, as time progressed, I realized I’d have not one book but two, and eventually three, in the series.

I was an absolute newbie when I submitted the manuscript for my first book, and the smaller press I contracted with didn’t always use the pattern I’d heard about from other royalty published authors. It was a learning experience, but we managed it.

Then, through a series of events that would sound like coincidence if I didn’t believe in the leading of God, I emailed an agent and he agreed to look over my second book contract, for a reasonable fee. I received some good advice, as well as his willingness to represent me to my publisher.shaking hands

One result of this alliance was a somewhat better contract for books two and three, but another was the fact that I can always contact him when I need advice, or an intermediary between my current publisher and me. The world of book publishing is changing so quickly I can’t keep up, but my agent is in the thick of it and gives me information as well as advice and support. Over the years, I’ve been most thankful that I have an agent, and that he is approachable and willing to share.

So back to the question: Do I need an agent?

I suggest the benefits are very good. Many of the existing publishing houses do not accept un-agented author submissions, so that cuts out quite a number of options. Also, having someone “in the know” offers protection and confidence. He or she may also know the reputation of smaller, newer publishers and be able to advise.

Even if you don’t need an agent, it’s helpful to have one, and very beneficial for most authors. Remember, although you will be sharing a percentage of the royalties from the book sales (usually about 15%), you don’t pay an agent until he or she sells your book. A bona fide agent will never require fees for services outside of your royalty agreement.

The acquisition of an agent is another matter. As I said earlier, it was a series of God-nudges that brought me to my agent. The usual process is to submit a request for representation, much like submitting a manuscript, and find out which agents are seeking/accepting clients, and if you would be a good fit. I can’t say too much on this because I haven’t experienced it, but check the world wide web, make a list of agencies that appeal to you, and write up your agent-query email. Then send it out and see what comes up. Nothing will happen unless you step out and make the first move. Here are a few suggestions…

All the best in your search.

51rd4QcSVQL._AA324_PIkin4,BottomRight,-57,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_Without Proof is a powerful Christian romantic suspense by Canadian author Janet Sketchley. It is the third book in the Redemption’s Edge series. Both print and e-book release on November 10, 2015 (that’s today).

Almost two years after the small plane crash that injured AMY SILVER and claimed the life of her fiancé, GILLES RENAUD, a journalist suggests foul play may have been involved. Gilles’ best friend, MICHAEL STRATTON, and his great-aunt have taken Amy in as family after the accident, allowing her to heal through rest and helping Michael in his art studio.

The thought of sabotage brings back not only Amy’s sorrows, but also fear. Who would want to harm Gilles? Or her? And why? Questions multiply as inquiries progress.

Someone, maybe several people, do not want an investigation into the crash. Could it be Gilles’ parents, who blame Amy for what happened, or Gilles’ sister, who has a thing for Michael and wants Amy out of the way? And who is sending her the text warnings to call off the investigation? The source seems more insistent than sinister, at least at the beginning. As the story unfolds, Amy watches Michael’s increasing anxiety turn to obvious distress. Yet he won’t tell her what is causing his concerns.

In the midst of these troubles, Amy’s father contacts her. He has never taken an interest in her after his fling with her mother that resulted in Amy’s birth. Why would he want to meet her now? Why should she bother to establish a relationship with him?

Through it all, Michael and his aunt continue to pray for Amy, and to encourage her to trust God with her problems. But they don’t realize that God would never accept her, and Amy refuses to tell them why.

As she struggles with fear, loss and trust issues, she also needs to deal with her growing feelings for Michael. Does he think of her only as a friend or has he promised Gilles he would take care of her?

A story with so many questions is always a great read, especially when the author expertly answers them at just the right time. I enjoyed this story immensely, particularly because it has so many levels of interest: suspense, faith, romance, mystery, depth of character.

Author Janet Sketchley has crafted a tightly-written novel in Without Proof. Her characters are credible and realistic, with problems, concerns and secrets that make the reader care from the first page onward. Even the minor characters have sufficient storylines.

My favorite character is Aunt Bay, whose energy, faith and dynamic personality add depth, humor and pacing to the story. She’s someone I’d like to emulate. On the other hand, I couldn’t stand Gilles’ sister, or the fact that Michael couldn’t seem to see through her charade. Again, well done, Janet.

The settings in the novel are researched well enough that we feel the cold breeze as we stand with Amy on the roadside at the crash site, hear the water as we walk with her and Michael down to the shore at the back of his property, relax as we listen in on her conversations with Aunt Bay in the warm, welcoming kitchen.

I thought the plot progressed steadily, with lots of tension and suspense, and then the ending revealed another entire layer of story that had been taking place in the background. It made me want to start all over and read it again. Note to the reader: do not skip to the end or read the bonus chapter until you have read the entire story, or you will spoil the ending for yourself.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in suspense. The faith themes are an organic part of the whole experience, as is the romance, which is sensitively handled by the author. Also, check out Janet’s first two novels, Heaven’s Prey (2014) and Secrets & Lies (2014). Each of these novels is a stand-alone book, but they share characters in common, so it’s fascinating to read them in order and see the world of Redemption’s Edge characters expand.









Author Janet Sketchley

Author Janet Sketchley






Meet Author Janet Sketchley:

I’m a Canadian author who loves stories with strong characters, adventure and hope. My novels, Heaven’s Prey, Secrets and Lies, and Without Proof (coming Nov/15) are stories of suspense and redemption.

Fiction’s my passion, but my story in  the award-winning anthology A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider really happened.

Random facts: My super-power is untangling yarn and Slinkies™; there are over 50 varieties of tea in my house; I’m Canadian but I worked at the busiest McDonalds in London, England; I’ve taken basic fencing lessons; and I once rode an elephant.

I’m also a wife, mom, daughter, friend, neighbour… a Christian growing in faith, trying to balance relationships and responsibilities. Can you relate?

If you like Christian suspensesign up for my newsletter. Every month I’ll send you an email with news and fiction tidbits.

Because of Jesus,




[Today’s post, as well as the one coming up on the first Tuesday of December, will be more discussion-by-interview than devotional, but check out the linked biblical references for your own edification.]

Since January, I have been studying the little book titled The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, using individual sections for the monthly devotional blog on my website. Responses are always welcome, and have been positive.

However, among these encouraging comments have been two from my dear friend and fellow author, Deb Elkink, that deserve further discussion ( these comments are from July 7, 2015 and October 6, 2015. Please hit Read Full Post to see Comments).

Today I’d like to introduce you to Deb and summarize her reactions, not so much to my posts as to the writings and beliefs of Brother Lawrence, on which my blogs have been based.

Deb is a multi-talented woman, with experience in writing, cooking (large scale), ranching, sewing (designer Vogue dresses and costumes) and homeschooling, to mention a few. She has a pilot’s license, a B.A. in Communications, an M.A. in Theology, as well as two published books: The Third Grace (a literary novel), and Roots and Branches: The Symbol of the Tree in the Imagination of G.K. Chesterton. Deb is committed to “contending earnestly for the faith [doctrine] once delivered” (Jude 1:3), and she has agreed to share her thoughts with us.

JAN: Deb, would you give us a brief summary of who Brother Lawrence was and what he believed?

DEB: He was a 17th-century German religious mystic who believed he’d found the secret to higher spiritual life. Today’s evangelical church is “rediscovering” the writings of Brother Lawrence, which stand in contrast to the Reformation’s five key beliefs known as the solae (Latin for “alones”): Based on Scripture alone, we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone.

JAN: What are the particular errors you detect in his belief system?

DEB: First of all, The Practice of the Presence of God is easy to read and to devotionally apply through our filter or bias of biblical evangelical Christianity. One can only applaud this man’s thirst for God (Ps. 63:1), and his literary expression is as almost as enjoyable to read as the metaphysical poets Blake and Donne and Herbert.

However, Brother Lawrence was a monastic who sought a “higher” spirituality and emotional tranquility through the discipline of contemplation; prayer for him was sensing God’s presence. Like other mystics with whom he is associated (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon), Brother Lawrence eschewed intellectual knowledge of the written Word of God as source and authority of truth, instead focusing on subjective experiences (of self-emptying and detachment) to define sanctification.

JAN: Please allow me to interrupt your train of thought. This (what I’ve italicized above) is an aspect of the book I had not recognized. I did note that although “God” is mentioned often, the name of Christ is very rare. That should be a flag for us as we seek truth.

Please join us December 1 for the rest of this interview.


Thorns of Rosewood. Suspense fiction at its best!Thorns

Gloria Larson has moved to Rosewood, Nebraska, ostensibly to take over the small town’s newspaper, but her real reason is to find her birth mother. The unwillingness of her adoptive parents to help only pushes her to follow her heart and her curiosity.

What Gloria does know is that her birth mother was accused of murder. And back in 1974, a woman named Naomi Waterman Talbot disappeared. No body was ever recovered, so no one was prosecuted. Suspects in the unsolved case include four women, known by area residents as the Thorns of Rosewood, who now reside in the Meadowbrook Assisted Living facility.

In her determination to find the truth, Gloria interviews the Thorns and is surprised and shocked by what she finds out. In the process of their time together, Gloria and the elderly women become close. She wants to believe the best of them, but are they guilty of murder? What really happened to Mrs. Talbot? And which one of the women is Gloria’s birth mother?

Author G.M. Barlean weaves a story of cunning and treachery, of loves won and lost, of betrayal and misplaced justice, all wound tightly together with cords of tension. The protagonist’s search for her birth mother is motivation enough for her to find the truth. She’s willing to risk all in order to find out what her adoptive parents and now the Thorns have been hiding from her.

Barlean’s characters are fully developed and consistent, strong and quirky enough to be real. There were times I became confused between the four elderly women who continued their bond of faithful friendship through time and trial, but the story still played out well.

I especially enjoyed the settings, the background colors of the story. Small town life came across clearly, whether it was the 1950s or the 70s, or the present. The author describes the homecoming dance in 1950, the entrance of Naomi Waterman in her “silky red dress…pointy-toed black spiked heels…long red hair.” (Location 629) She mentions Mickey’s Dime and Drug on Tenth Street where the girls sipped sodas and malted at the long shiny counter with bright red stools. (Location 754)

The element that keeps the plot twisting is the unanswered question: what really happened in ’74. And just when we think we have the answer, one of the Thorns says, “I’ll tell you what really happened that night.” This story kept me reading late into the night to find the answer to the story question, and it was well worth the effort.

I read this story on my Kindle app, but it’s available in any digital format you might like, as well as in print. The print version runs at 327 pages.

Barlean offers a sequel to Thorns in her next novel, Flames of Rosewood. NOTE: Since I posted this blog, I bought and read Flames of Rosewood. You can find my brief review on Goodreads, titled “Sequel Disappointment.”

Note: This blog was first published in Carolyn Wilker’s e-newsletter: FineTuned.

When I began writing fiction, I discovered myriad methods of handling details, from charts and graphs to worksheets and templates.

But does accuracy really matter in fiction?

Accuracy includes not only details of setting and history, which are significant, but also character and plot development, which are more important, in my opinion. Inaccuracies put the author’s integrity in question. Having said that, there are limits.

Cristina Hartmann states in “Authenticity in Fiction: It’s Not About Accuracy,” that “if you’re reading a story for the factual accuracy, you’re in the wrong aisle of the bookstore.” She suggests that small flaws in accuracy that don’t affect plot or character don’t matter all that much.

Hartmann goes on to say, “a work must be accurate enough to create a believable world that allows readers to suspend their disbelief.” Whatever world we introduce to our readers, we are responsible to maintain consistency, and to avoid mistakes that make them stumble.

If we step into a stream of unsubstantiated facts, we might reconsider our direction. Moira Allen suggests in “Does Accuracy Matter in Fiction? – Part I” that “when it comes to research, if you don’t know and you can’t find out, it’s probably better not to write about it at all.”file0001167812349

In my experience, I’ve had to make educated guesses as to the validity of particular research. If several sources suggest varying perspectives of a historical character’s motivation, for example, I must weigh the facts and decide on the most probable scenario. A matter of opinion is just that and cannot be proven.

There will always be readers who know more about our topic or setting than we do. We should acknowledge correction with grace and carry on, or fear of imperfection can cripple our writing.

How do we achieve accuracy? We combine careful research, common sense and hard work. We employ fresh eyes to check our stories. We learn from valid criticism and move forward.file8411260069817

Does accuracy in fiction really matter? Yes…but not to the point of stalling our creativity. If we commit to do our best, that will be what matters most.

%d bloggers like this: