Posted On Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 7:20 PM
A few weeks ago, my family and I were walking to one of our favorite restaurants, when I asked my son (who was about to turn six), if he owned his own restaurant, what would he call it?
Without taking even a moment to ponder the question, he answered "Gatos Marteis." I'm guessing at the spelling; he pronounced the second word mar-TACE. Gatos is, of course, Spanish for cats, but I'm not sure why my son would know that, since his school teaches Chinese as its foreign language. I have no idea what marteis would mean or what language it would be.
I asked what kind of food they would serve. Again, without missing a beat, he said, "Italian." He promptly invited me to be a partner in this enterprise and we began brainstorming (meaning, I asked a bunch more questions about our restaurant). Further highlights include:
You can eat on the roof, and there are FIVE roofs
They have a song there, and there's a party every Saturday
They will be open for one full year, 24 hours a day, and then closed for one full year (to build anticipation? Perhaps he stole this idea from AMC?)
The sign will have a green background and white letters and a piece of pizza under it. And the writing will be in Greek.
After dinner, we went down the street to get some ice cream and I, wanting to broach the subject again, said, "You mind talking a little shop?" My son looked at me, confused. "About Gatos Marteis," I said.
"Yeah, we can have a little shop there," he answered. "Let's do it!"
This kid, like most kids, spends 99% of his waking life imagining stuff. (Largely involving the defeating of ninjas and the transforming of vehicles into robots). Writing fiction means you get to keep that part of you alive and in good health and even get paid for it. Which is awesome.
You mind talking a little shop? Next time you've got writer's block, try the five-year-old approach, which is also the improv approach: don't think; react! What's the restaurant called? Gatos Marteis! Can you eat on the roof? Duh--there are FIVE roofs. You know how to generate creative material from nowhere. Remember that. Your first instinct may not be the best, but it will do until something better comes along.
Easter is relatively late this year. That usually makes me
happy. Not because I want to put it off or even because I need more time to
prepare for Holy Week (although that never hurts), but because it means we’re
that much more likely to have a sunny, bright, pleasant day for our Easter
celebration. That’s good for family photos, it’s good for the people wearing
new clothes, good for kids searching for Easter eggs. But most of all, it just feels right, doesn’t it?
The same way a White Christmas feels right. I get really
bummed when there is visible grass on Christmas. Or (worse) cold rain or sleet.
Or (worse yet) a giant ice storm that destroys the crab apple tree in my front
yard. Christmas is supposed to be cold, but calm—snowy, pretty, pleasant, and
of course silent. We have no idea
what that first Christmas night (or morn or whatever) was like, but we won't
stand for depressing rain or raging blizzards—not quietly, anyway.
Likewise, Easter is supposed to be warm, sunny, maybe a
comfortable breeze. And, let’s face it, we’re borderline-offended if we have
rain or, as was the case a couple years ago, thunderstorms. Why would God mess
up his own party like that? That’s just weird.
But here’s the thing: when the baby Jesus was born, he didn’t
enter a world that was idyllic, peaceful, silent, and serene. It was a world
where power-mad kings who thought they were gods demanded that people make
treacherous journeys so they could pay more crippling taxes, where governors
who thought they were kings ordered the deaths of babies in order to protect
their own thrones, and even the worship of the true God had become big business
that mostly benefited a few corrupt individuals at the top. That sounds a lot more
like a blizzard or an ice storm than a soft blanket of white snow.
And likewise when Jesus rose again—while he did indeed
conquer sin and death—he certainly did not leave his followers to enjoy a
perpetual nice spring day. In the wake of his resurrection came accusations,
man-hunts, conspiracies and cover-ups, stonings, beatings, floggings, and all
sorts of persecution.
That may be worth bearing in mind as we celebrate these
Is it good to take some time to enjoy a peaceful winter
night or a bright spring morning, gathered together, meditating on what Christ
has done for us? Of course! But if/when the weather refuses to cooperate,
perhaps that is just as well. Because it reminds us that Jesus’ first advent—his
coming in the flesh, living a sinless life, dying a substitutionary death, and
rising again on the third day—gives us life, not just when everything is
perfect, but in the midst of our own storms, whatever they may be.
Naturally, I’m praying for sun, chirping birds, and all manner
of pleasantness on Easter morning, but if the clouds burst, I pray I’ll be all
the more thankful that our Risen King is still the Risen King in the midst of
Last week, I had the pleasure of heading down to Nashville for the sales conference of HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson & Zondervan). It was an absolute blast, and I definitely didn't mind getting on the plane in 15° and ugly gray snow and stepping out to 75° and lots of SUN.
The conference itself was also pretty impressive. It was held in a TV studio and looked quite a bit like a talk show set. My editor Amanda interviewed me for about ten minutes. Sarah Ladd (author of popular regency fiction) was also on hand to talk about her new book.
An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, Zachary Bartels has been serving as senior pastor of Judson Baptist Church for nearly a decade. He earned his BA in world religions from Cornerstone University and his Masters of Divinity from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He enjoys film, fine cigars, stimulating conversation, gourmet coffee, reading, writing, and cycling.
His writing, with its combination of clean prose, tight action, and cutting humor, has been highlighted by The Grand Rapids Press, www.speculativefaith.com, uber-popular blog TeamPyro, and elsewhere. His next two books (both supernatural suspense novels) will be published by Thomas Nelson and will hit stores in October of 2014 and July of 2015, respectively. He lives in the capital city of a mitten-shaped Midwestern state with his wife Erin and their son.