No Whip-Poor-Wills Or Applesauce Cake

Flowers in the North End that resemble flowers on Walton’s Mountain

For Christmas 2021, my husband gave me the complete DVD set of The Waltons (a TV show from the 1970s). If I recall correctly, we began watching it straight through sometime in February, finishing with the six epilogue movies shortly after Thanksgiving. We own several DVD sets of other TV shows, and had almost decided which of them to watch next. But as the final show closed with Earl Hamner reading the voice-over of John Boy’s journal entry, I knew I wanted to go through the series again.

John Boy’s character is based on Earl Hamner Jr., who grew up in rural Virginia during the Depression era. Like Hamner, John Boy is an aspiring writer, writing mostly about his family and Walton’s Mountain. He writes with simplicity, and yet with a poignancy that often astounds me. I especially love his descriptions of the mountain at night, with its sounds and smells intermingled with fond memories of his family as they bid each other good night.

As a child, oddly enough, I had no patience for descriptive passages. I much preferred dialogue. But Earl Hamner and John Boy had such a way of using words, that they transport me to their world of whip-poor-wills and applesauce cake and younger siblings who cause irritation and joy. Each time John Boy or Earl Hamner reads the prose that supposedly flow from John Boy’s pen, I find myself wishing I could make my words paint such beautiful pictures. Perhaps the exquisite quality of those brief moments inspired me to go through the series a second time.

Watching Season 1 this time has given me some insight into why different writers have — and need to have — different styles of writing. In Season 1, John Boy is just beginning to think about being a writer, so various people give him advice on where to start. He already writes what he knows, eliminating that cliche counsel that permeates practically every book, movie and TV show about budding writers. But people do tell him to write what he’s passionate about. So he writes about growing up on Walton’s Mountain, where the songs of whip-poor-wills fill the night air and the fragrance of his mother’s applesauce cake winds up the staircase into his room.

I don’t write like John Boy or Earl Hamner. Blogging about Scripture and Biblical truth doesn’t lend itself to the lyricism that I love so much when I watch The Waltons. And that fact disappoints me more than I admit (even to myself).

Often, when I lay awake listening to my husband sleep, I think of how lovely it would be to write descriptions of places I’ve been and people I’ve known. I’ve never heard whip-poor-wills sing, but I’ve smelled dogwood and magnolia trees during summer twilights in Memphis. I have no idea how applesauce cake tastes, but I remember the cool texture of a cannoli in Boston’s North End. My memory swirls with campfires in California and lambing season in Wales. But none of those things, as much as I’d enjoy putting them into words, further my passion for writing about the Lord and His Word.

Whip-poor-wills don’t prepare anyone for eternity, and cannolis from the North End can’t teach women discernment. Only God’s Word has those abilities. Blog posts expounding on Titus 2:3-5 lack the nostalgic feeling of simple memories like irritating yet endearing younger siblings or summer days roaming through downtown Boston, but hopefully the Holy Spirit uses some of those posts to encourage women in their walks with the Lord. Articles exposing false teachers and/or their theological errors certainly don’t possess much lyricism, but they might, by the grace of God, keep someone from falling into deception.

When push comes to shove, it’s more valuable in light of eternity to pour my passion into writing about God’s truth and His glory. Idyllic pictures, as beautiful as they are, give nothing more than a temporary good feeling. Those temporary feelings have their place, most assuredly — I see no harm in relaxing in the evening with an episode of The Waltons, a good novel or telling your husband stories from your past. But sooner or later, we need writers and podcasters to bring our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Sooner or later, beautiful prose must become secondary to sound doctrine.

Occasionally, a Christian blogger can use words to convey lovely emotions. In fact, writing about the Lord should evoke warm feelings as we contemplate His love for us. I hope some of my articles move you to excited anticipation as you think about His return and the eternal Kingdom where we will see Him face-to-face and worship Him in the fullness of His glory. Please don’t misunderstand this post as saying that writing about the Lord must be dry and boring.

Rather, understand that I can’t write like John Boy or Earl Hamner because I have a different purpose than they had. If, once in a while, I get to describe a place vividly or let you feel something as I’ve felt it, I’ll be pleased. But I’ll be even more pleased if you catch my passion for the Lord and the purity of His Word through my writing. Eventually, all the irritating and endearing siblings say good night to John Boy, and we turn the DVD player off. But

“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.” ~~1 Peter 1:24-25 (NASSB95)

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