Sunday, November 7, 2021

Learn to be a Writer with a Hammer

by Audrey Frank @AudreyCFrank

For my teacher, Jerry Jenkins, who is showing me to how write with a hammer without destroying grace in the process. (I’m sure he can take a hammer to this post and make it more succinct.)

There was a time when names carried destiny. I believe they still do in the hands of Providence.

According to the custom among Jews in his era, Gospel author John Mark had both a Hebrew name (John, meaning ‘God is gracious’) and a Roman name (Mark, meaning ‘large hammer’). It is commonly believed that he wrote the book of Mark to a Roman audience, hence the use of his Roman name. The Hammer had much to say about God’s grace.

What an amazing combination! Maybe that is why Mark was the shortest, most succinct of the four Gospel accounts—half the length of Luke. The Hammer knew how to kill his darlings to make his point with precision and force without shattering grace.

What can we writers learn from the Hammer?

Dive right in to the deep end.

From verse one, Mark seizes our attention. We know what this story is about, and we want to know what happens.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—

“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness…
(Mark 1:1-4)

Mark teases the reader from the start by making a flash reference to Jesus, then making us wait to meet Him.

Condense context so we can get right to the story.

It’s pretty astonishing to me that Mark, who never attended Jerry’s Guild or Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass, knew how to incorporate over seven centuries of context in two sentences. What a relief! Let’s get on with the story! I see. Jesus was the Promise-Fulfiller, the Messiah, the Good News we have been waiting for all this time. I can’t wait to learn more.

(See how many sentences it took me to say all that. Anyone got a hammer?)

Don’t shrink from failure.

Failure is a theme through Mark’s gospel. Failure of the disciples to understand Jesus’ teaching and purpose (Mark 4:13; 7:18). Failure of the scribes and Pharisees to understand who Jesus really was (Mark 8:11; 10:12). Failure of Jesus’ followers to endure to the end (Mark 14:50). Failure of the women at the tomb on Resurrection morning to push past their fears and declare the good news that He is Risen, Indeed (Mark 16:8)! 

Was Mark acquainted with failure in his own life? What made him so sensitive, so observant of the failures in those around Jesus? Many scholars agree the young man who ran after Jesus on the night of His arrest, only to flee from authorities naked in the end, was in fact a cameo the author included of his own greatest failure (Mark 14:51-52).

Perhaps the Hammer might also rightly be called the Writer Whose Words were Remembered Despite his Failures.

Hmmm…. Our Hammer is living up to his other name, God is Gracious.

Mark inspires us to push past our failures with hammer force, grabbing hold of Grace Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ, the protagonist in Mark’s great work of non-fiction.

God’s Grace Hammer brings hope to the failed writer, help to the procrastinator (go ahead and write that first sentence with power!), and perspective to our POV. 

Out of our failures, Jesus gives us words that change lives.

Jesus is our Power and our Perspective, and with Him, we can write words that will be remembered long after we are gone.

Lord, teach me to be a better writer. Use my failures to tell the true story of Your great grace. Amen.

Audrey Frank is an author, speaker, and storyteller. The stories she shares are brave and true. They give voice to those whose words are silenced by shame, the hard things in life that don’t make sense, and the losses that leave us wondering if we will survive. Audrey and her family have spent over twenty years living and working among different cultures and world views, and she has found that God’s story of redemption spans every geography and culture. He is the God of Instead, giving honor instead of shame, gladness instead of mourning, hope instead of despair. Although she has three different degrees in communication and intercultural studies, Audrey’s greatest credential is that she is known and loved by the One who made her.

Audrey is the author of Covered Glory: The Face of Honor and Shame in the Muslim World (Harvest House Publishers), an outpouring of Audrey’s heart to introduce others to the God of Instead. Shame is not unique to the developing world, the plight of the women behind veils, young girls trafficked across borders; shame is lurking in hearts everywhere. Through powerful stories from women around the world, Covered Glory illuminates the power of the Gospel to remove shame, giving honor instead. Available at favorite booksellers: BARNES & NOBLE , BOOKS A MILLION, AMAZON.


  1. Thank you for these words of encouragement--we never hear them enough.

    1. Glad I could pass a gift from Father to you today. Blessings to you.

  2. Well said, Audrey! Like Mark, you've conveyed a lot of information in a few words. Thank you.