“A good essay is like a lady’s skirt,” she said, “long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting.”

I can still picture her standing there in front of my writing class in the high school library. She was preparing us for our first term paper. “A good essay is like a lady’s skirt,” she said, “long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting.” It is amazing what things stick. I write mostly in essay form probably because of my wise English teacher, Mrs. Lillian Hesketh. She was one of my early encouragers. She made it known that she liked my writing.

Recently, I discovered a quote applicable to this subject by the great German physicist Albert Einstein: “Many times a day I realize how much of my own life is built upon the labors of my fellow man and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”

We are all products of our experiences and influences. My mother and brother were my primary literary influences. They both loved what I call good literature. My brother had more time to read. His books, mostly classics and historical works, filled a complete wall of his home. My mother and brother’s love for memorizing great poetry was not completely lost on me. The Bible was first and foremost among my mother’s books. I can still picture Brother Bob sitting in his reading chair with his Russian novel or Civil War history. I usually chose tthe chair in front of the TV.

About five years ago, a few of my cousins began to share their knowledge of our Russell family history. One of my pleasant discoveries was the love of poetry of the grandfather I never knew, James C. Russell. I learned that my mother’s papa, James Cunningham Russell, committed several great poems to memory. We found an original poem of his handwritten in Spanish. All this to say, I did not choose this multi-generational heritage; God did it for me. Who influenced Grandpa Russell’s love for “Lord Ullin’s Daughter” by Thomas Campbell? It was God and probably his mother, my great-grandmother, Margaret Borland Russell, a school teacher.

As I sat down to write The People of God, this was the platform on which I stood. I stood upon the labors and passions of others that made up my heritage. My heart must be engaged before words become relevant.

In making career decisions, I finally accepted that I could not endure being an attorney when it meant scanning volumes of tort law in order to graduate and pass the bar exam. Reading a technical manual on any subject for me is torture. But give me a good story in beautiful prose, or the historical narrative of “The Book of Ruth,” in the Old Testament, and my eyes well up with tears. I understand fully why and how my mother’s heart was captured by the Word of God. Prophecy engaged my heart and my whole being. Words had power with me.

For me, writing has been always about expressing something unique and important the best way possible. Why try to say something that someone else has already said- and did it better? It is sharing in written form an insight that, perhaps, before you no one else but God knew. It is using the germ of an idea someone else planted and taking it past their boundaries to an incredible world beyond. This is the realm of inspiration.

Hidden treasure is the underlying theme of The People of God. The treasure is not new. Someone first collected it, placing it carefully in a secret spot. The joy is in discovering what has long remained hidden and sharing the discovery with seekers.  

The truth is, as the preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. My insights are not mine alone. Instead, I have to go back to the originator for inspiration. Hidden treasure is the underlying theme in The People of God. The treasure is not new. Someone first collected it, placing it carefully in a secret spot. The joy is in discovering what has long remained hidden and sharing the discovery with seekers.

Long ago, at creation, the Lord deposited large veins of gold in his earth. Someone had to find a nugget, and then more and larger nuggets of gold before the riches under the surface were discovered. It may not be the same miner. Casual miners rejoice in the gold nugget and go off to spend their new found fortune. Serious miners take the pick and shovel and dig deeper.

For me, the large vein of gold which I uncovered I call “the Israel mine.” The Israel vein, named after the twelve tribes of Jacob, are connected to all the other veins of rich pure gold in the mine we collectively call prophecy. Am I the first to find the nuggets? There is no question that I am not the first. But I am the only one I know that is shouting as loud as I can, “I found the mother lode!”

(End of Part 4)

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