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RAISINS IN THE OATMEAL: THE ART OF ILLUSTRATING SERMONS

Anyone who must preach two different sermons on Sunday and a third on Wednesday, plus teach, give children's sermons, and offer "a few words" here, there, and everywhere, knows the power of good illustrations. They bring fresh air to musty monologues. They grab the heart as well as the head. They help apply truth to life.

That's why I collect, make up, steal, borrow, and beg them from everyone. My three-by-five card file of illustrations is so cherished I keep a picture of it in my wallet to show friends.

"Get a load of this baby," I say. "Beautiful tan finish, full of laughter and babble, always ready to raise a smile. Everything from anecdotes to zoology. Of course, there are the occasional messes and 2 A.M. feedings, but its all worth it."

Even more crucial than keeping the box full is the problem of use: how do I match the right illustration with the right situation? Too often we hear a good joke and instantly begin sniffing for a place to tell it. Any time will do, so long as it occurs ...

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