Was Frodo Called To Be The Ring-Bearer?

Frodo, Sam, GollumI’ve been thinking about God’s calling, in part because of recent fun-poking at Christian writers who believe God has called them to write fiction. I am one such writer.

The question often arises, How do you know? Does God call audibly? Is it something forced upon you? Does it fall into your lap? Does God wire your DNA so that you create with words whereas others create with paint or clay?

As I’m finishing up Lord of the Rings, I’ve considered that the protagonist, Frodo, felt called to his task of bearing the One Ring, even as his faithful servant and friend Sam Gamgee felt called to go with him.

Frodo, of course, initially inherited the Ring. He actually tried to get rid of it, first offering it to Gandalf, then proposing that they throw it away or try to destroy it. Finally he agreed to take it to the wise elf in Rivendell who, he believed, would know what to do with it.

Once he reached his destination, however, he learned that someone would need to take the Ring to Mordor and throw it into the Crack of Doom to unmake it. And he volunteered to be that someone. He felt it was his job to do. He felt … called.

This week I read of a group of real-life people who took up a calling, too. Persia’s king Cyrus issued a proclamation that whoever wanted to go up to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of God, could go, with his blessing and aid. A group of exiled Jews responded and went.

But here’s the significant thing. Scripture says that “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:1b – emphasis mine) to make that proclamation. Further, it says that the people went “even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:5b – emphasis mine).

Might not this “stirring” be the best way of understanding a calling from God? According to Strong’s lexicon, the word for “stir” means “to rouse oneself, awake, awaken, incite.” In context, then, God awakened or incited Cyrus to act and He awakened or incited the people to go.

Why is it a stretch to imagine that He still stirs people today to do things He wants us to do?

Back to Frodo. When he made the decision to head off to Mordor bearing the One Ring, no one told him to do it. He knew within his heart that it was his job. It is this knowing within the heart that I think God puts into a believer from time to time. Not always, certainly. And not everyone.

The prophet Samuel anointed David as king over Israel, but not every king was so anointed. I’ve wondered as I’ve read 2 Chronicles how some of these kings were chosen. Often they were not the oldest son, so it wasn’t because of a traditional line of inheritance. With an exception or two, no mention is made of them being anointed by God. A couple were made king by the people, and Egypt once removed a king and put his brother in place. Babylon also removed a king and put his uncle on the throne.

Clearly those people who had the office thrust upon them could know their calling. But what of the others? Absalom wanted to be king and died trying to usurp the throne. He was not called to be king. Solomon clearly was.

All this to say, I don’t think we can know today who God has called to do what–apart from what He calls us to do. And even that will have its moments of doubt when we might try to give the job to someone else or extricate ourselves some other way or if we simply doubt whether or not we can get it done.

Gideon felt that way. He couldn’t understand why God was calling him to lead an army against Israel’s oppressors. He asked for confirmation, and asked for confirmation. Then God said, if you’re afraid, sneak down to the enemy camp and I’ll give you more confirmation. Gideon went–which meant he was afraid. But sure enough, God gave him yet more confirmation.

In the end, he led that army. His doubts about his calling didn’t stop him from doing what God wanted him to do.

For David, it was Saul’s opposition, not his doubts, that interfered with his calling. Because God called David, Saul tried to kill him. Despite his anointing, David obviously questioned his calling, or else he would not have left Israel to live with the Philistines.

We can look at Gideon, David, Solomon and know they were called because we have the end of their story. It’s another thing to recognize the stirring in our own hearts.

Frodo knew he was the Ring-Bearer, that the job was his to do, though he might perish in the attempt. He had no assurance of success simply because he had assurance of his assignment. That I think is the true picture of someone called of God. Writers included.

Do Christian Writers Read Enough?

You hear it all the time as part of author interviews or writing instructor advice–read, read, read, and then read. But why? Shouldn’t writers be more concerned about writing, not reading?

The truth is, reading is as important to learning to write well as listening was to learning to speak. As children, we didn’t learn to speak by going off to a corner by ourselves and babbling in baby talk. If that’s all we did, day in and day out, we would never have learned what we were supposed to say when we wanted up or Dada or more.

Not only did we learn our vocabulary from listening, we learned sentence structure and grammar. If you had parents like mine, they corrected you if you said, I seed a dog or I swinged high. But chances are, you didn’t make those mistakes more than once or twice because you never heard your parents make them. In other words, learning to speak comes from imitation.

Learning to write is similar. By reading good stories, writers imitate, unconsciously, how to structure a plot, create conflict, develop a character, enhance the mood, establish a pace, and much more.

The thing is, writing fiction is not a static endeavor. Like language itself, it’s dynamic and therefore, what worked for Mark Twain back in the nineteenth century isn’t necessarily going to work in the twenty-first century.

Hence, part of a writer’s work is to read current fiction–good books that are coming out this year or last.

We’re having a discussion over at Spec Faith about Christian speculative fiction writers, and Fred Warren left a comment that said in part,

We buy each other’s books and trade “critiques” that are mostly affirmations and then wonder why the rest of the world (or the rest of the Christian fiction community) doesn’t understand how great we are.


But is Fred wrong?

I’ll say this. I’ve asked questions in posts at Spec Faith before about what current Christian speculative stories people are reading, and the results have been discouraging. Sure, if we opened the question up to the classics, everyone had read Tolkien or Lewis or Chesterton or MacDonald. Beyond that, few authors came to the forefront.

Is that because there are no good Christian speculative writers today? No. I could name a half dozen with ease. But shouldn’t every Christian speculative writer be able to do the same thing? Shouldn’t we know who is writing in our genre and who is at the top?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t also read general market fiction as well. There are good, quality stories that we can learn from though we must be certain we don’t decide simply to write a clean version of those books. Christians should want more than a baptized retread, and Christian writers should want to offer the “new song” God can put in our mouths, not an old song with bleeped lyrics.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

CSFF Blog Tour – The Telling by Mike Duran, Day 1

I find it ironic that the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring back-to-back books dealing in a fictitious way with very real spiritual entities. In August the subject was make-believe angels and here in September our featured book The Telling by Mike Duran deals with make-believe demons.

In some ways The Telling is more controversial, in my opinion. Whereas there was little resembling Biblical angels in Eye of the Sword and hardly any mention of God, The Telling refers often to prayer, faith, prophecy, the Bible, and God. And fallen angels. In fact the physical appearance of these fallen angels fits the Biblical description of certain angels found in several passages (see for example Ezekiel 1:19 and Revelation 4:7).

But there is a departure with what these fallen angels/demons are capable of doing. In Scripture they are described over and over as possessing a human and being “cast out,” implying, of course, that they are in. The pretend demons of The Telling act in an entirely different way. They, in fact, are not your run-of-the-mill demons operating in rebellion to God, but they have broken free from God’s confinement of them–also a pretend event since it would be pretty impossible to break free from omnipotent God.

So the question comes up again: how OK is it to portray real beings in a fictitious way? Some might compare this kind of portrayal of the supernatural to that of humans as good rather than sinful. Or immortal rather than mortal. Or capable of shedding the human body in order to imitate a supernatural spirit rather than joined inextricably, body and soul and spirit.

In other words, does a Christian writer anchoring his story in reality (as opposed to creating a fantasy realm) have a responsibility to convey the supernatural truthfully, reflecting what Scripture says? How much leeway is there for the imagination?

Frank Peretti was one of the first contemporary novelists who explored the spiritual world using his imagination. Reportedly, he had no intention of showing demons as they actually are, if for no other reason than that Scripture is largely silent about the appearance of “unclean spirits.”

We know what they believe (that God is One–and it makes them shudder). We know they are the object of spiritual warfare, that they possess people, that they can produce supernatural feats, that they recognize who Jesus is. We do not know how they look or even if they can be seen. At various times Scripture records people seeing angels. I don’t recall an incident in which they saw evil spirits.

So how should someone read a book like The Telling which portrays demons as real, with the capacity to take from a human and acquire a body? It’s fanciful, though couched in the context of a man wresting with his faith and his calling. Can readers embrace the one and dismiss the other without the two becoming entangled? And if they mistake error for truth, is the author responsible or the reader?

Do novels need disclaimers these days–the events you are about to read are fictitious; any similarity to actual events or people is purely coincidental.

I suppose we should also discuss whether the label “Christian” adds a particular burden of truthfulness to a novel.

I’ve lobbied for the distinction between truth and Truth in fiction–the former portraying the human condition truthfully with no attempt at presenting the greater spiritual Truth, whereas the latter aims to incorporate both. But what about a novel that portrays some spiritual Truth on the way toward addressing the human condition truthfully? Does some Truth negate the inclusion of the imaginative that might be mistaken for more Truth?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

I’d also recommend you visit other CSFF members participating in this tour for The Telling (links below, with a check mark linking to a tour article). I suspect this subject might be visited by one or two others.

– – – – –

Truth In Fiction, Or truth In Fiction?

Among Christian writers there is this ongoing debate about what our fiction should look like. I’m convinced the differences stem from purpose. Not overall purpose. I believe writers on both sides of the fence who say they want to glorify God, mean what they say. However, some believe they do so by writing the best story possible, while others believe they do so by writing a story about His work in the lives of people.

The former writers maintain that a well-written story must be realistic and therefore show the human condition as it is, F-bombs and all. Life is messy and not everyone comes to Christ in the end. Atheists who Christians pray for still die of cancer without making a public profession of faith. Christians have unfaithful spouses and give birth to autistic children. Some get fired, and some have ungodly elders who manipulate and bully the flock they should help to shepherd.

These writers want to write truthful stories.

On the other side, however, are writers who also want to write realistic fiction, factoring in that God’s forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ is real. Life is messy, but God can use the mess to greater purpose. People experience forgiveness and release from the stranglehold of sin. God answers prayer. He changes people inside out and that makes a difference.

These writers want to write Truthful stories.

Think with me for a second about Abraham’s nephew Lot. The truth about his life isn’t pretty. Given the choice, he picked the best land, the fertile valley near Sodom. Eventually he moved into town. When God brought judgment on the sinful place, Lot hesitated to leave. The angels finally had to pretty much drag him to safety. He argued with them about where to go, and then changed his mind when they accommodated him. Having lost his wife and isolated from the rest of civilization, he allowed his daughters to get him drunk and sleep with him. Both got pregnant, so Lot became father to his grandsons. Now that’s messy. And truthful.

But there’s also something Truthful about Lot that we learn in 2 Peter.

If [God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, (2:6-9 – emphasis mine)

The bottom line of Lot’s life is that he was righteous and that he served as an example for us to know that God rescues the godly from temptation. That’s Truthful.

But here’s the pertinent point for this discussion about fiction: the author of Genesis never mentioned Lot being a righteous man or that he served as an example for others. The truth about Lot’s life just lay there among the stories of faithful Abraham and obedient Noah and scheming Jacob, letting the reader come to his own conclusion.

Until Peter came along, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the Truth about Lot’s life.

My belief is, we need both–truth and Truth. We obviously need both in Scripture or God wouldn’t have given us both. But I believe we need both in fiction, too. How great if writers working toward one or the other would see those aiming for the opposite as partners completing a picture rather than inferior or misguided.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

The Misconception About Weaker Brothers

Since I discovered an online group of Christian writers, there’s been discussion about what ought or ought not to be allowed in Christian fiction. Can writers address difficult topics–adultery, pornography, abuse. Is magic OK? How about cussing and swearing, when the character in question surely would cuss and swear in real life if he or she were in the situation of the fictitious individual. Then there’s sex, or any suggestion of sex, promiscuous or other wise. Can it be shown, should it be shown?

Inevitably someone brings up the idea of not offending the “weaker brother,” a concept taken from Romans in a section of Paul’s letter dealing with not eating meat offered to idols. This is usually understood as a “gray area”–an activity not clearly defined, but one which Paul seems to say it’s better for the strong believer to give up his freedom for the sake of the weaker brother.

From that point the debate may rage about who is actually the strong brother–the legalist or the one enjoying freedom in Christ–and whether or not Paul is giving weaker brothers the right to dictate legalistic behavior to the rest of the church.

This issue becomes a problem because of a great misunderstanding–the belief that eating meat offered to idols was a gray area. It was not.

When Paul first began preaching Christ to the Gentiles, there was a council in Jerusalem to discuss whether they needed to abide by the Mosaic Law. As a result, “the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter.”

They examined Scripture, they listened to Peter’s testimony about the Holy Spirit manifesting Himself among the Gentile believers, and they listened to Paul and Barnabas’s witness about the miracles performed among the Gentile converts. In the end, here’s what James concluded:

Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols . . . (Acts 15:19-20a)

Whether James was the final authority or whether he was merely voicing the decision of the gathered church leaders, this decision was the one they passed on to the Gentile churches, delivered by letter. In this communication, they added one other significant fact. Here’s the pertinent statement:

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols . . .” (Acts 15:28-29a–emphasis mine)

In other words, the church leaders had no thought that this was something they personally preferred. They understood this to be a sure direction from God.

There’s more. In Revelation 1-3 John records Christ’s message to seven churches. To two of them, he chastises them in connection to eating what has been sacrificed to idols. First to the church in Pergamum:

‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.’ (2:14–emphasis mine)

Granted the actual eating of that which was sacrifice to idols was something the people of Israel did, but Christ was explicit with the church in Thyatira:

‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.’ (2:20–emphasis mine)

There’s no idea here that eating meat offered to idols was a “gray area,” a take it or leave it, depends on whether or not your conscience bothers you or not, issue. It was wrong. Clearly wrong.

So what was Paul going on about?

He was addressing two particulars. First, some people, in order not to eat meat offered to idols accidentally, decided to become vegetarians (See Rom. 14:2). Second, some people decided they needed to research any meat they ate to know if it had been offered to an idol–including what they bought in the market and what they were served when they went to someone else’s house for dinner.

About the first matter, Paul said, don’t criticize each other–the meat eater (not the meat-offered-to-idols eater, because there should not be any believes who would fall in that category) and the vegetarian. One position is not better than the other.

Regarding the second issue, he essentially said, Don’t ask. In other words, it wasn’t their responsibility to go out of their way to find out the history of the meat they ate.

However, if a weaker brother who felt compelled to do the research, told them that the meat they were being served had indeed been offered to idols, then they needed, for the sake of the one who told them, to refrain from eating.

What does that have to do with writing and the subject matter an author can or can’t include in his fiction? Very little. Unlike the issue of meat offered to idols, we have no explicit command about what we are to put in our fiction. We know we are to refrain from coarse jesting, taking the Lord’s name in vain, unwholesome words, but does that mean our characters must refrain in the same way?

Similarly we are to be self-controlled, patient, joyful, kind. Does that mean all our characters are to exhibit those qualities? Add in the fact that we ourselves don’t live the holy lives God calls us to, and it seems logical, then, that our imperfect characters should act imperfectly.

There’s one more thing to keep in mind, though, and it does have to do with thinking about others. I’ve argued before that swearing in literature is harmful to the reader in ways that other “sins” aren’t. As a reader, I “sub-vocalize,” or essentially pronounce the words to myself. I’ve discovered that when I read a novel with considerable swearing and cussing, and I’ve been sub-vocalizing those words for a time, I begin to think them when I’m away from the novel. My choice then, for myself, is to avoid books laden with bad language.

In no way do I want second rate or inferior stories, however. I want what the classics offered–great stories which, for the most part, didn’t require expletives. I believe Christians can write such stories.

Do they have to? This is not a meat-offered-to-idols issue. Otherwise it would have a cut-and-dried answer. Whatever else Christian writers find in Scripture to guide their decisions, I would hope we put to bed the “weaker brother” argument because that’s a different discussion and not applicable to the determination of content in fiction.

Examples And Patterns

In a recent post “Art: Painting Inside The Lines” I mentioned God providing Moses with a pattern for the tabernacle He commanded the people of Israel to construct. This idea of creating a pattern seems to be one of God’s ways of working.

In a very bold, dramatic move, He chose a people of no special standing and set them apart to be holy as He was holy. The idea was, the nations around Israel would see this relationship God had with His chosen people and how He blessed them, and they would therefore acknowledge God as God.

First God set Himself up as the standard of holiness. Next He set Israel up as the model for relationship.

In another bold move, He later gave His Son as the One to whom believers are to be conformed. In other words, Jesus is the “gold standard,” and we are to allow God to mold us and make us after His image.

The Apostle Paul even writes that we are to be imitators of him as he is an imitator of Christ.

Patterns, examples, standards. You’d almost conclude a model is worth a thousand pictures, and we know what a picture is worth.

Here’s my question. How is it that Christendom has adopted so much of the culture, as if the culture is the pattern, the standard, the example?

We see it in churches that adopt a “business model” and try to “sell” Christianity or their own local assembly.

We see it in Christians trying to produce a moral nation rather than working to make disciples as Jesus instructed.

We see it in Christian bloggers who decide to “heresy hunt” rather than love our neighbors when Jesus clearly said our love would be what the world would be attracted to.

But I have to bring it home to my own industry. We see it in Christian writers who imitate secular writers and popular content rather than setting the standard and dictating the trends.

I just read a somewhat related blog post by Rebeca Seitz—not about writing but about marketing/promotion, not about content but about strategy. That’s OK, I think her point is well made.

We can fuss and fume and complain, or we can lead. Set the pattern. Invite others to follow.

Of course I don’t think that’s something a Christian should decide apart from God’s direction. Even in our leading, we still need to be followers first.

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm  Comments Off on Examples And Patterns  
Tags: , , , , ,

Salvation And The Christian Writer

As I was talking with a writer friend the other day, it dawned on me that what I believe about salvation shapes my attitude toward fiction.

By way of background, there has been from time to time, a group of writers who plea for Christians to free their art from any “utilitarian” purpose, such as preaching the gospel.

I’ve been on the fence to a great extent because I do want Christians to write fiction that stands the test of time, and that’s usually a work that bears some kind of mark as “art.” However, I believe wholeheartedly in the idea that a “utilitarian” theme is necessary for fiction to be great art—if the writer doesn’t say something meaningful, then why would that story be around tomorrow, let alone fifty years from now?

But here’s the intersection between that point and my realization about salvation. If a Christian has certain views about salvation—a “God’s sovereign so I have no part in salvation” view or a broad understanding of who is saved (from some form of universalism to a belief that the sincere or the “good” or the consistent are saved)—he may feel little or no urgency to carry the message of Christ to the dying world. (Of course, a third option might be a “let them burn” lack of concern for the lost, but then I’d wonder about the genuineness of that person’s profession of faith).

Am I saying that every piece of fiction a Christian writes should have the gospel message embedded? No, I don’t think I can make any determination what other writers should write. Let’s just say I understand the divide better.

Some writers, myself included, look at fiction as our opportunity to reach thousands of readers, some who may have yet to hear the message of forgiveness in Christ through his redemptive work at the cross. These writers feel an urgency to get this message out to as many people as possible. The world, as we see it, has one and only one hope—Christ Jesus—and here we sit, holding this vital information. How can we watch people stream by our doors day after day and do nothing?

A writer with a different persuasion has no such sense of urgency. Fiction, instead, may be an exploration of spirituality, a personal journey of discovery regarding spiritual matters.

The difference in purpose makes perfect sense based on the difference in theology.

Ironic that some people don’t realize the importance of understanding our own belief system. I recently read a blog post about how dreary it is to read about such topics as original sin (hmmm—wonder if the writer had a particular blog in mind. 😉 ) when what we should be doing is getting out from behind our computers and living like Christians.

I certainly agree that we should live like Christians. I simply think that includes my moments behind the computer.

What fiction writers understand is the need to know our characters at the level of their beliefs—that’s what makes their actions properly motivated. Real life is the same way. Our beliefs inform our actions. How critical that we know what we believe about something so eternal-life giving as salvation.

Published in: on September 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , ,

Prayer and the Christian Writer

I’ve done a number of posts at least tangentially on the subject of prayer, but never one specific to writers.

Because in the last post I talked about fear that writers deal with, it seems appropriate to talk about prayer next. Of course, we must remember what prayer is NOT.

  • It is not a means of manipulating God to do what I want.
  • It is not a means of cashing in on God’s promises (put in my prayer and in a few days God’s answer comes via Express Mail).
  • It is not wishful thinking.

Instead, prayer for the Christian is first and foremost communication with our Creator God who loves us. He who by His omniscience knows my thoughts better than I do still wants to hear from me. In fact He has commanded that I pray.

Prayer involves the Trinity. I am to bring my requests to the Father in the Son’s name by the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer necessitates my searching out God’s will and aligning my heart accordingly.

Prayer can include requests for my needs, even my physical needs, but God can do much more than what I ask or think.

So what does this have to do with the Christian writer? I tend to think that the things we writers fear are not the things we pray about. Too often we believe that we should handle the problems within our reach … apart from God.

Perhaps we never say “apart from God,” but our small prayers about improving our writing skills, getting an agent or a contract, finishing projects on time, completing edit changes, and so on would indicate we aren’t heartily relying on God for these things that cause us to be anxious.

But what happens when we pray for a contract and one doesn’t come? Has God let us down?

Let me ask this, When Jesus prayed that the “cup” of crucifixion pass from Him, and God said no, was that a failure on God’s part?

Clearly not. Jesus didn’t “get what He wanted” … except He did. He finished His request with, Not my will but Yours be done. And the Father’s will WAS done.

Can I look at my writing the same way? This is what I’d like to see for my work, God, but do with it what pleases You. Bring the agent you want me to have; the contract you know would be best; the readers you want to touch through my writing; the opportunities to promote in a way that will glorify You, not me.

The more I learn about God and about prayer, the more I tend to think I am only whispering requests for a few of the “biggies” when He wants me to boldly call out loud regarding anything I’m concerned about.

And here’s the incredible thing. He usually does expect us to do what lies within our grasp to do.

So what does prayer change? Me. No longer am I doing what I can do in my strength. I’m trusting in God, relying on Him, and consequently giving Him the praise.

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 9:27 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

Fear and the Christian Writer

I’ve mentioned Pastor Alistair Begg enough that regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction may realized I listen to him on the radio most mornings.

Interestingly his broadcast ministry, Truth for Life, has begun airing a series of sermons on the topic of anxiety. I say “interestingly” because a friend of mine has been posting about panic attacks. Soon after her latest, Mike Morrell—whose article “Is God a Recovering Practitioner of Violence?” was the catalyst for my post (and the ensuing pages of comments) “Attacks on God from Within” (followed by two related posts “The Emerging Heresy” and “Attacks against God from Within, Part 2”)—also posted on his own experience of severe anxiety.

All that to say, the topic of fear/worry has been on my mind, and I can’t help but apply it to the writing world since that’s where I live.

I think we writers are a fearful bunch on the whole. Those who aren’t in the profession might be surprised at all we can find to worry about. Here are some I’m aware of.

  • The ability to finish a project
  • Writing a query/proposal that will grab someone’s attention
  • Rejection by a preferred agent
  • Rejection by a publisher (any publisher)
  • Finding someone to endorse the book
  • Receiving editing letters
  • Making changes
  • Meeting deadlines
  • A bad cover
  • Bad reviews
  • Poor sales
  • Not earning out (writer-speak for not making as much money for the publisher as they had expected—it makes getting another contract dicey)
  • Book signings
  • Setting up a Web site
  • Time management
  • Blogging
  • Not blogging
  • Speaking
  • Not speaking
  • Book tours
  • No book tours
  • Radio interviews
  • No radio interviews
  • A new book idea
  • Another contract
  • Failure
  • Success

Throw in an economy that still has buyers proceeding with caution and the digital revolution that will profoundly affect the book business, and writers have good cause to fear.

Or do we?

I think about the people of Israel making a break for freedom, fleeing from Pharaoh and his army straight for the Red Sea. Yes, their lives had been hard, but were things getting any better? They were going into the unknown and to get there had to escape the pursuit of a fully equipped army, then survive the wilderness. Oh, yeah, on the other side awaited giants they’d need to fight.

No wonder Moses addressed the subject of fear with some frequency in Deuteronomy. Here’s a sample:

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,’
– Deut 1:29-30

“You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.”
– Deut 7:21

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
– Deut 31:6

Has God changed since those days? Will He fail me or forsake me? Perhaps He’s no longer great and awesome. 🙄

Writing may seem like a wilderness most days, and the unknown might to be the only constant. But maybe anxiety-producing circumstances are a good thing.

The more I feel unable to manage, the more I realize how much I need God.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , ,

Is God for Christian Writers?

Romans 8:31 makes an astounding claim through a rhetorical question: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

The “us” Paul is talking about refers to those of us foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God—spelled out for us in verses 28-29.

The “us” also refers to those of us in Christ Jesus, who no longer face condemnation (v. 1); to the sons of God, led by the Spirit of God (v. 14); to the heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ (v. 17); to those who hope for what we do not see and persevere while we wait (v. 25); those the Spirit helps in our weakness (v. 26a); and those for whom the Spirit intercedes because we don’t know how to pray as we should (v. 26-27).

So back to Christian writers, can we proclaim that God is for us? Or are we some brand of lower-form Christian who can’t count on God’s promises?

I hope you realize I’m being factious. God IS for Christian writers, and Christian teachers, plumbers, bus drivers, politicians, waitresses, lawyers, nurses … The point is, what we do as a profession can no more separate us from God’s love and promises than any of the powerful things listed in verses 38-39.

Yet I think many of us are tempted to respond like Moses did when he, with shoes removed, stood before the burning bush—I can’t God. I’m not good enough; the job is too big; Pharaoh is too strong.

You’re right, God says. You can’t, you aren’t, it is, and he is—too strong for you. But not for me.

To Paul, when he begged God to remove the physical ailment that tormented him, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (II Cor. 12:9.)

So I wonder. Do I believe God is for me as a Christian writer? Will His grace be sufficient for ME? Will His power be perfected in MY weakness?

Or is the publishing industry too stacked against me—Christians against fantasy and general market against Christians. Are agents and acquisition editors too cautious, too narrow in their focus, too hesitant to step out and serve God boldly? Are all these things too insurmountable for God? Or does He not care? Is He as myopic as the readers who can’t see beyond the Christian cloister?

I feel blasphemous just writing such tripe.

God is for me as a Christian. Would He somehow forget that He also called me to be a writer?

Of course He doesn’t forget.

Can I then conclude He will give me a six figure contract?

I can’t even conclude He will give me a contract of any figure.

However, I can conclude that He will take me where I need to go, that He won’t fail me or forsake me. That He’ll be with me, go ahead of me, even fight on my behalf.

So why, why, why am I standing around with my shoes on when I should be face to the ground in worship of the One who is for me?

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: