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Friday, December 31, 2010

True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

How can we apply the meaning of Paul’s words to the media? Is there anything noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy on TV, in the movies, online, in video games, or in books? Besides, that is, very conservative Christian fiction or nonfiction?

There is an ongoing debate among Christian writers and publishers about what is acceptable in “Christian” literature, and, by implication, on TV and in movies. Is it okay for Christian writers to show violence, sex, or profanity?

Another question we may ask, is it okay for Christians to ever watch or read of these things?

Answers, of course, vary. What some see as gory, others will accept without qualms. And the real question is this: Can violence, sex, or profanity ever show things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?

On the surface, it seems not. How can the portrayal of sex or violence be any of these things? The Bible shows us how.

Although the examples are numerous, let’s just look at a few.

REACTIONS:

One example that shows a praiseworthy  or noble reaction to violence was when Stephen was stoned. We can’t deny that stoning is extremely violent. Yet, something praiseworthy came from this violence.

Let’s look at an example of a reaction to a sexual act. We certainly know what Potiphar’s wife had on her mind when she grabbed Joseph’s cloak. She told Joseph what she had in mind. Yet, Joseph’s reaction to her advances was pure.

Can the reactions be seen without the dishonorable actions? Doesn’t the action, whether violent or sexual, have to be shown to some extent for the Christian reaction to be seen? Of course.

ACTIONS:

Let’s go one step further. Do the actions of sex or violence ever have positive connotations? The Bible says yes.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrew 13:4

Sex is pure in the confines of marriage. How much “action” in the form of sex can be shown? Song of Solomon gives us an idea. Some of the actions are blush makers. Yet they are shown as pure and lovely.

How about the action of violence? Is it ever praiseworthy?

It is when in the defense of others or of God. The act of overturning the tables in the temple by Jesus has to be judged as violent.

Imagine someone entering our home and overturning a table. Definitely a violent action. Yet if a computer were sitting on the table with pornography on the screen, the violence is something that would be praiseworthy. (I’m thinking here of Fireproof when the husband takes a baseball bat and destroys his computer.)

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

I recently read a book by a well-known Christian author and found it too violent for my taste and stopped reading. Each person has their own threshold of how much violence is too much or how much sex is too much.

For me, sometimes it simply overloads my senses and I say, enough! Sometimes it depends on what I gain by the experience of reading a book, or watching a TV show or a movie portraying sex or violence. If I gain a greater understanding of human nature, I have a higher tolerance. Especially if there is a triumph over adversity or evil.

I will give you an example of this. I refused to watch Home Improvement. Why? Because the husband/father is constantly ridiculed. Yet, I watched Everybody Loves Raymond. The husband/father is ridiculed also, so what’s the difference? In Everybody Loves Raymond, everyone is ridiculed. I do not get the sense that the wife if far superior to Raymond. Furthermore, human nature is accurately portrayed. We clearly see the mistakes being made in the marriage and this can lead to greater insights in our own relationships. (And I watch the reruns still just because they’re hilarious.)

We wish to see life as rolling green hills, with a cottage surrounded by flowers. Butterflies flit through the air and rabbits hop about without a care. image

However, a bird swoops down to make a meal of the butterflies while a wolf hides behind the bush, waiting for the rabbit to hop a little closer.  Meantime, you’re in the cottage with your spouse . . . . (Fade out.) And, unseen, a dragon clambers up that hill.

Better get your sword out. For that is simply life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Joy of the Kindle

Those who are my friends on Facebook know I received a Kindle and a Nook for Christmas. My husband Carl is using the Nook and I’m using the Kindle.

I love the Kindle. And that comes as a shock to me. I’m a lover of books, especially the leather-bound ones,—not just the reading of them, but their beauty, and their feel when I hold them in my hands.

And I’ll always be a collector of hard-backed books and have them lining my book shelves. I’ve always wanted an English library with dark mahogany wood shelves lined with books, and with leather wing-backed chairs and a round table adorned with an antique globe. And of course a heavy mahogany desk with a leather chair. image

So, yes, I wanted a Kindle. It does hold 3500 books at a time. My house has always been overcrowded with books since I don’t have that English library in my home. So I thought I would like it, if only to cut down on the clutter. It shocked me how much I love it.

It is an absolute joy to read. My eyesight, as I’ve mentioned before, is deteriorating. The Kindle is much easier to read than any book I own.

Beyond that, it is so light and thin. It feels right in my hands. And it’s so easy to begin using. Hundreds (maybe thousands, perhaps millions?) of free ebooks are available. It takes less than a minute to download a book.

The Nook is pretty cool too. I haven’t checked out all of its features. It’s also easy to read, but is slightly larger, heavier, and thicker than the Kindle.

Okay, Amazon, where’s the money for my endorsement???

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It Is Finally Finished

I finally finished Thundersnow. I changed the ending so it took me a little longer than I anticipated  to make the ending seem natural.

The ending definitely leaves room for a sequel.

My emotions took me by surprise when I read this last chapter out loud to Carl. I didn’t cry while writing it (which I’ve been known to do) but cried like a baby when reading it.

It’s not a sad ending—not entirely. The whole book is sad as it deals with child abuse. Mainly psychological abuse.

And it has been gut-wrenching to get the story on paper.

I am so happy I’m through!

But the wave of emotions washing over me caught me off guard. I know this comparison has been made before and with good reason. But it was like having a baby. And you look down at your baby in wonderment, delighted the baby has ten fingers and ten toes—no matter if others see your baby ugly as sin—and are humbled that you played a part in the child’s birth and know, really know, the birth was a miracle.

And I’m reminded of perhaps my favorite poem, “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran, and have rewritten it, with apologies to the original:

On Books
My book is not my book.
It is words of Life’s longing for itself.
It came through me but not from me.
And though it is with me yet it belongs not to me.
I gave my characters my love but not my thoughts
For, perversely, they had their own thoughts.
I may house the words in the covers of a book
But they dwell in the house of tomorrow
In the eyes of the readers
Who will see them in their own way
And not seek to make them fit my conception.
For the words go forward and do not tarry with me.
I was but the bow from which the words
as arrows were sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends me with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let my bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

May I always bend in his hands and bow to his will as Thundersnow takes flight on its journey.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Life Is Like a Comet

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Moonlight: Reflections on Aging

Live as long as you may, the first twenty years are the longest half of your life.  ~Robert Southey

Those of us who have lived longer than twenty years can testify to the truthfulness of this quote. Just as a comet’s speed depends on where it is in it’s orbit, so the speed of our lives depends on the point we are at. Farther away from the sun, a comet moves slowly. As it nears the gravitational pull of the sun, it speeds up. image

Our lives also speed up as we approach the “sun.” When we are young, time passes with infinite slowness. Are we there yet? Is it time to eat? How many days until Christmas? And then comes the day when it’s, “Oh no, (we’re already there!) (we haven’t cooked yet!) (Christmas is tomorrow!)”

For most people, regrets surface as they age. Opportunities not taken. Love not expressed. Lessons not learned. The Bible admonishes us to “redeem the time.”

My father was not a demonstrative man. My father died at fifty-nine and neither of us told the other “I love you.”

I tried on the day he had surgery, but my throat constricted and the words couldn’t squeeze through. He died at two o’clock the next morning.

We are not promised tomorrow. God has given us time to accomplish his will for our lives, but we must not let the hours, or even the seconds, slip by for our lives become a blur the closer we come to facing the “sun.”

But much can be accomplished, even in our “golden” years. Here are a few examples:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien published The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, at the age of sixty-two.
  • The first edition of Roget's Thesaurus was published when Roget was 73.
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe finished Faust when he was eighty-one years old.
  • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott, the pen name of James Alfred Wight, was published when Herriott was fifty-six. He went on to write twelve more books.

Age is opportunity no less,
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Yes, much can be accomplished in our old(er) age, but why wait? We must redeem the time today before life passes us by!

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Living for God

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Sunset: Quotes and final thoughts on Dying to Self; Living for God

 

  1. All that matters is that I strive to please God. Humbling myself so God can and will lift me up.
  2. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. ~ Proverbs 11:2
  3. I have always had difficulty making a correct estimate of myself. Or at least I think I have. How do we know when we do evaluate ourselves correctly? Only God knows. However, I think if most people believe, for example, you make great Monkey Bread and you think it’s terrible, you have evaluated yourself incorrectly. Therefore, I believe we need to seek out the opinions of others, hopefully someone who is truthful, someone you can trust, and then receive the suggestions with an open mind and an open heart.
  4. Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self. ~ Charles Spurgeon
  5. I strive to approach my life with this attitude: to love God with all of heart, all of my mind, and with all of my soul, to love people in the same way, and to love writing so that I may convey that love to others. To write for love. To forget self and simply strive to please God. Right for God; Write for God.
  6. Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts.  It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.  ~William Temple
  7. To keep the right attitude takes time, patience, and a study of God’s word. I commit to taking the time to seek God’s will and not my own. To be patient in the waiting.
  8. All human wisdom is summed up in two words—wait and hope. Alexandre Dumas Pere
  9. However, while I am waiting and hoping, I will also be working. I commit to writing as often as possible and to platform building—whatever that entails--and in doing it in a Christian way. For:
  10. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4

Next Week: Christmas

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is It Possible to Promote Without Promoting Self?

image Moonlight: Is there a “right” way for Christian writers to promote their writing?

 

It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help. ~ Anonymous

Don’t call attention to yourself; let others do that for you. Proverbs 27:2

As a Christian writer, I strive to simply focus on God, and most of the time I am successful in forgetting self and focusing on God when I write.

However, what comes after the writing? Some may be content with the writing only and have no wish to pursue publication. But most writers write to be read. It would be great if others could discover our writing without our help. “Far more impressive” as the quote says. Yet, few, if any writers, are discovered today by accident.

I was naive about blogging when I began eleven months ago, thinking people would find my blog on their own. I do not blog to make money. Why, then, do I blog? I began because writers are encouraged to build a platform, and a blog is one plank in the platform. Once I started writing the blog, however, I found I enjoyed it, and I saw it as a means to serve God.

The more I blog, the more I see it as serving God and less as a way to build a platform. I like the idea of sowing the seed, and I truly believe God will give the increase (and he has).

Yet at times, I remember I’m suppose to be working on my platform. And, at that point, I face a dilemma. Do I promote my blog? Do I ask people to read? Not only to read, but to retweet or to share on Facebook? Many of my friends do not understand the importance of sharing my posts. Should I tell them to share? If I even ask someone to read, I cringe inwardly.

Would people think I’m using them? Would I be trying to make people do something they didn’t want to do? Would I be asking people to share something they may not like?

Another thing, do other writers think I read and comment on their blog because I want them to read and comment on mine? And the answer to that is no. I read because I genuinely enjoy the blog I’m reading. If I comment, it’s because I truly mean it. However, if I read their blogs, I also want them to take the time to read mine.

And another dilemma is getting people to leave comments on the blog. Do people not comment because they disagree with what I’ve said? As my friends and family know, I enjoy debating. I don’t mind when people disagree. It’s a great way to clarify my ideas and to change them if needed. I also don’t mind critiques of what I write. I welcome them, in fact. So please feel free to comment, whether you agree or disagree.

My husband and I recently read this in Proverbs: A spoken reprimand is better than approval that’s never expressed. 27:5 It reminds me of the saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. So fire away! My thoughts are not set in stone. I hope and pray I will always be open to correction.

And the ultimate dilemma will occur if I get my book published. Even large publishing houses expect their authors to self promote.

I suppose that’s why I’m concerned now. I would like to have a fan base established before I publish a book. That way I won’t have to push my book (while cringing inwardly) alone but will have others to help promote it.

I wonder how other published writers have handled this. Is it possible to promote your book without appearing pushy—without self promoting?

I know the answer is yes, because I have seen it happen. And I also know the answer is to let go and to let God.

My preacher used an illustration about trapeze artists on Sunday. He said God is the catcher. Our job is to release the bar. But, we must stretch toward the catcher. We must have our arms outstretched, or else the catcher cannot do his job. The question is, how far do we stretch our arms?