Author: Ava Pennington Page 1 of 9

Have You Ever Doubted that God is Good All the Time?

God is goodWhen a friend had successful cancer surgery, she joyfully announced the results, along with her conclusion that God is good. And the social media responses were positive and predictable:

 

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Do You Google?

Google and the InternetWhen I was 14 years old, I won the grand prize in a contest: a set of encyclopedias. I know—not very exciting, is it? But this was in the ancient days before computers, personal or otherwise. You’d have thought I won London’s crown jewels!

I was so proud of that prize. It replaced the 25-year-old encyclopedias my parents owned. This new set included photos and up-to-date entries. Don’t laugh—I stayed up nights just reading about various subjects for the pure joy of learning. Yes, I was a bookworm…or nerd…or geek…or whatever it’s called today.

Those encyclopedias took me through high school and into college. Back then, computers were the size of a room and programming really was a foreign language. As personal computing evolved, so did access to information. Eventually we were no longer restricted to physical books, or even a physical library, to satisfy our hunger for information.

The internet became the new frontier – the digital equivalent of the wild west. And search engines became our railroad for traveling this frontier. Search engines changed the way we access information. Lycos, Google, Dogpile, Ask Jeeves (which morphed into Ask.com), and Bing were just a few of the sites that helped us retrieve data from the World Wide Web. Their names were as creative and varied as the information they provided.

Still, information takes us only so far. The bigger question is, how are we using the information? Interpretation and application determine if the information becomes truly helpful, or if it remains an info dump or even a temptation swamp we wade through each time we turn on the laptop. Two potential quagmires readily come to mind:

Personal Impact

With all the blogs, tweets, networks, websites, and search engines out there, it’s way too easy to allow the information overload to sap our energy, drain our time, and influence our values as we passively take it all in.

Discernment is not a word we often hear these days. Yet, discernment is exactly what we need to process the information that’s so readily available. Depending on your perspective, search engine filters are either a necessary moral protection or a restriction on free speech. Still, even with the use of filters, we cannot abdicate our responsibility to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and minds by guarding our eyes and ears.

Writing Research

As writers, we also have a responsibility to be discerning in our research. Information is readily accessible for our writing needs, but just because we find data online doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Googling our questions is easy. Discerning how we use what we learn is more difficult. Whether we write books, magazine articles, blogs, or devotions, readers view us as having implied authority. We have a responsibility to investigate the accuracy of our research before we use it. As we’ve all heard, “Google, but verify!”

Each time I turn on the computer, the Holy Spirit calls me to be aware of the fine line between gaining knowledge and losing myself, both as an individual and as a writer. How about you?

What are you doing to guard both your heart and your credibility when you use the internet?

Using Words to Leave a Legacy

Using words to leave a legacyA pastor-friend once preached a message on how to leave a legacy. Legacies were on his mind because he had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had been thinking a lot about his own legacy, which in turn motivated me to think about mine.

I wasn’t sure I had a legacy, or if I even needed one. We don’t have children, and I considered the subject irrelevant. Still, his message struck a chord in me.

My family and friends have children and grandchildren. Most of the participants in the Bible studies I teach also have children and grandchildren. But physical descendants are not the only recipients of a legacy. I could choose to live in a way that passes the baton of faith to the next generation, even if the next generation is not my own.

Investing in these young lives isn’t just about teaching Sunday school or mid-week Bible study. It’s about spending time with the younger generation. Learning their likes and dislikes instead of complaining about our differences. Sincerely attempting to relate to their interests, even if I’m not always successful. Most of all, it’s about being interested in them as individuals.

More than thirty years have passed since I first heard that message. A few months ago, I began to wonder how effective I’ve been in investing in the next generation.

A partial answer came through Facebook during this past Christmas season. Several young people commented on childhood memories of decorating gingerbread houses at our home each year. Now married with children, they talked about carrying on that tradition in their own families.

Decorating gingerbread houses may not be especially spiritual. Still, I pray the candy and icing are only a small portion of their memories. Perhaps they also remember bits and pieces of our conversations. Maybe they don’t recall the conversations at all – but they remember a warm, welcoming, loving environment as we celebrated Jesus’ birth. And perhaps, that’s enough…for them and for their own children.

However, as writers—especially writers for children—we have the privilege of leaving a legacy another way. We can communicate eternal concepts with the gift of words. Whether it’s sharing the gospel or writing novels with a biblical world view, we can give our young readers a solid foundation. A solid foundation that will help enable them to grow into the godly men and women the Lord intends them to be.

May the words we write leave a legacy for the good of our readers, but most of all for God’s glory. Let’s use our words to fulfill the psalmist’s proclamation: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4 NIV).

 

* A version of this post first appeared on Ava’s inspirational blog.

More Than Called…

Called

Each of us has been called to serve our mighty God in a unique way. But we can become too busy fulfilling our call that we only focus on the “doing.” We want to do better—to write well, to teach effectively, to do whatever we’ve been called to do to the best of our ability

Yet our ability is limited. We often struggle with our inadequacy as we represent the King of Kings. And of course, and we seek His enabling to accomplish His purposes.

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Honoring the Bible in our Fiction and Nonfiction Writing by Ava Pennington

 

fiction and nonfiction

Do you know who Colonel Harland David Sanders was?

I’ll give you a few hints…white suit, string tie, white goatee, southern charm, and the originator of a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. Ah, you’ve got it now—the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, now known as KFC. But did you know that he was more than just a KFC marketing icon?

While you may recognize the Colonel as a real person, more than half of a surveyed group of 18 to 25-year-olds believe Colonel Sanders was a figure created by Madison Avenue marketers to represent KFC. They did not know he actually founded the company, and the white suit was not a costume, but his daily garb until he died in 1980.

Does this really matter? Perhaps not much. However, what does matter is that this is another example of the blurring between fact and fiction.

It happens time and again. What some know to be fiction, others believe to be fact. What some know to be fact, others believe to be fiction.

Three literary examples

The first is The Da Vinci Code, a novel written by Dan Brown. That bestseller has sold more than 80 million copies and has been translated into 44 languages. It also helped to revive debate over the possibility of an intimate relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, a relationship that has no basis in historical fact. Yet many people read this novel—a work of fiction—as true.

The second example is another popular novel, this one written by William P. Young, titled The Shack. In it, the main character encounters the triune God in the form of an African-American woman, a male carpenter, and an Asian woman. Some Christian readers castigate it for being irreverent in its manifestation of the nature of God. Others praise it for blessing their relationship with the Lord. Trouble can occur, however, when readers mistake fiction for truth as they determine their beliefs about the nature of God.

The third example is the Bible. For many, the Bible presents the opposite problem. People read the truth of the Bible, and dismiss it as fiction – ancient fairy tales created for simple minds in a simpler time. But the Bible is nonfiction. Its words are true and relevant to us today.

Can we be sure the Bible is true?

What about those who don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word? How do we address those who say that, at best, the Bible is filled with historical and scientific inaccuracies? That’s easy.

Archeological discoveries have repeatedly verified the historical accuracy of the Bible. Such finds have included the advanced civilization of Ur in Abraham’s day (Genesis 12), the collapse of Jericho’s walls (Joshua 6), and the power and influence of the Hittite nation mentioned throughout the Old Testament, but unknown in modern history until 19th-century discoveries.

When it comes to science, nothing in the Bible violates scientific laws. In fact, 2000 years before Christ, Job noted that the earth hung suspended in space (Job 26:7), while his contemporaries in other cultures claimed the earth rested on pillars or on Atlas, who carried the earth on his back. In the area of biology, scientists now know that four distinguishable cell structures support four kinds of flesh, while Paul clearly stated this fact in his letter to the early Corinthian church (I Corinthians 15:39). Any supposed discrepancies between science and the Bible occur when unproven scientific theory is claimed to be fact.

Finally, the Bible has been proven trustworthy in its prophecies. From Ezekiel’s description of Tyre’s destruction to Daniel’s visions of succeeding empires to the prophecies of Christ’s life and death, the Bible has shown itself to be reliable – without exception.

People may be confused about other books, but there is no reason to be confused about the Bible. It is non-fiction: true, reliable, trustworthy, and relevant.

Application to writing

So what does this have to do with us as writers?

First, we need to be convinced in our own minds that God’s Word is trustworthy before we try to influence others. Don’t be afraid of exploring objections to the Bible—this is a book that can withstand any amount of scrutiny!

Second, it’s important for us to be careful of the words we use to describe the Bible and its content. Referring to biblical accounts as stories is a common practice. But for many children, this makes it difficult for them to differentiate between biblical content and fairy tales. One way to prevent this confusion is to preface our telling with the assurance that this “story” comes from God’s true Word.

Finally, even though we write fiction and nonfiction that is believable, we do need to ask ourselves if our writing could cause readers to misinterpret or misapply Scripture. We don’t have to quote Bible verses to prove a biblical worldview. But what are we honoring as we write our stories?

What books have you read that seem to blur the line between fiction and nonfiction?  
How do you determine the truth about what you read?

Writing Quotes to Inspire You for the Journey

Writing Quotes

The Write2Ignite conference is over and you’re sitting in front of your computer facing a blank screen. Here are some writing quotes to help you reconnect with your passion and creativity!

  1. “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”  ~ E.L. Doctorow
  2. “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” ~ Mary Heaton Vorse
  3. “If the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
  4. “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~ Toni Morrison
  5. “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ~ Jack Kerouac
  6. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov
  7. “You don’t make art out of good intentions.” ~ Gustave Flaubert
  8. “There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” ~ Charles Dickens
  9. “Our passions shape our books; repose writes them in the intervals.” ~ Proust, The Past Recaptured
  10. “I keep little notepads all over the place to write down ideas as soon as they strike, but the ones that fill up the quickest are always the ones at my nightstand.”  ~ Terri Guillemets
  11. “Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”  ~ Samuel Johnson, 1791
  12. “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.” ~ Samuel Johnson
  13. “Let your accomplishments excite you, but don’t let them placate you. Let your rejections teach you something, but don’t let them paralyze you.” ~ Linda DeMers Hummel
  14. “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” ~ Tom Clancy
  15. “A good writer is an observant reader. Abandon any notions that reading is a luxury—the writer reads in order to write.”  ~ Linda Busby Parker
  16. “When you can take parts of yourself and give them to your fictional characters yet make them different from you, you will have succeeded in one of the most daunting journeys you will ever take as a writer.” ~ Rachel Ballon, Breathing Life into Your Characters
  17. “Loafing is the most productive part of a writer’s life.” ~ James Norman Hall
  18. “The first draft reveals the art. Revision reveals the artist.” ~ Michael Lee
  19. “Anyone can write one book, and perhaps even sell it, and in the rarest of circumstances become famous from it—because lightning does strike. To make a career of writing, though, you must take up the burden of making lightning strike regularly, where and when you want it.” ~ Holly Lisle
  20. “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”  ~ Samuel Johnson
  21. “There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.”  ~ William Makepeace Thackeray

Which quote resonates with you? Why? Tell us in the comments!

Editors – Should an English Teacher Edit Your Book?

Editors & editing

Write2Ignite 2019 is history, but now your work begins! We hope you’re primed and ready to tackle a new project or pull out an old one that needs editing and polishing.

No matter how well we write, we all need someone with an objective perspective to critique our books. That’s why writing critique partners and groups are so valuable to us.

Still, we need to be careful. How do we process the feedback we receive? What is the background or experience of the people offering their critique?

We need to be especially intentional about the people we hire to edit our books. Are they familiar with the contemporary publishing industry? Someone with an in-depth knowledge of English or even classic literature may not be the best individual to edit our books. Which brings us to English teachers…

English teachers as editors?

At first blush, an English teacher sounds like the perfect editor. But the grammar and punctuation rules a teacher may follow might not be the same as those used by editors familiar with contemporary books in your genre.

For example, most of us were taught that sentence fragments are inappropriate. Yet they’re in frequent use today. And many classic literary works are heavy on flowery descriptions which contemporary fiction readers tend to pass over. As Elmore Leonard once said, “When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

Additionally, English teachers frequently encourage creative substitutes for the word “said.” However, in today’s publishing world “said” is better to be as invisible as possible. An even better choice is to replace it with physical beats. For example:

“No way!” Mary exclaimed.

As opposed to:

Mary slammed her fist on the table. “No way!”

Another example is the use of punctuation. From the perspective of an English teacher, semi-colons can be correctly used in fiction. However, in contemporary publishing, semi-colons are often discouraged in fiction. Why? They tend to pull the reader out of the story.

All that to say English teachers can be great editors as long as they also understand the current publishing environment.

Of course, they can be terrific at critiquing plot flow and character development. And they would also serve well as beta readers to provide feedback on whether your book held their interest.

So, definitely seek out critique partners and editors. But don’t make your choice based on titles or vocations. And when it comes to hiring an editor, connect with the individual to determine if they’re the right person to edit your work.

Bottom line: understand your genre’s standards and ensure your editor understands them, too!

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