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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.

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5 Messages Teens Desperately Need to Read

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

 

It’s 2020! Never has it been so clear that we are living in a completely different world with a completely different set of rules. Each generation is reared up with other influences, more distractions, and a whole new set of problems.
Since we have accepted the call of God to write for the growing generations, we must now pay attention to their needs. If you’re wondering what to explore with your upcoming projects, these 5 crucial concepts are just some that teens desperately need when they open their next book.

1. Good vs. Evil

This concept isn’t lost on storytelling. Any good versus any evil can be found in just about any book. But I’m getting at the nature of good and evil. More stories need to focus on what causes good and what causes evil. We need to promote the biblical fact that we all have a fleshly, evil nature, even if we’re the protagonist. The fight may look different when we realize that good is caused by God and evil by Satan. But the victory might be just what someone needs to hear for their own life.

2. Hope in Mental Illness

We have an epidemic of mental illnesses on our hands. I read that nearly 1 in 5 people are dealing with some type of mental illness. The coming generation is plagued with depression and anxiety. We must write freely about it in order to spread awareness, but our words need to reveal hope and a means of help. I believe more than enough people will relate better when our stories show that we see, we understand, and we offer comfort in a hopeless mindset.

3. Authentic Love

If you’re like me, you like a good old-fashioned love story. But I’m not talking about writing more love triangles and epic romances. I’m talking about demonstrating through our words, the love Christ has challenged us to show. For example, what does it mean to love an enemy? A bully or an undeserving family member? What does it feel like when people fail at showing that love to us or worse, when we fail at showing it to others? A world of possibilities will follow when we take the time to unpack true love.

4. God’s Intentions

Culture has made it easy for young people to decide what they think of the world and what it should be like. Unfortunately, culture’s agenda hasn’t been kind to God’s ways. With a velvet tongue and a delicate hand on the keyboard, we need to nudge our readers to question the views of society just as they are taught to question the views of faith. We need to give them a glimpse of hope through family, marriage, service, and morality in a way that points them back to God.

5. Independent Faith

In reference to the last idea, it’s good to question your faith. The idea is to not only take for granted what has been given to you, but to also discover for yourself the deep well of truth ready to be explored. If we aren’t encouraging our readers to understand and live out their faith, what are we doing but providing entertainment which they get just about everywhere else in the world?

 

It’s easy to look at these messages and say, “Well, looks like you got yourself a good recipe for a cheesy, Christian read.” Not so.

Just because these themes are necessary for our audience doesn’t mean our stories need to be safe and boring. The youth is confronted with a harsh world every day, so we don’t need to shy away from the harsh truth. Pay attention to these felt needs and your writing will live on in the young hearts of those who read them.

Happy writing!


Leah Jordan Meahl is a Christian author who enjoys journeying alongside you through faith with her blog. Visit her full bio on the Bloggers page.

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Always Winter and Never Christmas

The Ice Palace Mall Display A few years ago I was doing some shopping in our local mall (formerly the largest in the nation, at a time when malls were a new concept.) I, of course, expected to see the typical Santa scene, with lines of tots waiting to sit on the lap of this fatherly figure to share their most wanted wish list.

But what I found instead was the “Ice Palace”. Hmmmmm — that’s unusual, I thought. Where’s Santa? And who will be inside to greet the children when they reach the interior of the palace?

And then a chill came over me. Along with thoughts of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who had placed a spell on Narnia, so it was “Always winter, but never Christmas”.  A harsh environment with no hope of joy, peace, and celebration.

Edmund encounters the White Witch riding on a sleigh pulled by white reindeer. He has stolen away from his brother and sisters, curious about this “witch” spoken of by Mr. Beaver. And, because of his rebellious spirit, he is intimidated when Aslan, the true King of Narnia’s name is spoken. Queen Jadis is aware of a prophecy that will foil her plan and bring Christmas back. Four human children, or Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, will have a part to play in the return of Aslan who will release Narnia from the harsh, cold spell it is under.

So, she is thrilled when she finds Edmund on the road. The White Witch entices him into her sleigh and proceeds to fill him with his favorite treat: Turkish Delight. (When you have tried this rose-flavored delicacy, you will understand why!) She distracts him, so he indulges himself with more and more candy until that is all he can think about. This greed causes Edmund to betray his siblings to the Queen of Narnia. Secretly, she plans to destroy them, and thus prevent Aslan from bringing back Christmas.

And that’s when it hit me. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year are being distracted by the goodies of this world. Stuff. Celebration. Santa. Food. And more stuff.

But what about Christmas? Have we forgotten about the Christ Child? The one who came to earth to save it from Satan’s power? To bring freedom, joy, light, and forgiveness?

I think so.

In Matthew 2: 9-11 we read:

“After hearing the king, they (the Magi) went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

What gift will you bring to the feet of the Christ Child? How will you worship Him today? Even though our celebrations are over for another year, we can still examine our hearts. . .

I hope I will give Him my heart, and not a wish list. I want to worship the God of the Universe. Not the god of pleasure and possessions. I want to worship the King.

What about you?


This post was first published on Jarm Del Boccio’s Travel Blog

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/

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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.

Continue reading More Than Called…

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Writing to Ignite by Darcy Hendrick

When you write Christian literature for children ignition is the goal. Writing literature that will ignite a child’s imagination, a zeal for learning, a love of reading, and a reverence for God is the mission. More than that, it’s a ministry. And engaging, well written literature that reveals the presence and purpose of God is a powerful tool toward that end.

And that ignition is the reason for Write2Ignite. We are a non-profit organization that seeks to enable that mission through  a website that offers resources, blogs that supply the writer with tips and encouragement, contests, and a two day conference with a full schedule of keynote speakers, workshops, the opportunity to meet with editors or agents, and to surround yourself with a community of like minded writers. Writers who share a passion for God and children, and good literature that draws the two together.

Write2Ignite specializes in Christian literature for children because that is our passion. Children who develop a love for reading at a young age are life long readers. De That is a high calling for those called by God to write for children.

And if ignition is the goal, what sparks the flame?

The simple truth is, it’s not that simple.

I have four sons. My oldest took to reading without coaxing. He simply loved to learn so a book in the hand was opened and devoured.

My second son showed no interest in reading but he loved his action figures. Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles in particular. So when I saw a TMNT early reader book I scooped it up in the hopes that the subject matter would entice him to open the book. It did! As a matter of fact those TMNT early readers made him realize not only that he could read, but he liked to.

My third son seemed to prefer a narrative told rather than read. That became obvious when, in his teens, he gravitated to youth theater where, to my surprise, he memorized scripts and eventually developed an interest in Shakespeare.

My youngest son devoured the Beanie Baby resource guide and could recite it with encyclopedic precision.

The path to an appreciation of the written word was as unique as my sons.

So what’s a writer to do?

Just as my sons read what they were passionate about, the writer should write their passion. Your interest in the subject matter, whether it’s science or sci-fi, mystery, comedy, or a Beanie Baby resource guide, will come through. And children who share that passion won’t have to be coaxed into reading, they’ll volunteer.

We write to an audience of one – our reader.

But as Christian writers we write for an audience of one – God. Our first passion should be our love for God and if we write what we’re passionate about, and we are passionate about our relationship with God, we will write literature that reveals the presence and purpose of God.

And we can trust God to put each unique piece of literature in the hands of the child who can be uniquely drawn to Him through it.

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How to Survive the Sinking of the S.S. CHRISTIAN MARKET

Image from Pexels by Johannes Plenio

 

The high seas of the writing industry are tumultuous at best with raging competition and a strong current of marketing demands. Within the last few years, one of these waves has taken the Christian fiction market to a low. As a result, publishing houses are merging or narrowing their acquisition criteria, Christian brick and mortar stores like LifeWay are closing, and self-publishing is becoming all too tempting.

But don’t fear, fellow Christian writers! We have the ultimate Life Preserver. Yes, it’s Jesus! With a few simple truths to remember, He will help us refocus in order to navigate even the bleakest of waters.

Truth #1: Remember Who called you.

While we are all different, a common theme among us faith-based writers is the belief that God called us to write. After all, He gave us the skill, the desire, and the message to do so. While that calling doesn’t give us the liberty to do whatever we want with it, we can be certain that God wants us where we are until told otherwise.

And while we’re trusting in The One Who called, we can focus on constantly learning and producing quality work. Jesus understands the obstacles we’ve faced to get where we are, and He will see us through the obstacles heading our way.

Truth #2 Remember the Why

If we believe we’ve been called, we should also believe in the reason we’ve been called. God has cultivated in us His wisdom and His message and we have been charged to reveal it the best way we know how, creatively.

We have a genre, a target audience, and a need that have a special place in our heart. If you’re reading this, that audience might be YA, MG, or children’s books. If you’re like me, the needs of emerging adults inspire your writing. We long to make a positive impact in the lives of our readers and one that goes deeper than just a good story. Let the ‘Why’ be a driving force in your work even if the vehicle changes from time to time.

Truth #3 Remember the Priority

As Christian writers, we don’t just spill words on a page just because. Writing not only scratches that inner itch, but it also helps us communicate to a world that will always need someone to point them to the truth of Jesus. Though the market may seem low, I believe the spiritual demand is at an all-time high. The world is consumed with entertainment for entertainment’s sake. The next generation is growing up with fewer morals, fewer role models, and fewer reasons to be close to Jesus. If we use our words to entertain, educate, and encourage people for Jesus’s sake, we will be providing a worth that cannot be matched.

***

When you feel lost in the sea of rejections, when you can’t keep up with the new tide of trends, or when the culture drowns your ambitions, you know what to do. Let the culture and the industry do what they do, ebb and flow as always. Fix your eyes on Jesus, The One Who calms the sea, and He will make sure you stay above water.


Leah Jordan Meahl writes Christian fiction and nonfiction for new adults. Click here to learn more.

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Are You Thankful for Troubles? Building Character Through Trials by Jarm Del Boccio

William Shakespeare
Image from biography.com

Although my husband and I live in an almost-empty-nest, sometimes I catch myself reminiscing. Our homeschool history course many years ago includes a mini-unit on Shakespeare and his works.  We’d listened to an excellent 3 part DVD series by Schlessinger Media called, “Shakespeare for Students.”  The concepts are simply explained, but meaty.

In The Characters of Shakespeare (Part 1), we learn there are two types of characters in Shakespeare’s works. static and dynamic. Here is a summary:

Static (or Stock) Character: A person who does not change during the course of the story. A shallow two-dimensional figure used to carry along the story, add comic relief or provide a menacing presence. The Fool in King Lear is one example (which, by the way, is the most “tragic of his tragedies . . . nothing good comes from it unless it is a lesson for the readers!) A villainous character would be Iago in Othello or Edmund in King Lear.

Dynamic Character:  A person who changes, for better or worse, in the course of the play.  A deeper, three-dimensional character, such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She matures into a complex young lady by the last act, but, unfortunately, it’s too late.  Another example is Macbeth, who moves from a valiant war hero to a paranoid murderer within the course of the play. So, this got me thinking . . .  Not only is this good to know as we develop our own characters in a story (too many static characters spoil the broth, and vice versa), but ponder this:

What sort of character are you?  What kind do you wish to be? 

Hopefully, it’s obvious that you can’t be a dynamic character if you have no trials and tribulations. How many people do you know who have everything they want and need – are they shallow, or complex?

What character is God forming in you this Thanksgiving? Be thankful if God allows troubles in your life. It will make you a more well-rounded 3D character who will be wiser, more compassionate and helpful to others.

Now that’s character!


*This post first appeared on Jarm’s travel and inspiration blog.

Jarm Del Boccio’s debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer, released with Ambassador International April 26th. You can connect with her at https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/