Category: The Influence of Christian Faith Page 7 of 15

Bringing Out Holiness and a Giveaway

Bringing out holiness. Perhaps we artists would prefer to describe the concept as “drawing out holiness.” What does it mean to “bring–or draw–out holiness”? And how on earth could our writing affect holiness? Guest blogger, J.G. Spires, invites us to consider this concept.

What is “bringing out”?

First of all, this “bringing out” concept does not refer to an innate goodness that we tease out or encourage others to reveal from inside themselves. If we humans had innate goodness, we would not need God to be our Savior. The reality is we are sinful and we need Christ Jesus. When we set our faith and hope in what Christ Jesus has done and who He is, God declares us righteous and makes us holy based on Christ’s work and identity. Then we Christians experience continual growth as, little by little, the Holy Spirit conforms us to think, act, and desire as Jesus thinks, acts, and desires.

Becoming like Christ

Becoming like Christ, we grow in holiness as God changes our hearts and purges us of sin–a process that is painful and often feels slow or stagnant. But it is one God has promised will be successful because He is the One making us holy as He is holy.

What does the process of growing in holiness have to do with writing? Here is where “bringing out holiness” comes into play for us writers.

Writing, good or bad, stirs us. I remember reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as a child. I remember my indignation at one character’s insistence that the protagonist, an African American girl named Cassie, call a white girl her own age “Mizz.”I remember wishing Cassie were treated with the dignity she deserved as a human being. I loved Cassie. I hurt when she hurt. I learned from her discoveries. Mildred Taylor never knew I would read about Cassie, yet her writing evoked from me a righteous anger that to this day impacts how I regard those of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Her book stirred me to think of people unlike me and empathize with others. Such is the power of writing: it opens readers to thoughts and emotions beyond their own experiences.

Application to Christian writers

By cracking open minds and hearts through our works, we writers bring out holiness in others. We are called to steward our abilities and lead others in feeling holy emotions, such as righteous anger at injustice, compassion for sufferers, and desire to seek others’ good. We also lead others in thinking holy thoughts as we describe scenes, characters, and events in a manner that guides and develops readers’imagination and logic.

Drawing out holiness by leading others in thinking and feeling does not mean avoiding issues, evil, or ugliness. Thorns do not dim the beauty of a rose. In fact, the thorns, the surrounding ugliness, illuminate that beauty. Depicting the ugliness of life in a manner that exalts goodness is how we writers can bring out holiness in our readers.

Through our works, we lead others in considering what is good and what is ugly in life. We stir in readers thoughts and emotions that can foster their growth as Christians or, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, bring them to the point of becoming Christians. We bring out holiness as we describe a rainbow in a waterfall, a twinkle in a grandmother’s eye, a cat’s soft purr, a woven pattern on a pillow, or a sigh after a hard day at work. We bring out holiness in readers by creating a space in which they think about, experience, and desire goodness so that in their hearts, they worship the God who is good.

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How about you? Have you ever considered “bringing out holiness” in your writing? How can you do that in the future? Leave a comment, subscribe to the Write2Ignite newsletter (link on the right), or share this post on social media, and you will earn one, two, or three chances to win the historical novel, Enya’s Son. Make sure you leave your email address with what you did so you can be given credit. Contest ends July 28th and will be announced on Monday’s blog–so enter soon!

 

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Julia Klukow (pen name J.G. Spires) grew up in Orlando, Florida, where Disney and designs to outrun alligators fueled her imagination. Because she loves stories, she studied English, earning her BA at North Greenville University before moving north to study for a Master of Art in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary. She hopes the truth of Jesus Christ comes out in each piece she writes as she pursues teaching and creative writing as a means of communicating the gospel. You can find online Julia on her blog

Write2Ignite Team Videographers!

 

When this picture was taken of the Write2Ignite team at the 2018 conference, little did they know that within a year many of them would become “experts” at taking and posting videos online. Here’s a sampling of some of the recent videos our team created about writing and the conference. View one or view them all! As new videographers, we would appreciate your feedback–and of course, we hope to see you at Write2Ignite 2019!

 

Deborah DiCiantis on the Teen/Tween Fiction Contest

Click here for more information on the contest.

Diane Buie talks about how to get the most out of your 15 minute meeting time at a writer’s conference.

Brenda Covert shares the benefit of getting a critique.

Cathy Biggerstaff with “Bring a Friend” discount.

Here’s the link to the Bring a Friend discount. Cathy is given you an EXTRA big discount. Each friend will receive $15.00 off the regular price-which brings your registration down to $109.00. Since we think going to a writer’s conference with a friend is such a good idea, we’re giving this discount throughout the registration period.

Carol Baldwin with 5 Writing Tips.

Writing, Service, and Witness

Biblical witness is relational and demonstrable. John’s gospel (1:6 -7) states that John the Baptist was “sent from God . . . to bear witness of the Light [Jesus], that all through him might believe.” Verses 14-18 name Jesus Christ the primary witness [the “Word became flesh”] who “declared” God, bringing access to “grace and truth.”

In Luke chapter 15, witness leads to searching, pursuit, sacrifice, and salvation. Service is a key component of this witness. The one that is lost becomes a higher priority than the 99.

Relentless love requires exertion. For example, an adult sheep weighs 110 to 120 pounds. The shepherd whose one sheep goes astray is not carrying a small lamb on his shoulders. Romans 5:8 (“while we were yet sinners”) similarly shows the difficulty of serving sacrificially: our status before salvation (enemies of God) required crucifixion. However, anguish changes to rejoicing when the one is saved and enters the family of God as an adopted child (in Luke 15, the son, having renounced his family connection, returns in the role of a suitor seeking acceptance in the role of a servant). The Father, celebrating and giving gifts, continues to serve the once-errant child.

Servant witness is other-directed. David’s claim in Psalm 40:9-10 (NKJV) demonstrates service as effort that can be witnessed by others: “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness/In the great assembly. Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,/O Lord, You Yourself know./I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;/I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;/I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth/From the great assembly.” Proclaiming God’s goodness can be a joyous act, yet in this psalm David is emerging from difficult and painful times when he “waited patiently,” in a “horrible pit . . . miry clay . . .” Instead of quiet, restorative meditation, his service here requires public action, not in a small, intimate gathering but the greater community – perhaps including some who had not supported him in preceding trials (v. 13-14). It may also include public confession of sin, to which he alludes in v. 6 and 11-12.

I John 2:12-14 conveys the relational and generational nature of servant witness in familial terms. Notice the call to all ages – “little children,”  “fathers,” “young men,” “children,” “fathers (i.e., parents), and “young men” (i.e., young adults). Moreover, John explicitly connects these reminders to his role as a writer. “I write to you . . . ,” “I wrote to you, . . . ,“ “I have written to you . . . .” Changing tenses show the constant nature of his writing service to the believing community.

Some of us exercise these functions in blog or social media posts, in Sunday School lessons, devotionals, Bible stories, or articles. Do we also continually encourage, instruct, remind, and exhort in fictional stories? In plays or screenplays? In sidebars or nonfiction pieces about plants, animals, technology or history? Without explicit preaching or teaching in every work, does our writing serve (bear witness) through truthful, thought-provoking and memorable content?-

Witness leads to forgiveness, restoration, strengthening; it reunites divided minds, friendships, families, communities. God Himself bears witness through His Word, works, and Spirit – and believers participate in the witness of service as we seek to be like Him. He models the writer’s servant witness of priority and purpose.

The lost one does not deserve to be found, but God deserves worship. Our obedience in seeking others after we have been found and restored becomes a means of giving Him glory. How often have you read a vivid, striking story that stops you in your tracks – – or profound, memorable words that resonate with your spirit’s need for comfort or insight?

May our writing in every genre bring this witness of service to readers.

Deborah S. DeCiantis

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 Debbie DeCiantis first connected with Write2Ignite Conference when she was called on to act as liaison between North Greenvile University and Write2Ignite in 2009. She accepted the role of acting director in 2016 and the role of director in 2017. Retired after more than 30 years of teaching on both college and K-12 levels, Debbie currently does freelance editing and critique writing. She enjoys living in the country and spending time with her husband, four adult children, six grandchildren, and too many dogs.

This and future discussions of biblical witness will be found in Author Resources.

My Wonderful, Terrifying Journey @ Write2Ignite 2018

Today’s guest blogger, Celeste Hawkins, shares her first experience attending a Write2Ignite Conference.

As I opened the doors to check into my first writers’ conference, I held a print-out of my book draft in one arm and the parking-line-yellow purse that makes me feel more optimistic in the other. I pulled it closer to my side as I searched the crowd of faces.

I spotted her and let out the breath I’d been holding in, then sifted my way off to the quiet side of the chattering writers, editors, and publishers. Everyone seemed to be pulling out their schedules and looking over the first session options:

  • Tessa Emily Hall – “Common Mistakes Newbie Writers Make in Their Manuscripts”
  • Kim Peterson – “Is My Manuscript Ready for an Agent?”
  • Jean Matthew Hall – “Children’s Book Categories”
  • Lori Hatcher – “The Day I Wanted to Quit: Tackling the Mind Games That Discourage and Defeat Writers”

When I reached my friend, Leah and I hugged and caught up on life since we’d last seen each other at a birthday party over the summer. That’s when we’d discovered we were both working on our first books.

We looked at our schedules. It felt like trying to order ice cream: you know you can pick any one and be happy, but you kind of wish you could have all of them.

Finally, we agreed Kim Peterson’s was perfect for us. And for the next 45 minutes, Kim shared the top reasons manuscripts got trashed when she worked at the Leslie Stobbe Literary Agency.

I took three pages of notes.

Later, Leah and I sat together again at our first keynote with Jenny Cote, award-winning author of the popular children’s fantasy series The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and Epic Order of the Seven.

As she took the stage, I noticed her springy blonde hair that matched her personality inch for inch. She presented like the Energizer Bunny, clicking through slide after slide of quirky quotes and reviewing the pros and cons of each option in the publishing world in detail — in a talk she’d titled “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Deadlines.”

It’s the question every writer must grapple with: do you want to call the shots, or let someone else? I’d been grappling with that myself.

Instinctively, I began to reflect on the answer I’d reached. Originally, I’d considered co-publishing my book. Next, I’d staunchly decided on self-publishing. As Jenny went on, the realization sank in like a rock to the bottom of a lake: I’d defaulted to those options because, deep down, I didn’t believe a “real publisher” would ever publish my book.

The familiar fear remained as I drove off at the end of that first day, curving around the dark rural back roads to home.

But the next day, I couldn’t help feeling renewed hope as I walked into a session with my former classmate Daniel Blackaby, who had published eight books since I saw him last in Shakespearean Tragedies.

If he did it, why can’t I?

The chairs were filled, and we had to bring in more from next door to seat the group consisting of teenagers up to 60-somethings. Daniel encouraged us to write even when we didn’t feel inspired. He gave us silly prompts and the results were side-hurting laughs at soon-to-be stories by creative writers.

  • You’re the coach of a basketball team that’s about to lose. Write the worst pep talk ever.
  • You just woke up, looked in the mirror, and screamed. Write what you saw.
  • Write a back-of-the-book description for this picture. (It was an old-timey ship, a long tentacle rising up out of the surrounding tempestuous waves.)

After the session, Daniel and I talked for a minute about our current projects. To my surprise, he even offered to read my book and provide feedback.

I’ll never forget the next session with Jenny.

She took us step by step through her writing process — from jotting down initial concepts on an idea page, outlining, and planning out chapters to finding a critique team, knowing when to stop editing, and even soliciting endorsements for your book cover.

She reminded us that we do everything first for God and the results are ultimately up to Him.

“My book will get rejected by publishers. But if I give God 100 percent of the steps, then when my book gets rejected, they’ve rejected God’s plan,” I scribbled down in big letters.

The words entered my soul as if they’d been meant only for me.

I rehearsed those words as I waited at the large conference table, pulling out my binder and re-reading the title on the front.

Then he came in, the quiet man with the blue eyes and a tie. I stood, and we introduced ourselves.

“Hey, I’m Celeste,” I said, sure to give what one of our family friends used to call “the famous Hawkins handshake” — the one I’d practiced as a girl when people greeted us at church doors. “Good to meet you, Dr. Lowry.”

“You can call me Sam,” he said in his brilliant Irish accent.

I asked him why he first became interested in books, figuring that’s the only reason anyone becomes a publisher. He recounted how his father had built him a wooden shelf by hand. After that, he felt a sense of responsibility to fill it up with books. He couldn’t stop reading.

The conversation turned to me. I told him about my background as a writer, gave him the elevator pitch for my book, and slid over the three-ring binder containing my manuscript. My heart quickened as I felt powerless to keep it safe and un-rejected any longer.

“It’s short,” he said about the word count, listed on the cover page.

“Yeah,” I said, then gulped.

I studied his every reaction, as he began to thumb through the pages, flipping forward then backward.

“Oh, I’m glad you have questions. You need that,” he added, pointing to the end of a chapter.

I nodded.

“Hmm,” he continued.

Was that the good kind of “hmm” or the bad kind of “hmm”? I stretched my shoulders back, willing every muscle to stay calm.

We sat in a silence that felt like eternity.

Finally, he spoke.

“Well, it’s definitely a good book.” He looked up with a smile.

My heart exploded like fireworks and surprise birthday parties. It was one of the best strings of words I’ve ever heard, lined up together like that.

“Send me the manuscript,” he continued.

Did he really just say that? What is happening? My mind raced. Should I say something now?

“Okay. Of course,” I managed to answer, gathering my things and probably saying “thank you” a dozen times as his next appointment walked in and I left, bounding up the stairs to find someone to tell.

Even now, I hardly believe it. I shared my book with a publisher. Then, he actually read it. Then, he wrote back saying that they’d be pleased to publish it. Now I’ve signed a book contract with Ambassador International. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll be on the other side of the Write2Ignite Conference table at North Greenville University autographing my first book.

[This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of 1892, the alumni magazine of North Greenville University.]

Celeste Hawkins lived in the same red-shuttered house in North Carolina until she was 22. After studying English education, Celeste started her career in writing and editing. Her work has appeared online at USA Today 10Best.com, as well as in print in edible UPCOUNTRY and 1892 Magazine, among others. She also created the popular travel website Travelers Rest Here. Set to release within this decade (hopefully), Always Been Loved is her first book, a deeply personal discovery of God’s out-of-this-world love for us. Celeste also enjoys sharing amazing stories of what happens when we pray, listen for God’s voice, and then obey at StillGodSpeaks.com.

The Power of the Parable

Ryan Hendrick’s guest post introduces the Bible’s use of parable and its impact. He follows this discussion with his original example.

 

A parable intrigues me because its brevity often conceals its power until it blindsides its audience. In this sense, parable is as unexpected as the boy who slays a giant with a stone and the little girl who smiles up at you with all the sweetness in the world before taking your wallet. How does a small and seemingly innocuous story reach its end and open the heart to truth for some while further exposing the blindness of others?

We see this technique used par excellence in the Old Testament when Nathan chose parable to convict David of his wickedness with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). Merely telling David his sin would have caused him to raise the drawbridge, fill the moat, and bolster his walls. But story was the Trojan horse that could infiltrate David’s sinful defenses to cast light on his darkness and bring him back to the Lord. Veggie Tales adapted this story with rubber duckies thousands of years later, and the impact is still effective.

Anyone who has read the New Testament knows Jesus’ love for parables. He used them for whatever purpose he required in the moment: to encourage, equip, condemn, or inform. Parables were one of Christ’s favorite vehicles for conveying truth, demonstrating to rich and poor, healthy and sick, old and young, how potent a good story can be when it’s stuck in our heads.

Why Parables?

I enjoy writing in parable for several reasons.

First, Christ loved parables, so growing in this technique gives me a better understanding of my Savior, why he loved it, and how the Bible uses parables to communicate truth.

Second, my mind is wired for it. It’s how I make sense of the world, my joy and my pain. For years, I used to think of isolated scenes and wonder if I could place them in a movie or a novel someday. Now, I realize the scenes don’t need extended narrative if their power is in their conciseness. 

Third, parables are an intellectual sandbox for me. I can play with the use of dialogue in one, staccato sentence structure in another, heady prose in the next, and discover the image to use for that neat title that popped into my head.

Fourth, I don’t see many others writing them. Pastors use them in sermons on occasion (illustrations in “modern speak”), but the genre mostly remains untapped. The ones that inspired me were Kierkegaard’s “The King and the Maiden” and Dostoevsky’s chapter entitled “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov.

Finally, parables seem more relevant in the age of social media, where attention spans are decreasing and every story is the length of a parable. My hope is that people will have a greater chance of hearing and internalizing truth if the story is short enough and gripping enough to finish before they change the channel.

Letting Go of Mr. Happiness

“It’s time to let Mr. Happiness go, my love.”

The child’s trembling hands stroked the stuffed rabbit’s head. Her fingers traced well-worn contours, down one ear, then up the other. Old, discolored and ragged, the rabbit sagged in the refuge of her arms, comfortable and familiar.

“But why, Daddy?”

“Because I have something better for you.”

“I want to keep Mr. Happiness.”

“I know, my love. But if you don’t let go of Mr. Happiness I can’t give you the next thing.”

“Can I have it now?”

“Not yet, my love.”

“Why not?”

“Because your hands aren’t big enough to hold it yet.”

“But why can’t I keep Mr. Happiness?”

“Because your hands are too big to hold onto him any longer.”

To obey her father or to keep Mr. Happiness? She knew she couldn’t do both. Wells of sadness formed as the war for her heart battled in her eyes. She gazed lovingly at her old companion.

“Do you trust me, my love?”

Slowly she extended her arms, her eyes fixed on Mr. Happiness. Her father reached, and for a moment it seemed she would seize the rabbit back to her chest and run. But her brave arms held their resolve. As he gently pulled Mr. Happiness from her hands, she let go and wept. And her father wept with her.

Copyright Ryan Hendrick March 8, 2019

Ryan is the 5thand 6thGrade Pastor at Brookwood Church. He’s written curriculum, dramas, workbooks and, of course, sermons in his time there. Recently he’s started writing parables in his free time. When he isn’t writing, he’s laughing, drinking coffee or running the occasional Spartan Race.

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