Writing to Serve

IMG_7540I took this selfie before rehearsal for the second of five Easter services at my church. This is my fourth year singing in the church choir. We are a worship choir, not a performance one, meaning we focus on our church’s goal to help people become more fully devoted followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s not to say, though, that we don’t strive for excellence – we do. Several weeks of rehearsals one night a week together and listening to MP3s and studying our written parts during lunch, in the evenings, or whenever we can find time is necessary to create the worship atmosphere we strive for. Every church is different, I know. Then there are the pre-service rehearsals, a full set before the first (Friday) and second (Saturday), then a warm up Sunday. This picture is as we’re getting set to begin the Saturday full set run through.

Christian fiction writing is similar in the desire for both service and excellence. For me, my writing mission mirrors the church mission, to help people become more fully devoted followers of Jesus. Of course I also strive for excellence. When we, a group of 80 or so mostly (or solely) amateurs in the choir sing together, we sound professional because we want that excellence, not for ourselves but for those in the seats.

I want my writing to launch to that same level of excellence for the same reason, to benefit the readers. It’s a long, arduous process to conceptualize, write, and market a book. I admit I’m not the best at the latter but am learning. I have to, because I genuinely believe my story can help others, but only if I can get it in the right readers’ hands. To that end, I continue to strive for excellence, not for me, but for them, and Him.

Leaving Darkness, about leaving depression through faith, is available at major online retailers.

Photo by Greg Schaffer

 

Christian Bible = Fiction?

Today I received a response to a tweet, a snippet of a review of my Christian novel Leaving Darkness – “This is a very nice book of Christian fiction.” The response: “Christian Bible = fiction.” aaron-burden-113284-unsplash

My first reaction was “is that really necessary” but then I realized the opportunity to discuss something I’ve been wanting to address for some time.

I have found that many non-believers require evidence of the truth of the Bible first if they will accept it as God’s word. I get that. I’m a science nerd, grew up big on astronomy, and hold a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Information Systems Project Management. Postulate theory, then prove said theory to establish fact – the scientific method.

Some may argue that the Bible has passed analysis in many disciplines. A few examples off the top of my head include the discovery of archaeological finds in the Middle East, the Shroud of Turin, the Crown of Thorns (recently in the news because of the Notre Dame fire).  Others may argue the opposite – the archaeological findings only show that historically there may have been a man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Shroud of Turin has been carbon-dated to the middle ages, the Crown of Thorns came out of nowhere hundreds of years after the Crucifixion – valid, well-thought out arguments to disprove the Bible.

Here’s the issue as I see it though – you cannot, and will never find conclusive proof if you begin on the foundation of “prove it to me.” From John 20:29: “29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Yes, John goes on to note that Jesus performed many other miracles as “proof”: “30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” However, that returns to the circular argument that if you do not believe the Bible is truth, then you won’t believe what John wrote about those signs Jesus performed as proof.

The bottom line as I see it: you first need faith, then you shall find proof, not the other way around. If you begin to read the Bible to find proof first, you won’t. But if you approach the Bible with an open mind and heart that the truth may lay within, you will. For me, as I’ve grown in faith, I see tangible proof of the truth of the Bible daily.

Now, I’m not going to profess I understand all of the Bible – I don’t. Jonah in the belly of the whale? Hard to swallow (pun intended). Talking donkey? Pretty difficult to accept based on scientific knowledge alone. That’s where faith helps to augment – not replace – lack of understanding. An interesting observation though is the stronger my faith becomes, the more I see the proof that skeptics seek but cannot see.

I respect and understand the view of the responder to my tweet and appreciate the opportunity to expand on my faith. I also welcome respectful responses to this post. What do you think? Does beginning with a walk of faith and an open heart lead to conviction of biblical truths, or does the The Christian Bible = fiction?

NIV Bible quotes from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Breakthrough

I had the opportunity to attend a preview of the upcoming movie Breakthrough a few weeks ago. From the movie’s web site at https://www.breakthroughtickets.com/synopsis/:

BREAKTHROUGH is based on the inspirational true story of one mother’s unfaltering love in the face of impossible odds. When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost. But as John lies lifeless, Joyce refuses to give up. Her steadfast belief inspires those around her to continue to pray for John’s recovery, even in the face of every case history and scientific prediction.

Sometimes Christian movies, fiction and as in this case based on factual events, can be, simone-viani-1152774-unsplashwell, sugary for lack of a better word. Being a Christian is not easy. Life in time doesn’t become sunshine and roses upon professing faith. That is the beginning of a long, dedicated walk with Jesus, one that sometimes is more difficult to traverse than others as we struggle with issues in our lives here. Sometimes he carries us (as in the famous “Footprints” poem).

Breakthrough isn’t one of those overly sentimental, sweet movies. It is a well-crafted story of pure faith, hope, and the supernatural potential of prayer. It is not without its heart-wrenching moments, and you will shed a tear (or several). But it tackles a very dark and disturbing subject quite well and leaves the viewer with powerful lessons in prayer and community.

The tie-in to Christian fiction, for me, is that this is the type of impact I hope to have with my works. I suppose it would be easier to tackle feel-good subjects that are quite popular now, such as Christian romance novels, but that’s not my calling. I have absolutely nothing against romance novels, but most often the conflict revolves around human relationships by design. I’m delving into conflicts of relationships with God.

I encourage everyone to see Breakthrough whether you’re Christian or not. Breakthrough comes out April 17, 2019. Note that I have absolutely zero connection with the movie beyond the impact it had on me as a viewer. I’m guessing you’ll have a similar experience.

Photo by Simone Viani on Unsplash

 

Choir

I serve in my church choir. We don’t sing every weekend, but usually about every three weeks. When we do sing it’s usually for all four services, two Saturday and two Sunday. We have a weekly rehearsal on Tuesdays and have to learn anywhere from one to five new songs per singing weekend. Then there is Easter and Christmas where we have an extra service usually and more preparation than a choir-840987_1920“normal” singing weekend. Add that my wife and I live 45 minutes from the church, and it should be plain to see that serving in the choir is a significant commitment.

Singing in the choir was my wife’s idea. I had performed some pretty unremarkable covers and original songs during my music learning phase 20-plus years ago and had the grand experience of having been in chorus (and glee club!) in elementary school, but that was the extent of my experience. Still, it eclipsed hers, yet she was enthusiastic about joining. I agreed because we had served in a church ministry prior (making coffee) and wanted to do it with her to support her. Besides, it’d likely only be for a semester (we run on a two-semester schedule with the summer off) as surely her interest would pass.

That was spring of 2016, and we’re still singing with the choir.

We are a worship choir, not a performance choir, though of course we strive for excellence. We help lead people to become more complete and devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I saw this my first time on the stage risers in January 2016 (after I got over my stage unease). That keeps us engaged and willful servants. What a privilege!

And so it is with writing. Three indie novels in to my writing experience, I have learned much, but nothing more significant than understanding my mission is to write for the Lord. I am not a performance writer, though I strive for excellence. I have found my current calling to create Christian Fiction novels that tackle difficult subjects, with the goal that perhaps those tales can bring encouragement and direction to Christ in peoples’ lives.

Does that mean that I will always write Christian fiction? I don’t know, just as I don’t know if I will always sing in the choir. But I will always remain open to God’s call for what He wants me to do to help advance His kingdom.

Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/choir-church-choir-light-shadow-840987/

Authenticity in Christian Fiction

I have written three novels. The first two are best categorized as fantasy, while my third, Leaving Darkness, is my first Christian novel. I have since realized that is the genre I am called to write in.

I just read a tweet that said something to the effect that the advice to write what you know about is wrong. The implication was it limits the subject matter and thereby cannot effectively hold the interest of the reader. To remedy, you need to research to write about what you don’t know, as well.

In some aspects, I certainly agree. For example, my second novel relies upon a Soviet covert plot to infiltrate the United States Catholic Church during the mid 20th century. This was an area I had no expertise in. I realized I’d need as much realism to prop up the fantasy of such a ridiculous idea, so I Googled for facts that could have possibly been interpreted by conspiracy theorists that such an infiltration attempt existed. To my surprise, this actually occurred!aaron-burden-233840-unsplash.jpg

But there are areas I disagree, a most significant one being Christian fiction. Christian fiction differs from other genres in that its purpose is to spread the Gospel and advance the kingdom of God. Those called to write Christian fiction sense a need to use the written word to promote the path to light and salvation. It would be impossible to write authentically about the saving grace of Christ in lives without knowing that personally.

Authenticity goes further though. A Christian fiction author must live their life as a Christ follower. Obviously this does not mean a sinless life because that is impossible. However, to convey the authenticity on paper (or screen) the author needs to follow Christ not just for an hour and a half on Sundays, but rather live, breathe, and proclaim through actions their devotion to Christ.

One of my favorite ways to explain if you’re doing this effectively is if people can identify you as a Christian without you explicitly saying so (either outright or tangentially through other discussions such as church activities). Being a Christ follower changes you – not just internally, but externally.

It should surprise no one that this change is reflected by the written pages as well. Authenticity allows your love of Christ to leap from the words to the reader’s heart. And as a Christian fiction author, that is the primary goal, after all.

For a free copy of my inspirational first fantasy novel Forgiveness sign up at https://bookhip.com/XFCCLN

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash