Tag Archives: christianity

Author, Tricia Goyer (Christian Fiction: Is It Effective?)

I have to admit when I first started writing, the reader was the last person on my mind. I didn’t set out to reach unbelievers with the message of Christ. And the truth is, that’s still not my goal. Let me explain.

I started when I was a 22-year-old mom of three. I wrote because I loved to read, and I wrote to prove that a teenage mother could make something out of herself. I wanted to prove to myself and others that I hadn’t ruined my life by having a baby at age 17. None of those early projects ever made it to see the light of day.

About five years into the writing process I attended a few writing workshops and heard the same message, “Relinquish yourself, your desires, your writing to God. It’s not about you.” I did that. Deep in my heart I felt the change. I wanted to write novels God desired for me to write. I released my dreams, and that’s when I heard one true story that would change everything.

While traveling in Europe I met a historian who told me about the 23 American GIs who liberated Mauthausen Concentration Camp. The story amazed me, and I returned home and interviewed many of those men who’d liberated the camp. In my eyes Christian fiction transformed. It wasn’t just about seeing my name in print or proving myself. I could share powerful stories and honor the men and women who lived through amazing experiences. I could also share my own inner transformation as reflected through the experiences of my fictional characters. The “effect” I wanted was to give readers a glimpse of history and of spiritual truth through the pages. And I also hoped that unbelievers would pick up the novel and discover spiritual liberation in their own lives.

I remember clearly during the writing of From Dust and Ashes asking God, “Who am I to write this novel?” Here I was a Montana mom, listening to the stories of veterans and Holocaust survivors and bringing them to life in the pages of a novel. I wasn’t an historian. I wasn’t a multi-published author with a huge following of readers, so why would God choose me?

The answer came as a stirring in my soul. “You were liberated, too. You were once bound by the chains of sin, and Jesus Christ came as your great liberator, opening the gates of darkness, drawing you out, clothing you in righteousness and healing your wounds.”

Yes, it was true. And that spiritual message came to life within the characters. But the message was only effective because it came to life in my heart first. I was excited by one of my first reader letters. A young woman from Switzerland wrote to tell me when my character, Helene, got on her knees and accepted Jesus Christ the reader did too. Yes, this is what it’s all about, I thought.

In the 10 years since my first novel was published things have changed. I don’t think only of myself; I try to consider the reader when I plot my story, when I pour over the characters and when I work with each book to improve my craft. I consider the spiritual transformation in my life and include that as a story thread.

It has paid off. I have more than 20 novels in print, and my readership has grown. Has my desire to write a better book than the last been effective? If happy readers, more contracts, and bigger paychecks are any indication, it has.
Of course any novelist wants that. What makes Christian fiction different?

When the word Christian is used as an adjective, according to Dictionary.com, it means “of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings.” So have I been effective in doing that — in writing fiction that “pertains to or is derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings”? I believe so.

With any novelist, what’s on the inside is what comes out. Our beliefs make up our worldview. I like to think of the words I write as flowing from my head to my fingertips . . . and passing through my heart and soul in the process. What I hold deep inside WILL make it on to the page.

These days, I see effective Christian fiction in a different light. I do think of the story, and I consider my reader. I do hope to sell books and sign more contracts. I’m excited when readers draw closer to Jesus, but the chief goal of my writing — and of effective Christian fiction — doesn’t have to do with any of those things. In my opinion, the chief goal of effective Christian fiction should be to accomplish what we’ve all been placed on earth to do. What is that? I love how it’s put in the first few lines of the Westminster Catechism:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

What makes Christian fiction effective? Let me tweak the above words a little. A writer’s chief end in effective Christian fiction is to glorify God.

God can be glorified whether one copy is sold or one million. God can be glorified when I relinquish my own desires and my longings for fame and offer myself up for God’s fame instead. God can be glorified whether a reader is drawn to a relationship with Jesus or whether the reader throws the novel across the room and calls it rubbish.

While it’s my hope that my novels will give light to a spiritual truth or draw unbelievers into a relationship with Him, that is not my goal. That is not what makes Christian fiction effective. I do my best, give my all, hone my skills, and I am a good steward of the story — but I leave the results up to God.

Shouldn’t that be how we all live our lives? To live as God called us to live and offer any glory that comes out of it to Him? This morning, I was reading Romans 1 in my morning quiet time, and these verses made my heart sing:

“From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and appointed to spread the Good News of God. . . . This Good News is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Through him we have received God’s kindness and the privilege of being apostles who bring people from every nation to the obedience that is associated with faith. This is for the honor of his name.” Romans 1:1, 3, 5.

Christian writers are no more than servants, like Paul, appointed to spread the good news of God. What a privilege! And while there are both struggles and benefits to this calling, if at the end of the day I can hold a novel in my hand and declare, “This is for the honor of his name,” it is effective indeed.

Tricia Goyer is the author of thirty books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003.

Note From Nikki: More on this past series here.

Love is a Battlefield

thelordbless222sundays

In thinking about Sunday’s post, I am reminded of the freedom of praying a prayer of blessing upon our enemies. It’s so tempting to want the worst for them. You want them to feel just as much pain as they have given you, but all that does is begin a never ending cycle. It reminds me of that movie about the missionary who died in the Amazon rain forest.

They showed the tribes seeking bloody revenge on another tribe, nearly wiping out whole family lines in a kind of genocide. It reminded me of why revenge is for the Lord. Only He knows what can CHANGE the person. Anger changes us if we hold on to it too long.

Our enemies don’t care if we hurt. When we withhold emotion or something else from them, we are only punishing ourselves. I recalled this when I finally got to the end of myself and really, genuinely prayed a prayer of blessing upon people who had hurt me badly.  It’s not uncommon to begin the process of forgiving all over again when a new situation arises.

They aren’t going to change.

So why not use this situation as an opportunity to grow?

That is why I am resting at the feet of Jesus, asking Him to take this situation, and help me grow from it; help me see any spiritual blindness on my part; and help me be a better person. Love is a choice. It’s a battlefield.

Baseball, Church, and Home Runs

Every member of a baseball team has specific duties to help the whole team get to the World Series. If one of them seeks self-glorification or total control, the team loses . That’s how I see church.

A pastor once said in a sermon that not one ministry is more important than the other. I also say that not one church (who follows the biblical teachings of Jesus) is less or more important than another church. As a team, we need to take the bat with both hands and step up to the plate. An individual can’t do everything by himself; therefore, we need to focus on our job and trust that the other team members will do their jobs. Trust is important in every relationship.

In the friendships we make on Sunday to the friendships we cultivate during the week, trust is an important ingredient. Controlling people will always exist. People who are hard to please will always add a bit of a shadow to your day. But as a church, we need to put aside petty differences and remember that we are a team. Together our differing ministries can work towards a common goal: Evangelism, love, and ultimately someone coming to know Jesus in a real and personal way. That’s a home run, a win for the Lord, and what grows strong ministries.

In the comments, tell me stories of your ministry to encourage others in the church family.

Recommended Reading:

171110

Buy Book Here: This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God

Clear, Winter Nights

Clear-Winter-Nights_1a-716x1024

Buy book here:

Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After

In Clear, Winter Nights by Trevin Wax, Chris breaks up with his fiancee and stops participating in a church plant. The novel takes us on a journey through Chris’ questions from doubts stemmed by his religious studies professor.

Most of the novel takes place during Chris’ visit with his grandfather over New Year’s weekend. Some novels of this ilk come off as preachy and contrived, but not Clear, Winter Nights. I thought it eloquent in its delivery of Christian beliefs, bringing us back to the grace of Christ on the cross. The novel explores a common theme found in college life these days–doubt. Chris began to doubt his faith and his love for Ashley. Most of his doubt comes from the anger he doesn’t know resides inside of him for what his dad did, and in Clear, Winter Nights, Chris begins to face his demons.

Clear, Winter Nights gives us a novel filled with warmth, family values, and general acceptance of those who have questions. I gave this novel five stars and recommend it for doubting Christians.

*Book given by publisher to review.

Don’t Hesitate

Don't Hesitate

“What about His reaching across cultural barriers to give value and worth to the socially outcast? Do you think Jesus considered talking to the Samaritan woman courageous? Where is God calling you to live according to His values, not the world’s standards?” – Day 242, A Leader’s Values: Courage, Lead Like Jesus

Two people slowly came in, stopping abruptly when they saw the crowd of people. My eyes glazed as I stood in line for my cappuccino, focusing on something else, mentally disengaging. I had prayed this morning for the days events and to be used by God. Now the moment was at hand, and in my hesitation, the two people turned and left.

In my self-absorption, I took too long to make a decision to leave the line and cross the floor. A simple greeting to these two, explaining this wasn’t a wedding, but an event, would have been good. Inviting them to Sunday morning church might have opened up the conversation. It would give value and worth to two people who looked different than the others in the room. I learned an important lesson.

Don’t hesitate when God calls.

And don’t let annoyances distract you from the call.

God used me in other ways that day, but, even now, I am thinking prayerfully about those two adults. I wonder what would have happened had I heeded the call?

Kitchen Theology

joy2

Theology can be talked about on Sundays, recorded at conferences – but it’s lived in kitchens or it dies at tables. Doctrine in the kitchen is doctrine in real life. Don’t belittle everyday pots and pans — they are the means to carry theology into the everyday of our lives. The mother in the kitchen is the one who can actually give life to the words of the speaker on the platform. Platform words are dead words – until brave people live them out in the kitchen. - Ann Voskamp, When You’re Missing Feeling Loved: How to Practice The Presence of God

The mother in the kitchen is the one who can actually give life to the words of the speaker on the platform,” says Ann. I read this from my phone and sigh.

Courage is practiced in the kitchen at family gatherings when discussions range from what shoes were bought at the mall to politics and religion. The kitchen conversation is where family has power over culture. If we don’t have these conversations, the sermon on Sunday is forgotten, like the shoes in my back closet next to the dust bunnies. If we don’t read the Bible, pray together, or discuss the things that matter no matter how controversial, the culture will make inroads into our children’s minds.

And really, the war is over the minds and spirits of our children. A culture isn’t changed through force or laws, but through the slow integration of teachings via public schools, preschools, and their friends who may not believe in God or in balancing a budget.

When I taught at a preschool, the curriculum taught children younger than five years old to notice a person’s color in a very politically correct way. A person’s color shouldn’t be the first thing we notice. A person’s character should matter, and that’s where those kitchen conversations are invaluable.

Let’s talk about Sunday’s sermon as a family.

Let’s talk about the country.

Let’s have a discussion.

Culture only has as much power as our families allow. We can take back our children’s mind one tweet, status, and kitchen table discussion at a time. So wipe the dust off of your kitchenaide and make some chocolate chip cookies one Sunday afternoon. Gather your family around the kitchen and talk for real.

So You Want Transformation…

From The Higher Calling
From The Higher Calling

Most people who put down blogging are people who don’t blog. Blogging is part-journaling and part-networking. It has purpose, and not just selling points.

I invite you to take the time to read my blog from when I began three years ago. If you want a picture of Jesus transforming a life, take your proverbial magnifying glass on my life. I invite you.

Jesus changed my life both physically and spiritually.

But I am not perfect.

Sometimes, I annoy people.

Sometimes, I care too much.

Sometimes, I am way too OCD about things.

But God is my Daddy. He is my Savior, my friend. Jesus is the reason I breathe, laugh, cry, and live. He is the reason for my change, but remember my humanity. I am not Jesus. Therefore, I cannot be Him. So if you are looking for perfection, it is not here. If you are looking for love, He loves perfectly. I may judge you or get annoyed at you, but I still love you.

Because Jesus loves you.

And you can learn a lot from re-reading your own blogs as well as see the transformation Jesus has done in a person’s life by reading someone else’s blog or journal.

A Culture of Indecision

listen1

A guest on Fox and Friends said, in order to keep a good job, you must take responsibility for your actions. Their target audience were millennials, but all ages are guilty, especially in this culture of indecision.

Examples often observed are the lack of commitments to anything from church membership to weekend plans, even to marriage. The culture waits until the eleventh hour to make plans or to decide not to attend. This serious lack of commitment in our society has bothered me.

The cure for the culture of indecision could be in creating better habits:

1: Keep a day planner or Google calendar. When you are asked about weekend plans, you can answer yes or no right away.

2: Make plans and keep them, even if on that day you get a better invitation someplace else or don’t mentally feel like showing up. I have often awoken in the morning before a full day and wished I could call in sick from my commitment. Short of family emergencies or illness, I am going to be there when I have committed to something.

3: Commit long or short term to a project or ministry. Practice makes for better habits. Start with a small project and commit fully to its vision. When obstacles come, find a way over or through them. Don’t let discouragement keep you from using your gifts.

4: Find a church and commit to its vision through the long haul, even when trials come. Church is often like the weather; bad weather comes, people fall away, and return again. Bad weather is a great time to stick it out and shine. Allow yourself to emotionally connect with others who attend that church and love them as good as family. Contribute to that church and help it become successful.

5: Find a job and hold on to it even when it’s no longer fun. Jobs are not fun. Even the fun jobs have moments where you absolutely hate it. They pay the bills and grow character. So stick with a good job and give them 110% no matter what they pay. You’ll earn more than a paycheck; you’ll earn people’s respect, and that in itself, is a very powerful testimony of your belief in Christ.

6: RSVP to an event yes or no; or follow up on your maybe. Be respectful to the host or hostess. They have to buy supplies for the party and need a head count. Don’t make them chase after you with follow-up phone calls and emails. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t forget to follow-up in short order on a maybe. I’ve forgotten to do that once and I felt bad, but haven’t done it since.

Matthew 5:37 struck me some months ago. It read:

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Like Fox and Friends said, take responsibility for your actions. A non-answer or not showing up allows the other to make sometimes wrong assumptions about you. The Bible implores us to be firm in our answers. Maybe that’s why I beat myself black and blue when I let someone down? I don’t want to hurt those I care about the most.

Knee-Jerk Reactions

A situation recently caused me to think about how we, as Christians, justify posting our grievances online.

Someone chose to create a very public firestorm against shut-mouth-face-smileyanother business and it had many negative consequences. I was thinking how inappropriate it was to post that grievance online when that person had access to the head of the business and could have called the person. In doing so, the situation would have been resolved rather quickly without creating negative and inflammatory feedback.

We need to think about the influences we have and the consequences of our reactions to a situation. How would a secular person view your status? What kind of consequences would your status have in the long term? When you post your grievance online people who love you will often take your side without first checking the other person’s story, and in some cases forsaking common sense, blinded by their love for you. A firestorm can mask the good the other is doing, and we must think about that, too.

So the teachable moment for me was to curb how I would react to a bad situation; to forgive the person who hurt me so I can move on; and to remember Christians are not perfect. Like in Biblical days, we, too, have our pharisees. It doesn’t mean the whole lot of Christians think or act the same way as those pharisees. It would be like blaming an entire church congregation for the unfriendly actions of two people. If I read a grievance online, I restrain myself from overreacting, or at least try. It’s easy to want to take our friends and family’s side, to believe there is no second side of the story, but we must not have a knee jerk reaction as the consequences could be worse than the wound caused by the original hurt.

Describe the consequences of your knee-jerk reaction.

It’s The Devil’s Fault

index

Attacks do happen when evil doesn’t want God’s purpose realized. But sometimes evil gets the blame for the consequences of our own decisions or lack thereof.

  • Like saying yes when I should have said no.
  • Like gaining weight because of eating poorly or exercising too little.
  • Like complaining when things aren’t happening due to my inaction.
  • Like not researching something well when it sounds too good to be true.
  • Like expecting opportunities to come to me and wondering why nothing is happening?

I’ve said yes many times before consulting with God. So it’s not always the devil’s fault when things go wrong in our lives. God gives us the tools to make wise decisions. We don’t always exercise wisdom in our decision-making and blame the devil and his minions when things go wrong.