Whose Line

A well-written line can change a story. Stringing together the perfect words can add notoriety, depth, humor, mystery, poetry, or truth to what is being written. “To be or not to be” calls to mind Shakespeare just as easily as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” reminds us of Charles Dickens. And who upon reading the line, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it”, didn’t find their curiosity piqued to know what C.S. Lewis found so repulsive about the boy? These are classic lines that have been parodied and parroted since they were written.

However, lesser known authors aren’t necessarily lesser authors when it comes to crafting a great line. It’s no secret that Kristen Heitzmann is my favorite Christian author. One of the reasons is her ability to tell the truth, even the ugly truth, in a way that is beautiful and meaningful. In Secrets she states, “Life was fragile, and the shadows left behind touched those who came after.” It’s a line full of the reality of life’s pain, but the poetic way it is phrased doesn’t slice the reader to the core, leaving them defenseless against the truth.

Even beginning writers are capable of this artistry. I am a member of a local Christian writers’ group. We edit each other’s work and provide feedback. Looking through the comments on each story, it is not unusual to find, “love the way you say this” or “this paints such a vivid picture”. One night Brenda shared her newest chapter with the rest of the group. As she read it, we were drawn in. When she was done, we sat there in stunned silence. They were just words on a page, but the way Brenda used them created a clear image of both the physical happenings and the emotional effects. It made a difficult scene a pleasure to read.

While our favorite books mean a lot to us and certain lines will always jump off the page, connecting us in new ways to the stories we read, they all fall short in comparison to the power of the Word of God. Scripture tells us God’s word is different. It was not birthed out of our limited mortal minds and imaginations. God gave the word. Hebrews 4 tells us God’s word is alive and active and sharp, cutting to the truth of what’s in our hearts. It is useful to equip believers to do God’s will. It is our guide, and it endures forever. It is true and it is always right. The longest chapter in scripture, Psalm 119, is devoted to the Word of God. Scripture can just as easily correct me as encourage me. It can give me hope, joy, and purpose. And each time I read it, I can come away with a new insight into who God is and who I am to Him. Each line is a line that makes a difference now and for eternity.

By the Book: Share your favorite quote from a book and/or your favorite quote from scripture in the comments below. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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Scavenger Hunt

It’s easy when my favorite authors come out with new books.  I simply buy them, usually on the day they become available. But what about the in between times? I can’t go without reading at all. That’s crazy. No, I have to have something to read, and I want it to be good. The books stores are filled with possibilities, but it’s so hard to choose. That’s why I love the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt.

The Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt only lasts a few days, and it is completely online. Authors use their websites to host other authors and give one scavenger hunt clue per site. Then, the participants are directed to the next author’s website. With twenty-five participating authors, I have found books I’d like to read for myself and give as gifts. Plus, many of the authors have additional contests on their own sites. When all twenty-five clues are found, participants enter them at stop #25 for a chance to win books and gift cards. The first stop is at lisatawnbergren.com. You only have a few days, so, get hunting!

Whether online or in real life, scavenger hunts can be a lot of fun. Of course, if you can’t solve the riddles or find the needed items, scavenger hunts can also be a source of frustration. Get too frustrated and the temptation to give up can become unbearable. We can’t help questioning whether or not the effort is worth the reward.

Isn’t it great that we don’t have to worry about that with God? Drawing closer to God is always worth the time and energy we put into it. Coming to a deeper understanding of who God is and who we are to Him is never a waste of our time. And we don’t have to worry about riddles or missing the treasure at the end. Scripture tells us we have been given the Holy Spirit to teach us and help us understand God’s truths. (John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:12-13).  But God’s promises for us don’t end with our own personal tutor of heavenly things. God promises He can be found. He doesn’t say only those who never make mistakes can find Him. He doesn’t preface His promise with a list of impossible things we must first accomplish in order to find Him. He gives us one simply stated directive for finding Him. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) This promise is also found in Deuteronomy 4:29. Finding God takes our heart, all of it. When we search for Him using all our hearts, God will be found.  And when we find God, we have found the most precious treasure we could ever hope to find.

By the Book: Good books are a lot of fun, and I encourage you to participate in the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt. But always remember, the most important searching you will ever do is searching for God with all your heart. Take time to find Him every day.

Growing the Light

Last night, as I joined with others celebrating the 40th anniversary of the camp I have directed for the last 20 years, we enjoyed a wonderful campfire message. It was special for me because the speaker, Eddie, was my chaplain when I attended the camp. He spoke about being salt and light to the world, inspiring them to get to know God through how we live.

After the message, we shared memories from past camps. One man shared the phrase, “Do you know that you know what you know?”  Eddie often used the phrase as chaplain, and it had stayed with this man, inspiring him to a deeper relationship with God.

Eddie made an impact for God in campers’ lives, mine included. But camp chaplains are not the only ones with this kind of ability. Christian authors have the unique opportunity to touch people they will most likely never meet. It’s a privilege and a responsibility. It’s a special way of being the salt and light of Christ while providing teaching, encouragement, challenge, and entertainment.

Looking back, I see how various authors have influenced me in positive, eternal ways. They have inspired me, just as Eddie did, to live my life more fully for God. Kristen Heitzmann, Sheila Walsh, Bruce Wilkinson, and Liz Curtis Higgs are just a few authors with a special place in my life.

Now, as I begin my own journey as a Christian writer, I find myself aspiring to show the salt and light in my writing as beautifully as those who have come before me. It is my deepest desire to make a difference in my readers’ lives and to go beyond entertainment for entertainment’s sake. I want God’s truth to be evident in all that I write.

You may not be a writer. You may sing or babysit children. Your life’s dream may be to serve in the military, educate tomorrow’s adults, or care for the sick. It doesn’t matter. As a believer, you are under the same call. You can be God’s salt and light wherever your dreams take you. You can take the faith-filled inspirations you have received from others and let it change the way you live your life.

When you do this, you take up the challenge Eddie left his listeners with last night. In speaking of the camp, he said he was blessed to come back 20 years later and see those who had been campers returning to the work of the camp as adults. He encouraged us to continue building on and improving on the dream of those who had come before. He encouraged us to continue being that example for the current generation of campers, so that, in time, they too can take their place as salt and light at the camp.

Wherever you are, determine to make a difference for God through how you live. What you do may seem insignificant, but you never know the impact your life will have on others.  Whatever arena of life you find yourself in, keep building on your life of faith. Live your faith each day. Others will notice. And because of the way you have lived, their faith will grow, providing more salt and light in the world we live in.

By the Book: Read Matthew 5:13-16. Thank God for those who were salt and light in your life. Ask Him to help your life do that for others.  Tell me about one of these special people in the comments below.

Learning to Love Leah

I never liked Leah. The way she heartlessly masqueraded as her sister Rachel on her wedding night was appalling. And Jacob claiming he didn’t know the woman in his bed was not Rachel? That’s always seemed sketchy to me. Though I have to admit, I’ve taken pleasure in the poetic justice of Laban’s deceit after Jacob’s own maneuvering to steal Esau’s blessing from his father. But poor Rachel. She always seemed like the innocent victim. Some of my pity did fade in light of the soap opera of jealousy and subterfuge that commenced when Jacob found himself married to both women who vied for his love and attention as passionately as prize fighters going for the belt. The Biblical account of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel is told in a simple, factual way that gives a clear moral, but there is little detail about the people themselves and situations behind their actions. Could Leah have loved Rachel and still followed through with her father’s orders? Was Rachel really an innocent victim? And once he found himself married to Leah, why one earth would Jacob have thought marrying Rachel would be the answer to his problems? Seriously? Not just two women to keep happy but two sisters! I really want to know what he was thinking.

The true account from scripture doesn’t answer these questions, but Liz Curtis Higgs’ fictional retelling does a wonderful job of opening up the possibilities for readers. Set in Scotland in the 1700s, Thorn in My Heart tells the story of Jamie McKie and sisters Leana and Rose McBride. Using the practices and superstitions of the time, this retelling draws in many of the true Biblical elements while giving a sense of personhood to the characters. Liz Curtis Higgs doesn’t pretend her work is the Scottish version of how it really happened. Instead, she offers an entertaining possibility of who the people were and why they acted the ways they did. Each character is given personality, hopes, and motivations. It doesn’t matter if the real people that inspired the fictional characters shared those traits. Jamie, Leana, and Rose are relatable. Their complex characters feel true to life and challenge readers to look beyond the bare facts of the Biblical account and understand that Jacob, Leah, and Rachel were more than a set of actions on the pages of scripture. They had feelings and motives and hopes and hurts that (for good or bad) drove them in the choices they made, and they really are no different than each of us.

We each fall into the trap of making choices based on things other than following God’s will. Sometimes, like Jacob, we want to make God’s will happen instead of simply letting it happen in God’s time and way. When that happens, we can turn to Jacob’s story and the stories of others in scripture. I take great comfort in the failures of heroes of the faith like Jacob, Abraham, David, and Peter because God goes on to use them in mighty ways. And because God is the same today as He was then, we know God will use us too.

By the Book: Read Hebrews 11. If your life was written like the stories in scripture, how would your story look? Would people see a heart that wants to follow God despite your faults? Would they see a less than perfect person letting God redeem their failures and turn their story into something beautiful? Take time to ask God to make your story His story.