I just read the submission guidelines for a Christian publisher that made me shake my head:
We are currently accepting submissions. Please adhere to the following guidelines:
~Your manuscript must be clean. No cussing, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, no sex, drinking, drug use, etc. This is a Christian publisher and we take pride in having our work be centered on Christ and clean of the temptations of the world! We accept stories of redemption and consequences, but not stories that glorify negative behaviors.
~ Manuscripts do not have to be overtly Christian focused but do need to follow basic Christian values. We seek an underlying positive message.
How can a story truly be about redemption if the characters commit no evil acts? There are people who do some or all of those things who long for that redemption, but they will never look here. Why? Because the characters will be “better” than they are from the first page, and they will never be able to relate.
It goes to show a lot of Christian publishers aren’t about bringing redemption to those in need, but preaching to the choir. God forbid should we challenge their fragile sensibilities.
The biggest gripe I have with these types of “guidelines” is even the Bible would be rejected. The Bible quite graphically describes infanticide, cannibalism, genocide, fornication, torture, and other forms of murder to name a few. If we are to grow closer to God, we have to acknowledge and admit there is evil in the world and in ourselves. That’s the whole point of confessing our sins. Hiding away from that reality does not change us for the better. God does not encourage us to seek shelter from every storm, but to go out in the middle of it to help and save others from its wrath.
Granted we sometimes need books to help us escape from reality. Publishers are also in a sometimes untenable position, because their largest demographic is people who don’t want to be slapped in the face with more evil they can get by merely watching the news.
On the other hand, these publishers also claim that they want books that focus on Christian values. First we need to define what those values are.
For some, it’s to live a moral life. That means no sex outside of marriage, no drinking, no gossip, yada, yada, yada.
Christianity isn’t about living cleanly. It’s about acknowledging our imperfections and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice that our sins are forgiven. Even more, we are to bring that message to everyone. We are the ones who should be the first to admit our fallen humanness, not to pretend that we’re better because we manage to avoid certain temptations.
That is why in all of my books, many of the main characters drink, some are drug addicts, and few are virgins. They are like everyone else, and as such, relatable. I want my readers to know that it doesn’t matter how “horrible” a person is, Jesus willingly died for them, too. His love and grace is out of reach for no one.
If these publishers want to relay a truly “Christian message,” then they need to use the Bible as their guide. It’s not about glorifying that evil (because the Bible does everything but, even if it is graphic). It’s about presenting a positive message that through Jesus, all manner of evil has no hold on us.
I just read an article on Yahoo titled “North Dakota has funds to fight over abortion.”
Basically it’s about how both houses passed very restrictive abortion laws, and they’re anticipated to be signed by our governor. The article also mentioned other “problems” our state is having. Not only did the article rankle me, but so did the comments.
As a NoDakian, I couldn’t let those comments pass. I don’t normally get into politics in this blog, because that’s not the point of it. I had to make an exception in this case because I honestly liked my response and didn’t want to lose it. Yes, admittedly I am bragging a little.
First, read the article (North Dakota Abortion Fight), then read my response.
I live in ND, so I will address some of the misconceptions both in the article and some of the comments here:
1. Crime rate. Is it up? Yes, but that’s par for the course when population goes up. It’s still far lower than most other states. Heck, I still don’t have to lock my doors at night if I don’t want to.
2. Housing shortage. Again, yes, but we can only build so fast due to the sudden influx of people moving here. I say by the end of this construction season — certainly by the end of 2014 — we will be mostly caught up. We’re also taking a conservative approach to building. ND had a similar boom in the 80s, but the bottom fell out of the market. It wasn’t long before many of those new homes and businesses sat empty and some towns nearly went bankrupt. We don’t want to endure that again, especially considering we have so many in Washington that hate any kind of oil/energy independence unless it’s “green.”
3. Infrastructure. This ties to — again — to the sudden rise in population. This oil boom was a surprise to everyone. We can only build and maintain our roads so quickly to meet the sudden increase in demands on them. Overall our roads and other infrastructure are still in good shape. And we have the funds available to take care of all of that and more. It’s not one or the other. We just need the time to catch up.
4. Construction costs. This is basic economics: Supply and demand. When supply is up, costs drop and when demand is up making supply drop, costs go up. In general there is NO PRICE GOUGING! I work in the construction industry, so I know.
5. Forcing “personal beliefs.” We voted those people in, and they are representing us well. If not, we can always vote them out and get those laws repealed. Unlike some politicians, they listen to their constituents. And if you don’t live in ND why the hell should you care if we want to make getting abortions difficult. People determined to do so only have a 4-hour drive to get it done.
6. Schools. Our schools are top-notch, both public and private. Granted there are some complaints that teachers don’t get paid enough, and we’re working on bills to set the minimum salary to 1-1/2 times what it is now. We have the funds to cover that as well. Also, in my community alone, we’ve voted to raise our mill-levy (property taxes) twice in the last four years to build both a new elementary and middle school. Don’t tell us we don’t care about our children — especially by basing it on one Yahoo article.
In short, if you don’t live here, what we do is none of your concern (unless you see that we’re doing many things right and want to emulate). Stick to trying to solve problems in your own states and communities, and we will do the same.
Over the last few months, I’ve been breaking out in hives, and occasionally my lips and other parts of my face would swell up. The worst happened a few weeks ago when I woke up at 2am with a swelled face and tongue. I took some antihistamine and made sure my breathing stayed normal. The medication worked, and the swelling had gone down to almost normal by morning.
I finally saw an allergist and got an allergy test done. If anyone’s ever had one, you know how awful they are. For those who don’t know, you lie on your stomach as they place liquid allergens in a grid on the back and then scratch the skin. You lie there for fifteen minutes while the body reacts (or not) to each one. And you can’t move or scratch the itchy areas.
But if the test showed what I was reacting to, I would happily submit. I had one once almost 20 years ago, so I knew what to expect.
They tested me for trees, grasses, molds and foods such as shrimp, wheat, rye, soy and a variety of nuts.
Turns out I’m allergic to fewer things than when I had the first test done. I used to be allergic to a bunch of molds, now I’m allergic to none. I also have zero food allergies. Just trees and grasses.
You’d think I’d be happy, right. No! They were unable to find what’s causing the hives and face swelling. They did recommend taking Zyrtec and gave me a prescription for EpiPens. I didn’t like it, because they only treat the symptoms. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping a diary of everything I’m exposed to, including food when I get hives/swelling. So much for easy and quick solutions.
On the other hand, it could be more a physical response to certain stresses in my life including my mom’s death two months ago and not having the motivation to submit my novel to agents/publishers.
Time will tell.
Listening to Christian radio — Air One — on my way home yesterday, the DJ asked the audience a question that he was asked in a television interview recently.
If you were stuck in an elevator with Jesus for a couple of hours, what would you talk about?
The DJ admitted he asked for the camera to be turned off so he could think about it. He didn’t want to throw out some glib or “Christian” answer. He eventually decided that he would ask Jesus if he was a fraud. It’s easy to act Christian. To be genuine heart and soul, how sure can any of us be that we’re completely genuine, not merely going through the expected motions of Christianity.
A good thought.
He also mentioned a poll that said over 60% of respondents said, “Why didn’t Jesus simply fix the elevator?”
A lady called up and said, “There’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus and the disciples laughing and telling jokes. If they were anything like men of today when they get together, they’re always trying to up one another on the funniest joke or story. I would ask Jesus what the funniest joke or story he ever heard or said when he was here on earth.”
I loved that, so much so I wish I had thought of it.
I have been thinking about my answer as well.
Let me start by sharing a story about a tax collector.
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
What does being stuck in an elevator have to do with Zaccheus?
What made Jesus notice him in the first place (aside from the fact that he was in a tree)? Jesus knew Zaccheus’ heart. He knew it was ripe for change, so he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to change it.
I figure if I’m stuck in an elevator with Jesus, it means he has something to say to me. He would know my heart, my needs and desires much better than I could ever dream of or articulate, so I would have no choice but to let him guide the conversation. Getting a visitation from Jesus would be both exciting and frightening. I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, my, what did I do to warrant a visitation from the Lord himself?”
That said, I imagine I would have more questions than he could answer in the few hours we’re stuck there (assuming he didn’t halt time during our conversation). Some would be trivial such as, does the Loch Ness Monster really exist?
I may even want to know if his return will happen in my lifetime. I doubt he would tell me, but like the saying goes, it never hurts to ask.
The biggest question would be similar to what the DJ asked. What does God want me to accomplish on earth? How am I supposed to use my gifts to best further his kingdom?
Last of all, I would ask for his blessing, to give me strength, courage and to never give up on the tasks he’s given me out of fear or frustration.
Now it’s your turn. What would you ask or say to Jesus if you were stuck in an elevator with him?
For anyone who’s seen Bruce Almighty, one of my favorite scenes is when Bruce is asking for a sign and a truck pulls in front of him full of roadway signs such as Stop, Detour, etc.
Some of God’s signs are subtle, but obvious if one is paying attention. When those don’t work, then he (I can imagine him sighing and rolling his eyes when I reach this point) throws out even more obvious signs.
As I complained in my last entry, I’ve lost all motivation to write. It’s been a struggle, but I think I’ve finally reached a point where I must. Writing is such a large part of who I am, to stop is almost akin to not breathing. I’ve asked — albeit mostly subconsciously — what God wants me to write.
Since asking the question, I’ve received at least four emails about writing query letters.
Other than a phone call from the Guy Upstairs, could it be more obvious?
Just call me a knucklehead for being so dense. Thankfully God is patient (even if he does roll his eyes at me).
I’ve been neglecting my writing, but even worse, I’ve stalled on seeking a publisher for my novel.
Part of it — most of it — is lack of hope in the future. I don’t see how I can succeed as a writer in today’s economy. People can barely pay for necessities, how can I expect them to dish out $5-15 for a book?
It sounds so rational, doesn’t it? What’s missing is my faith. To hide my words away is the result of no faith that God will use my gifts — my words to their fullest. Why would he compel me to write them down if I was not meant to share them?
In keeping my talents hidden, I’m also assuming to know the mind and purpose of God. How arrogant is that?
By ignoring my writing and allowing my fears to overwhelm my faith, I’ve sinned twice. First is to ignore God’s mandate to bring hope into the world, and by claiming I know more about the future and what God wants from me.
I’ve set myself above God and as such denied him and his promises.
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
“Neither one,”he replied. “I am the commander of the the Lord’s army.”
At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reference. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy. And Joshua did as he was told.”
~ Joshua 5:13-15
Is God our friend or foe? It depends.
We often hear people say — especially the so-called Religious Right — that God is on our side.
I submit that’s a huge presumption on their part. Where’s the evidence? Politically speaking, the evidence is slim if non-existent. If that were the case, abortion and gay marriage (I expect the Supreme Court to rule in favor of gay marriage), would still be illegal and the fights to keep prayer and religious symbols on public property would always be won.
Yet those fights are lost.
We should eliminate such verbiage when we fight for what we believe, because it smacks more of pride instead of humility and a genuine desire to do God’s will. If God were truly on our side, we would never lose our battles — as the book of Joshua testifies more than once, such as the battle of Jericho. Nor would we ever have to proclaim how God is on our side, because it would be obvious.
The better question: Are we on God’s side?
The moment Joshua discovered who the commander was — neither friend nor foe — he fell to the ground and asked what he, a mere servant, could do.
As Christians, are we bowing before God and presenting ourselves as servants to his will? Or are we too busy fighting battles without him?
Joshua also describes how the Israelites lost at Ai soon after defeating Jericho (7:1-15). Why? Several reasons. One, although they were required to destroy everything in Jericho, one person kept some of things that were supposed to be dedicated to God. An egregious sin in God’s eyes. Joshua also didn’t ask for God’s will before attacking Ai. He and the nation of Israel pridefully assumed that since God was on their side, they would win.
If we want to win our battles, we first have to ask God what battles we should fight.
We must be sure we’re on God’s side.
After reading Jessica Thomas’ blog (http://jessicathomasink.com/blog/), I was reminded of an important and lasting event that happened when I was 18.
On August 10, 1988, I went to a concert featuring the Christian rock band Ruscha (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruscha). They not only had great music, but a fascinating testimony that’s both horrifying and encouraging. Here’s what I wrote after I came home that night:
The [Ruscha] concert was supposed to start at 7:30, but I left the house at 5:30 because I had to pick up Cheri, Wendy (two people I went to cosmetology school with) and her sister. We got to the church at 6:00, so we had an hour and a half to waste. We just stood by the doors and argued over what color t-shirt I was going to buy.
They let us into the auditorium at around 7:00 and we got front-row seats (the advantage of getting there so early).
When the concert started, it wasn’t until they were halfway through the first verse that we all stood up, and it wasn’t until the second song we went up to the stage. I got right up front, so I was definitely a happy camper. When Peter, the bass player, started to speak, he told us all to sit down, so we began to return to our seats.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “you can sit up here. We won’t bite!”
Peter and his brother, Nickoli, are from Russia. The whole family were Christians, so he had some very enlightening stories to tell about what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. This is their story:
When we were in school in Russia, the first day of school the teacher said to the class, “There is no God, and I’ll prove it to you. Bow your heads and pray to God for a piece of candy.”
We all bowed our heads and prayed to God for a piece of candy. She then told us to lift our heads and there was no candy on our desks.
“See,” she said. “There is no God. Now I want you to pray to Lenin (I don’t exactly remember who), and Communism for a piece of candy.”
We all bowed our heads and prayed to Lenin and Communism for a piece of candy. We all lifted our heads and there was a piece of candy in front of us. It turned out the teacher had gone around the room and placed a piece of candy on everyone’s desk while our heads were bowed.
One day the KGB came into our classroom – remember this is kindergarten full of 5 and 6-year-olds – took a gun out of his holster and threw a Bible on the floor.
He pointed the gun at the Bible and said, “Get in line, and I want everyone to spit on this Bible.”
The first boy came up with tears streaming down his face he was so scared. He quickly spit on it and ran back to his desk. The second boy walked by and spit on it.
Me: Peter bent down to the Bible he had on the stage.
The third in line was a little girl. She bent down and with her little six-year-old hands gently wiped the spit off the Bible. She then bent down and kissed the Bible.
Immediately the KGB man put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger – blew her brains out for the whole kindergarten class to see.
Me: Wendy had told me that story earlier, but it had a greater impact on me when Peter told it, because he was a witness. I could see the pain in his eyes and hear it in his voice.
Aside: I wrote this particular part a few days earlier, but I add it here to put what comes next in better context.
On the inside of their album Come Alive there was a sickle and hammer of the Russian flag (remember, this is 1988). The hammer, however, was crushing the sickle and I realized after looking at it a while that the hammer was a cross. At the bottom corner there was written KGB inside a circle and a slash. From that I figured the group was originally from Russia, and something happened where the KGB was involved.
What Peter said about the little girl confirmed my hunch about the album, but that wasn’t all.
Peter picked up a book and showed a picture of a dead man stabbed in the heart six times just for being a Christian.
Peter: There was a man named Yuri that went into the army. They were all put into a line and were told to bow down to the Russian flag, kiss it and take an oath. Yuri just stood there with his arms crossed. That infuriated the KGB and they said if he did not bow to the flag, they would kill him.
He said simply, “You can kill my body, but my soul will live forever.”
That infuriated the KGB even more so they took a hot knife to his flesh. His blood covered his body and meat hung off his bones (Me: I could feel the audience cringe at this and many gasped and covered their faces). Still he would not deny God. They took a hot nail and forced it between his fingers, so there was nothing left but torn flesh. They put a hot iron near enough to his eyes so there was nothing left but black, bloody sockets. Then one KGB grabbed his jaw while another grabbed his tongue and pulled it off and out of his mouth. Still he did not give in to the KGB.
Peter looked at the audience and said, “How many of you would do the same?”
He continued: At three o’clock in the morning while all of us were sleeping – this is God’s truth – the KGB lined up outside our house and at three in the morning all of a sudden all the windows and doors blew out and the KGB rushed in. They shoved us out of our beds and threw us up against the walls and searched us. They tore up our beds, mattresses and pillows, tore out the walls and floors, anything and everything, even potatoes. See, we used to cut out a piece of potato and put a page of the Bible in it and turn it over. They tore up our house and everything in it looking for any kind of Christian literature.
We all went outside and all us kids saw that the KGB had our grandfather’s hands behind his back, and hand over his mouth so he couldn’t say a word to any of us. My grandfather shook one hand loose, looked up and pointed up to the sky. The KGB hit him in the head, shoved him in a car, and they all drove off while we watched tearful and helpless. Our grandfather returned to us weeks later in a casket. He had frozen to death.”
Me: Peter said more such as a Bible given out for free in America costs $700 in Russia and how on a dollar bill are the words, “In God We Trust,” but the word ‘God’ cannot be mentioned in public schools.
He asked us if we would be willing to die for Christ and to raise our hands if we would.
Peter: I noticed some of you immediately raised them, some were not quite so sure and others couldn’t at all. But how so many of us are willing to die for Christ, but how unwilling we are to live for him.”
He asked us to assume an attitude of prayer, but added, “No one close your eyes or bow your heads. We must be willing to show others our commitments. Any of you who want to know Christ, I want you to come up to this stage and stand with me.”
He waited and no one made a move. He begged, “because it is a matter of life and death. There’s no more time to waste.”
Still no one went to the stage. I almost wanted to go up there myself, just so no one else would have to be the first.
“Fine,” he said, “I’ll do it your way. Bow your heads and close your eyes.”
He prayed, and still no one came.
“Well,” he said, “I guess everyone here is a Christian, but I know that there are those that aren’t, but are afraid to come. And I know there are those that are Christians, but need a re-dedication . . .”
My eyes shot up just then, for Peter had referred to me.
“Now I want those that are in need to come up to the stage . . .”
I went up, but I was not alone.
Peter looked at each one of us on stage and asked if we were Christians or not and to nod or shake our head. He told the audience that we had the guts to come up on stage in front of everyone.
To live for Christ, we must be willing to let the whole world know. That was Peter’s message, and it was the one message I needed to hear that night.
And a message I needed to hear this night as well.
No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
Just to give you fair warning, I am reading the book of Joshua, and as with any time I read and study the Bible, I get a lot of thoughts about what it all means. My entries as a consequence may seem disjointed at times.
All throughout the Bible it seems as though God has abandoned his people. In truth it all started because his people abandoned him first by ignoring his first law of worshiping only him.
As a nation, we seem to be heading down a similar path of self-destruction. We worship other gods such as money, ourselves, our leaders and placing all our faith to prosperity and security in our government.
For many Christians including myself, we despair that God has abandoned us in return. Since he promised never to abandon us, I think he’s instead allowing us to face the consequences of our actions as a way to encourage — if not force — us to turn back to him.
God may let our country fall, but he has not — nor ever will — abandon us. All we have to do is return to him and he will return to us.
Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do no be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
We sometimes fall into the belief that material prosperity and economic security is proof of God’s favor. That is missing the point. The Kingdom of God is not of this world, nor will it ever be. God is more concerned for our spiritual well-being, because no amount of riches will gain us entry into Heaven.
We are a spoiled nation, and God may well use our current turmoil to remind us where we need to expend our energies.
That is not to say we should give up and hide in underground bunkers until Jesus comes again. Quite the opposite. We are charged to be out in the world even as we are not to be a part of it.
It is not the approval of man, but of God we should seek. We should long for God to say to us when we meet him face-to-face, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
After less than 5000 in my nanowrimo novel in 11 days, I’ve decided to quit. It’s not the lack of words written alone that made me decide to give it up this year.
I couldn’t get my heart into the story. It’s one I want to write, but my mind is focused on other, more important things.
The election and subsequent results forced me to rethink a few things, because they were both frustrating and terrifying. Over the last week or so, I realized I’ve allowed them to distract me from what’s important.
The only remedy is to return to my first love, Jesus Christ. Only through him will I find hope and clarity. By studying his word, I will rediscover his will for me. In general, I know my mandate is to bring others to and closer to him. How I am to go about it is the more specific question. I know it’s through the written word, that’s a given, but perhaps it’s not the only way. There are others such as through service and not being afraid (or timid) in expressing my faith to others. Sometimes the best form of evangelism is by example. Not preaching, per se, but through kindness and generosity to name a few.
I’ve been selfish, and shortsighted, seeing events unfold and caring only how it effects me and my family. I’m driven by fear instead of acting proactively to help others. We are not hurting financially like so many others. We are greatly blessed (more on that in my next entry) and as such we have a greater responsibility to help.
So before I begin reading my Bible, I have the simplest prayer: What would you have me learn today and how do you want me to act on it?