Friday, July 30, 2010

Thoughts on Leaving the Church

It always saddens me when a public figure denounces Christianity. Apparently this week we received another blow from author, Anne Rice. Her comments were something like this: she would remain a follower of Christ, but could no longer tolerate the bickerings of Christians and the intolerance of Christianity.

I experienced a glimmer of understanding with her opinion. I have been involved in churches all my life. And often times Christians don't act like Christ. There is power struggle, arguments over doctrine, exclusivity, and lack of commitment within churches. There are valid reasons why we have terms like "pew warmers", "back-sliders", and "back-row baptists". These are reasons why we see church splits. It is a sad testimony that we show the world sometimes.

Ms. Rice also gave a list of several different "I will not be anti-______" statements. Some of those confused me, because I would not consider myself or the fellow Christians I know to be "anti-____." But unfortunately, I have also heard Christians make statements such as, "In order to be a good Christian, you have to be Republican." I agree with Ms. Rice on that point...I don't know anywhere in the Bible where Jesus proclaimed a preference for any political party.

However, that is where my understanding of and agreement with Ms. Rice's views end. In order to be a follower of Christ, we must follow his teachings. We get those teachings from scripture. The Bible is his word, and there are some teachings that are not politically correct or socially acceptable in today's world. I do not apologize for that. I would not presume to change those teachings to meet with the approval of the world. I am not God.

It is unfortunate to me that sometimes the very people who loudly and publicly proclaim the cause of Christ do so in a manner that send people running screaming in the opposite direction. Jesus gave us two great commandments, according to the scripture. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and will all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matt. 22:37-39. He also gave us standards by which to live. Read the Matthew chapters 5-8 for starters. These standards are difficult and even impossible for us to live up to on our own. That is why he gives us the Holy Spirit--his strength and power. That is also why he is the God of forgiveness and grace. It is shameful when Christians do not balance the teaching of Christ's standards with his greatest commands, which are to "love".

One more point I would make in reference to Mr. Rice's opinion. As Christians we mess up...all the time. Those who proclaim not to are lying. But Paul teaches that we, the church, are the body of Christ. We cannot exist outside of that body. We are called to a community, a continue to share the gospel of Good News together. To be a true follower of Christ, one must follow all of his teachings, which includes coming together with other believers. Like it or not, we are a family.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Acknowledgments Matter

As a young reader, I rarely paid much attention to the Acknowledgments page. I usually read the Dedication, because it was short. But in the Acknowledgments the author always thanked a long list of people I had never heard of—and I was always ready to get to the story.

Once I became a writer, the importance of thanking people who played a role during the creation of a particular story was a task I took very seriously. After all, you can't dedicate the book to everyone. That diminishes the poignancy of a dedication. But there are so many people who are important. I think that must have been why the Acknowledgments page was created in the first place!

So when I knew "Second Chance" was going to be published, I kept a running list of people who should be thanked for one reason or another. I wanted people who had encouraged or contributed or questioned or supported me to know they were appreciated. But I honestly didn't believe it would mean that much to anyone besides myself and the people mentioned.

WELL, I was wrong....

A friend called me today.

"I just had a lady at my house who was singing your praises!"

"Really?" I said.

"Yes. She had a copy of your book in her hand. She said all the ladies where she worked had just been raving about it, and she was so excited to finally get to read it."

"That's great!" I said.

"She said the ladies were wanting to find out how to get in touch with you, being a local author—they wanted to try and book you for a speaking engagement."

"Cool!" (I'm getting more excited with each sentence.)

"What's so funny is, the lady said, 'I opened the book to the Acknowledgments page, and the first name on the list was yours [referring to my friend]! I couldn't believe it! I thought, "I know this woman!". So do you think you could give me the author's phone number so I could get in touch with her?'"

By this time I was laughing right along with my friend, who of course obliged the lady and gave her my phone number. Who would have thought a simple "Thank you to my dear friend..." printed at the beginning of my book would have led to a contact with a group of ladies who want to meet me?

Trust me when I say, "Acknowledgments matter." more ways than one!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tears for Fears

Do you remember that music group? Their most recognizable hit, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", belted over the loudspeaker as 121 seniors from the International School Bangkok threw their graduation caps in the air in 1989. Yes, I know I'm dating myself.

I woke up this morning with that phrase on my mind. Then I began to wonder, do I really want to rule the world? I immediately scoffed, of course not. This internal monologue continued, naturally with a cataloging of what I do want. As you can imagine, the list began rather trivially. Since it was 5:00 am, and I had no particular reason for being awake that early, number one was more sleep.

I want to sell more copies of my book. Lots more. Another self-serving notion.

Then I began to ponder the song again, and the meaning behind the words (at least for me). I think people want to leave their mark on this world. We long to know that we matter. Our greatest desire, truly, at the end of all things, is to be loved. And for some of us, that translates into, if I can accomplish something really spectacular then people will know me and love me and remember me when I die.

Then I was reminded (maybe that's why I was awake so was quiet enough to hear), that I am loved. It is truly amazing to me how often I need to be reminded of this fact. It is also somewhat a relief to know I'm not the only one. John Eldredge uses the analogy of a leaking bucket (rather that a cup to be filled). Our spirits can not stay satisfied from a single happy event, or even occasional encounters with God. I think he designed us that way.

So the next time you feel yourself longing for "something", may I suggest that you let yourself be reminded that you are loved?

Now it would be a lie if I told you I no longer have a desire to sell lots of copies of my book (although my wish for more sleep has abated for now). But I can say it is not a burden on my mind at this particular moment. And I am thankful for the reminder, once again, that it doesn't matter to God what great and wonderful things I do in this life. He loved me before I ever accomplished anything, and he will continue to do so forever! Isn't he truly wonderful?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Adventure

I just finished Nick Valentino's "Thomas Riley". A friend and I met the author at a Book Fair in April. My friend purchased the book because Valentino did such a wonderful job of creating interest! Neither of us are typical fans of science fiction--so that is saying something that we both wanted to read his novel.

The story tells the high adventure of Thomas Riley and Cynthia Basset; weapons designers for the country of West Canvia. When an alchemy experiment goes awry, both are caught up in a mission that threatens their lives and the lives of all with whom they come in contact.

While I remain more a fan of fantasy than sci-fi, I must say there were times when I was completely engrossed in the story. I think those who truly enjoy the more intricate parts of this genre (the extreme detail of weaponry, technological jargon, and futuristic battle sequences) would call this book a success. I would give it 3 stars...but apart from some grammatical mistakes that always lower a book's ranking for me, I realize this book would most likely garner higher praise from a more dedicated sci-fi fan.

If you enjoy action, detailed battle sequences, futuristic drama...with sky pirates and magical alchemy experiments thrown in...then this is the book for you!