God’s Not Dead, but Maybe “Christianity” Should Be


Are we shouting “crucify him?”

Finally, after decades of complaints, prayers, token support and watching “B” Christian movies barely funded and with the best intentions, but not always much in the way of acting, movie goers have been inundated with a plethora of positive cinema. All in this month before Easter. You’d think the Christian community would be thrilled and celebrating.

Of the famous four, “Son of God”, “Noah”, “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is For Real,” I’ve only had the privilege of viewing the first, so far. Plans to see the others are in the works. Kids are begging for them, especially after viewing all the trailers a couple of days ago. My opinions, therefore, are limited.

But the point of this post isn’t to give a review.

I saw “Son of God” with a girlfriend the second day it came out. I felt it was well done, and while it may not have depicted the intensity shown in “The Passion of the Christ,” it evoked deep emotion. I appreciated the scenery which created an experience for me of walking with Jesus, and the way he was portrayed in such a personable manner, as I imagine Jesus would have been. Woman followed him in the Bible, so I appreciated the inclusion of the female gender, not only the men who were his disciples.

While some of the scripture was re-ordered, omitted or changed (probably for cinematic affect), the message remained unscathed and potent. Jesus came to save us, sinners, through love and compassion and ultimately his death on the cross and resurrection. We weren’t blown away by the film, but liked it a lot in spite of its “creative license.”

The shocker to me?

The criticism these movies have garnered from the Christian community. I don’t expect reviewers who don’t believe to rave in a positive way about any of these movies. After all, they talk about God and the Bible, Jesus and Heaven—topics that often raise objections among the majority of folks. What I didn’t expect is the flak from Christians who have complained on a number of points.

Really people?

The arguments seem to stem primarily from the pious protecting the Bible, or worse, their personal theological views. But the end result is cutting the throats of fellow believers who are living out their faith in a way they hope will make a difference by infusing the public with a taste of the Lord.

It may be presumptuous, but I choose to believe that each of the participants, who created, acted in, produced and directed, sought wisdom from God in what they did. Did they miss the mark? Probably in some ways. Are they human? Yes, which makes them potentially fallible. But did God use them to touch lives by showing people a bit more of him through these films? I’m betting, yes.

What’s the real point?

God created us, loves us and wants to be with us. Jesus died on the cross and rose again in order to make that a reality in spite of our free will leading to sin. We can have all kinds of theological debates(which we’re admonished not to do – see 2Tim.2:23 & Titus 3:9) over the “right way” to portray the truth, or simply be grateful that someone has the guts enough to do it. In some manner, these movies have the potential to bless believers and sow seeds for those who may not have thought about God before. Maybe some curious chap will choose to view and actually come away choosing Christ. It’s possible, regardless of what many are saying.

Bottom line?

Today we celebrate what Jesus did for all of us, and look forward to symbolizing his resurrection in a couple of days. People do that in many ways all over the world. It means something different to each person, each year depending on their personal relationship with Jesus. In the same way, the message of a movie, book, blog, or work of art can inspire whatever God wants despite the human factor of the messenger.

But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.                 Philippians 1:18

When will we lay down our agendas and uphold our brothers, the church, and join in unity to bless and not curse?

Oh gaze of love so melt my pride that I may in your house but kneel, and in my brokenness to cry, spring worship unto Thee.”  Hymn by Jars of Clay

What do you think? Seen the movies? Read reviews?
 
Disclaimer: I did not create this YouTube.

Encouragement for Writers


On Christmas Eve I received a great gift.

Christmas at the Bennet house
Christmas at the Bennet house

The three critiques for the second novel I entered in the ACFW First Impressions contest arrived in my inbox. As my wonderful husband predicted, they were far more positive than my first novel’s scores. I didn’t expect that—I mean, I’m the same writer, right? How could two entries be judged so differently? Subject matter, I believe. But regardless of the reason, I felt much more encouraged that I may have the makings of a true author yet.

The encouragement of others makes a world of difference!

Those of you who commented and wrote encouraging emails in response to my post last week really turned my heart around. Thank you for your vote even if you weren’t a contest judge! Another positive was the advice from the sender of the email containing my critiques. Her gracious and wise comments offered a perspective that was very liberating. I also read some great blog posts regarding how writers can respond to reviews and critiques. Here’s the compiled (some repeated by many) advice I found most encouraging:

  • Put away the critiques after reading them once and read them later with a freshly open mind.
  • Writing is subjective and you have no idea what the judge has been through personally before commenting on your writing. Remember this is their opinion. Take it with much salt. (Charles Dickens, one of my fave authors, would never stand a chance in today’s market!)
  • Throw out anything you don’t agree with. (Really?? Wow! Cool. Still want to keep an open mind though.)
  • Pay attention to any area commented on by more than one judge.
  • Any criticism is meant to help you launch into better writing.

After Christmas I took out all six critiques again.

I laid them side by side from the lowest score to the highest. From the first point to the last on each I looked for the highest scored areas and the lowest.  Then I looked for any common areas that I seemed to do well in as well as any I need to improve. This time reading through them, I attempted to be more objective and analytical in order to find ways to grow in my writing.

Plot and structure appear to be my weak spot.

That’s probably why I feel like I’m in the deep end treading water now that I’ve hit almost the middle of my first novel! So I ordered a couple of recommended books by James Scott Bell to help me swim. (Or write, as it were.)

In the end, I’m so glad I entered the contest. I’m grateful to the judges for their input and advice, and for all the encouragement from readers and other writers! I hope to emerge a better writer as a result of this. Someday, maybe I’ll even become a professional!

What has been encouraging to you as you write? What are your weak areas? What advice or encouragement do you have for other writers?

How to Deal with Discouragement


I didn’t win the writing contest. 

Is it Time to Get Off the Highway?
Is it Time to Get Off the Highway?

Not that I expected to win. Truly! I entered more for the experience and the input from the judges. My desire to become a better writer motivated me to take the plunge and humbly accept any criticism offered. I am thankful for the three judges who read and critiqued my work, offering their opinion and writing expertise.

Here’s the dilemma.

I read the first evaluation of my work and while it wasn’t off the charts promoting me as a wonderful writer, it offered some hope that all the writing, classes, critiquing, etc. had been worth it; I actually was learning something and it showed in my above average skills. Yay! The second set of comments stunned me. This particular judge scored me as a below average writer with major problems. The evaluator recommended I get help for the many elements needing work. OUCH! I gulped and read the final critique. The comments fell mostly in various places between the first two.

Writing is so subjective.

The reality of this doesn’t make it any easier to welcome criticism, but I want to grow and learn from my mistakes so I took to heart every score and comment. However, I looked for common areas needing work, and couldn’t find any. Not one of the three judges scored the same in any area! As a matter of fact, in a few areas, I received both my lowest and highest scores! I’m not sure how to interpret that. Which judge’s opinion do I go by?

Discouragement set in.

I confess that all week, since reading those reports, I’ve had the worst time sitting down to write. (In all honesty, the craziness of Christmas isn’t helping that either!) The old lies keep pounding at my door.

“You are no good as a writer and you’ll never be. No matter how hard you try. You can’t write well. Period. Give it up.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the same voices?

I finally forced myself to write for an hour. Just one. It was torture. I struggled to put a few words down and berated myself out of every one of them. But about halfway through my timer’s ticking, the words began to flow again. When the chimes sounded, ending my time, disappointment flooded me. It had been fun. I wanted more.

I guess a writer is a writer no matter how well or how poorly she writes. The discouragement still feels a bit heavy on my shoulders, but I love to write. I can’t help it. So, here’s a blog post. Thanks for reading.

What makes you discouraged about writing? How do you handle criticism or rejection?