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Sand in Your Shoes, by Lela Markham   Leave a comment

via Sand in Your Shoes, by Lela Markham

Does your faith make you uncomfortable? It should. Jesus wasn’t comfortable. He struggled with temptation, He was cold, hungry and tired, sometimes He was frustrated enough to toss usurpers out of His Father’s house by violent means. He risked censor by correcting the churchy, judgey people of His day in public settings. They tried to stone Him a couple of times and then they nailed Him to a cross to kill Him in a very cruel way. He then died with the sins of the world seeped into His very flesh. Our Savior was not comfortable:

John 15:18-19

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, 48  the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason 51  the world hates you. 

Jesus promised us that we would be as uncomfortable as He was – the world would hate us, we would struggle with our efforts to be His followers, sin would dog our steps.

If your Christian faith does not make you uncomfortable with the world around you and how you interact with it, then something is probably wrong with your Christian walk. Being a Christian in this world ought to feel a bit like having sand in your shoes.

When I write, more and more often, I find myself pausing with my fingers over the keyboard, thinking about how what I feel led to write might make some people uncomfortable. Sometimes it will make non-Christians uncomfortable, but more often than not, it will make Christians uncomfortable. I mostly don’t fear that anymore. I know that’s what God wants me to do … point out the uncomfortable tensions of Christians living in this world. We shouldn’t feel cozy with the world around us, but in many ways, we shouldn’t feel snuggly within the Christian community either.

I want my readers to think about the soldier sitting next to them on the pew – the guy who just got back from the Middle East. Sure, he’s a nice guy and his wife is wonderful. His kids love him and he can quote Scripture. Nothing wrong with any of that. I take him at his word that he is a Christian who walks with Christ every day. Now think back a month or two. What is the job of a soldier? Killing and subjugation of a foreign population. Cut away the politics that took our pew mate to that foreign country and just ask yourself “What would Jesus have said about what this guy was doing a month ago?” Would He have automatically said “Thank you for your service”? I doubt it. I think He’d probably have written the number of the man’s kills in the sand before saying “I forgive those who repent of their sins.” Imagine how uncomfortable that soldier would be as he watched Jesus writing in the sand. Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel watching that if you’d just thanked the soldier for his service. I want my readers to think about the people the soldier killed or subjugated and feel compassion for them, but I also want my readers to think about the scars on the soldier’s soul that were inevitable from that behavior and feel compassion for the soldier. I don’t think Jesus would forgive the soldiers and damn the subjugated based on politics and that’s an uncomfortable thought.

I used this example because I have a lot of friends who are or were in the military and that works its way into my books. I could have used almost any example where our lives outside the church conflict with our Christian faith … those points where we ought to feel uncomfortable but often don’t. You could substitute bar owners, prostitutes, cops, pharmacists, authors … the list goes on and on. Everyone of us has tensions between our faith and our “regular” life and we ought to care about that. But, in our consumeristic society, being comfortable is the chief societal goal and so those authors who seek to market themselves as “Christian authors” feel the need to make their audience comfortable. That is a smart marketing decision that avoids controversy and topics that might make their readers think about uncomfortable ideas.

Is that actually a ministry or is God calling us to something higher … to be the prophets to our society through our narrative talents? Can we entertain readers while teaching eternal truths in a palatable form?

I suppose that depends on how uncomfortable we’re willing to allow God to make us.

 

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Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits.

“I don’t seek to be known as a Christian author, but as an author for whom Christ is so central to who I am as a person that He shines through.”

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Not Living Up to the World’s Standards   1 comment

A new post on Christian Creative Nexus.

https://deliatalent.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/not-living-up-to-the-worlds-standards/

What makes a Christian creative a Christian?

I had to ask myself that question recently when someone with an axe to grind posted a review of one of my books that said, in essence, that I wasn’t a Christian because I don’t think the Army would walk on water and hand out flowers during the Apocalypse.

Sigh.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsI grew up and now live in a very military town. About one-quarter of my friends and family are either in the military or were once in the military. I know some lovely military people. I also have had plenty of experience with jerks who were jacked up on the power of being in the military. There’s that dichotomy in human nature that doesn’t go away if you ignore it. The Transformation Project series focuses on how ordinary people, including military and civilian authorities, react in an apocalyptic situation where their command structure has been fractured. I don’t show all individuals with military authority acting in a heroic manner because I personally know people who wouldn’t act honorably in a situation where they’re given that kind of power and no oversight.  The news has covered some of these people. I believe there would be more of them if the command structure that is in place no longer existed. I have other military characters who do act honorably … and some of them die for that stand. That’s the only defense I’m going to offer.

Circling back to my original theme of “in the world, but not of it” … must Christian creatives stand for certain secular societal norms or be deemed “not Christian”?

Being a Christian is defined by one thing. You can discover it in Romans 10:9-10.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God, Savior of mankind and your soul and do you confess that publicly? Your lifestyle should adhere to that and your politics are part of your lifestyle. Whether you support the military, love policemen, eat apple pie, or spend Mother’s Day with your mom isn’t really addressed in the Bible, therefore, they are personal decisions that each of us make individually.

“Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing.

Writing a novel is about addressing truth as the author sees it. A lot of Christians are very supportive of conservative political causes that I can’t find anywhere in the Bible. There’s nothing wrong with that – most of the time. We live in this world and the politics of the secular world affects us. When my taxes go up, I have less money to give to the church, which I feel spends social welfare funds much more wisely than the government does. I vote accordingly. We should all care if a politician believes it is okay to kill babies in the womb. We should pray for people caught up in the cycle of drug addiction or alcoholism, pornography or polyamory. The Bible is clear on many issues that Christians ought to have an opinion on and the Bible tells us what that opinion should be.

Image result for image of christian vs worldly standardsThe Bible is less clear on our involvement in those secular programs designed to address some of the world’s evils. I harbor doubts about how Jesus would feel about some secular programs American Christians are expected to support simply because we’re expected to support them. As a Christian creative who wants to reach a larger audience than just Christians who read religiously-oriented literature, I have given serious thought to which subjects for which I’m willing to fall on my authorial sword. I made a commitment to show Christian characters as human … with flaws, while showing their beliefs respectfully. I have every admiration for our Savior, not always the same feeling toward His followers. I try to show the world as I see it and not as I would like it to be, recognizing that it is fallen and so are the people in it. And, yet, I struggle with where the lines are because it’s not so simple as the Christian publishers make it seem. Because I’ve rejected those made-up constraints, I have to set new ones of my own – ones that I hope are Biblically-based, but not ignoring this world as it really is.

What about you? If you’re a Christian creative trying to reach a secular audience, do you find it difficult to push the “Christian” boundaries in a Christ-centric way without upsetting the “standards” people have applied to Christian creatives?

Christian Creatives in a Fallen World   1 comment

In case you can’t tell from the sudden drop-off of blog posts, my ordinary life got busy. I am also trying a few other things, just for variety. For example, I am posting over at Christian Creative Nexus, which this blog post comes from. I’m also thinking about asking my Facebook questions here on Aurorawater Alaska. And I’m now on MeWe. New territory helps to expand networks … I hope.

https://dyegirl1373.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/03/07/Lets-Talk-How-to-be-a-Christian-Creative-in-a-Fallen-World

 

I’m one of those Christian creatives who does not advertise my works as “Christian”. Historically, Christian creatives didn’t claim a territory and label themselves. We don’t think of Bach as a “Christian” musician, but rather a great composer who made his living as a church organist. Unless you’re a history geek like me, you might not know about his deep and abiding faith. Although we now think of CS Lewis as a “Christian” author, his fictional works weren’t advised as such when he was publishing because Christians of that era hadn’t decided to paint themselves into a box with a label. Back when I was a kid Elvis Presley (not an example of a “good” Christian, but a man with a church background) and Johnny Cash (by that time, a reprobate saved by Christ) were singing gospel tunes right along with their secular tunes on regular radio … and my non-believing parents didn’t find that the least bit odd.

I want modern Christian creatives to step out of the box labeled “weird” and “other” and place the products of our creativity where we can act as salt and light in the dark world around us. I think Christian creatives have a lot to give to the secular world if we’re willing. But how do we do that?

I think it starts with a conversation among Christian creatives about what it means for us and our creative works to be “in the world, but not of it.” There’s nothing wrong with being counter-cultural, but at least some of us should be speaking to the society around us without painting ourselves into a self-segregated box where our books end up in that lonely section at Barnes & Noble. The real trick is doing that while also paying respect to our Savior and the flawed human beings who follow Him.

Let’s explore that together.

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