Monday, June 20, 2011

Christ and the Christian Writer

As an aspiring novelist and a member of the “Aspiring Writer’s Forum” at the Chino Valley Community Church where I attend, I am always looking for opportunities to flex my writing muscles and craft a piece of written work that has the potential to be noticed. Yes, I desire to be a published author and hope to one day make it my career, God willing. I believe in the minds of most writers, publication stands as a continual, if not also an allusive, goal. As a Christian author, however, bringing glory and honor to our Lord and Savior should remain first and foremost, my priority.
I have been blessed to discover an assortment of writing critique groups and support networks within my local community. With the strong desire of publication common to all in such groups, you might naturally expect to see a competitive spirit at work. I have found just the opposite to be true. To date my writing experience among other struggling authors has been refreshingly punctuated with both support and encouragement.
True, most of my exposure to this world of writing has been within the body of believers. Still, Christians aren’t perfect and conflict abounds in the world, even among the saved. Never the less, the support I have enjoyed feels common, even if heaven sent. Writing opportunities are shared readily with others, group members meet to assist and offer guidance. Promoting and up lifting each other is the norm, rather than the exception.
Most of the writing opportunities that I have been exposed to have come in the form of contests. Local and on-line writing contests seem to be on the increase, held for a variety of purposes. Sometimes a topical collection is being assembled by a publisher. Quite often contests are held by self-publishing or publish-on-demand houses to market and generate exposure for their editing and publishing services. Occasionally a writing contest has a root cause, such as a political slant or theme. Because of the interest they generate, writing contests are effective marketing strategies for products and ideas.
Opportunities for exposure and publication abound, in and outside of the “Christian marketplace”. Obviously there are many more opportunities for a writer outside “the church”. The narrow way has relatively small shelf space in most of the world’s bookstores. Sorting through writing prospects can be difficult. When should a particular writing topic be considered as inappropriate for the Christian?
That question should be approached wisely with a discerning heart. I believe that Christians should always engage the world as His ambassadors, armed with God’s word. This is true for writing as well. After all many subjects can be equally served by both Christian and secular authors. You might never discern your favorite sports writer’s faith by reading his column each week. Yet again you might.
The issue is two fold. Certainly as Christians, we have an obligation to promote His Kingdom. Care must be taken in our craft to reach the lost with Christ’s redemptive message. If the ugliness of this world is to be explored, it should be portrayed only to boldly display His love and saving grace within that setting. Unlike other writers, we have so much more to offer the reader, for we write from a place of hope.
Recently I was presented with the prospect of writing for a soon to be assembled “Christmas Anthology”. The publisher stipulated that he doesn't want the stories to be too "religious", more inspirational, for a crossover market. This stipulation, gave me pause to think. It is easy to see how the decision tree quickly splits and becomes more difficult. “Too religious” sounds bad, yet “Crossover” brings with it thoughts of outreach and mission fieldwork.
Each Christian writer obviously needs to make a myriad of decisions in addition to topic. The use of colorful language can be argued at length. In the interest of “capturing the authentic language” of a character some Christian writers include less than wholesome dialogue in their work. I am making the conscious decision not to. I believe that God will be honored by this.
It will not be the language I chose to use that provides the relevance of Gods message to my readers. If I do my job right, it will be the work Christ did on the cross that reaches out and touches their hearts. I pray that the topics I chose to write about and the voice that God gives me to share will bring Him all the glory

Friday, June 3, 2011

Freedom, a Shared Core Value

As a citizen of the United States of America, when I think about the values that we as a nation, on our best days display for all the world to see, I cannot help but be reminded of our 40th president, Ronald Wilson Reagan. He alone stands out in my mind as the brightest presidential beacon of freedom the last 100 years has had to offer. Freedom for him stood prominently as a core value, just like for our nation.
        The liberty we enjoy has been purchased at great cost and tremendous sacrifice. Though the payment has been dear, we have not shown ourselves to be selfish with this treasure. Battlefields around the world have been stained by the blood of Americans who have willingly placed themselves in harm’s way to both defend and provide the great gift of freedom to nations of this world.
        Freedom, as a core value, speaks to the heart of each individual, no matter their birth country. It resonates deep within humankind’s soul. In full bloom it is reminiscent of the free will our creator bestows upon mankind; its absence in turn, the very shackles of slavery itself. At first blush the defense of freedom seems unnecessary; its benefits manifold, simple to see and understand. But to those who seek to selfishly advance their own private quest for individual power, freedom stands as a threat.
        Reagan believed this gift of liberty must be defended and advanced or the passage of time would erode its very foundation. The tenuous nature of freedom was alluded to by many before him, as in the now famous words of Edmund Burke:
“All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
          Like light itself, Reagan believed freedom was a value best understood by its very absence. A favorite Reagan quote comes from a message he delivered to the annual meeting of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce on March 30, 1961:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
        As a concerned American, Reagan felt duty bound to use his public stature as an actor, a union leader, and governor to help ensure that future generations would both embrace and advance these concepts. In both his terms as President, he was exceptionally convincing on the national stage, elevating our nation’s pride in the heritage we share as “the land of the free and home of the brave.”   
        While president, his plainspoken oratory skills and humor earned him the trust of a nation while his movie-star charisma and honesty helped him to win over many of even his strongest detractors. President Reagan had his share of critics, but also possessed the intrepid skills to successfully wade through the mire of partisan politics and the political debris that often bogged down lesser men.
        His courage and conviction to conservative first principles was so strong that his very name is often utilized to define them. The continued use of the terms “Reagan Conservative” and “Reaganomics” is testament to the impact he had on the conservative movement in America. Perhaps some of his success as “The Great Communicator” was due, in part, to his ability to understand the liberal mindset.
        Those watching the 1964 Republican National Convention will remember Reagan’s impassioned speech “A Time for Choosing.” So well written and powerfully delivered it has been nicknamed “The Speech.” A seminal moment for Reagan, it introduced him to a national audience and launched his political career in earnest. In that speech Reagan boldly proclaimed that America was headed in the wrong direction:
“You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down--up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.”
        Reagan understood self-determination to be America’s greatest asset. He soundly rejected the liberal notion that our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th or 21st Century or that our Constitution is an antiquated document. Reagan’s dream for America’s return to first principles was both timely and timeless. His strength and conviction restored our nation’s self-esteem following the weak leadership of President Carter’s administration.
        Reagan’s influence reached across the globe and empowered even Socialist nations to embrace free markets and freedom in general. When Ronald Reagan called on Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," a surge of new generation confidence rose that would ultimately breach the bounds of the evil empire. As a result, many individuals tasted true independence for the first time. That event alone bears proof to the idea that certain values need to be personalized, owned and then acted upon.
        The fragile nature of freedom is painted for us by Reagan to be not unlike the old variety show acts where the juggler keeps an amazing number of multi-colored plates spinning. It is a rare and beautiful thing to see, because it takes skill and constant attention to maintain the delicate balance.
        I am training my own children to lovingly embrace many core values, mostly based upon our faith. Our country’s founding fathers and inspired statesmen like Reagan also offer wise instruction. We stand on the shoulders of these giants. As we celebrate Reagan’s 100th birthday, let’s remain balanced and ready ourselves to train up the next generation.

The essay above was my entry for the Ronald Reagan Centennial Award Sponsored by State Assemblyman Curt Hagman