March 30, 2014

Provocative - by Susan Barclay

This month's topic - writing about controversial things - brought to mind a post I shared on my personal blog back in July 2012. I share it in its entirety as follows, with a reflection afterward:
"If you’re going to be a great writer, you’re going to have to shake things up. Maybe even break a few rules…
"Write something that gets under our skin, that tests our nerves. Provoke us. Not for the sake of being contentious or intentionally provocative, but for the sake of being honest.
  "Because we live in a world of lies. Of false flattery and exaggeration. And we need you, the artist, to tell the truth. To help us get out of our comfort zones. After all, that’s the only place we grow. 
 "Because this sets others free. To do the same. To live freely and honestly. So get in our faces; tell us the truth. And watch the ripple effect." ~Jeff Goins 
Okay. I had to think about Jeff’s challenge for Day Twelve for a bit. Then I decided that the most absolute truth I could share with you is this:
  •     There is a God. And surprise – He’s not you… or me.
  •     There is only one God. As unpopular a view as that is today, it’s true. There are not many paths to God. All faiths do not lead to God.
  •     The true God is the triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
  •     God loves you. He loves everyone, even people you don’t like.
  •     He is loving, merciful, just, forgiving, and gracious.
  •     Jesus died to pay for the sins of humankind.
  •     You can accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness; it’s free of charge to you because He paid for it.
  •     There is a Heaven and a Hell.
  •     Where you go when you die depends on what you do with the truth.
 I know that sounds pretty blunt, but that’s what Jeff demanded from us in today’s challenge, I think. Not that I always give people what they demand, LOL, and in this case, it’s not just the truth, but the gospel truth. And that should always be said in love. Sadly, it isn’t always said that way, but it should be.

I love my readers, and want them to experience the same freedom I enjoy as a follower of the truth. If the truth sets you free, you shall be free indeed. (See John 8:32-36)

Provocative enough for you? If you would like to know more, please check out

It's hard to believe I was already five years into blogging when I wrote the above. Even so, the post only got 11 views and exactly ZERO comments. Readers were either afraid of encouraging me by agreeing out loud, or so offended that they left and never came back. I suppose another option is that they were completely indifferent, and that might be worse.

Did I regret saying out loud what was in my heart and what was true? No, for perhaps a seed was planted; perhaps someone went on to investigate the claims. Would I be so bold as to "provoke...for the sake of being honest" again? Not sure. I want to be honest and I want to make people think, but I'm not sure I want to provoke - at least not in the sense of "to anger, enrage, exasperate or vex." I'm sure Jeff didn't mean provoke in that way, though - more likely he wanted to encourage us to "stir up, arouse, or call forth" a thoughtful response from our readers.

I think the best approach is to write with authenticity and to share, in a loving manner, what you believe. If God is laying a message on your heart, you can trust the Holy Spirit to look after the rest. Other writers in this series have pointed out the offense of the Gospel - and that's true - but I don't feel that I personally am called to create controversy. Jesus was an effective "agitator" because He could defend and explain Himself perfectly, and from a place of perfect Love. As for me, I'm called to pour out His love. I want to do that in the way Rich Mullins did - as an arrow pointing to heaven. In other words, by how I live my life - the actions I perform, the words I speak, etc.

Perhaps that's provocative enough...

For more of my writing, please visit 

March 29, 2014

Speaking the Truth with Love - Ruth L. Snyder

This month we've been focusing on writing about controversial or taboo subjects. When I read the prompt, this verse came to mind:
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1 (NIV)
It concerns me that there are topics that seem to be taboo in churches. Somehow it's fair game to denounce homosexuality (which we should), but we rarely quote verses about gluttony and the fact that it's a sin to eat too much. We complacently stuff our mouths while condemning those caught in the sex trade. The way I read my Bible, sin is sin. Sermons are preached on obedience to parents, and how to get to heaven, but when was the last time you heard a pastor preach about child abuse or hell? (Would these issues exist if we were all living by the morals laid out in Scripture?) Recently I was told that J.P. Yohannan was banned from a Christian event. The reason? Because he was teaching false doctrine? No. Rather, it was because people in North America, at a missions event of all places, don't want to hear the truth about selfishness and gluttony. It makes us feel uncomfortable. Are we really prepared to stand idly by while millions of people die without Christ? Or are we going to ignore that topic too, because it makes us feel uneasy?

Then there's the whole issue of which version of the Bible is most accurate. Bible translation takes skill and training, sensitivity to culture, and obedience to the Holy Spirit. Anyone who speaks more than one language knows there are certain phrases which just don't translate accurately, no matter how hard you try. It makes me sad that followers of Jesus Christ allow this issue to divide families and churches. I know people who were convicted of their sin and found salvation by reading The Living Bible, which is actually a paraphrase not a translation. Are we going to limit God with our rules?

Jon Mohr sums it up well in his song, Let the Walls Come Down. He reminds us that although we are in a spiritual battle, we are allowing walls made of tradition, culture, and pride to divide the body of Christ. While we're busy defending our "walls", others are dying without Christ. Listen carefully to the words.

Is there a wall you need to knock down? Ask God for wisdom, strength, and boldness to speak the truth in love.

For more information about Ruth and her writing, visit
All throughout the spirit realm a fearsome battle rages
The fates of men and nations hang suspended in the fray
Walls designed by satan in the twilight of the ages
Now stand as great divisions all across the world today
Walls not born of government nor strife amid the nations
But walls within our churches and between denominations
Stones of dry tradition carved in fear and laid in pride
Become a dismal prison to those withering inside
Let the walls come down
Let the walls come down
Let the walls that divide us
And hide us come down
If in Christ we agree
Let us seek unity
Let the walls
Let the walls come down
Let the walls
Let the walls come down
The body weak and powerless, crippled by division
The victim of a tragic and most cruel civil war
Brother fighting brother over culture and tradition
While countless lost and dying lie as casualties of war
It’s time to end the foolishness of warring with each other
And kneel in true repentance that our union be restored
May we then as brothers rally round the cross of Jesus
And carry on with diligence the mission of our Lord
Oh children of God
Oh soon to be bride
Let us humble ourselves
And crucify pride
Throw off the flesh
And its pious facade
And unite in the name of God Chorus
- See more at:
All throughout the spirit realm a fearsome battle rages
The fates of men and nations hang suspended in the fray
Walls designed by satan in the twilight of the ages
Now stand as great divisions all across the world today
Walls not born of government nor strife amid the nations
But walls within our churches and between denominations
Stones of dry tradition carved in fear and laid in pride
Become a dismal prison to those withering inside
Let the walls come down
Let the walls come down
Let the walls that divide us
And hide us come down
If in Christ we agree
Let us seek unity
Let the walls
Let the walls come down
Let the walls
Let the walls come down
The body weak and powerless, crippled by division
The victim of a tragic and most cruel civil war
Brother fighting brother over culture and tradition
While countless lost and dying lie as casualties of war
It’s time to end the foolishness of warring with each other
And kneel in true repentance that our union be restored
May we then as brothers rally round the cross of Jesus
And carry on with diligence the mission of our Lord
Oh children of God
Oh soon to be bride
Let us humble ourselves
And crucify pride
Throw off the flesh
And its pious facade
And unite in the name of God Chorus
- See more at:

March 28, 2014

Why Be Ashamed Of Having Been In A Cult? - Bruce Atchison

One topic that shouldn't be taboo in churches is having been in a cult. Unfortunately, most Christians seem reluctant to even mention the word. This is tragic since what ex-cult victims need most is understanding.

Having done extensive research for my How I Was Razed book, I learned that victims feel frightened and helpless when they leave their toxic church or aberrant group. During their years in the cult, it became their world. Leaders taught them not to speak to outsiders or have anything to do with them. Consequently all the members of the group knew only each other.

Ex-cult members also fear condemnation by "normal" people. Like anybody who was swindled by con artists, these people feel embarrassed to admit that they were taken in. As a result, they keep quiet and suffer in silence. Some even rejoin the group that had captivated them just for the companionship.

This sad state of affairs must be changed. Having been granted forgiveness by Christ, we must be gentle and caring when it comes to former cult members. These people have been through experiences that we might never have had. The last thing such individuals need is somebody pontificating about what a terrible mistake they made.

Though I wasn't in one of those Jim Jones-style cults, I know what it's like to be misled and not know it. Being young in the faith, and having nobody to disciple me, I know how easily being seduced by cultic missionaries is. What people need when they come out of a bad church is unconditional love and affirmation that they're not bad people because they genuinely believed lies.

It was for ex-cult members and Christians who care about the truth that I wrote How I Was Razed. I wanted to show, not tell, how deceived I was and how wondrously the heavenly father led me to the truth. My testimony of his providential guidance is available in e-book and paperback through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Bruce Atchison is a legally-blind freelance writer as well as the author of How I Was Razed, Deliverance from Jericho, and When a Man Loves a Rabbit. He lives in a small Alberta hamlet with his house rabbit, Deborah.

Twitter handle: @ve6xtc

March 26, 2014

Reading and Writing Controversy - Bonnie Way

I am a peacemaker.  I avoid conflict, keep my mouth shut in tense situations, change the topic rather than deal with something that could explode.  Whether or not that is helpful in real life is debatable, but as a writer, this tendency is a downfall.  Writing needs conflict.  We read to see how people deal with problems—if they don't have problems, then we'll read something else.

As a reader, I appreciate books which tackle tough topics or show protagonists in difficult situations.  This includes controversial topics.  I think fiction is great medium in which to explore controversial or taboo topics.  A novel is a safe arena in which to explore something that makes us uncomfortable.  After all, it's fiction, right?  So it's not really "real."  It's a way to face something without it becoming personal.  It's like reading a newspaper; we can keep it at arm's length if we wish.

Even though fiction lets us look at controversy in an arms-length, curious sort of way, it also draws us in.  This, I think, is the power of fiction.  In reading, we tend to identify with the protagonist.  We see what they see, feel what they feel, hear what they hear.  So when we have a protagonist who is dealing with something bad—bullying or illegal drugs or an affair or whatever—we also have the chance to get inside their head and understand why.  Why are they drawn to that?  What makes them do it?  And in that understanding, we are less prone to judgement.

There's an old saying about not judging someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes.  I grew up in a very conservative Christian home.  We looked down upon anyone who was divorced, because divorce clearly wasn't God's plan for marriage.  It shouldn't happen.  The couple should have tried harder, shouldn't have been so selfish, should have done something better.  Then my parents divorced.  Suddenly, I had a completely different perspective on divorce.  As writers, we have the power to give that new perspective to readers through our writing.

Some of my favourite books deal with controversy.  Angela Hunt is one of my all-time favourite authors, but I passed on several opportunities to review her book The Offering because of the topic.  It deals with surrogacy and IVF, which the Catholic Church forbids.  Somehow, the book still ended up in my mailbox and I read it.  While I still agree with the Catholic Church's position on the topics, I have more sympathy for someone considering either because of the way the characters in the story drew me into their struggles.

Similarly, Nancy Rue and Rebecca St. James tackle the topic of cutting or self-injury in The Merciful Scar.  Before I read that, I had no idea why on earth someone would think that cutting themselves would fix anything.  I wasn't very far into this book before I was crying for Kristen, understanding completely why she wanted to cut.  The Merciful Scar made me think really hard about my own life and about people who face addictions and gave me a lot more sympathy.

As writers, then, I think we should tackle controversial topics.  I think we should write prayerfully and humbly, asking that God can bring truth into our words and help our words bring understanding to our readers.  I think we should read books that deal with controversial topics, as writers to learn how to handle those topics, and as readers to gain sympathy and understanding for the people dealing with those issues. 

March 25, 2014

Oh me oh my I'm much too shy... By Vickie Stam

Yikes! Have you ever found yourself caught in the middle of a controversial subject? If you're anything like me, you most likely felt that inevitable lump rise in the back of your throat and maybe even those nasty beads of sweat that trickle down your spine as if they were taking dictation in a court room. It's not surprising. Controversial topics have a tendency to stir up feelings that make us uncomfortable. When two or more people engage in a conversation with different opinions it opens the door for upset to creep in. As luck would have it, conflict is born.

Most people have faced some sort of controversy whether by choice or circumstance. This is not to say that all controversy is bad. Amazing things have evolved from some of the most unsettling issues. Still, I feel uneasy when I think about the fallout; the adverse consequences that can occur from such topics and then I shy away.

Right now, this month's theme is prompting me to mull something over.

"Hmm." Do I tackle controversial my writing???

My first response is to say, "No way, not me." But that wouldn't be entirely true. I have written about some very conflicting circumstances that have affected me personally where I have felt there is only one side or the other with no middle ground or no other options. It wasn't a great feeling.

Whenever I find myself mixed up in a conversation that has suddenly become heated I hear my inner voice whisper. Tread lightly. Be Careful. Don't say anything at all. And at times I hear only one word----Stop! Before someone gets hurt. Learning when and where to pick my battles didn't come without scars.

I'm a shy person by nature having grown up in a home where you were seen and not heard. As an adult I still find it difficult to relieve myself of the task my parents instilled in me.

When I think of Jesus though, I'm reminded that he himself stirred up controversy when he healed the crippled woman on a Sabbath or when he dined at Levi's house among tax collectors and sinners and sadly enough when he died on the cross for our sins. But it wasn't Jesus intention to stir up controversy and it isn't my intention to either.

In 2nd Timothy we are told, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels." Most of us can attest to that in one way or another.

Yet when I think about matters of relevance that might make a tremendous difference in a person's life I feel a little more bold. I openly share my belief in God even though we live in a world where that too can stir up trouble.

After much thought, I don't see myself as a writer of controversial topics. I'm not fond of them even if I have written about them a time or two. They were conflicts I would much rather have never experienced. None the less, writing about them provided me with an avenue for healing. Maybe one day I will feel compelled to share those accounts but for now..... I choose to remain silent.


March 24, 2014

Writing Relevant by Lynn Dove

My three books, Shoot the Wounded, Heal the Wounded and Love the Wounded (The Wounded Trilogy) are written for a young adult audience and deal with controversial subject matter such as bullying, teen pregnancy, and family violence.  They have won awards and have received accolades for their sensitivity towards the subject matter. 

I am always a little sensitive when my books are criticized.  It's a foible all writers face.  Interestingly enough, those blatantly controversial subject areas I thought would raise eyebrows from some have not brought about as much shock and criticism from a Christian reading audience as much as the fact that I have teenage characters who "date".
Yes, that's right.  I actually have had more flack from Christian parents about my characters dating than the fact the characters have been victimized through bullying, and one suffering violence at the hands of abusive brothers. 
I almost had to laugh when one Christian reader said she could not condone the fact that my two main characters were allowed to date and so she refused to allow her middle schooler to read the books until she was old enough to understand dating.  She then told me that Christian parents should never allow their teenagers to date until they are eighteen.  I respect her opinion, but having been an educator for over thirty years, I know that students in middle school are very well aware of the dating scene whether their parents know of it or not.  I have seen young people date "on the sly" so that their over-protective parents would not know and lie about who they spend their time with and this has led to crisis pregnancies and unimaginable hurt that may well have been avoided if parents had been more aware of, and be involved in guiding their teen through those dating years.
In my books, my characters date and the parents are able to give wise counsel and advice.  They point their teens to God and insist that they respect one another.  There are no clandestine meetings, or secret rendezvous that lead to sin.  Parents know who their teens are with and set out expectations for behavior.  That's the way I've raised my kids and that's how I write about teen dating. 
I have noticed that writing from a Christian worldview sometimes brings about more criticism from a Christian audience than a secular audience.  I try to write relevant, meaning I write about the fallen human condition.  We are sinful people, living redeemed, but there are always consequences to sin.  However, well-meaning Christian parents find it's inappropriate for me to write about teens who date, or teens who get pregnant, or teens who cut themselves.  They obviously do not like to read about Christian teens who live in the same troubled world as their unsaved friends and who sadly make a lot of the same mistakes and poor choices.  To that I say, wake up parents!
It is important for Christian writers to ensure that they do not shy away from controversy.  We do not need to write graphically and be explicit with sex and language, but instead write with heart and compassion and with a clear Godly message and directive.  Be relevant without being lewd.  I hope teens who read my books will relate to my characters and will as my characters have done, when mistakes have been made, turn to Jesus Who will forgive them.  May teens know without a doubt that Jesus is trustworthy, that He is their Hope and that He loves them!

Lynn Dove enjoys connecting with her readers on her Journey Thoughts blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.

March 23, 2014

Serenity Prayer - full version by Terrie Lynne

Ever since I read the suggested theme topic, Taboo or Controversial Topics, for the month of March my mind has gone several different directions, but this morning I felt at peace that this is the article I want to post.

The Serenity Prayer is probably one of the most widely known prayers ever written. I have seen the short modified version on fridge magnets, mugs, and posters and it is commonly used in Alcoholic's Anonymous and 12 step programs. But, I wander how many people know the full version. I know I didn't until just a few weeks ago as I stumbled upon it quite by accident or perhaps a God incident maybe more accurate!

My hope is that, with all of the controversial topics that have been posted and the feelings and emotions that may come to the surface, this little prayer will bring some peace and serenity!


 By Reinhold Niebuhr - full version

God give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

 Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that you will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
I have to admit I enjoy the second part of this prayer as much as the first and hope to delve a little deeper into it, perhaps as a devotional topic at a later date. I think we can find peace and serenity if we do try to live each day at a time and enjoy one moment at a time, whether it is during good times or in bad, happy times or sad. I do believe the scriptures encourage us to cast our cares on God for He cares for us. For me that is something I need to constantly remind myself to do!

Reinhold Niebuhr himself quoted yet another slightly different version of the first part of the prayer and it goes like this: 

O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed;
courage to change that which can be changed,
and wisdom to know the one from the other,
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Here is the version we are most familiar with:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

I hope you have been encouraged and blessed!

References: If you would like to learn more about the author, Reinhold Niebuhr, or the Serenity Prayer, you will find some good information on Wikipedia.

March 21, 2014

Step Right Up for Grace (or Controversy) by Jocelyn Faire

The Economy of GRACE

The Articulate Laws of Grace as
Defined by article R6:14,15 and E2:8,9 and
further redefined in church bylaws:

Grace shall be extended to all who enter here:

Those who are weak and infirmed, please take a number
as you are important to us; however we are currently experiencing a huge backlog of calls from those with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome—excessive page turning. 
The lepers and divorcees shall move to the left for Eucharist
If you are feeling slightly confused
Just sit in the middle, we're all in this together.
For a hug please line up near the front
We would like you to be seen, so that we can pray for you,
Could you fill in this questionnaire prior to stepping forward,
This helps us efficiently pray for your needs.

LGBTQ*—sorry, we don't have that in our Matthew Henry commentary.
The coin box for the two mites is located near the washroom,
Those funds are used to purchase our hand sanitizer;
I'm sure you can recognize the importance of this work.
There is a special table for those of you trying to receive Grace
Without having forgiven your brother first,
Please check the “I forgive everyone” card and hand it to the nearest usher
who will be happy to assist when your number comes up.
Visually impaired? 
Next to the log/splinter remover.
Trouble hearing?
Let us notch up the rhetoric by ten decibels.
If you're feeling lonely, please register online
at: www.lonelinesssucksandwe'
If it takes awhile for the grace to be felt at the end
of the hose, please step a little closer 
We'd like to shower you with love.
Please bear with us:
We're still working on some technical details.
   *(LGBTQ - Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transgendered/Queer-politically correct term)               

Sometimes I wonder if the word which became flesh, has been turned back into words and technology.

Sadly, I feel that the church has lost its rightful gentle voice in the area of controversy, for several reasons: we don't know what to say, we remain aloof from the conversation, cocooned in our niceties or find it too easy to pass judgement, or seem unaware of the controversy within our sanctioned walls. 

I have experienced too many people express the sentiment that:
“The church is a place for couples, families and those who have their proverbial act together.” 

While in Australia, I attended a church where the lead pastor always welcomed everyone with a:
We recognize that we are all on this journey, and wherever you are is okay with us. We just hope to encourage you in your journey and bring you closer to a relationship with God.
While there are many great things happening in church, there is always room for improvement.

If we know anything at this stage, we know that we are all in this together and that we are all equally naked underneath our clothes. ~ Richard Rohr from his book Falling Upward.

March 18, 2014

The Ministry of the Red Pen by Dayne E. Mazzuca

why those hard-to-hear words still matter

When a culture fails to receive criticism, it's in trouble. It fails to grow, or improve, or include others in its doings. It becomes insular, defensive and self-righteous. As an Editor, I see this all the time. It's my job to offer others feedback that is meant to signal two things: one, I care; and two, I see how things might be better. But I find in life and in work few people appreciate the use of the Red Pen.

Having an Editorial Eye is not limited to the written page. For instance, I'll offer a pastor feedback on his sermon, suggesting the use of visual aids is overdone. I'll suggest to the principal of my online school board that he encourage parents and students in person. I'll tell my property management firm to treat their clients with respect. You get the idea.

Sadly, nine times out of ten, these suggestions are not well received. You can imagine why.

Still, it's hard to stop offering critique. It's like I carry a Red Pen with me wherever I go.

I've noticed most people don't like having a Red Pen mark up their efforts. They just want to feel loved, appreciated and approved of—as is. Don't we all.

But I still think the hallmark of a mature, growing organization, or individual, or piece of written work, is the one who can invite constructive feedback. The one who says, "Thanks! How else can I make this better?"

Since the only reason I'm offering feedback is because I'm one of the people they are trying to reach, I assume my opinion is valuable. But, so far, I can name on one hand the people who relish the Red Pen. Half of them are writers, who know the difference a critical eye can make to any piece of work—written or otherwise. The other half are simply people who impress me a great deal.

Ah well, some jobs are thankless and leave you feeling unloved, unappreciated and unapproved of—don't I know it!

By Dayna E. Mazzuca

March 17, 2014

Controversy: Can We Avoid It? by Bryan Norford

Should Christians be controversial? To ask the question is to answer it, for the question is controversial--especially judging by the blogs to date.

Every statement is controversial—to someone. The lightly controversial statements and comments of our cosy group might be highly contentious in an atheist or gay blog.

Controversy is less in what we say or write, but more the audience to whom we pitch our beliefs. Remember, the Christian faith itself is an offense; we cannot state our beliefs without risk of attack or derision. But should that stop us?

I often think I should venture into the big, bad, blog world and hammer a stake into foreign territory. But two things stop me. First, intimidation, I’m not sure I can handle the emotional toll it may bring. Second, issues of family, health, ministry, and writing—yes I actually write!—take my time and resources.

I read the blogs this month and as usual, found them thoughtful and stimulating, although I’ve not added my comments. Hey, if I can’t find time to respond to you dear folk, where’s the time for greater controversy out there?

A year or two ago, I did have a protracted electronic discussion with a young atheist. The dialogue was mostly on a rational level, with little emotional baggage, so I quite enjoyed it. But again, it fell by the wayside due to necessary commitments.

But there’s a further consideration to controversial writing. It’s not just what we say, it’s the way we say it. Two texts come to mind: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15.

The last phrase captivates me. Who better than a Christian to speak with humility and grace? Easy among a sympathetic crowd, but can we handle anger and abuse? Remember, we may intimidate the opposition by our stand—it’s a two-way street.

In fact, where the Holy Spirit is active in an unbeliever, the Spirit engenders guilt: “He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment,” John 16:8. That often provokes an angry response. Any mention of God suggests eventual accountability.

So maybe we need to reverse the question: Will anything we write find unanimous consent? Does that answer our original question?

Bryan Norford also writes at Norfords' Writings and Norfords' Ramblings

March 15, 2014

A Rating System for Christian Fiction - Tracy Krauss

I’ve been a long time fan and proponent of what some call ‘edgy’ Christian fiction. If you don't know what I’m talking about, it's fiction with a Christian message or from a Christian worldview that has a realistic bite. Some of my favourite authors could, conceivably, fall into this category: Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker - even Francine Rivers. They don't try to cover up the ugly truth, yet deliver a story that is redemptive in nature. These 'experts' show that tackling 'taboo' topics doesn't mean the writer has to be graphic. The waters soon get muddy, however, when one tries to define the line between what is acceptable and what isn't.

My experience as a pastor’s wife has taught me that you just aren’t going to please everyone all the time. It’s why we have denominations, and frankly, only Jesus Himself is going to be able to sort out all the finer details when it comes to differences among believers. There are readers who want ‘edgy’ fiction and there are writers who feel called to deliver. Some readers don’t want the characters involved in anything unsavoury while others want characters who succumb to moral failings since it allows God’s grace to come shining through. The problem lies not in the sub-genre. The real issue is the lack of classification or standards. There is no rating system, as yet, for Christian fiction, and readers don't always know what they may be getting into.

My own writing is evolving in this regard. While I do believe that there is room for all types of Christian fiction, even so called 'edgy', I have come to realize that this is not the hill I wish to die on. (Or should I say 'edge' I wish to fall over...) My novels are quite tame in comparison to some. I don’t appreciate a lot of skin in a movie when the photographer could easily have ‘panned to the left’. (We don’t need graphic evidence to know that a couple may have ‘hooked up’.) Similarly, this is the approach I take in my writing. Characters may engage in less than godly activities, but the reader doesn’t need to see the details. In my earlier work, I have used a few mild ‘cuss’ words (emphasis on MILD) – something I thought added authenticity and which I felt was no big deal. I have since been surprised to find that it is a big deal in some people’s minds and I’ve had to rethink this approach. I plan to republish my earlier work once the contracts are up, minus some of these words. The story is still the same, with or without them.

I think that expectation is the real key. Many Christian readers may read a secular novel with the same amount of so called ‘edgy’ content (or perhaps more) and not find anything wrong, but when given a Christian novel, they are shocked by minor ‘PG’ content. It’s a bit of a double standard, but understandable. When a person is buying a book labeled ‘Christian’ there is a certain expectation about what it will and will not contain. Unfortunately, everyone's expectations are different. Some readers seem offended by everything and are quite vocal about sharing their opinions. (And trying to make everyone else agree with them...) Dogmatic legalism is just one end of the spectrum, however. At the other end are those whose salt has become a mere sprinkling in a dish overflowing with pop culture, all in the name of evangelism. Somewhere in between there needs to be balance. Perhaps a self imposed rating system is in order to help readers make more informed choices.

What are your thoughts? Should Christian fiction have some kind of rating system?

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author and playwright living in Tumbler Ridge, BC.


March 14, 2014

A Stumbling Stone by Pamela Mytroen

Jesus is controversial. If we think that we can avoid offending people with the truth, we are deceiving ourselves. Not that we write to offend, but if our goal is to present Jesus, our readers will ultimately be faced with a very uncomfortable decision. That is the only way to freedom.

Consider a Roman Arch. Amidst ruins from earthquakes, flooding, and erosion, the arches still stand. The key to their stability is the keystone or capstone. The Romans first built a wooden frame to support their arches until they inserted the very last stone. Once they fit the keystone into place at the peak, the builders removed the frame and the arch stood on its own. However, until that rock was lifted to its rightful place, it was merely a rock the builders tripped over on the construction site.

Speaking of the resurrected Christ, Peter says, “Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall’” (1Peter 2:7). 

Until we recognize Jesus as Lord of our lives, we will keep falling and stumbling over Him.    

Jesus speaks of Himself in Luke 20:17 when He says, “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” We are offended and bruised when we fall on the Rock of Jesus’ conviction. We don’t like to see ourselves as sinners, but it is this broken spirit that causes us to reach to Jesus for salvation. Better that we are broken to pieces on Jesus then that He crushes us. He doesn’t leave us broken, but gathers us safely under His protective arch of love and forgiveness. 

Our writing will offend our readers as God convicts them of sin through His Holy Spirit, but in the end they will be set free. This is not to suggest that we intend to offend with our words. Rather we should speak the truth in love and allow God to speak to each reader as He sees best.

An arch is perfectly balanced on each side and yet one side is always in the sun while the other is shaded. Whether our words are lighthearted and sunny or a darker shade of grace, we need the balance of each other. We need both sides to lift His name on high.

Let us continue writing as God has called, as we exalt the matchless name of Jesus.  And let us trust Him to do His saving work in the hearts of our readers. 

“He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11,12).

Pamela Mytroen 

March 13, 2014

Choosing Workshops at a Conference by T. L. Wiens

I’ve been busy trying to help put together the His Imprint Christian Writers Conference. I received an interesting comment from someone looking at the brochure. She told me she didn’t think many of the workshops related to her writing genre.

I don’t know why she would feel this way. We’re covering characters, dialogue, plots, sales, music and writing integrity as well as offering one on one sessions with our own president, Ruth Snyder.

I realize on first glance many of the session would appear to be only for fiction writers but that’s not true. All these parts of writing are important to non-fiction as well.

Plots. I have often read non-fiction pieces that I wish had taken more consideration of the plot. I realize there are limitations when recounting a true story but too often I’ve encountered poor flow in the retelling. Often, a lot of repetition. As with fiction, a non-fiction piece, whether it be a story or even a self-help type of book, needs to flow.

Characters and Dialogue. But non-fiction comes with a set character list. To a degree, yes but too often these characters aren’t as well rounded as they could be. A non-fiction writer would do themselves a favour to look deeply into their characters, fill out a character sketch. Dialogue is another area every writer needs skills.

Sales. This one is obvious. Every writer needs to know about this.

Music. This is one that not every writer may need but many aspects of the music industry reflect that of the writing industry.

Writing Integrity. Every writer needs to look at his/her reason for writing and what goals they wish to accomplish.

So come out and spend a day with some wonderful writers and let yourself explore the possibilities of where your writing journey will take you.

March 11, 2014

TheTruth about Controversy by Connie Inglis

This topic has been a real challenge for me, mostly because I don't focus on controversial issues in my writing. So then I got to thinking about why that is. I don't disagree with those who do. In fact, I think it's beautiful to see those that know God is calling them to write on such topics. I just have never felt that tug on my heart.

There was a time when that might have bothered me. Am I missing His direction in my life? Am I not hearing His voice? But, I have learned to be comfortable in who I am and to speak from what I know. I know about growing up insecure and misunderstood--and God's healing from that; I know about bringing up a family in a third-world culture; I know about linguistics; I know about the hope that the translated Bible can give to a Buddhist group that has no word for hope in their language; I know about spiritual oppression and attack from evil spirits; I know about failure and forgiveness in parenting; I know about the challenges of being a single mom through my daughter; I know a little about being married to a person with mental illness and the resulting abuse through the life of that same daughter. I know about transitions. But mostly I know about a good God, a gracious God, a faithful God, and most of all, a LOVING God. I know about the power of prayer and how God answers out of His goodness. I know about spiritual awakening and being thankful. I know about TRUTH. And that's what God asks me to write about.

There is so much pain and sadness and ingratitude in this world. My prayer is that I speak into that through what I know and what I've experienced--to testify to God's love with a heart of thankfulness and a message of hope.

Keith Green said, "I've never tried to be controversial. The truth is controversial enough." He was right. When we speak the truth of Jesus our words can offend because His Name is offensive to the world. Even speaking the truth in love can be controversial. If I share what I know about Truth and that results in controversy well, then, bring it on!

Some of you may know of Keith Green, others may not. I want to close with the title song of his album, "No Compromise." I used to listen to this album a lot as a teenager and young adult. It has always challenged me to speak truth. I hope it will be an encouragement to you today.

March 10, 2014

Doors Closed, Doors Open by Sharon Espeseth

If we plan to take seriously God's great commission to go and make disciples of all nations, he isn't asking us to tiptoe. To get the whole message on how bravely he wants us to act, read the 10th Chapter of Matthew. As well as healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing leprosy, and driving out demons, the disciples were asked to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near.

Today, Jesus asks us to preach this same message. He told his disciples, and he still tells us today, not to mince words and not to worry about what we will say. Jesus still reminds us that it will not be us speaking, but the Spirit of our Father speaking through us. In this same talk with his apostles, Jesus reminds us, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Gratitude for my family
Jesus knew that once the apple had been eaten in the Garden of Eden, the world had changed forever. God knows that storms will come, trees will fall, and branches will be broken. When faced with a mess like that, our first inclination would be, at least, to clean up the front yard. Unfortunately, when we're dealing with people, illness, misfortune and sin, the clean up isn't that easy. We also need to do our part to bring the kingdom of God to more than our own little circle of family and friends.

Since we all live outside the security and peace of Eden, misfortune, and illness do surround us. We cannot outrun or hide from the ill effects of evil. The closer it comes, the more we want to hide either the facts or ourselves in the proverbial closet.

Is there any social network in real or virtual life that can escape mental illness, divorce, sexual immorality, failing grades, cratered careers, unwed motherhood, abortion, homosexuality, imprisonment, any kind of abuse, suicide, cancer, addictions. . . ?" Well, you get the idea. If we have none of this list to deal with, we are either extremely blessed or we are avoiding the truth. When circumstances deemed to be beneath our family dignity occur, what do we do? Turn a blind eye? Turn off our computers? Rip pages out of our journals?

I don't think so. These matters are part of life and God intends us to grapple with and grow from the nitty-gritty of daily living. He has also promised to be with us through our trials and temptations. Today the closets are squeaking open and formerly taboo topics start tumbling out. We do have the responsibility to decide if and how such matters are to be handled. Some of these subjects are, as young people say, TMI (Too Much Information), especially for Facebook, coffee chats, dinner or idle gossip. Still these issues may need a platform.

For instance, we would like our families and ourselves to be spared from mental health concerns. Statistics for 2011 suggest otherwise. "In any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem." (CAMH: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website)

Nature and exercise--good for all!
For me, the above revelation becomes more than a statistic. In the mid-nineties and again about ten years later, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. During each episode of this illness, my doctor and counselling psychologist reminded me that stress over a long time puts the chemicals in my brain out of whack. Through both major bouts, I needed to slow down, stop work and take meds. My prescription included rest, prayer, reading appropriate material, exercise, eating well, and relying on faith, family and friends.

To this regimen, I added writing, which included sorting things out, expressing gratitude and praying. I determined to figure out, with God's help and counselling, why I was so driven, why I set unreasonable standards for myself, why I as a Christian with my hope in Christ could become depressed, and what I could do to prevent further burnout and illness. For one thing, I need to practice "self-care" and learn to know my own limitations. I need God's guidance in choosing when to say "Yes" or "No" to requests for my time and resources. I am still a work in progress.

I am concerned when I see other people who take on too much responsibility and and who do too much. I do feel God telling me to be more open about my battle with depression so that I may promote prevention, healing and hope to others. It is time for me, with God's help, to push this closet door further ajar.

Which doors, Lord, would you have me open?
Prayer: Lord, help us to submit to your will when deciding how to use each day. Bless our efforts. Amen

March 09, 2014

Controversial Subjects - Shirley S. Tye

Controversial topics have not risen in my writings simply because the subjects I tackle are fiction stories or articles about someone’s work or hobby. But I imagine it is possible to engage in controversial subjects through fiction. Perhaps that might be one of the safer ways to handle such matters. With my lack of knowledge in this area, I can only consider what is said by those brave writers of controversial topics.

One of the points mentioned in the suggested links about tackling contentious topics is advice about getting personal. That would mean not expressing one’s personal point of view on a matter and I would add to that by saying, (yes, there’s my personal opinion) be careful how the word ‘you’ is used. There’s an example in that last sentence. I could have said “… not expressing your personal point of view…be careful how you use the word ‘you’.” The second sentence is pointed – at you; whereas the first sentence is not pointed, it comes across softer, in a general way which hopefully is less likely to produce the feeling of finger pointing.

Another excellent piece of advice from those links is about using resources to support the writing. Resources would certainly provide backup for the writer’s statements and opinions providing the resources are reliable. It is important to verify the source. (Notice I didn’t say “It is important to verify your source.”)

There are many Bible verses about the use of words. One which comes to mind is Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (KJV). It reminds me to keep a guard on my mouth so that whatever I say or write will come out strong, truthfully, and with love no matter what the topic. Basically, rather than allowing words to spill out carelessly, at all times I need to consider my words before speaking or writing. I applaud those writers who have the talent to write about controversial topics with grace and knowledge.

March 08, 2014

Writing About T*aboo Topics by Sheila Webster

We are pleased to welcome Sheila Webster, Editor of FellowScript Magazine, as our Guest Blogger today.

The challenge of being called to write words about taboo topics is that as a Christian writer, we should fully engage. We are steeped in God’s word, steeled with His armour and bathed in prayer. Since the fall of man there has been a need for taboo topics to be addressed. As humans, sin is always “crouching at our door, but we can chose to overcome it.” Sometimes the sin is not to write.

Evil abounds in the world and we are called to overcome it by speaking the truth in love in our society and our faith groups. Evil is not a distant enemy at times; it is anything that is fashioned to cloak the wrong of this world in taboo subject matter or under the thin veil of not appropriate subject matter for the Christian writer.

I was called to task for mentioning in my book, A Simple Spirituality, the truth about a situation. I did not name the person, the year or any other identifying information. I mentioned a true happening. I was told that we shouldn’t ‘talk about such things.’ The harshest censure will often come from those closest to us, who we hoped would understand why we need to expose the lie and speak the truth.

It has fallen within my realm to talk about child sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, cults, rape within marriage, domestic violence in clergy homes, residential school abuse, gay/lesbian/transgendered bashing, masturbation, child abuse in foster homes, pornography, the use of child prostitutes by farmers during a farm show on our own soil within blocks of my home, ethical treatment of all vulnerable persons, homelessness, the list goes on.

I have written these in letters, petitions, devotionals, poems, stories, essays, personal letters, sermons, tracts, anything that God tells me to put ink to. I have done this with trepidation, fear and trembling, but obedience. My detractors will not stand in my place before God and speak to my unwillingness to be obedient to the craft and gift God has placed in my heart, on my tongue and through my pen. I will answer to the Divine judge for my unwillingness to speak the truth about what happens in dark places in my own neighborhood, church and my own life at times.

At times God has even used my words to help bridge the gap of understanding and offer God’s truth, grace, plan of salvation and redemption to the murderer, the pedophile, the common sinner. I need to be faithful to His call, careful not to become judgmental toward perpetrator, detractor or fellow Christians.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God prepared beforehand that we may walk in them.” It is His work, His words, His outcome – I am but a humble conduit that needs to put my reputation, pride and fear aside.

I have learned much over the years about taboo subjects, and no longer can be silent on many things as the kingdom of God is always at hand. If God has gifted you to address something – do so and be blessed for it. James will always be my best biblical friend, as God speaks to me through his ancient words found in his first chapter, “IF any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach.”

If I am unwilling to speak I have missed an opportunity to grow in my faith, and reach out to my people group whose ears are open to my message though I be annoying and troublesome to others.

Sheila Webster is a writer, speaker and editor. She has been published in multiple genres and is on her fourth book.

March 07, 2014

The Need to be Controversial by Ramona Heikel

Although we may want our writing to make a big hit with our readers and touch many hearts and lives, I get suspicious when Christian books are welcomed with open arms by the general society.

I actually cringe when I see the New York Times Bestseller List feature a book that was written with the intent of drawing readers to Christ, and start to wonder how it got so popular. I’ll definitely read the book to find how closely it stays to the message of the Gospel.

Bear with me while I work through some logic.

The narrow road is considered the path to life in the Bible, and the wide road is considered the way of destruction. The way I think of narrow and wide roads is that a life lived on the narrow road must go against the grain of society, the same way that life on the wide road would be accepted by society.

On the other hand, if living life by Christian principles does not cause friction and controversy, I question if that life is authentically lived by faith in the savior of humankind.

If a majority of people in our society follow a path, it now becomes the wide road. So if a book is a secular best-seller, could the principles in the book be authentically Christian? Do you know of any cases—aside from the saying that the Bible is the bestselling book of all time—where a truly God-inspired book has been a best-seller?

To me this should make us prepared to be controversial in our writing, and to count controversy as a blessing for the furtherance of the Kingdom.

I’d love to know what you think.

Posted by Ramona

March 06, 2014

Controversy - Good or Bad for Christian Writers? by Glynis M. Belec

Truth be told, I don't like writing to stir up controversy. I am a bit of a rebel at heart and love enthusiastic and sincere conversations that challenge. But I am not one to put my words out there to raise the hackles of readers. I would sooner soothe and encourage and make people laugh. I sometimes think I am a bit of a wimp because of that. And every so often there are times I wish I would be bolder with my words.

But doggone, I have this tendency - which might be misconstrued sometimes as a fence sitter, but I can often see two sides of the story. I can see what might provoke a person into feeling a certain way. I understand how a person can blow their top. I realize that sometimes hurt people hurt people. I don't necessarily make excuses for people but I understand motivation. I was told by a man, a very long time ago who was testing me for a career path that the results of my testing indicated I should have his job or that of a counsellor or arbitrator - because I was able to see both sides of the story and have compassion. I've never forgotten that. Then I wonder did I never forget that because it justifies my wimpiness or is it because that is just how God made me.

As a Christian writer I think my job is to build up the kingdom of Christ and if I go off on a tangent arguing this that and the other I don't see how I am accomplishing that task. That said, I am not being critical of writers who choose to engage controversy. I think we need it. After all there is much to be controversial about in this world.

But I do not feel any God prod for me to be that writer. Hopefully I am honest in my dealings, and don't gush or offer words for the sake of making a sound on the page. Blessing others with my words is what I want to accomplish.

There are many writers who articulate well, their feelings and attitude about certain topics. I will if someone asks me, but I don't particularly like tossing out controversy.

I've tried to psychoanalyse myself and then wonder if I am not doing God's will by not being bolder. Then I stifle that thought and remember that just because I am a writer doesn't mean I have to tackle every subject.

Then again, if I stirred up a little controversy in my writing, I would get more traffic to my blogposts or more readers buying my books or reading my articles. Let's face it, everyone responds to debate, negativity and hullabaloo.

As long as I have peace with what I write, surely that has to be a good thing. God has given me that peace, so I'll keep going for now. My witness to those who happen to be watching me (many non-believing family and friends) has to be one of Christ, I figure. So I write my heart and I feel because Christ has me right/write where he wants me, then I will pay attention to Him instead of my own wavering thoughts. I can't go wrong there.

          “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds one another” (Romans 14:19)


March 05, 2014

InScribers Review: One Smooth Stone (Marcia Lee Laycock)



Book Review by Bonnie Way

One Smooth Stone
by Marcia Lee Laycock

One Smooth Stone (Castle Quay Books, 2007) is the story of Alex Donnelly, a young man who has spent the last five years hiding out the Yukon Territory in northern Canada, trying to escape his past, the police, and God. But with the passing of his twenty-first birthday comes an inheritance from his parents… money they left in trust for him before they died when he was a child… money that came from the lawyer’s settlement in a court case against a doctor for failing to abort Alex.

When the lawyer shows up at Alex's cabin in the Yukon, he isn't happy at being found. But his questions about his past cause him to return to Seattle to find out more. He isn't prepared to meet the lawyer's daughter, Kenni, who both intrigues and confuses him. Just as they start getting to know each other, Alex discovers that his mother wanted to abort him and runs back to the Yukon.

Marcia Laycock writes a grimly realistic tale of one man’s struggle with his past and with God. Alex was raised in foster homes, abused and mistreated, and the memories of those days still haunt him. He is angry at God for letting those things happen, angry at those who abused him, and just wants to forget about them. But God is after him, and uses even a blizzard and a grizzly bear to get Alex’s attention.

About the Author

Marcia Lee Laycock grew up on an island in Lake Huron. She attended Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, before "running away" to Alaska and the Yukon. She became a Christian in 1982 and with her husband went to Briercrest Bible College in Saskatchewan in 1985. Since 1988, she has lived in central Alberta. She and her husband have three daughters.

Marcia began writing as a child. Her devotional column was published for over a decade in various Alberta newspapers. She is the author of three devotional books, The Spur of the Moment, Focused Reflections (devotions for specific occasions), and Abundant Rain (a writer's devotional book). Her short stories have appeared in various anthologies, including A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, and several are available for free at Smashwords. She is a member of Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship, The Word Guild, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

About the Novel

One Smooth Stone (ISBN 978-1-894860-34-5) won the 2006 Best New Canadian Christian Author Award from Castle Quay Books. It was also nominated by the Ontario Association of Christian Librarians for their "One Read" Award in 2009 (the award went to the Hot Apple Cider anthology, which included two pieces by Marcia Laycock).

Best-selling Alberta author Sigmund Brouwer says of One Smooth Stone, "Laycock delivers an engaging and imaginative story so effectively that it's difficult to believe the novel is her debut. I'm looking forward to more!" Most of Laycock's readers are also looking for the sequel; A Tumbled Stone tells the story of Alex's hunt for his sister and was published in 2012.

To read the first chapter of One Smooth Stone and more reviews, and to view the book trailer and discussion questions on the novel, visit Marcia's website at

March 04, 2014

A Life of Truth in a Changing World, by Natasha Erskine

Then Jesus said to those who believed in Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

People all over the world have their own version of the truth. We all have different beliefs that we assent to, different influences and experiences that form and shape our perspectives and beliefs. And all disciples must come to the place in which they realize that they cannot know and understand God by human resources alone.

As the author and the finisher of our faith, our Teacher disciples us from a place of human knowledge to a place of spiritual understanding. At the beginning of our journey of faith, our ideas are formed by our human context, our personality preferences, our cultural influences and experiences, etc. But our transformation comes by the renewing of our minds, as we come alive in the spirit, and live a life submitted to a truth beyond ourselves… His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

We are writing in an age where the whole world is united as one global village. We are exposed to all kinds of religious beliefs, traditions, cultures, perspectives, etc. How do we approach topics that result in cultural tensions and controversy? That step on the toes of racial or religious stereotypes and prejudices? How do we engage with the world, expressing our faith, in a way that honours the Word and demonstrates grace? The perfect love of God?

Living here on this earth, we believers must face the monstrous challenge of being foreigners in a strange land, ambassadors for Christ, expressions of a kingdom that is not of this world, the kingdom of heaven…

I do not know the answers to most of these questions, and I know this doesn't touch on the practical questions at hand, but these things I keep before me as I write…

1. Jesus Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Him.

2. Jesus' truth brings change and freedom to whomever it meets, at whatever time in history, in whatever culture or circumstance in which a person finds himself/herself.

3. No matter how well formulated are my thoughts and beliefs, no matter how confident I am in my understanding and interpretations of the Word, His Ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. I must remain submitted to the Living Word that is exalted even above the very Name of God (Ps 138:2).

4. Truth can only be lived out and experienced in a life of grace. I know the Truth because of grace. I express the truth because of grace. Someone else might come to know the truth through me, and be set free, only because of grace.

5. A life of truth requires vulnerability, a willingness to be broken.


Father, in these days of great change, with cultures clashing around the globe, truths and false truths mixed together as one, How do we exalt the truth? How do we know and write the Living Word that sets people free? Lead us out of our human wisdom and into spiritual understanding. Fill us with your grace.