HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Since roughly 2012, I have been working on what I originally thought was to be ‘a Christian novel’. It was a calling. I was to write popular fiction, reaching the widest possible audience with a story equally compelling, equally accessible and equally growthful to those having no experience of Christianity as to those deeply immersed in it.
I know this was from God because neither I nor any human being I’ve ever known, read about or heard of would have suggested it: A delighted devourer of nonfiction, I had in my adult life seldom voluntarily read a work of fiction and rarely enjoyed one.
I wish I could say that, despite this, I accepted the call graciously; I wish my immediate reaction had been, ‘Here am I God. Send me.’ When we’re reading our Bibles, isn’t that what we Christians think, hope and believe we would do?
Although I truly adored our God, I was all, ‘There must be some mistake’; ‘You’ve got the wrong girl’; ‘I can’t do it and don’t want to try’; ‘It’s not that I don’t want to please, serve and glorify you but how about something I can handle?’
Graciously or not, one heeds God’s call, so I got down to work. Read, read, read; think, think, think; pray, pray, pray; write, write, write.
About a year in, I understood that one way or another I would eventually struggle through to write a Christian novel showing Christians of various denominations as flesh-and-blood people living out their rich variety of traditions within a common core of shared belief that C. S. Lewis called Mere Christianity. This common core would be central to everything they do.
Sometimes I reflect on that period and think, “Those were the good old days.”
Because, as time went on, things happened…
The first thing was that it turned into a series of novels. That was around 2013. That was a shock that left me shaking for months but I got down to work at it.
The next thing was I changed churches and my new pastor kindly said, ‘We’ll have to see about helping you get them published’. My first reaction was disbelief: “Publisher? Huh? Thanks, really, but maybe in about fifteen years! Writing a novel is a daunting task! Starting to learn how in your sixties is staggeringly difficult! I’ll be in my eighties before I have one piece of work fit to sit in a publisher’s slush pile! And I need to have a whole series forming in my head!”
Sometimes I look back at that and think, “Boy, those were the good old days,” but I studied hard, found role models, was mentored, and seemed to be doing great. By the time I wrote my Work in Progress page on this website in 2015, I had half a dozen books in the works and anticipated completing first drafts of a few at least in the year about to begin. Early in November, I decided to try to help other aspiring novelists by organizing and publishing links to a hundred and twenty of the online sources I had found useful in learning to write.
“Oh those were the good old days,” I now tell myself.
Because then 2016 happened. A forced break from active writing gave me time to research church histories.
Reading the early history of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, I read of how salvation, baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit spread like wildfire across America and the world. In the midst of that, I came across a single sentence that made me embrace my mission as a Christian writer in a profoundly more challenging way and brought my work to a complete standstill:
The whole mission of the whole church is to present the whole gospel to the whole world.
[Reference to Follow]
To this day, that is the last sentence I have read in whatever that book was. It shook me to the core of my being. I couldn’t run or I likely would have; I couldn’t walk; I couldn’t think; I could barely breathe.
This is what I will do with the remainder of my time on earth.
What I’d been working on for four years had been my best understanding at any point in time of my calling as a Christian novelist. This was my actual calling. My life and work had been immediately and irrevocably changed. I would have to review and rethink everything in the light of a calling I knew instantly I could not and would not for one moment refuse.
You see, I can’t write what I don’t live. I may not be — I am not — able to live it perfectly every moment. But I have to write from truth so I must be committed to it; I have to have lived it in my own life at whatever cost; I have to know I will beg God for the will to live it again when the time comes; I have to repent anytime I fall short of it, and humble myself before the throne of heavenly grace, begging forgiveness in Jesus’ name and asking the help of the Holy Spirit to raise me up to what I cannot in my own strength glimpse or embody.
No sooner had God challenged me with this deeper understanding of my already daunting calling than he blessed me with a pool of healing and visionary inspiration into which I can dive at will. I came across it on YouTube. The song is I Then Shall Live. Its lyrics were written in 1981 to the tune of Jan Sibelius’ Finlandia by Gloria Gaither, now widely known as co-founder and participant in Gaither Gospel Hour broadcasts and videos, who with her husband Bill has written over 700 hymns.
As 2017 begins, I have made my way back to the point I was at a year ago. I have four to six novels perking along and hope to finish two to four this calendar year instead of last and my longing is to become more like a pen in the hand of God through which the Spirit flows to write Christ’s message of love on a hurting world.
I accept, welcome, invite and embrace what makes me grow more and more empty of self to make room for the free flow of the Holy Spirit through me to those on whom God wills to lavish his love.
Longing to fulfill my calling as one saved by Christ and as a Christian novelist, I’m singing Gloria’s song as a prayer. It is my hope to sing this every single day until it seeps into my soul, permeates every atom of my being, flows into my writing, and brings God’s endless, unfathomable love to my readers. s I sing, I listen with my whole heart to determine if what I am writing that day speaks the truth in love, in a way that is invitational and encouraging.
Would you like a moment of peace and healing? If so…
you can hear the Gaither Vocal Band perform it with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound:
or sing along with this video posted by Christ’s Community Church in Brewster, Ohio:
My goal for 2017 is to sing it once daily but actually it touches me so deeply I seldom can stop at that.
I pray it blesses you too.
JUDE 24 – 25
- WORK IN PROGRESS
- NEWBIE NOVELISTS’ LINKS
- WHAT IS YOUR GOD STORY?