Monthly Archives: March 2013

Disallowing the Bible

I just read the submission guidelines for a Christian publisher that made me shake my head:

We are currently accepting submissions. Please adhere to the following  guidelines:

~Your manuscript must be clean. No cussing, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, no sex, drinking, drug use, etc. This is a Christian publisher and we take pride in having our work be centered on Christ and clean of the temptations of the world! We accept stories of redemption and consequences, but not stories that glorify negative behaviors.

~ Manuscripts do not have to be overtly Christian focused but do need to follow basic Christian values. We seek an underlying positive message.

How can a story truly be about redemption if the characters commit no evil acts? There are people who do some or all of those things who long for that redemption, but they will never look here. Why? Because the characters will be “better” than they are from the first page, and they will never be able to relate.

It goes to show a lot of Christian publishers aren’t about bringing redemption to those in need, but preaching to the choir. God forbid should we challenge their fragile sensibilities.

The biggest gripe I have with these types of “guidelines” is even the Bible would be rejected. The Bible quite graphically describes infanticide, cannibalism, genocide, fornication, torture, and other forms of murder to name a few. If we are to grow closer to God, we have to acknowledge and admit there is evil in the world and in ourselves. That’s the whole point of confessing our sins. Hiding away from that reality does not change us for the better. God does not encourage us to seek shelter from every storm, but to go out in the middle of it to help and save others from its wrath.

Granted we sometimes need books to help us escape from reality. Publishers are also in a sometimes untenable position, because their largest demographic is people who don’t want to be slapped in the face with more evil they can get by merely watching the news.

On the other hand, these publishers also claim that they want books that focus on Christian values. First we need to define what those values are.

For some, it’s to live a moral life. That means no sex outside of marriage, no drinking, no gossip, yada, yada, yada.

Christianity isn’t about living cleanly. It’s about acknowledging our imperfections and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice that our sins are forgiven. Even more, we are to bring that message to everyone. We are the ones who should be the first to admit our fallen humanness, not to pretend that we’re better because we manage to avoid certain temptations.

That is why in all of my books, many of the main characters drink, some are drug addicts, and few are virgins. They are like everyone else, and as such, relatable. I want my readers to know that it doesn’t matter how “horrible” a person is, Jesus willingly died for them, too. His love and grace is out of reach for no one.

If these publishers want to relay a truly “Christian message,” then they need to use the Bible as their guide. It’s not about  glorifying that evil (because the Bible does everything but, even if it is graphic). It’s about presenting a positive message that through Jesus, all manner of evil has no hold on us.

Defending North Dakota

I just read an article on Yahoo titled “North Dakota has funds to fight over abortion.”

Basically it’s about how both houses passed very restrictive abortion laws, and they’re anticipated to be signed by our governor. The article also mentioned other “problems” our state is having. Not only did the article rankle me, but so did the comments.

As a NoDakian, I couldn’t let those comments pass.  I don’t normally get into politics in this blog, because that’s not the point of it. I had to make an exception in this case because I honestly liked my response and didn’t want to lose it. Yes, admittedly I am bragging a little.

First, read the article (North Dakota Abortion Fight), then read my response.

I live in ND, so I will address some of the misconceptions both in the article and some of the comments here:

1. Crime rate. Is it up? Yes, but that’s par for the course when population goes up. It’s still far lower than most other states. Heck, I still don’t have to lock my doors at night if I don’t want to.

2. Housing shortage. Again, yes, but we can only build so fast due to the sudden influx of people moving here. I say by the end of this construction season — certainly by the end of 2014 — we will be mostly caught up. We’re also taking a conservative approach to building. ND had a similar boom in the 80s, but the bottom fell out of the market. It wasn’t long before many of those new homes and businesses sat empty and some towns nearly went bankrupt. We don’t want to endure that again, especially considering we have so many in Washington that hate any kind of oil/energy independence unless it’s “green.”

3. Infrastructure. This ties to — again — to the sudden rise in population. This oil boom was a surprise to everyone. We can only build and maintain our roads so quickly to meet the sudden increase in demands on them. Overall our roads and other infrastructure are still in good shape. And we have the funds available to take care of all of that and more. It’s not one or the other. We just need the time to catch up.

4. Construction costs. This is basic economics: Supply and demand. When supply is up, costs drop and when demand is up making supply drop, costs go up. In general there is NO PRICE GOUGING! I work in the construction industry, so I know.

5. Forcing “personal beliefs.” We voted those people in, and they are representing us well. If not, we can always vote them out and get those laws repealed. Unlike some politicians, they listen to their constituents. And if you don’t live in ND why the hell should you care if we want to make getting abortions difficult. People determined to do so only have a 4-hour drive to get it done.

6. Schools. Our schools are top-notch, both public and private. Granted there are some complaints that teachers don’t get paid enough, and we’re working on bills to set the minimum salary to 1-1/2 times what it is now. We have the funds to cover that as well. Also, in my community alone, we’ve voted to raise our mill-levy (property taxes) twice in the last four years to build both a new elementary and middle school. Don’t tell us we don’t care about our children — especially by basing it on one Yahoo article.

In short, if you don’t live here, what we do is none of your concern (unless you see that we’re doing many things right and want to emulate). Stick to trying to solve problems in your own states and communities, and we will do the same.


No Easy Answers

Over the last few months, I’ve been breaking out in hives, and occasionally my lips and other parts of my face would swell up. The worst happened a few weeks ago when I woke up at 2am with a swelled face and tongue. I took some antihistamine and made sure my breathing stayed normal. The medication worked, and the swelling had gone down to almost normal by morning.

I finally saw an allergist and got an allergy test done. If anyone’s ever had one, you know how awful they are. For those who don’t know, you lie on your stomach as they place liquid allergens in a grid on the back and then scratch the skin. You lie there for fifteen minutes while the body reacts (or not) to each one. And you can’t move or scratch the itchy areas.

But if the test showed what I was reacting to, I would happily submit. I had one once almost 20 years ago, so I knew what to expect.

They tested me for trees, grasses, molds and foods such as shrimp, wheat, rye, soy and a variety of nuts.

Turns out I’m allergic to fewer things than when I had the first test done. I used to be allergic to a bunch of molds, now I’m allergic to none. I also have zero food allergies. Just trees and grasses.

You’d think I’d be happy, right. No! They were unable to find what’s causing the hives and face swelling. They did recommend taking Zyrtec and gave me a prescription for EpiPens. I didn’t like it, because they only treat the symptoms. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping a diary of everything I’m exposed to, including food when I get hives/swelling. So much for easy and quick solutions.

On the other hand, it could be more a physical response to certain stresses in my life including my mom’s death two months ago and not having the motivation to submit my novel to agents/publishers.

Time will tell.

Stuck in an Elevator with Jesus

Listening to Christian radio — Air One — on my way home yesterday, the DJ asked the audience a question that he was asked in a television interview recently.

If you were stuck in an elevator with Jesus for a couple of hours, what would you talk about?

The DJ admitted he asked for the camera to be turned off so he could think about it. He didn’t want to throw out some glib or “Christian” answer. He eventually decided that he would ask Jesus if he was a fraud. It’s easy to act Christian. To be genuine heart and soul, how sure can any of us be that we’re completely genuine, not merely going through the expected motions of Christianity.

A good thought.

He also mentioned a poll that said over 60% of respondents said, “Why didn’t Jesus simply fix the elevator?”

A lady called up and said, “There’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus and the disciples laughing and telling jokes. If they were anything like men of today when they get together, they’re always trying to up one another on the funniest joke or story. I would ask Jesus what the funniest joke or story he ever heard or said when he was here on earth.”

I loved that, so much so I wish I had thought of it.

I have been thinking about my answer as well.

Let me start by sharing a story about a tax collector.

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:1-10

What does being stuck in an elevator have to do with Zaccheus?

What made Jesus notice him in the first place (aside from the fact that he was in a tree)? Jesus knew Zaccheus’ heart. He knew it was ripe for change, so he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to change it.

I figure if I’m stuck in an elevator with Jesus, it means he has something to say to me. He would know my heart, my needs and desires much better than I could ever dream of or articulate, so I would have no choice but to let him guide the conversation. Getting a visitation from Jesus would be both exciting and frightening. I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, my, what did I do to warrant a visitation from the Lord himself?”

That said, I imagine I would have more questions than he could answer in the few hours we’re stuck there (assuming he didn’t halt time during our conversation). Some would be trivial such as, does the Loch Ness Monster really exist?

I may even want to know if his return will happen in my lifetime. I doubt he would tell me, but like the saying goes, it never hurts to ask.

The biggest question would be similar to what the DJ asked. What does God want me to accomplish on earth? How am I supposed to use my gifts to best further his kingdom?

Last of all, I would ask for his blessing, to give me strength, courage and to never give up on the tasks he’s given me out of fear or frustration.

Now it’s your turn. What would you ask or say to Jesus if you were stuck in an elevator with him?