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Are Fairy Tales a Waste of Time?

This is a guest post by Brent King.

As a Christian urban fantasy author I have been confronted, as have many of my writing partners, by those who doubt that fantasy, or fairy stories, have any anchor in the real world. Worse yet, some have argued that they take their reader far out of this world into an imaginary place that has no connection to reality.

Is this true? Are fairy stories a mindless waste of time? Do they lure our minds away from reality into an anchorless world of fantasy?

What Fairy Tales Do

It’s true, when we experience a good fairy tale it allows us to open up a place inside of us where we can actually believe its enchantments. It is thrilling to go adventuring with Kyran and Posy, or on a quest with Frodo, but does it snow-white-933491really have anything to do with our world?

The answer is a resounding “yes.” Fairy tales:

  • give us a lens to see the world in a startling new way.
  • help us to see our lives not only as they are, but as they could be (or perhaps should be).
  • touch us in their most signature way by how we experience their endings: that sudden, unexpected joy that washes over us in the miraculous grace of what Tolkien called the “eucatastrophe.”

But How Can This Be?

Fairy stories are only successful to the extent that they reflect our world. Who would be moved by a story to which they could not relate? The only reason why the fairy world attracts us is because it is fashioned after the truth of our world.

Indeed the fairy world is our world, a world of wonder we can experience in the real—right now. There is awe, wonder, and amazement in our world. There is beauty and redemption beyond all our evil and brokenness. The problem is that our eyes are often too compromised, shaken, pacified, unfocused, jaded, or injured to see it.

take-532097Where Fairy Tales Shine

This is where fantasy shines. In a world where the simple virtues of God have become routine and expected, a fairy tale catches us off-guard and we are surprised by the truth. It breaks through what CS Lewis referred to as our “stained-glass and Sunday school associations,” and the result is pure delight. This was JRR Tolkien’s point in his lecture on fairy tales:

“The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth.”

Teaching by Delighting

A good story both delights and teaches, and that is the power of a great fairy tale. It teaches by delighting. This anchors the fairy tale deep in the real world, powerfully connecting it to our lives in ways that are essential to society.

Are Fairy Tales A Waste of Time?

Are fairy tales a waste of time? Only if teaching truth is a waste of time. There is realm of awe and wonder in our world, scenes of beauty and redemption, yet many of us would miss them without a good story, indeed, without a grounding fairy tale.

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Brent KingBrent King is a freelance writer of Christian urban fantasy from Lake Oswego, Oregon. He also works as a massage therapist and health consultant. He has two sons, 20 and 23, who live in British Columbia, Canada.
Brent’s first book, The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in The Lord of the Rings, was published in January, 2014. His debut novel, The Fiercest Fight, was published in November 2015.
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I’m Saying “No”

I say no to letting my precious gift of a life slip by while I drown in an electronic, anti-social, busy world.

I say no to not making decisions, or letting others make them for me, thus making the worst decision of all.

I say no to ignoring the friends who are near and needing me.

I say no to fearing freedom and clinging to slavery like a coward.

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

I say no to complaining and bickering about the dirt I tread on, when God has given me gems enough to light the world.

I say no to listening to Satan’s lies, which keep me from spreading God’s love more fully.

I say no to being offended for my own sake, because in the end that’s only selfishness anyway.

I say no to the laziness and indecision that keep me from coming fully alive and awake, as I was meant to be.

I say no to the mentality that big moments are what we live for, when the small ones are the rich fabric my life has been made of thus far.

I say no to seeing only with my eyes, when God has given my heart the ability to see His Kingdom all around me every day.

I say no to waiting for someone to show love and attention to me before I give it in return.

I say no to demanding fairness for myself in relationships and in life.

I say no to walking timidly and with fear, when God has given me the wonderful, beautiful heart of a lion.

And I say yesyes to God alone, and the joy and the life and the purpose He has for me.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

Why I Kissed Self-Esteem Goodbye

It’s a term you can’t avoid hearing in our culture: self-esteem. Think better of yourself. You deserve the best. Be confident in your abilities. If you believe you can do it, you can.

For years I bought into it, too. Finding myself. Finding my worth. Loving myself despite my faults and the “ugly” things about me, inside and out.

Image courtesy of stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net

That’s what the world tells us to do, right?

But then God nudged me awake. And instead of slapping me on the face with the horrible truth as He could have done, He gently and gradually showed me the lie I was holding so dear. You see, the problem with self-esteem, and even self-confidence, is that, well, it’s all about … you guessed it…

Self.

As a Christian who was searching genuinely for the heart of God, truly wishing to make His desires my own, I couldn’t help but see it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)

What place does self-confidence have if we are to become weaker, so that God is able to become stronger within us? Shouldn’t it rather be called God-confidence?

What place does self-esteem have for someone who delights in weaknesses and insults? Wouldn’t it better be named God-esteem?

The world takes admirable virtues such as esteem and confidence and even love, and turns them inside out, makes them things of selfishness, small and warped, casting shadows into our souls. We let the world feed us these lies because we so ache to believe them.

But then, the best and most believable lies are always laced with a bit of truth, aren’t they? Because, in fact, we are of worth, we do deserve love and esteem. … But not in and of ourselves. Not because of anything we’ve done or ever will do or ever can do.

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Image courtesy of dan via freedigitalphotos.net

No, we deserve these things solely because of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ blood. God’s grace and overwhelming mercy.

Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known have had no great physical beauty. God’s spirit filled them so completely that they shone with it. Their kindness was a glittering mantle. Their humility was a peaceful balm. The love that came from their eyes dazzled those around them with the undeniable awareness of God’s goodness.

When I think of it that way, my physical attributes seem so remote. My self-esteem and my self-worth fade to insignificance.

I won’t deceive you, it’s hard to do. But don’t ever think that it’s impossible, because it’s not. Just like any journey of the feet, a journey of the heart takes time. It’s painful and wearying … but oh so worth it in the end. Because it leads us closer to God, closer to who He intends us to become.

Self-esteem? I have no use for it. Not in the way the world wants me to, anyway. With my eyes firmly on God’s plan for me, with my desire for His will alone, my self slips into the place it was created to be…

Within Him.

True Evil in Christian Fiction: Where Do You Stand?

Two things happened recently which made me want to explore this question, which is a rather broad one: Should there be evil … true evil … in Christian fiction?

The first thing that made me begin thinking about it was a conversation I had with a family member. She told me that she couldn’t understand why books had to be so full of evil. She just wanted to be able to pick up a book that gave her a sense of peace and happiness. Why bad guys? Why horrible obstacles?

The second thing that made me question this was a 1-star Goodreads reviewer who emailed to explain to me that she didn’t enjoy my book because it was “filled with witchcraft and premarital romance.” This example is a bit extreme, especially if you’ve read my book, and I have to admit I didn’t let it effect me greatly. In my book the small amount of magic used is certainly not glorified (although magic is a whole other blog post, honestly …). Also, I’m happy to say that I myself didn’t venture into marital romance without a bit of premarital romance first … I’m afraid of what the consequences would have been if I had, and certainly wouldn’t wish such a thing on my characters or anyone else! 🙂

However, after hearing the words and views of my reviewer and of my relative, I still had to wonder. Where does evil have its place in Christian fiction? What do you, as evil in christian fictionreaders and Christians, believe?

Is magic wrong, even when it is used solely by the antagonist? Is romance (the holding hands, kissing, puppy love kind) wrong for Christian teens (or anyone else, for that matter) to see? Where do you draw the line? And is it wrong to depict evil – you know, the kind that makes you shiver and feel like your stomach has dropped – within the confines of a Christian story with a God-glorifying theme?

I’ll admit, sometimes my tastes in reading and my personal beliefs don’t perfectly coincide. I suspect we’re all guilty of this in one way or another. I like reading about epic battles, and magic, and mysterious murders. Does that mean I’m going to grab a sword and run someone through, or sit pining for my letter from Hogwarts to come … or worse yet, go kill someone? No, not even a teensy bit.

In my opinion, reading about sin only becomes a sin itself when you find pleasure in the evil you see. More so when you not only take pleasure in reading about it, but take it to the next level and perhaps indulge in it yourself. As I heard Bob Ross say (as he was painting happy trees …) on a recent re-run, “You have to add the dark to make the light more striking.” He was speaking about painting, of course, but the minute he said those words, I thought, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” And so it is.

It was much like I told my relative after she expressed her concern over evil in stories. I explained to her that, as a writer myself, my desire is for my stories to mirror the world we live in, the battles (sometimes invisible) we fight every day against an evil that is all too real. To show the reader that evil (whether it takes the form of magic or murder or any other immoral thing), and then to show her a heroine much like herself who overcomes that evil … what could be more powerful than that? What else could leave such a deep sense of peace? Even – no, especially – if that hero or heroine overcomes the evil with grace and mercy and love, things God fully intends us to overcome our real-life troubles with.

So where do all these preferences and beliefs, so seemingly at war with each other, leave me? With several questions, actually, for myself and for you:

  1. Where do we draw the line when reading for entertainment about things we may not morally agree with?
  2. What if truly evil things come only from the antagonist in a story? Are they still wrong to read about?
  3. If we protect ourselves from all thoughts, books, and talk of the things we don’t believe in or agree with, what could be the possible consequences of that, for better or worse?
  4. How much responsibility do we take, as readers, for the direction of our thoughts and actions in relation to what we read, and how much responsibility lies with the author? What does that responsibility entail (for reader or author?).

You, as my readers and friends, have opinions that are extremely important to me. Opinions that I want – and need – to hear, if my future books are to be ones you will want to read. So what do you think? Do you have answers to any of these questions? Opinions? Questions of your own? I want to hear them!

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For some interesting and varying thoughts on magic and romance in Christian fiction, you may want to check out these articles:

Standing Up for Magic

Fantasy Magic and the Christian Author

Magic in Christian Fantasy

How Far Should Couples Go in Christian Fiction?

Vital Imagination

“The soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

I suppose there are people who believe imagination isn’t essential. People who think the visible realm is the important one, facts are what matter, not theories or dreams.

I’m not among those people.

I believe imagination is important. I’d even go so far as to say imagination is vital to our well-being as humans and as Christians.

Imagination helps us empathize with others.

Romans 12:15 tell us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Then of course there’s the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12: “treat people how you want them to treat you.” Have you ever considered how difficult this would be if you had no imagination? How can we weep with the brokenhearted if our hearts don’t break a little with them? How can we truly rejoice with the joyful if we don’t feel some of their happiness as if it were our own?

Imagination is the bridge that takes us from the world we live in, the world that has “me” at center, to the world of others’ hopes and tears and Imaginationjoys. It broadens our feelings, our views and our ideas. It forces us to treat others not as something separate, but as a part of ourselves. Which is exactly as God intended, isn’t it?

Imagination helps us picture the future, and prepare for it.

Pretty straightforward, right? You have to imagine what your future will be like, sometimes tomorrow or next week, sometimes in a year or ten years. It doesn’t matter if you’re grocery shopping for the week, or budgeting for the month, or planning a marriage, or raising a child … you have to picture the future in order to make smart choices now. Say what you will, that takes imagination.

Imagination helps us know God better.

Imagination is at the heart of God, really. As the Creator of the universe, imagination was crucial to Him. His very nature is a creative one. And when we feel His nature speak through us in the form of our imaginations, we know Him better. Yes, our attempts at creating things are pathetic and second-rate compared to His. But they bring us closer to Him, still; they forge a strong link between ours hearts and His. We are like children emulating our Dad, and finding joy in it. When I create things I understand my own inadequacy, but in the light of my Father’s greatness, that doesn’t seem to matter … I just find joy in the act of creating, and in my creations, however flawed. Like He does.

Imagination gives us hope.

Try for a second to stop thinking about what will happen to you in a minute – an hour – a day – a week – a year – a lifetime. The dreams you have always had? Nowhere to be seen. The hope you have for a husband and family of your own?  Gone. Becoming a stronger Christian tomorrow than you were yesterday? Don’t even think about it. In fact, you can’t think about it … because you have no imagination … remember?

What a dismal picture.

Emily Dickinson (Imagination)My efforts for myself and my family and my son and my career would flag and die if I couldn’t conjure an image of a hopeful future. Why discipline or love my son if I can’t picture his future as a man after God’s own heart? Why live a life for God at all if I can’t imagine the hope of heaven, if I can’t picture being there myself?

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7

Imagination makes us stronger Christians.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not certain I’d be a Christian if I didn’t have an imagination. It always seemed to me that you could take every fact in the world to prove something – Christianity included – but in the end it still comes down to a matter of leaping. A matter of faith.

Yes, the facts are lined up for me. Yes, the evidence of God’s works are before me. His Word is written on the pages beneath my fingers. … But perhaps my heart is wary still. What will such a leap mean for me? When I believe, what will be required of me? I imagine looking into the face of God, for that’s what such a leap will mean, surely … I can imagine being in His presence, accepting Him not as a fact, but as all-consuming, beyond facts, Alpha and Omega, Creator of the world and of my soul.

So the leap must be made. And to make it, imagination is vital. And what do I imagine? Arms that hold me, a voice that whispers truths unseen. I see God’s face in my imagination. And not only do I have to believe He is God … I want to believe.

Imagination: Necessary

Some of the most important things in life have a basis in imagination. Foresight. Hope. Wisdom. Faith. Even love. Can you picture life without even one of these things? No? Then you are like the rest of us. You are like me. You have an imagination. Personally, I think it’s one of God’s greatest gifts.

Books Are Dangerous

beware of book

Books can be bliss. Books can be a wonderful escape. Books can be deadly dangerous.

I’m not sure about you, but I’m addicted to books. I know of many people who are afflicted by this madness as well. It’s not really curable, and I’ve never been quite clear on whether that’s because it’s impossible, or just the fact that people simply don’t want to be cured of it.

Books have blessed me with countless hours of laughter, happiness, heart-thumping excitement and soul-wrenching sorrow. They have given me what I consider to be some of the richest times of enjoyment in my life.

So why are they so dangerous?

For someone like me who is immersed in books, it is easy to lose your way. The characters within them can become more real than the people in your life. The adventures in them can make your own life dull in comparison. The satisfaction of happy endings can distort your real-life expectations.

Don’t get me wrong. Books offer us much. New worlds, ideas, emotions and thoughts. The epic romance, the love at first sight, the evil that is always punished, the bad guy who is always caught, the ending that is always happy. I don’t blame you for wanting that. I want that. And it’s not something we’ll find very often, if at all, outside the covers of a book.

And this is where the danger lies.

Books teach us to expect these things. Books teach us not to settle, not to give in, until we have found these things. They promise that things like true love and happy endings are always attainable, if we could only find the right person, if we were only in the right circumstance, if we were only …. If only …. If ….

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)

You see, our war is within. It’s a subtle one—you can’t hear it raging, most times. But it’s there. And our own thoughts will turn against us if we books2don’t take them captive, bend them to our own will.

If I get annoyed with my husband because he doesn’t give me the deep and mysterious affection that Mr. Rochester gave Jane Eyre, or because he doesn’t change for me as Mr. Darcy did for Elizabeth, that’s no one’s fault but my own. It’s wrong for me to have those thoughts, the thoughts that books put into my head, the ones that I allow to control my expectations of real-life people.

Admit it, it’s a little bit funny, isn’t it? To know that a book can change the invisible pathways of my mind? To know that I want my husband to be just a bit more like Mr. Rochester? To admit that my life frustrates me and makes me want to cry like a child who hasn’t got her way when things don’t go right?

I think Satan must think it’s funny, too, watching as I’m separated from God’s plan for me. Watching as I grow bitter with life and friends and the people I’m supposed to be showing God’s love, all because I want someone to sweep me off my feet, or because my life is not the adventure I’d like it to be, or because I must watch as someone I’m close to suffers an ending that is anything but happy.

Books. Are they right or wrong to teach us these things? Right or wrong to make us long for … more?

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

Books. Dangerous or not? Do they lead us to neglect the springs of life from our own hearts, and make us instead focus our eyes on the imaginary, the unattainable?

No.

Books, when all is said and done, don’t control your mind. Media doesn’t control you mind. Your mother, your father, your spouse, your friends—they don’t control it either. Only you, and only God. And even God will not force His way in unless you invite Him. So it’s your choice, then. Just as God intended.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Trust in the Lord … that’s the key, isn’t it? Keep your eyes on Him. Read books, enjoy books, love books … but keep your eyes on God and His Kingdom.

This world isn’t likely to offer you the epic romances you read about. It’s certainly not going to solve every crime and punish every criminal. And ask anyone … happily-ever-afters are but a myth.

We live in a world of sin and darkness.

But God is not vanquished by sin, and His light is not to be put out. What we look for in books and fail to find in real life—we may find in Him.

God gives us the fullest, most all-consuming love. He pursues us with relentless passion and gentle steadfastness. Isn’t that just what any true romantic longs for in the end?

God is the ultimate judge. Bad guys go free on earth too many times. But don’t believe for a moment that means their sins will go unpunished.

God is the creator of mystery, and therefore the solver of it. We should revel in His creation, even the mysteries of it, and look forward to one day having Him explain them to us.

Lastly, God is the maker of happy endings. Some of them do happen here on earth—some of them even rival the best books we’ve ever read. But nothing compares to the Final Happy Ending that we as Christians have to look forward to. Not a single book on earth can hold a candle to that.

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before. (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)

This world is not our home. It is not where we belong. Books tell us of other worlds—let us not forget the one we are in, nor the one we are going to. Books give us happiness—let us not forget where our eternal happiness lies. Books tell us of adventures and heroes—let us not forget that the life God gave us is the greatest adventure of all, and that the only hero we need is our Savior, the maker of the truest Happy Ending.

A Thing or Two About Unicorns

Unicorn httpwww.reddit.comrunicorns

  1. There are very few mythical creatures considered to be “good” in all different stories, cultures/traditions. But the unicorn is one of them.
  2. The unicorn itself represents many things in different stories. Most commonly, the unicorn is a symbol of purity and virtue.
  3. In the Middle Ages, the unicorn became a religious symbol, especially in art. A beautiful woman (who represented the Virgin Mary) captured a unicorn, and when it was tame it laid its head in her lap. Through the years, this story grew. The unicorn began to represent Christ, the death of a unicorn was likened to the Passion of Christ.
  4. A group of unicorns together is called a “blessing” of unicorns.
  5. A unicorn’s single horn can be meant to represent many different things. Among them: heraldry, unity, the cycles of time, endlessness, and the sword.
  6. Unicorns’ horns are said to be magic. They are harder than diamonds, and have the ability to neutralize poisons.
  7. If you are fortunate enough to see a unicorn, you may be granted a wish.
  8. The tears of a unicorn have the ability to heal both physical ailments and sorrows of the heart.
  9. In the early 1600s, the Dutch theologian, Petrus Plancius, included the unicorn constellation, “monoceros,” on his celestial globe.
  10. Unicorns in real life? Alexander the Great claimed to have rode a unicorn into battle, the famous explorer Marco Polo claimed to have Unicorn www.fanpop.com (12757987)encountered a unicorn (although his description fits that of a rhinoceros rather closely …), Julius Caesar said he saw a unicorn in a forest in Germany, a unicorn “appeared” to Confucius’ mother, foretelling his birth, and later “appeared” to Confucius himself, foretelling his own death.
  11. Unicorns are said to be able to tell the truth from lies. When confronted with a liar, the unicorn will pierce the liar through the heart with its horn.
  12. For many years, unicorn horns were sold for their medicinal properties, although most of these turned out to be the horns of goats, cows, or even narwhals.
  13. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have owned a unicorn horn. And the throne of Denmark was supposed to have been made from unicorn horns.
  14. Legend says that Noah would not allow unicorns onto the ark, and that is why they are extinct today.
  15. There are quite a few references to unicorns in the King James version of the Bible, although more modern versions translate “unicorn” into “bull” or “oryx.” (Numbers 23:22, Job 39:9, Psalm 22:21, Isaiah 34:7, among others).

Being a reader and writer of Christian allegory, I can’t help but imagine some of the ways unicorns could be used symbolically in stories. Can you? I may have to keep that in mind for my next book …

What’s your favorite mythical creature? Does it lend itself to a deeper meaning in a story you might like to read or write?

If I Had One Year to Live

In honor of Nadine Brande’s brand new Christian dystopian novel, A Time to Die, I am taking part in the How Would You Live blog hop. Nadine’s book is truly special and thrilling, and I will be posting my review of it here on my blog on the day it releases (Sept. 23), along with a giveaway.

A Time to Die deals with the theme of living and dying … do we take every moment God has given us and use it for His good, or do we waste our lives, squandering the time allotted to us?  These questions are brought into sharp focus when you consider your life in terms of time – days, hours, minutes. What if the time left to you was only a year? What would you do with it?

Here are my thoughts.

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Five years ago my best friend died.

I’ve never written about her, and only in the last year or so have I begun to speak much of her death, even to those closest to me. Everyone around me knew I was grieving, and they also knew that, for a long time, my grief was too deep for words. She was a part of
me, a sister in all but blood, and I truly loved her. Even now, typing these words, my heart still bleeds a little for missing her.blog hop button

In the three short years that she sickened and declined, we were living far apart. I was able to visit her a handful of times, enough times to watch in awe as she laughed good-naturedly about her surgery scars and cracked jokes about her hair loss. I wondered how she could do that – look death in the face so lightheartedly. Because I myself felt a gripping, paralyzing fear for her and for the loss of her that I dreaded. But she … How could she, who left behind a husband and a young child, take the time out of the dwindling days left to her and spend it at a hospital comforting those sicker than she? How could she bear to take even one precious hour away from her family in order to speak to me on the phone and listen, patient and understanding, while I spoke of my own petty day-to-day concerns?

It blew my mind. And if I’m honest, I’ll say that it scared me. She lived so much life in the little time she had, and an astounding amount of it was for others, though many didn’t even see it until it was too late, and some never saw it at all. She didn’t have much time … a couple of decades and a handful more years … and instead of hoarding it when she knew it was slipping away … she gave it.

When I saw the theme of Nadine’s blog hop, my first thoughts went to my dearest friend, and the admirable – no, the graceful – way she lived the last year of her life on earth.

There are many who would rush to travel, to experience and taste, to live on the edge, perhaps even pursue danger and thrills, knowing their last 365 days lay ahead of them.

Me? I hope that my last days would be days of grace, and of love. Of forgiveness and mercy. Days that reach gentle fingers and touch – and touch again – those around me, whether family or friends or strangers.

A Time to Die quoteI would hope to live my love more acutely than I do now, to find the bravery to speak it, the strength to overcome anything that would stand in its way or distract me from it. I think many of my desires would die, upon knowing I lived my last year. The desires to travel and see and experience … they would fade to nothing in the brighter light and warmth of the things that mean the most – my family, my loved ones, my God.

I may not be able to shake the world or start a revolution or write a bestseller or end a war … but I could touch those few around me. Genuinely, honestly, with utter and unconditional love. And I could hope and pray that my love – God’s love – would pass through me to them, and through them to others, and on and on until a small piece of the world, at least, shines brighter for it.

That’s what my friend did in her last days. She had such strength, even in her youth, such clarity and love. I was confused by it for so long, terrified at the brightness of it, ashamed that if it had been me in her circumstance I’d have hidden myself away like a chastened, cowardly child, fearing death, fearing even the life left to me.

But I see now what I didn’t then. She was a vessel, and though she was strong, her strength was not her own. Though she loved deeply, the love she gave was God’s.

And whether it be my last year, or my first of many more to come, I hope I can learn to live that way, too, a little more each day.

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Now comes my invitation to you … write your own post and join the How Would You Live blog hop. Finish the statement, “If I had one year to live, I would ….” You can simply post it for your followers to see, or if you’d like to officially join the blog hop, send Nadine an email and she’ll add your name (find her info below).

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How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?ATimetoDieCover

Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. 

But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall — her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her clock is running out.

This is book one in the “Out of Time” trilogy (subsequent volumes coming in 2015 and 2016).

Find the author here:

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The Author of the Story

I found it amusing, at first, to know that I was writing a story within a story while penning The Word Changers. Now and then I would smile ironically to myself and shake my head. It was just too much fun. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, The Word Changers is about a girl who falls into the pages of a book. She spends almost the entire remainder of the story within that book (a fairy tale, in fact). Yes, with my dry sense of humor I found it incredibly droll to think about that.

But then I reached the part about the Author.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had it all planned out. I knew the theme I was aiming for. I knew the meaning I wanted to hide within the Hand writing using quill penpages of my story, the meaning that the Author would be a part of. I knew what I was in for. Or so I thought.

Writing about the Author made me start asking my own author-self some questions. And as I wrote the dialogue between the Author and some of his characters within my book, I began to see something happening that I hadn’t planned on at all.

Not, as you might imagine, a change within my story. But a change within myself.

Because, as an author myself, I do care about my characters. I do want what’s best for them. But many times, in order for them to have what’s best, I have to watch them go through some heartache and pain. If I take control of them and force them into roles, put them in just the situations I want them to be in, like chess pieces in a game, what would that say about me? My poor characters would never learn a thing. And they would end their stories just as they began them. Selfish, heart-sore, bitter and broken. Would my love for my characters be truly shown if I allowed that to happen?

This led me, of course, to look at the way God handles us, his “characters.” He allows us to see heartache and pain. We wonder why He doesn’t lift a finger to help us. But His help is often different than the help we demand of Him. It comes in a form that is subtle, sometimes invisible … many times unexpected.

*Spoiler Alert*

In The Word Changers, Posy is imprisoned. While in her cell, she cries out angrily to the Author. He is the one who wrote the story she’s stuck within, isn’t he? Why can’t he change her story, release her from prison? It would be so simple … he would only need to change a few of the story’s words, wouldn’t he? Posy wants the prison doors to be opened for her. She wants to walk straight out of her cell.

Instead, the Author shines down on her in the form of the moon. Gently, silently. And that single ray of moonlight shining into her prison cell is his answer. At first Posy doesn’t see it. Then she realizes she has to work with what she’s given. Her door isn’t thrown open, as she wished. But the shaft of moonlight shows her the way to escape. It’s a painful and difficult escape, but an escape just open bookthe same.

*Spoiler Alert End*

So writing The Word Changers helped me understand God a little better. It made me focus on His eternal intent for me, as opposed to my own petty every-day goals and desires. It made me understand that sometimes the difficult way can be the best way – the way that helps me to grow and learn and become more closely the person God wants me to be. Writing about the Author in my story forced me, for just a small minute, to enter into God’s way of looking at things. And what a different and infinitely superior way of looking at things that is!

That’s just a small part of what God has done for me through the act and process of writing for His glory. I can only hope that you, my readers, will get half the blessing out of reading my book as I did in writing it.

The Grip of Grace: God’s Hand in the Lord of the Rings

the grip of graceAs a Christian who has both read and watched Lord of the Rings for years, I thought there was not much of its deeper meaning left for me to discover. How wrong I was! Brent King takes a classic we all know well and revisits it, bit by bit, uncovering things of value and eternal worth. Tolkien himself may not have had the purpose of “Christian” meaning in mind when he wrote his trilogy, but it is clear at the same time that he wished at least to represent the battle between darkness and light. The author of The Grip of Grace takes those representations and shows us how to apply them to our Christian lives and our walks with God.

I love how the book is split into short 2-3 page sections – so easy to devour several of them in a setting! Each section begins with the author’s (slightly paraphrased) version of a scene from the trilogy (chronologically organized). The section then goes into the application of the scene – how we might use or apply it in life. Something simple, or perhaps something epic, can turn into something so real that I can see it clearly in my own life. It reads almost like a devotional, and I can completely see a group of Christian Tolkien fans using this book for a Bible study! Wish I had just such a group of friends …!

The author weaves and reveals the Christian meaning from Lord of the Rings in such a natural way that it’s difficult for me to believe Tolkien did not intend it to be meant that way from the very beginning. I got great good out of this book – new perspectives, inspirations and blessings from the world of Middle Earth that I never dreamed of.

Are you a Christian? Are you a Tolkien fan? Read this book!!

 

Visit Brent King at his site and find articles on God, fantasy, writing, and more. Also find him on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Purchase The Grip of Grace on Amazon.

King’s newest book, Tempting Jesus, released last month as well!