April 25, 2015 2 Comments
Christians Read congratulations CR author, Maureen Lang on the release of her new novel:
Read. Write. Grow.
April 25, 2015 2 Comments
Christians Read congratulations CR author, Maureen Lang on the release of her new novel:
April 13, 2015 2 Comments
We all have our visions of what a hero looks like. We’re all right and probably wrong because, with our preconceived notions, we often overlook the Hero Next Door, the everyday hero, and that hero is often the very one who makes a lifelong impact on specific lives, and on the public who eventually discovers him or her.
The hero I want to talk about today is one we can respect, admire, and one who displayed the courage, and bravery that we can but hope we, in that situation, would emulate.
Heroes are important. More so in the chaotic society in which we find ourselves. Heroes lead, guide, and exhibit in their actions and words the kind of people we aspire to be. Values like integrity, selflessness, and human dignity are inherent. The character traits we see in others and admire and respect.
Too often, we see challenges but are either overwhelmed by them or we think the challenge is too big for us. We’re one person. What can one person do?
The answer is that one person can do a lot—when s/he chooses to act and does it. Let’s get specific and talk about one such hero.
It turns out, this hero wasn’t a big, important, powerful person. It turns out Joe is not the only plumber to achieve fame. This hero, too, became a plumber . . . for a noble purpose.
In World War II, she got a job as a plumber and sewer specialist in the Warsaw ghetto, and she used that as an opportunity to smuggle Jewish infants out in her toolbox so they wouldn’t be killed. Her heroic dog barked when she would come and go through the guard checkpoints at work—trained to do so, to hide any sounds the children might make. This hero saved 2500 children and infants. She kept a record of their names and hid the names in a jar she buried under a tree in her own yard. She helped these children get placed in foster homes and to reunite them with surviving family members after the war. Unfortunately, many of those parents had died in the gas chambers.
The guards eventually caught this woman smuggling children out. Her arms and legs were broken and she was severely beaten. But she survived.
Fast-forward over sixty years. She was up for a Nobel prize, but she didn’t win. (Gore did for a video on global warming.) She should have won, in my humble opinion. But she did what she did not for glory. She did it and took on those formidable risks, to spare the children. And that makes her, in my eyes, a hero.
Here’s are two photos of this hero, Irena Sendler, then and just before her death in 2008. (Credit is given to the unknown photographers.)
My point is that heroes are all around us. Most go unnoticed. But the people to whom the hero made a difference don’t forget. They forever recall the hero’s service and sacrifice, and it’s never a small thing. That’s worth remembering.
The face of a hero well might not be famous, it might be everyday average. But admired and respected? Yes, when known, very much admired and respected.
Some would look at Irena Sendler and see just an average woman. Her’s the face of a hero? But she looks so ordinary, some would say (or think if not bold enough to actually say it). That too is worth remembering.
The face of a hero is often an everyday face. An ordinary face. A stranger’s face. And acts of heroism range from a smile to smuggling children out of a war-torn country. Heroic kind of depends on how badly what is offered is needed. A kind word can be heroic if it comes at a sorely needed time…
Some celebrate celebrity and those who aren’t admirable or the type of people we want to be. Rarely is that the case in the stories we read. In the books we read, we read about the kind of people we hope we would be in similar situations. The everyday heroes among us. That seems like a worthy ambition for us in real life, too.
March 23, 2015 2 Comments
I AM WHAT I SAY: The Power of Self-Talk
What is the power of words? Our words? What we think and what we say?
I’ve been listening to people talking about everything and nothing, and what I’ve heard has captured my attention and is troubling. It’s what’s being said by people about themselves, about others, and about challenges, and even about their successes.
We know from the Bible that our words have power. Speaking them carries power and creates the reality. We’re warned:
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs: 18:21 (NIV)
Mark 11:24 tells us: “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Over and again, we read throughout the Bible that the spoken word has come to pass, and we’re encouraged to guard our minds and our mouths because what we say will direct the course of our future.
Maybe because I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve noticed more what we’re saying and how we’re saying it. Maybe we’ve always spoken negatively about ourselves and others because, well, it’s human. But whatever the reason, we would, in my humble opinion, be wise to pause and consider the consequences of our words on us and on others.
Let me share a specific example:
A writer friend and I were conversing and I shared something with her. Later it was mentioned, and she didn’t recall our conversation. “I am losing it. I keep forgetting things.”
Weeks later, she repeated that—“I can’t remember anything anymore.”
Now, she’s saying that same thing far more often—and it appears to be true. She does seem to have a lot more trouble remembering.
That benign example got my attention, and what’s happened memory-wise got me to thinking. We’ve all heard, “I am that I am.” And we know what it meant. What we might not have recognized—at least, I didn’t at the time—is that we are what we are, too.
If we believe we have a poor memory, we’re accepting that as real and valid and a part of our nature. It’s part and parcel of our personal, I am. And believing it—when we speak it, we voice our belief for better or worse—we grant it authority. We’re saying it our thought that our memory is poor carries our conviction that our memory is poor. Therefore, our memory is or becomes poor because that’s what we’ve deemed it. We have exercised our free will choice on the matter.
We’re all going to have negative thoughts from time to time. They’re human, as natural to us as breathing. They are attempts to influence our spiritual selves. But thoughts are fleeting. And if we don’t act on them, they flee, fade and fall away.
If we don’t voice them (with our focus or our spoken words), then we deny those negative things authority. They’re powerless without the authority of our free-will choice.
My point is we should exercise care what we say we are because, if we believe it and grant it authority, we will become it. This makes the way we see ourselves and how we talk with and about ourselves extremely important.
The Proverbs verse tells us the tongue has the power of life and death, and if we love it, we’ll eat its fruit. It doesn’t say we’ll eat the good fruit and not the bad fruit. Or we’ll eat the positive fruit and not eat the negative fruit. It says we’ll eat the fruit. All of it.
To me, that’s good and bad, which means how we talk about ourselves is directly relative and it impacts our future.
I’ve long said we need to guard our minds. You can’t fill your mind with trash and pull out treasures. (You reap what you sow, right?) I think we should extend that to our mouths.
What comes out of our mouths about ourselves and others should be constructive, positive, honoring us and respecting God. Good fruit bears good fruit.
Will we always do it? No, we’re human. But we should try. Hard. Our futures, I am convinced, rely on it.
Vicki Hinze is a USA Today Bestselling Author. She has written over 30 novels, 4 nonfiction books and hundreds of articles in as many as 63 countries. She is also a columnist for Social N Global network and a former radio talk show host.
March 20, 2015 1 Comment
A Spark Serves: Soul Food and the Heart-Weary Christian
It’s almost Easter. A revered time for people of faith. The most revered time for Christians. Today, I need to chat. That’s right, to chat. I need to talk with like-minded people—people who believe. My soul needs food.
Most Christians go through times of sheer weariness. We tire of the faith struggles in our own lives and in our society. Our freedom of religion is being interpreted by some as freedom from religion, and we’re frustrated by it and weary of it.
How can we not be? We look around and see children exploited, young girls being programmed that sexy is better than virtuous (look at the magazine covers targeting teens). We see a barrage of attacks against even Christmas trees with governors wanting to call them holiday trees, and Christmas break being tagged winter holiday. We see our leader insist that Christian statues be covered during a speech at a Catholic college and yet he speaks beneath a banner that includes a photo of the father of terrorism. We know important things seem, well, upside down, and now comes a push to rename an Easter Egg Hunt a Spring Egg Hunt.
What? We have Christians being crucified for their faith (literally and figuratively) and we (as taxpaying citizens) are giving them billions of dollars. Why?
All this is just the tip of the heap, as you well know, but it’s sufficient to relay the reason for the weariness.
We trust God, we celebrate Easter. We do not waiver on it being the holiest of holidays in Christendom. The Resurrection… It’s awe-inspiring and humbling. And even those who are not Christians should respect that.
If they did, I doubt we’d be living in a culture of deep corruption. In a society where half—yes, half—of the children born are born to unwed mothers. Our values have eroded and our ethics along with them. We’ve buried our moral compass. Allowing it to happen, doing nothing to prevent it, condones it. And what we condone, we own.
I’m not an idealist or standing on a soapbox or suggesting we become raging zealots, but I am suggesting that I’m weary and I know other believers are, too. For me, I’m battling it, determined to follow our beliefs and to refuse not to support them. In other words, the PC police can forget it. They have their vision of PC and I have mine, and this weary soul is opting for faith.
The weariness is not to the bone. Close, but not to the bone. In part, I thank Roma Downey and Mark Burnett for that. Yes, the star of Touched by an Angel and the reality show guru. They did the five-part series The Bible that aired on the History channel.
Okay, so there’s been a lot of controversy on the show itself. Of course, there has. But considering how many don’t and never have read the Bible, and considering that this series is the only exposure they’ll get to the Bible, can’t we see the good in it? The series is like a missionary to the U.S. And if you’ve seen the religious decline (which has been actively sought by factions within and outside this country), you know we need a revival of spiritual matters and food for our spirits. Give us that and the other problems decline. We know it. Our country was built on the premise of putting God first. Through diligent effort, particularly in the past forty years, we’ve had our identity muddied and now we’re muddled. For that reason, while some might find fault with The Bible’s production, I’m celebrating it.
It’s said to have been #1—most watched. The Examiner had an article on it that said Hollywood didn’t understand why the series was so popular. It confounded them. We, of course, know exactly why it’s popular and why other films or series like it will be popular, too. People are three-dimensional—physical, emotional and spiritual—and our spiritual selves are starving!
Simple. So very simple. We need soul food! We don’t just want it, we need it.
So I watch the fourth part of the five-part series, and I notice the commercials. Christianbooks.com had one. Walmart had one. Advertising the Bible. I’m sure there were others, but these were on when the advertisers caught my attention and snagged my thoughts. And I sat there feeling extremely emotional. An ad for the Bible. The BOOK. The Word of God. I’m choking up again now.
This is good. Even if you disagree with exactly the way this or that is done in the series, you’ve got to see that this series and these kinds of commercials (which are wholly suitable for viewing by all ages [and that certainly can’t be said for many, many ads or shows]) are good.
I hope that this series continues to spur an avalanche of films with spiritual themes that get people to thinking and talking and exploring and searching. I hope it spurs a mountain of ads that are constructive and respectful. But most of all, I hope it touches hearts. The weariness and emptiness and longing that crushes so many in our society can be filled by faith. We know it can, and I pray soon those who didn’t know that discover it, too.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to watch an early evening program with your family and not have to change the channel because of inappropriate content? To have shows with content that is constructive and inspiring to viewers?
I boldly dare to dream that this starts a trend. One that renews faith, depletes weariness in believers, and offers all who want it a path out of the darkness and into the light. Wouldn’t it be terrific to see a swell of enthusiasm that leads to truth and contentment replace the current destructive behaviors that assure the absence of both? Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, that spark will ignite a flame and those who choose to walk and live outside the light will at least respect the rights of those who choose to walk in it. That would be refreshing, and constructive.
What I know is this. I write books to help the broken heal. I read books that inspire and enlighten. I view films for the same reasons. And I know that this morning my heart is less weary. A series and some commercials and because of constructive, faith-filled content, my soul is less weary.
And I know that without a spark, there is no flame. A spark serves. And if you think about it, doesn’t it kind of remind you of the mustard seed…
March 2, 2015 4 Comments
A few years ago, I went through an experience that resulted in me re-evaluating my life and what I was doing with it. It wasn’t a fun process, but it was a worthy one.
I culled things and, frankly, some people from my life. Those who sought to build themselves up by tearing me down. Those who looked me in the face and lied to me. Those who deceived me and betrayed me and felt no remorse for doing so—even felt justified in doing so.
It wasn’t easy. It was difficult, but it was necessary. With the gift of hindsight, I see how much joy and balance these people were draining from my life. It wasn’t their fault, by the way. They didn’t take a thing that I didn’t give them. I recognized it and stopped giving, and I am a better person for it.
One of the most difficult things I changed was what I was writing. I’ve always had a writing rule not to write a book I didn’t love. I’ve always written books with suspense, romance and mystery in them—in just about every genre except horror. I love thrillers. I love suspense, mystery and romance. And if I put all those elements in a book, then I’m a really happy writer.
The other thing I did that many didn’t realize was include a spiritual element in my books. I’ve always been a spiritual person, and after this experience, I wanted to bring that element out of the background—the motivating factors for characters’ actions—and into the foreground. And so I did in the Crossroads Crisis Center series.
It was a scary move. I had a strong career going in the general market and frankly I wasn’t sure how I’d be received in the inspirational market. I did the Crossroads three books and then three more in the Lost-Inc. series. They all did okay. Reviewers and Readers were for the most part positive. But there were some who were not happy with reading more about the spiritual element.
I received one note that sticks with me. In it, the reader had a bit to say about this “change” and that she loved my writing and when I got over this phase, she’d be back.
That letter sort of encapsulated the whole of the responses. Some liked it, some didn’t, some saw very little difference from what I’d been writing, and some absolutely, positively hated it.
This created challenges but also blessings. I had to evaluate my reaction and my resolve. It was, simply put, a test. What I discovered during the process was that I am—and really always have been—a bridge walker.
Most haven’t heard that term and there’s a reason for that. I kind of created it to describe what kind of writer and person I choose to be.
At one end of the bridge is the secular or general market. At the other end is the inspirational market. In the middle is where I am. Not fully accepted on either end, but doing what I’m called to do, walking the bridge.
At first, this troubled me. I felt alone. But in the years since that experience, I’ve discovered that most of us are on that bridge. We have faith, we believe, and we do our best to walk in faith. But we live in a secular world, and many in that secular world are lost and wounded and seeking something. They gravitate to us because we’re not “over the top” or so far removed from them in their lives that they feel getting to a spiritual place is impossible for them. They fear they’re so far removed from the spiritual that they’ll be judged and found lacking.
Some believe that people of faith are all about being judgmental and harsh and their own experiences have left them feeling they’ll never measure up or being accepted much less find their place. With very few exceptions, that’s not been my experience, but many have experienced it.
I see now, these folks too are on the bridge. They seek more, want more, need more from and in their spiritual lives than they have now, but they can’t seem to find a place where they belong and feel valued.
That’s proven the case in my life and in my writing. And it’s why I’m writing series like the Shadow Watchers. Those characters were born in Crossroads Crisis Center and continue in their own. THE MARKED BRIDE is the first book in Shadow Watchers. It’s a Bridge-Walker book and hasn’t been out long enough to gauge whether or not it’ll be accepted by readers. So far, feedback has been good from inspirational and secular readers. One secular reviewer commented she hadn’t realized it was inspirational until it came up that the protagonist prays on everything important in his life. That’s been about the only remark on this end, and it kind of surprised me. Until I read that comment, I honestly thought all spiritual people prayed on things important to them. So I learned something important to know there.
Anyway, my point is that a life-altering experience isn’t something you get over. One day, I hope my writing will enjoy the secure footing it once did. I can’t believe that I was brought to this kind of writing and I won’t be brought through it.
Either way, the spiritual demands that we do what we believe we’re called to do. I am on solid ground on that front, and the rest will work out as it’s intended. Your prayers on this would be greatly appreciated.
For these reasons, notice is hereby given that, until directed otherwise, I’ll remain on the bridge, doing what I can to help others heal, and hoping it’s enough.
January 31, 2015 1 Comment
Julie Arduini is a faithful contributor to this blog and has been since its inception a number of years ago. Not too long ago, we collectively congratulated Julie on the publication of her book and celebrated with her.
Now we have two new books to celebrate with Julie!
The Love Boat Bachelor features Write Integrity Press authors where readers choose the ending. Chapters are being released now through http://writeintegrity.com and once the voting finishes, the book will be available for free on Kindle for four days, starting on Valentine’s.Please join us in celebrating with Julie! We’re so pleased to see her doing so well!Blessings,Vicki HinzeChristians Read Administrator
January 19, 2015 6 Comments
Messages from God and lessons to us are all around. We simply must slow down long enough to see and comprehend them. I’m as guilty as the next of sometimes breezing right past them, but yesterday, I saw a news clip of the Pope in the Philippines that stopped me in my tracks and held me there.
The weather there was awful; rainy and gloomy. In spite of it, six million people gathered and stood in the rain to hear the Pope’s message to them.
In the news clip, a priest in New York said this was the largest gathering of people in recorded history for a single individual. He also said some are calling the Pope a rock star. He disagreed; that many had never gathered for any rock star. All of this caught my ear and had me paying close attention.
Enough attention that I realized the Pope-mobile had ditched its bullet-proof glass walls; they were open. The Pope kissed babies, touched people physically as well as spiritually. And when a little girl who lived on the streets before being taken in by the church asked why such bad things happened to children, he admitted that answer was beyond him, and he hugged the child. She moved closer to him and hugged the Pope so hard, as one would her daddy she’d gone to for comfort. It touched me. Deeply.
The message he delivered was one of helping the poor, of working against poverty and corruption. I didn’t hear it all—just that recited in the clip—but it was a strong message. Yet I believe his strength is in his accessibility. He’s open and genuine, and people react to that and hear his message to them through that perspective.
While I attended Catholic schools early-on, I am not Catholic. Yet I learned a great deal from the Pope in this news clip and I expect as I think about it, and study on my own, I’ll learn much more. So I wanted to share those observations with you. Maybe you too will find something of value in them.
Lesson 1: The Pope is sincere and genuine in his desire to interact with people. He doesn’t come across as a man on a soap-box speaking at them. He talks with them and listens to them.
Lesson 2: He removed the walls from the Pope-mobile. This endangers his life. It makes him vulnerable to the crazies who would kill him. Yet he values his life less than he values the desire to be accessible to people. Those suffering and struggling, those seeking, see this, know it, and respect it. Sometimes the momentary touch of a hand offers reassurance where there has been none. Reminds people that God is, has been, and remains in control in a world gone wild. We are not alone.
Lesson 3: When the little girl asked the question, a lump raised in my throat. How do you explain man’s inhumanity to man to a child? To adults? How do you explain a child living on the streets? Hungry? Alone? It brings to mind a quote: If you condone it, you own it. I don’t recall but give credit to whoever said it first, but I agree with it. If collectively we decided to nurture, care for, feed and protect children, they would be nurtured, cared for, fed, and protected. We’ve haven’t . . . yet. But hope springs eternal.
The Pope could have offered the child a platitude. He didn’t. I respect that. And by her reaction, moving in for that fatherly hug, the child did, too. And that carried not one but two lessons:
And, for me, the most significant BIG LESSON from this little news clip was:
People are inundated with negative news, with hardships and tough times. They thirst and hunger for hope, for assurance that God is here, there, everywhere, and, while we might not understand all that is happening, He understands perfectly.
We want that assurance. We need that assurance. Because we are not just physical and emotional beings, we are spiritual beings, and for many, we see so much that is anti-spirit, we hear and feel the impact of so much that is an affront to our spirits, we find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into despair even as we live out our day-to-day lives and appear normal.
That message is what drew six million people to stand in the rain to hear the Pope speak. It wasn’t the Pope. He is not a rock star. It was the message.
It was their thirsty spirits stepping out in faith, eager to hear a message of hope.
And delivering such a message, doesn’t require one to be a Pope, only to have a willing heart…✚
© 2015, Vicki Hinze
Vicki’s new book is a sweet romance, My Imperfect Valentine.
November 17, 2014 1 Comment
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November 8, 2014 Leave a comment
I’m often asked to endorse novels and/or nonfiction books, workshops, seminars and products. I’ve been extremely selective in doing so for all the usual reasons. Recently however the Ultimate Christian Living bundle folks approached me with their collection. And since so many have been in touch about challenges in their careers, families, and lives as Christians, I decided that this offering could be helpful and I would let you know it exists in case you’re interested.
It includes works on these very subjects by Gary Chapman, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Tony Evans and Ray Comfort, by D.L. Moody, Jonathon Edwards, John Wesley or Spurgeon, Calvin, Finney and Tozer. Here’s a bit of what the sponsors have to say:
“… we approached dozens of authors and multiple publishers and asked them if we could bundle together all these resources—nearly $1,000 worth!—in one place for one stunningly low price of just $34.95 (PDF version) and $39.95 (eReader version), FOR 5 DAYS ONLY.
We asked for big concessions and they gave them…savings in excess of 96%! But it’s just for five days. And then it’s gone.
And just to pack in even more value, we’ve persuaded 5 of our bonus partners like Dayspring to provide FREE bonus gifts to every one who buys a bundle. With a combined value of over $160, these bonuses are over 4 times the value of the bundle alone!
That’s right, you get over $1,140 worth of some of the greatest thinking and experience from Christian leaders on topics ranging from marriage and parenting to finance, fitness and business. From relationships and faith, to daily devotionals and children’s books and music.”
As you well know, we’re in troubling times and it seems that this collection of diverse and relevant resources could be beneficial.
If you’re interested in reading more on this or in ordering a bundle, here’s a link: Ultimate Christian Living Bundle
As you read above, this is a limited time sale, so if you want it, don’t linger. I think there are two more days for it to be available.
October 27, 2014 2 Comments
Everything we read impacts us. Labels of ingredients determine what we buy. Newspaper articles lead us to form opinions. Opinion pieces encourage us to agree or disagree, forming our own opinions. Media, from articles to circulars offer us information, ideas, input for us to process and include in our thinking and in our actions (or inactions). It all impacts us.
I’d planned to share with you today why I’m writing what I’m writing where I’m writing it. My new novel is based on a spiritual concept—God sees the big picture and we don’t, so our trust, even when things seem out of kilter, needs to rest in Him. Many who read the story won’t see that, but it’s there and I hope they’ll feel it. We often recognize things at soul level while not consciously aware of them. It’s published in a collection of secular novels. To reach others, we must go where they are, right?
So that was my plan. But then my husband mentioned an article he was reading and the disturbing comments on it left by others, and my plan changed. The more he read aloud to me, the sadder, more upset, and more disheartened I became. Let me explain . . .
The article was about Jep Robertson, a Duck Dynasty family member. While hunting, Jep had a seizure and nearly died. He’s in the hospital recovering, and glad to be alive.
What was disturbing in the comments? There were two kinds. Those written by people wishing him a speedy recovery, wishing him well. And those attacking him, his family, his faith, and wishing him and his family dead.
Yes, you read that right. Wishing him dead.
I cannot tell you how mean-spirited and vile some of these comments were, or how troubling it was to read them. I hope Jep and his family do not. Truly, I fear if they did, they wouldn’t read anything in them that they haven’t seen and read countless times before—and isn’t that just the saddest commentary of all? Not against that family, but against us as a people.
We all know that there’s been a massive movement to divide and conquer, to pit one segment of us against another segment of us on any and all fronts. Those who are our purported leaders and our enemies have worked equally hard at that, and many among us not tagged as either have worked just as hard for their own purposes. Attacks against our traditions and values, morals and standards, have pushed the things we know to be good further away and drawn closer concepts like win at any costs, lie until the lies are perceived as truths. Evil over good.
This didn’t just start. It’s been going on since the beginning of time. The difference has been that in the last couple of decades, we’ve collectively shunned bad and remained silent and that allowed ill to blossom and grow unchecked. Ignorance replaces knowledge in that void, and what we condone, we own. And that’s sad.
Losing our collective identity is disheartening. It’s a tragic loss. And that there are those who think it’s perfectly okay to leave comments wishing others dead, glad that they’re having health problems and hoping they’re worse tells you the fabric of us as a people isn’t just torn, it’s frayed and falling apart.
I came to understand that, and other individuals who are a part of the collective we have, too. When we reach that point of recognition, we have to make a decision: to be part of the solution or part of the problem.
The solution entails seeking first to understand. Why would people wish others dead? Wish them ill? Spew hatred in ways like this? There could be any or many of a hundred reasons, but one thing became clear: In the absence of civility and traditions and values, we lose our humanity.
These comments, an isis cage filled with Christian women being sold as slaves, proves it. There is evidence all around us that this is the case on all fronts. Collectively, we’re in deep trouble. Which means in ways we can, which are different for us all, we must do what we can, when we can, where we can, to be examples others can observe and follow. It means we must not forget our humanity and not relegate what binds us together to a position deemed insignificant.
If we seek first to understand, and if we hold fast to what we believe, and we practice it, then our humanity remains intact. So how exactly do we do that?
We lean not to our own understanding. Our view is restricted. But we know there is a bigger, broader view, and it remains steadfast and true. We reach it—Him—through prayer.
So we first seek to understand and then we pray. For Jep and his family, for those who commented wishing him and his family well, and for those who left the hate-filled comments. We don’t know why they’re so angry and hurtful or what burdens are on their hearts. We don’t know what’s twisted their minds so that they’ve lost civility and their humanity, but we do know who is capable of healing those breaches. There is no stronger shield or weapon.
In books, we read and write about people who restore and heal and build bridges in broken people and places and things. We call them heroes. In life, we call them friends, family, and neighbors.
To experience civility and humanity, we must live it and be examples of it. We seek to understand and we pray, then conduct ourselves with civility and our humanity intact and on display from the heart out. That nurtures it in society, mends our fabric.
I hope that we will, because we do own what we condone.
I love books or I wouldn’t read or write books, but it’s so very clear that all we read impacts us. Whether it’s a positive or negative impact is our choice. I understand that, and I pray we make wise choices.
Humanity is counting on us…
October 6, 2014 1 Comment
I looked through a listing of books this morning and one snagged my attention. Migrations, Volume 1: Don’t Forget to Breathe by Ashim Shanker. I’m not sure what about it snagged my attention, really. The cover is black and gray, well, see for yourself:
It isn’t the type of cover that would normally intrigue me into looking deeper. That’s not to say anything is wrong with it, only that it isn’t the type of cover on the types of books I usually seek. Maybe it is the arches, or all those doors… something about it intrigued me enough to focus on the title. Honestly, it isn’t a title that would snag my interest either, only it did, and so I clicked the link and viewed the book.
It’s classified as metaphysical. That’s not typically my cup of tea. But it’s also classified as “Free will and determination” and “philosophy.” I’m into philosophy, so that appealed. And I’m always trying to better understand free will. What Christian isn’t? It’s a gift to us from God, and we know the value of determination and there’s always more to be learned there. So I read on.
Oddly, I didn’t go to the book description but to the “About the Author.” Especially when we’re talking about things that impact thought and mind, well, I guard mine, so I like to know about the person I’m permitting to enter.
Here’s what I found on Amazon.com’s product page about the author:
“Ashim Shanker has never been, and probably isn’t yet, but certainly aspires to be. Surely, one day he MIGHT be, but there is no guarantee he WILL be. He was disappointed to find out yesterday upon waking that he still wasn’t, nor would he be for the rest of the day. But still, today has not yet passed. So we must wait and see. In the meantime, we cannot rule out the possibility, however negligible, that he will have been at some point in the distant horizon. Yet, for the present, we are still faced with the bleak and disheartening probability that he never was, nor shall ever be. Whatever comes of such confusing matters, he nonetheless appreciates the interest of the reader and apologizes in advance for any time that is sure to be wasted in pointlessly deciphering the befuddling words of this trifling wannabe.”
Admittedly, I’m a practical idealist. There’s good versus evil, and good wins because it doesn’t quit and it chooses good over evil most often. Simple woman, simple outlook. But the writer in me was extremely intrigued by this paradoxical author’s self-view. Was this biography a deliberate attempt to manipulate? The sign of someone totally confused? Or someone trying to woo others with a mystical type of enchantment? Or was his purpose something else entirely?
I wasn’t sure. The Kindle edition happened to be free so I clicked it. That writer’s curiosity in me wanted to find out the rationale for that type of “About the Author” statement, and since there’s bits of the author in the books s/he writes, what better way to discover those answers than to read the work?
Only then did I go back to the page and read the book description and then the reviews. The description kind of made my eyes roll back in my head, but then I’m of the Twain persuasion—never use a nickel word when a penny one will do—and the reviews were mixed. Some accused the author of self-importance and useless bloviating, attempting to impress with his intellect. Others felt the work represented exactly what it said it would. One remarked that the author didn’t take himself too seriously and provoked thought. Humor was mentioned.
That’s a good balance, as reviews go. If everyone loves it or hates a book, okay. But it’s when there’s a mix of reviews on a book that I’m confident it touched people in some way, and being touched (versus indifferent) is success.
So I remained intrigued by this author and wanted to read his thoughts. As I said, I’d already downloaded the book.
And then I looked at the “also boughts.” You know, on the product page, down at the bottom where it says what other books customers who bought this one bought also.
Had I read it first—and just being honest here—I wouldn’t have downloaded the book. Foul language leaves me cold. But there was also a Jane Austen title. So again, a mixed bag.
Now, this discovery surprised me—about myself. The author didn’t write those other “also bought” books. Didn’t title them. They had nothing to do with this book. And yet I would have made a buying decision based on them.
That would have been unfair. So I guess that’s why this venture worked out as it did—to reveal that unfairness in me to me.
I shall read the first three pages of this book and then decide whether or not to read on.
Obviously, I can’t recommend the book since I’ve not yet read it. But I discovered, along with the admitted unfairness, I also do not choose what to read as a reader. I choose as a reader and writer. Maybe the two are inseparable. I’ll need to think more on that.
What’s fascinated me about this is I didn’t choose to get a book based on the book but because the author was interesting—characterization, I find fascinating. Is that common? I don’t know. Is it?
What makes you choose the books you choose?
That isn’t a rhetorical question. I really would like to know, so I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me in the comments.
September 15, 2014 3 Comments
My granddaughters love to read. They come from a long line of readers, so them reading is doing what comes naturally to them. But their love of books, and specific stories—that is their own.
Like their mother, gran, and great-gran, they love many types of books. And it’s amazing (and wonderful) how much they absorb from the books they read.
Not long ago, I asked two of them to tell me about the books they loved most and why they loved them. Now, they’re young. Six and ten at the time. Yet both articulated the story and their thoughts clearly and a lot more concisely than I have when asked similar questions.
That fascinated me—as their gran but as an author and a human being. Both cut to the core of the book in answering the questions, and what I heard was that it wasn’t the events that occurred in the books that snagged their focus. It was the character’s emotional reaction to those events and whether or not they, as readers, deemed the characters’ actions good, just, or “inappropriate.”
These books clearly helped shape the children’s thoughts and opinions. They processed what they read through their own eyes, and accepted or rejected the conduct, ethics, actions, and attitudes of the characters.
That was expected. It’s what, to some extent, we all do when reading a book. But then something happened that brought in the fascination factor because the totality of the impact of books on us became extremely clear.
I mentioned a book that had been embraced by many and asked if they’d read it. The eldest said, “I started it, but I didn’t finish it.” The other one said, “I read the first page.”
“Why didn’t you finish it?” I asked.
The eldest dipped her chin and said, “Gran, you have to be careful what you put in your head.”
I agreed but said nothing, wanting to see where she went with this.
The younger one didn’t hold back. “If trash goes into your head, trash comes out of your head.”
“Ah, I see.” I heard those words spoken in their mother’s voice. She was guarding their minds. “So your mom said you shouldn’t read it.”
“I didn’t want to read it,” the youngest one said.
“I prefer other books,” the eldest said, exercising the diplomacy of being older.
It was interesting to me that at these young ages, they were already guarding their minds. Yes, mom taught them, but at their ages, they rejected a popular book based on what they thought.
Okay, that’s not just the power of books but also of parenting. However, making judgments on right and wrong, good and bad, worth putting into your mind or not—all of those were personal judgment calls. It fascinated me that they’re made early and they were made on merit.
Now other children have loved that same book. And I’m not saying the book is good or bad, just that it takes on different connotations and is read, processed, and received by different people in different ways.
I have to tell you. I thought about this short little conversation for weeks. I think it stayed with me so long because I needed to broaden my thinking. Before the conversation, my perspective was that mom (or dad) checks out the books, buys the books or gets them from the library, and the kids read them because they’re what they have to read.
But I learned that part of that’s true, but it’s not the whole truth. The kids often choose the books they want to read and if the books don’t meet the kids’ standards, unless forced to read them, they won’t. Parents exercise parental authority, but then from that point, the kids exercise their judgment based on the criteria they set—and that criteria will differ from child to child. It might be that they are guarding their mind. That they do or don’t like the characters. That a story makes them sad or cuts close to the bone on something they’ve experienced, or they don’t know why they do or don’t like it, they just do or don’t like it.
By the same token, with both of the readers, the stories they loved were loved for their characters. Because those characters touched the kids emotionally in tender ways, in just ways, and (with both), in ways that made them laugh. One put laughter at the top of her list. The other likes suspense. Neither cares much for stories without their chosen favorite element.
That realization led me to deduce that kids are as mercurial as adults when it comes to reading. We all have favorites. Favorite books, favorite authors, favorite types of stories. And at times, what we consider favorites changes. Sometimes we need to laugh. Sometimes we need to get mushy, to feel tender. Sometimes we crave action and adventure and we want to solve a mystery or to be thrilled. Sometimes we want to escape our world and get lost in another. And we do. In our books.
Time passes yet this subject continues to ripple through my mind. I’ve discovered that I too play gatekeeper on what I put into my mind. I used to finish every book I started. I don’t anymore. If the story and its characters speak to me, I’m all in. But if it doesn’t, I look for a story that does, saving the other book for another time.
Fascinating subject. One that reveals a lot about the power of books, the power of story, the power of reading and processing what is read. But how we read and when we read what we read says an awful lot about us as people, too.
I looked back at the books I’ve read in the past six months. Fiction and nonfiction. An array of genres, an array of types of stories. The books I finished and most enjoyed had a couple things in common:
I can’t specifically comment on the nonfiction I’ve read during this time because a lot of it was done for research, and this is about pleasure reading. I can say when it comes to nonfiction, I appreciate:
All this brings me to more questions. This time, of you. I hope you’ll share your answers.
What do you read? Why do you read it? Are you a mercurial reader, who opts for different types of stories based on what’s going on in your life? What are your favorite things about reading? What type of stories do you love best?
In looking harder at this, it became clear that what we read varies as much as why we read what we read. Interesting questions led me to interesting answers.
I hope the questions above intrigue you into answering them. Maybe even share your answers with the rest of us here.
When I answered them, I discovered something unexpected—and I suspect you will, too.
I discovered that books have had a huge hand in shaping my life. Professionally and personally. Mmm, my granddaughter was right about what you put into your mind. Kudos to her (and her mom and dad) on that…
Another lesson learned from my grans.
Mysterious ways, right?
August 25, 2014 Leave a comment
At times we all get mired down by events in our lives, or by the events in the lives of those we love. When we do, it impacts our judgement, our viewpoint, our perspective, and all of that makes it harder to remember who we are and whose we are.
A few years ago, I recognized this and sought a way to remind myself when I needed reminding. As for all of us, that’s pretty often. I spent a lot of time thinking about things, and then I started noting the important points to remember.
One thing that isn’t on the list but is etched in HUGE letters across my heart is to hit my knees first, not as a last resort. We’re conditioned to try to fix everything, but we don’t see the whole “big picture.” God has the view, not us. So hitting the knees first, relying on his view and perspective and judgment can spare us a lot of misery and help us better cope with whatever we must endure.
The rest of my notes, I put in a little business card, then printed it out and I’ve carried it in my wallet ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled it out to remind myself of things when I needed to be reminded–and sometimes when I didn’t.
So I’m including a copy here so that, if you’re inclined, you can print it out and carry it with you.
I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me.
When we forget who we are, do we remember whose we are?
That’s the question in Forget Me Not, and the one our characters answer in their search for truth and healing.
Read the first chapter HERE.