Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Power of a Story... repost

I am re-posting this in response to a blog post I read that is condemning Christian fiction. That post is here.

I love to read. Always have. I remember in my elementary school days excelling at reading so much, that I was reading books above my reading level. As my reading skills grew and changed, so did what I read. I devoured The Hardy Boys books, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Black Beauty. I read at any chance I got.

When the day came that I got my own library card, I remember librarians being amazed at the stacks of books I would take out on loan. Where other people got a few books, I would get eight, ten, or even more, even as I grew onto adulthood.

Now at age forty (ugh!), I still have a love of books. My main enjoyment for pleasure reading is Christian fiction. The Christian fiction book has gotten a bad rap, in my opinion. Some people look down on people who read a lot of fiction. Even in my own church, I have heard people refer to the "novel" with distaste and a bit of pious self righteousness that they don't read books like that.

I will be the first to say the Bible should be the most important book in our reading, and should be read daily, and meditated on. And there are other good books to read that aren't fiction, but if we discount Christian fiction, and consider it a shallow pursuit, I believe we are discounting something that not only can be a pleasurable past time, but something that could help us.

Because of a good novel, I have been all over the world. The jungles of Africa, Russia, the swamps of Lousiana, China, Japan - even in the Oval office. I have learned things from reading a novel.

I am rather passionate that Christian fiction should indeed be Christian. Nowadays, there are books being published as Christian fiction that might mention God once or twice - or not at all, and is just a clean secular book marketed as Christian fiction. Worse than that, are the Christian fiction books that have curse/swear words in, or situations or discussions that do not belong in a Christian book.

Now there are a lot of Christian novels that are "fluff" - romance, and books just for fun. I am not knocking those - they have their place, and there is nothing wrong with reading a book that is just fun and clean, whether it be Christian, or not - but in the last several years, I have been discovering a wealth of Christian fiction books that not only entertain and tell a good story, but have lessons, truths - even life-changing truths.

Sound far-fetched? That God could use a story - fiction - to speak to someone? To convict, change? I don't believe so. Jesus Himself used stories to get a message across. We call them parables.

Many of Karen Kingsbury's stories carry a strong message, address a specific topic. I have told the story here, but it bears repeating: a few years back, I had loaned Karen Kingsbury's book Waiting For Morning to my pastor's wife. It is a fictional story of a woman who loses her husband and daughter because of a drunk driver, and her journey to forgiving him. Not long after she read that book, a lady in my church related a sad story to her about a co-worker. This woman's daughter had a small boy. The daughter's boyfriend seriously abused the boy - damaged his motor skills, it was so bad. He, and the boy's mother were charged, as she allowed it. The boy's grandmother was given custody of this little abused boy, and she told the woman from my church that she knew she needed to forgive them, but couldn't. My pastor's wife recommended the book by Karen Kingsbury, and the co-worker later said it did help her a lot. A fiction book - who knew?!

Karen received so many emails and letters from people influenced by her books, that she actually has a place on her website for them. Here are a few:

Hi, my name is Chris and I am a 16 year old boy with a second chance. For years now I've been struggling with pornography addiction. Looking for the answers, but only getting frustrated. Then I read Ocean's Apart and the part where Connor realizes what the preacher said about "it will start with you" and how he was to blame.

For years I blamed God for allowing it to cross my path, then I blamed the devil, then I blamed my brother (it started on his computer), then the world. But Connor (the character in your book) helped me to realize that it was all my fault.
My fault that I alone chose to look at them. Now seeing what can happen when one realizes it was their fault, it brought me to my knees and I asked God to forgive me and for a second chance, and guess what HE DID! Now I'm no longer addicted to that awful sin. Thank you so much for writing this book, I feel it was written to me from God. It helped me in more ways than just this. If you don't mind I would like to use the butterfly story as a tool for witnessing.

Keep allowing God to use you and you will never falter, I'm praying for you and your family, thank you Karen. -Chris R

My sister-in-law gave me One Tuesday Morning and it changed my life. I had turned my back on God for many years due to beliefs I had from a former religion. I believed that if I were not part of their religion I would not ever have Gods favor again.
After reading One Tuesday Morning I started questioning what I believed in my heart all those years. By the time I was done with the book I sat down and prayed to God for the first time, honestly knowing he was really with me.
She knew what your books would do for me. You have given me my faith and my love of God back and I can not thank you and my sister-in-law enough no matter how long I live. -Cheryl H

After reading A Time To Dance, I spontaneously flew to Japan, surprising my husband during his business trip, to tell him that I chose us and committed myself to saving our marriage. I suggested that he MUST read your book; you wrote it specifically for us.

We did not fly home together, however, he took the book and said he'd read it. I just got off the phone with my husband who elatedly called from the Detroit, MI Airport, choked up and near tears because he finished your entire book without stopping the whole flight, except for bathroom breaks, and realized the blessed relationship that we nearly lost.

Thanking you doesn't convey my heart's gratitude. However, I want to commend you for your obedience to the Lord for clarifying to readers that God doesn't let go even when we do.
As John and Abby nearly threw in the matrimony towel, so did my husband and I. Your characters marriage paralleled mine to a tee, except my husband is a pilot and not a football coach.
Otherwise, the coincidences of my life as a writer, having two sons and one daughter, experiencing the loss of a child, possessing a seemingly perfect marriage externally, one spouse faced with the possibility of choosing an affair, and the wounds that are inflicted through relationship neglect, stemming from the busyness of raising children and providing for a family, were utterly uncanny.
You did write this about us! Your God given gift to write impacts lives.
It saved mine

And there are many more on her website.

Just recently, I have read The Last Word by Kathy Herman. The author told a great story of suspense while driving home the point that we need to be working harder to win our loved ones to Christ. Also addressed in the book was the importance of life, and that abortion is not the answer.

In Scream, the most recent book that I reviewed, author Mike Dellosso spins a tail of kidnapping and treachery, all the while pointing out the reality of hell, and that anyone who dies without Christ will go there for all eternity.

Not so recently, A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury stresses the importance of marriage, and of saving a marriage, even when wrong has been done. She also addressed the issue of pornography in this book, and why it is wrong.

Not every Christian novel is going to present life-changing truths, and I am not saying they must, but I did want to address the issue of the power in a story. No, a Christian novel - or any book - should never replace the Bible, and many Christian novels are just a good, clean story, presenting God as the answer, but that in itself is something we need reminded of now and then. But I would like to tip my hat in recognition of those authors and books that not only tell a good story, but do it with a message to help someone out there that will read their story, and be encouraged, convicted, and possibly even become a Christian, because God used a Christian novel to speak to their heart.

So you aren't a reader of Christian fiction? Why not give it a try. You might learn something, and God may speak to you through it.