Stepping Out in Faith

Stepping Out in Faith

by Lela Markham

 

The other day I was explaining to someone how the process of a discovery writer works for me. I don’t often know where the characters are going to take the story until we get there. I sometimes know the broad strokes. So, for example, I might know that a character will live to the end of the series, but I don’t know how she plans to escape the vengeful Celtic goddess who is bent on her destruction even as I write. I am as surprised when I write it as I hope my readers will be when they read it.

That has spiritual significance. God does know the ending and even the twists and turns of our lives before we do. He’s omniscient. We, however, don’t. If we’re Christians, we know the end of the story … we will enter into His kingdom in the fullness of His grace and it will be nothing but good. But we aren’t told what the next five minutes holds or even our physical life’s ending. We are expected to take it on faith that God has only good in store for us.

Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know what I have planned for you,” says the Lord. “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.”

There’s a cabin in the Alaska wilderness that my husband and I have hiked to a few times. Built by a friend of ours, it is accessed by a rope bridge across a turbulent and icy-cold river. During some parts of the summer, you could cross at the ford, but it’s safer and warmer to take the bridge … and crossing the bridge is a total act of faith.

Imagine three ropes disappearing into the mists. One is the foot path. The other two run parallel about three feet above the footrope. The two upper ropes are connected at intervals to the footrope, but there’s a lot of open territory and a scary drop to a deadly river. Then imagine that you can’t really see the other side because of the fog and even if you could, the anchoring tree is behind other trees, so you’re not even certain it will hold.

bridge

We knew our friend crossed it all the time. We trusted him not to want to kill us. But stepping out onto that bridge was a sheer act of faith in our friend’s character and skill.

The other side of that river is a cozy log cabin set in a beautiful glade. Well worth the crossing, but you have to cross it to get the reward. Moreover, you have to walk out on faith that the bridge is properly secured. You’re more than three-quarters of the way across before you can see the attachment and feel like this wasn’t the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.

When I crossed it the first time, a steady wind was blowing that kept jostling the bridge. I tried not to look down into the milk-chocolate froth 20 feet below and tried not to think about what would happen if I slipped and fell carrying a full pack. Swimming is beside the point in a glacial river. You’ll die of hypothermia a long time before you get to the shore. Turned out the best strategy (forged by a half-dozen crossings now) is to stare resolutely as the far shore … or the fog where the far shore ought to be … and put one foot in front of the other until you get there.

That’s so much like the walk God expects us to take through turbulent times and perilous places. We should know He has our best future in view, but it’s still going to be painful if there are mishaps along the way. The future God has prepared for us is worth it, if we only remember that each step gets us a little closer to it …

 

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Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits.

“I don’t seek to be known as a Christian author, but as an author for whom Christ is so central to who I am as a person that He shines through.”

Sand in Your Shoes, by Lela Markham

Does your faith make you uncomfortable? It should. Jesus wasn’t comfortable. He struggled with temptation, He was cold, hungry and tired, sometimes He was frustrated enough to toss usurpers out of His Father’s house by violent means. He risked censor by correcting the churchy, judgey people of His day in public settings. They tried to stone Him a couple of times and then they nailed Him to a cross to kill Him in a very cruel way. He then died with the sins of the world seeped into His very flesh. Our Savior was not comfortable:

John 15:18-19

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, 48  the world would love you as its own. However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason 51  the world hates you. 

Jesus promised us that we would be as uncomfortable as He was – the world would hate us, we would struggle with our efforts to be His followers, sin would dog our steps.

If your Christian faith does not make you uncomfortable with the world around you and how you interact with it, then something is probably wrong with your Christian walk. Being a Christian in this world ought to feel a bit like having sand in your shoes.

When I write, more and more often, I find myself pausing with my fingers over the keyboard, thinking about how what I feel led to write might make some people uncomfortable. Sometimes it will make non-Christians uncomfortable, but more often than not, it will make Christians uncomfortable. I mostly don’t fear that anymore. I know that’s what God wants me to do … point out the uncomfortable tensions of Christians living in this world. We shouldn’t feel cozy with the world around us, but in many ways, we shouldn’t feel snuggly within the Christian community either.

I want my readers to think about the soldier sitting next to them on the pew – the guy who just got back from the Middle East. Sure, he’s a nice guy and his wife is wonderful. His kids love him and he can quote Scripture. Nothing wrong with any of that. I take him at his word that he is a Christian who walks with Christ every day. Now think back a month or two. What is the job of a soldier? Killing and subjugation of a foreign population. Cut away the politics that took our pew mate to that foreign country and just ask yourself “What would Jesus have said about what this guy was doing a month ago?” Would He have automatically said “Thank you for your service”? I doubt it. I think He’d probably have written the number of the man’s kills in the sand before saying “I forgive those who repent of their sins.” Imagine how uncomfortable that soldier would be as he watched Jesus writing in the sand. Imagine how uncomfortable you would feel watching that if you’d just thanked the soldier for his service. I want my readers to think about the people the soldier killed or subjugated and feel compassion for them, but I also want my readers to think about the scars on the soldier’s soul that were inevitable from that behavior and feel compassion for the soldier. I don’t think Jesus would forgive the soldiers and damn the subjugated based on politics and that’s an uncomfortable thought.

I used this example because I have a lot of friends who are or were in the military and that works its way into my books. I could have used almost any example where our lives outside the church conflict with our Christian faith … those points where we ought to feel uncomfortable but often don’t. You could substitute bar owners, prostitutes, cops, pharmacists, authors … the list goes on and on. Everyone of us has tensions between our faith and our “regular” life and we ought to care about that. But, in our consumeristic society, being comfortable is the chief societal goal and so those authors who seek to market themselves as “Christian authors” feel the need to make their audience comfortable. That is a smart marketing decision that avoids controversy and topics that might make their readers think about uncomfortable ideas.

Is that actually a ministry or is God calling us to something higher … to be the prophets to our society through our narrative talents? Can we entertain readers while teaching eternal truths in a palatable form?

I suppose that depends on how uncomfortable we’re willing to allow God to make us.

 

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Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits.

“I don’t seek to be known as a Christian author, but as an author for whom Christ is so central to who I am as a person that He shines through.”

Tearing Down High-Places

Tearing Down High-Places, by Lela Markham

In the Bible, many a man and a few women stumbled over idols in their pursuit to follow God and there were times in Israel’s history when God sent prophets to the nation to warn them to tear down the high places of Canaanite worship. I believe that these days the churches are faced with similar circumstances and that God can use Christian novelists as messengers to alert His Bride to the need to reform.
“Art, though, is never the voice of a country; it is an even more precious thing, the voice of the individual, doing its best to speak, not comfort of any sort, but truth. And the art that speaks it most unmistakably, most directly, most variously, most fully, is fiction; in particular, the novel.” ~ Eudora Welty in On Writing.
All truth is God’s truth, but sometimes people prefer a comfortable fiction to an energizing reality. That puts Christian novelists in an uncomfortable position, which is exactly where God wants us to be. Telling the truth never endeared the prophet Jeremiah to his society and he was right where God wanted him. Why should we expect anything different? The hands and feet of God have always taken a beating for telling of God’s truth to the nations.
If writing a novel is about addressing individual truth, Christian authors might need to examine some of our “Christian” group-think practices and beliefs. I’m not talking about questioning the Bible. That’s the non-negotiable bedrock of our faith and thus we cannot take what we like and leave the rest. I’m suggesting we question our personal adherence to certain “Christian” societal practices that have far-reaching influences. When I ask myself “What would Jesus do,” I find my answers in the Bible and sometimes those answers differ widely from what the world (or even some members of my church) says the “Christian” stance should be. We’ve erected high places – idols – with the best of intentions and yet, these stand between us and God’s message and, for Christian novelists, our ability to speak to the world as God’s messengers. Finding those high places where I least expected them has caused me to question secular institutions that have become entangled with Christian group identity. Finding that many Christians around me do not recognize these institutions as “high places” has caused me to forge an individual path that rejects the goals of many of those secular institutions. To me, those institutions have become idols among the churches and I see it as my ministry to tear down the high places that have been erected. I do that through writing novels that show the reality of those institutions. Telling that truth through novel form can lead to controversy both with secular society and within the churches. I embraced that as God’s call in my life, as a necessary part of being exactly where God wants me to be.
Many Christian readers have good intentions when being nervous of certain topics. Certainly we never want to disobey God’s laws in what we write, even if it addresses a human reality. Neither should we limit our depiction of reality just because some people might prefer being blissfully unaware. Sometimes it seems like Christians must walk a slack line on some topics and it’s not an easy thing to do. But it is better and more God-honoring to address reality as it really exists than to avoid controversy for the sake of the world’s approval.
“You shall know the truth and the Truth shall set you free.” John 8:32

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Lela Markham is the pen name of an Alaskan novelist who was raised in a home built of books. Alaska is a grand adventure like none other with a culture that embraces summer adventure and winter artistic pursuits. Click here to read another one of Lela’s contributions, Let’s Talk: How to be a Christian Creative in a Fallen World.
“I don’t seek to be known as a Christian author, but as an author for whom Christ is so central to who I am as a person that He shines through.”

Books: Transformation Project series 99-cents this week

Check out the apocalyptic book series by Lela Markham, on sale this week. Click here for book 1.

 


All books in Transformation Project series are on 99-cent sale this week. Life As We Knew It (Book 1) Chaos changes everything! Shane Delaney, a burned-out mercenary with a troubled past, returns home to small-town Kansas to heal his scars and quiet his demons, not planning to stay long enough for the townsfolk to reject […]

via #Apocalyptic #Sale — aurorawatcherak

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