I was a cradle Catholic. I was taught that Jesus was an only child, unapproachable, human by necessity rather than choice. Terms like “hypostatic union” weren’t conducive to learning intimacy with Him. Just because I left the Catholic Church didn’t mean I was any closer to breaking the barriers and letting Him in.
Then I found The Brother’s Keeper by Tracy Groot. It’s the story of the last few months in Jesus’ life as seen through the eyes of His brothers and sisters, mainly James. James struggles with the idea of Jesus’ divinity: He argues, he rails at God, he nearly ruins his life through anger and bitterness. Then after the Resurrection, without understanding everything yet, he opens himself to the possibility of Jesus. And Jesus responds.
The moment at the end of the book when James ends his struggle and Jesus reaches out to him helped me see. Although my struggle was the opposite – the Second Person of the Trinity was too far above me – this moment of contact showed Jesus to me. Jesus isn’t unapproachable. He is right here, right now, within me. This book was an unexpected gift of joy. It’s changed the way I see others and Jesus as well.
I hadn't enjoyed the "prairie" Christian fiction books, but then I picked up Linda Windsor's Honey, I'm Home. It was the first time I saw faith mingled with humor and real-life attraction between a couple. It was also the first time the gospel wasn't shoved down my throat, which is unappealing to me even though I'm already a Christian.
From that moment, I realized I could not only enjoy Christian fiction, but that I could write fiction like that--for enjoyment, but with a spiritual message, too.
In my youth I had the good pleasure of being introduced to Christian fiction by my mother, and my world was stretched and impacted in significant ways by the worlds these authors crafted.
I was raised in an environment where I did not have access to the usual middle class perks available to others, so I met my need for adventure and belonging by being an active participant in the stories I devoured.
Through the world of Christian fiction, God stretched my imagination and dreams for the future--far beyond the small community in which I was raised--and through each story, He reminded me there were no limits to what He could do.
One book clearly stands out in my memory from those formative years: No Man in Eden. Written by Harold Myra, this book left an indelible impact upon my thinking. So much so that 25 years later I was still hunting for a replacement copy. (I found one!)
Through this intriguing story, I was challenged to re-think who God is, what His universe is about, and how He works in it. The fact that I have been affected by this little known Christian book for more than two decades points to the power of Christian fiction to enhance spiritual growth.
Reading Christian fiction has not been a substitute for the truths of Scripture in my life. But it has given me the opportunity to learn from the creative expressions of faith of a diverse group of authors. Their expressions of faith have challenged and stretched my own. This process of stretching has been a journey filled with hope and love and I am forever indebted to God’s servants heeding the call to write—thank you.
I would like to tell Cindy Martinusen that her books have deeply affected me.
All three novels have been absorbing, but her character Sophia, in the fourth, The Salt Garden, has been a revelation and brought about significant spiritual renewal in me.
Sophia has given me an improved justification for a life of prayer. I think I had begun to feel prayer was my excuse for not doing more important things with my life. But Cindy has helped me as I looked through the eyes of Sophia to gain new insight into the mystery and weight of prayer
And this calls forth a question: how in the world does a young woman like Cindy get into the head of an older woman like Sophia? Since I am closer to Sophia's age than Cindy's, I can tell you she did a bang-up job.
Cindy, thank you for praying for your readers. God has surely answered those prayers in my instance with the change and inspiration your books have inspired. I will be more than glad to return the favor by praying for you also.
I wasn't always a Christian fiction reader. I first read Christian novels when Frank Peretti came out with This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness.
About the time I went to my first Christian writers' conference, I started reading Robin Jones Gunn's Glenbrooke series. She captivated me. That was the first time I finished a full-length novel in one day. I literally couldn't put it down.
I've been a fan of Dee Henderson and Kristen Heitzmann since picking up their books. I didn't just read their stories, I experienced them.
As time passed, my list of favorite authors grew from a few to many and now includes DiAnn Mills, Denise Hunter, Roxanne Henke, Tracie Peterson, Susan May Warren, Linda Windsor, and Lori Copeland.
These authors have swept me into a time and place I didn't know existed. They've moved me with their compassion. They've made me look in the mirror to see myself differently.
I can recommend their books to people who are willing to look beyond the black and white to the God who blends everything with His love.
These authors have tapped into the heart of God, making Him knowable, approachable, and inviting within their pages. Because of their obedience to His call, He has been able to draw many into a relationship with Him. For if He is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself.
Burnout is no fun. I found out the hard way. After years of overcrowded day planners and endless work lists, I crashed. Hard. My body and mind plummeted into despondency and depression. I could no longer manage the active schedule I’d juggled for years. In fact, I could barely bring myself to leave my bed to prepare meals for my three children. As I spiraled rapidly downward, I found no hope or help and wondered if I would ever find a way out of the hole into which I’d fallen.
When I managed to leave my house, I painted on a brave face and tried to pretend I was fine, but I know people sensed the withdrawal of my emotions if not my physical presence. Family, friends, and clergy occasionally expressed concern, trying to breach the defenses I’d erected around my heart, but I didn’t know how to breach my self-imposed isolation. I felt trapped and alone inside myself. Even my husband seemed incapable of penetrating my melancholy. When he would ask what was wrong, I couldn’t explain it in words. Since I didn’t comprehend the jumbled feelings and heaviness that imprisoned my heart, I didn’t expect anyone else to understand.
Then, a trip to the library changed everything.
My children needed library cards for school and asked me to drive them to a local branch. As a youth, the library was one of my favorite places. I’d read voraciously, reading until dawn, flipping pages until my eyes would no longer focus. As I matured, my reading interests turned toward adult fiction, but I encountered book after book with graphic sexual content and a portrayal of morals conflicting with my spiritual beliefs. Convicted by the Holy Spirit, I gave up a precious and enjoyable pastime in search of other more edifying interests.
Yet standing in the library on that somber fall afternoon, I felt alienated from my convictions. What good had they done? Making a hasty decision, I strolled to the nearest shelf and snatched a book from the stacks. The cover featured a picture of a man and woman dressed in clothes reminiscent of Camelot.
If there’s a sex scene, I’ll just flip the page, I thought as I dropped it on the checkout counter with my card. I carried home my contraband and received the surprise of my life.
That afternoon as I read my library selection, someone penetrated my isolated world. A character from Gilbert Morris’s The Sword of Truth slipped inside my heart and planted a seed of hope. The encouraging message woven into each page salved the wounds on my mind and soul and slowly lifted me out of my despair. I read the book in a day and returned to the library for more. And more. And more. The stories and characters in inspirational fiction reached me in ways that real life people could not. Slowly, the deep depression that held me hostage released me, and I once again felt whole.
Though I will never be able to express my thanks to each writer who has impacted my life, I hope in sharing my testimony I can reaffirm the importance of what they do. When they offer their gifts and talents to God, he ministers through them.
Be blessed as you write for Him.
Pertelote, a young hen in Walter Wangerin’s The Book of the Dun Cow, changed my life. Bent under the tyranny of Cockatrice, a rooster who ruled with an iron beak, Pertelote recoiled in his presence. Half gray-scaled snake, half rooster, Cockatrice was the poultry world’s Hitler. Pertelote escaped Cockatrice’s domain, but her pain and fear still lived inside. She made her way down river, tattered and worn out. There, across from her, stood another rooster, Chauntecleer. Chauntecleer, a kind rooster, had been wading through mud, graying his lower feathers. He did not know it, but the dried mud made him resemble the evil-scaled Cockatrice.
When Pertelote spied him, she screamed. She thought he was Cockatrice, coming back to torture her.
Later, when Pertelote was safe within Chauntecleer’s kingdom, she agreed to marry him. Before they married, Chauntecleer was troubled afresh by her first reaction to him.
He asked if she was afraid of him.
She said no.
He puzzled over her response and asked if there were ever a time she was afraid.
Again she said no.
“But you screamed at me!”
“Yes I screamed at you,” she said.
Eventually, Pertelote said she thought he’d been the evil Cockatrice. “Chauntecleer, what I thought I saw in you was not there. What I saw I should not have seen. My seeing was not true: The thing was not there, nor could it ever be there in you. I know that. My imagination made me afraid.”
I am a lot like Pertelote. When I see God, his goodness is masked by the pain of my past. I assign his muddiness to scales. I scream in fear because I cannot conceive of God being for me. But God is not a composite of the evil from my past. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn and re-learn, but Pertelote helped me start the journey.
Of the many books I have read this year, one has stayed with me for months after I turned the last page.
Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol posed a question that changed my prayer life and opened my eyes to those around me.
Within the pages of Dark Star, I was introduced to Everett Lester, a drug and alcohol addicted rock star. His long hair, heavily tattooed body, lifestyle of womanizing, and dabblings in the occult would hardly endear him to most Christians. .
People of faith sometimes fall into the trap of judging people because of the way they look. I know, because I have been guilty of this. Not too long ago, a Maori gentleman with long hair, black clothing, and full facial moko (Maori tattoo) entered our church and sat through the service. He resembled the motorcycle gang members throughout New Zealand and it wasn’t long before I was questioning in my mind his reasons for being there.
But in Dark Star, Karen Bayliss sees the man beyond the image and genuinely fears for Everett’s soul. Instead of turning away and deeming him as ‘unredeemable’, Karen earnestly prays for him and sees him as God sees him; a man in need of Christ’s saving grace.
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, to love all who cross our path, as God does. But do we really? How often do we take the time to see beyond the surface? Dark Star challenged me to ask myself these questions, and reopened my eyes to the power of intercessory prayer.
My prayer life has deepened in the months since reading this book. I now listen more closely for God’s promptings. If I find myself falling into the trap of judging by appearances, I now turn around and say a prayer for them. This Christian fiction story has truly changed my life and I’m so grateful for the way God has used it to make me more like Him.
I must credit Mr/s Jenkins & LaHaye for their Left Behind series, by which I learned more about what may be on hand for believers & unbelievers in Christ as we move into the "End-Times".
No, these powerful writers don't corroborate the happenings of the Book of Revelation. However, by their enlightening novels, these authors have helped my daughter, my wife & me, (among millions of other fiction readers), understand that God is the only entity from which we can receive an eternal reward when we place our trust in Him.
Jenkins & LaHaye's series changed our spirituality by encouraging us to seek the forgiveness Christ has won for us all by His death on a cross.