Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do you put God in a box?

Betsy here.

Do you put God in a box?

As Christians, it's pretty easy to do this - especially for those of us good girls who grow up in the church. (http://nicoleodell.com/betsy-st-amant-on-good-girls/)   Sometimes, we don't even realize we're doing it. We absorb the image of Christ that we are fed in the church or through family members, and we never take the time to ask ourselves what we really believe - and WHY. We feel like we're not supposed to, that asking questions and figuring out our faith means we're bad Christians or are failing somehow. We're ashamed.

So we ignore the questions, the doubts, stuff it all down, chalk it up to just "needing more faith" and go on, still confused about where God really fits into our lives and Who He really is. And we wonder why we don't have victory? We wonder why we don't have the peace and joy and contentment the Bible talks about?

It's because we're trying to shove God in a box that He refuses to fit in.

My heroine in my YA novel (Addison Blakely, Confessions of a PK - Barbour Books, 2012) had to do this very thing. Her dad is the local pastor and she's never had trouble being a good girl. She just accepted everything that was handed to her and tried to live a good life and keep her dad happy. But now that she's 16 and there's a hot new guy in town interested in her, she's got to ask herself the hard questions. About boys. About choices. About God and life and what it really means to have faith. Why does she believe what she believes? Why does she make the decisions she makes?

It's okay to ask!!

So today, I want to really encourage you to ask questions. Of your parents, your friends who profess to have faith in Christ, your church pastor, your Sunday School teacher, a trusted family friend who seems to you to be spiritually mature. Now listen - don't accept every thing you hear back as truth. Not everything. But rather, piece it together like a puzzle. Run it through the Scriptures and see what matches up.

And of course, ask God.

Huh?

Yes! Ask God. Who better to ask? :)

The Bible  makes it clear that when we seek God, we will find Him. I would even venture to say that few things please God more than a sincere desire to KNOW Him. To know Who He is. What He's really about, what He's really up to. He wants us to not only acknowledge and appreciate His works, but also His character. His mind. His heart.

Seek and find!

It's the best treasure hunt you'll ever go on :)

And if you don't have anyone trustworthy to ask your questions of, email me. I'm happy to help as best I can. betsystamant@yahoo.com

Blessings!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Romance Books and Movies



A few years ago, we had an exchange student stay with us. It was a wonderful experience and felt just like having another daughter at our house. Here's a blog post I wrote at that time:

The other day Andrea picked up of book off my bookshelf called “Technical Virgin,” and after she was reading it she asked me a question, “Do you think romance movies and romance books are like porn for women?”

This took me aback. It’s not your everyday dinner conversation.

Personally, I think there are some books that can definitely be considered porn. Erotica novels are graphic, similar to R or X rated movies. (And believe me, imaginations can do as well or better than photos in a woman’s mind.)

But what about other romance novels? Ones that aren’t super graphic.

Personally, I have dealt with this situation. Fifteen years ago I read a lot of romance books, and my favorite author was LaVyrle Spencer. I read all of her books. As soon one was finished I immediately read another one.

Yet after a while something bothered me. (That nagging little voice deep inside.) I REALLY liked the heroes of the book. The men in her stories were so well-written that they came alive to me. Sometimes I’d even find myself thinking about these made-up men during the day . . . and they weren’t even real!!

Men, of course, are effected by “seeing,” thus porn to them is photos or videos. Women, on the other hand, are drawn into emotional experiences. So, for many—like me—the emotional experience can do the same type of damage to women that porn does to men. It is a tool that helps women fix their hearts on things that aren’t real.

I wondered if I was the only one who felt that some romance books could affect women emotionally in unhealthy ways, so I asked my friends on Twitter what they thought.

Some women admitted that they too have read racy novels and were convicted. A few others mentioned that although there are different levels of movies/books they admitted women are affected by the “romance,” similar to how men are affected by visuals.

One friend mentioned that romance novels could be seen as a distraction. (Maybe from real-life problems and real-life people?) Another wise person thought it could be a replacement for unmet emotional needs, which I agree with! And then there always wisdom from the Bible. Like Song of Songs says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” (Sent by yet other Twitter friend, which I like to call a Fritter.)

So, in the end, where does that leave me? What is the answer?

Personally, I think the answer may be different for different people. I know I cannot read mainstream romances and be unaffected. Of course, I do enjoy a Christian romance book every now and then. I also love sweet chick flicks.

As a writer, I do write romance, yet I hope that what I write will never be a distraction that will distract readers away from the real people in their lives, or from God.

In fact, one of my WISE Twitter friends posed this question—one we can all use as a standard: “Does it draw me toward God or away from Him?"

Hopefully, when a reader finishes one of my historical, Christian novels they’ll feel closer to God. After all, in my books, the romance between the characters is just one element. My main goal is to help people see that God can do amazing things, even in hard times like WWII. And hopefully, readers will see God in new ways and fall in love with Him even more!

After all, it’s with God that true love is found.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Me & My Invisible Guy & Years of Waiting

Welcome to 2013!

I have news. That pretty book cover you see above? That's my brand new YA novel and it releases in just a few weeks. I don't have actual copies yet but the release date is getting closer and closer!! (February 5th!)

And yes, that's a different name on the cover, but it's still mine:-)

But this post isn't really about sharing my book with you, it's about waiting.

I first sketched out the idea for this novel - title and everything - back in 2006. The original book was written in 2007 and in the fall of 2008, I met my "future" editor at a conference. She liked the story idea and asked to see it.

In 2009, she asked to see the whole manuscript.
Later that year, she suggested some revisions.
In 2010, she asked to see the full manuscript again. More revisions.
In 2011, they were happy enough to take it to committee and then purchased the book.
Through 2011 & 2012, there were even more revisions. So. Many.
And now, FINALLY, the book is coming.

A SEVEN year journey with this one novel. That's a really long time, and I often didn't think I'd ever see this book published. I love this story. I'm thrilled that I will finally get to share it with others. And even though the 'waiting' is now over with this journey, I'm still waiting in other areas of my life.

Right now, you might be waiting on lots of things. and we can often think that once those things become reality we will be able to relax and focus on God and school, etc...

But it's a lie.

We will always be waiting on something. Waiting on college letters. Waiting on a guy to marry. Waiting on a job. Waiting on a move. Waiting on a baby. It just never stops.

The key is to really focus on your relationship with Christ and search for Him in the midst of the waiting and wondering. It's not always easy. But it's a skill we have to learn. Why? Well, if you aren't continually waiting on and looking to God for His will, then it's easy to get impatient and go running off in a wrong direction. And that definitely isn't worth it!!! God's plan for us is ALWAYS better than our own.

So here's to new books, new years and a God who is ever faithful!

What are you waiting on? Let's pray for each other!

Sarah

Sarah Anne Sumpolec - www.sarahannesumpolec.com

Me & My Invisible Guy - find out more here!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A word for the New Year

Camy here! I got this idea from an author friend of mind--every year, she prays and asks God for a word or a short phrase that is her “theme” for the year. It’s something she works on for the year.

One year, my word was “fear.” It sounds weird, but I wanted to understand what it meant to fear and revere the Lord. During my Bible reading that year, I started highlighting every passage that mentioned the word “fear” in relation to God, and it was really eye-opening to understand what it really means to “fear” the Lord.

This year, my word is “prayer.” I want to work on my prayer life and learn how to pray more often and with more intensity. The first thing I did was get an app. :) I got the “Let’s Pray” app on my iPhone because you set up an account and then it’ll sync your prayer requests across all your devices.

I usually pray with my iPad since I use an iPad Bible app for my Bible reading (Olive Tree, because it lets me write notes as long as I want!), but if I happen to ever not have my iPad with me, I can write the prayer request on my iPhone and it’ll sync across both my phone and tablet.

So, techno-goodies aside, I’m hoping to work on my prayer this year.

How about you? Is there a word or short phrase God has impressed upon your heart to work on this year?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the second book in her new series, A Dangerous Stage. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website for free short stories and to sign up for her email newsletter.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Secret Life...

I don't know if any of you watched the ABC Family drama "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (and this post is by no means an endorsement for or against it) but it's true. Teens have secret lives, but for that matter, so do all people. Even Christians.

GASP. WHAT!?

Yes. It's true ;)

Isn't it?

We all have secrets we hope our peers or our parents or our families or our spouses or our children don't find out about. They might not be earth shattering, but they're there all the same. We all have secret thoughts that the world doesn't get to see.

Bottom line, we all choose to live out loud or live privately.

Is who you are inside who you are to the people around you? Do you smile and put on a sweet facade while inwardly, you're jealous, bitter, judgmental, and prideful? Do you match?

In 2013, let's all resolve to live out loud. Live intentionally. Live on purpose. And let God renew our insides so we can shine on the outside :)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Appearances are Deceiving



I used to be so caught up in appearances. I really, really wanted to be the one whom everyone looked at and thought, Isn’t she amazing? How does she do it? But God wasn’t concerned about that or about how content or organized I was. He didn't care how clean my house was or how together I appeared. He wanted to do some closet cleaning, a spring cleaning like I never expected.

As I struggled, prayed and surrendered, I felt God’s pleasure. I felt His smile upon me when I shared with teen moms that I still had the same issues but that God was cleaning my heart. The more I gave…to others and to God…the cleaner I felt. It’s been said that a messy house is evidence of a messy heart, but it was just the opposite for me. The more I got my heart in order, the more God urged me to move beyond my safe, happy little world.

After I started volunteering (at a crisis pregnancy center), my perfect house didn’t remain so perfect. Instead of scrubbing the tub until it shined, I trained volunteers and helped to remodel our new center. My kids couldn’t keep up their rooms because they were working beside me, folding blankets and stacking diapers. Now I’m comfortable if the floor only gets swept once a week or the mail stacks up for two. My clean heart equals a messy house, and you know what? I’m okay with that.

I used to hide the truth—my struggles, my feelings of insecurity—in the back of my perfectly arranged closets. But not anymore. Now my husband John tells me I don’t have any skeletons in my closet—because I display them on the lawn.

And, while I don’t like seeing dog puke and stepping over it or watching the tower of laundry topple over as I head out the door, I’ve come to realize that those things don’t matter as much as people—whether it be the people in my house or those in my community and my world. Like my friend Twyla says, “You fight dirt your whole life and then they bury you in it.” The fight to have everything clean will always be a fight, but it’s a fight that we can tackle with the wisdom of God. Wisdom to know when enough is enough.

What about you? Messy or clean?

Excerpt © Tricia Goyer, Blue Like Play Dough

photo credit

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Life Lessons from Les Miserable

Today I am going to see the movie Les Miserable with my sisters. I have seen the stage production three times, read the book, and watched a film version starring Liam Neeson, so it will be interesting to do a little comparison.

I’ve read a lot of great things about Anne Hathaway’s moving portrayal of the tragic factory-worker-turned-prostitute Fauntine. Fauntine is a character that has filled me with mixed emotions ever since I read the book. As a woman who understands what it feels like to not have life turn out like the dream I dreamed, I ache for her, but as a mom, I have a hard time getting past the fact that she handed her little girl over to complete strangers. It pains me to see her sink lower and lower, but at the same time I see her paying a heavy price for extremely unwise choices. More than anything though, Fauntine makes me think; her sad story reminds me that our choices impact our future, and that desperation can lead us to decisions we never imagined ourselves making. She prompts me to thank God that I live in a day and age when women have more options than working in sweat shops and selling our hair, and that as difficult as life has been at times, I have never been as destitute as Fauntine.

Most importantly, seeing her tale unfold reminds me that every person that leaves me wanting to scream, “How could you be so stupid?” got their gradually, and probably after experiencing extremely painful things. I find myself being a bit less critical of those caught in lifestyles that God has spared me from, understanding that what I see them doing is most likely not the life they dreamed they would have.    

What lessons has God taught you through characters in movies and books? Which lessons have helped you recognize God’s grace and prompted you to extend that grace to others?


NOTE: If you have seen Les Mis and want to go deeper into the story and characters, I highly recommend reading the book. I read it two summers ago and it is now one of my favorite books of all time—well worth the time spent getting through over 1400 pages.

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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