Platitudes in Christian Fiction?
Sometimes when reading Scripture, I come across words that make me curious about their origin, and then, once I find their initial meaning, I try to understand how I can relate it to life and writing. Take “platitude,” for example. A platitude is some kind of statement that usually has a moral or religious intent, but it’s been used so often it’s become boring or trite.
I didn’t dig too deep this time (wrapping up soccer!), but Google’s dictionary told me it originated in France, from the word plat, meaning flat, and it’s usage peaked somewhere around the mid 1920’s. In today’s society where people get paid to babble about whatever they choose on blogs and national TV, maybe it should make a comeback.
I came across the word in Job 13, where Job is talking to his critics. After questioning them and asking them if it will be well for them when God searches them out, he says this:
Your proverbs are platitudes of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.
Trite, flat, boring, and overused. Hollow, empty words.
To the modern world, many Biblical themes might be considered platitudes. Though we, as Christians, all know that God’s message is timeless and those moral statements are treasures, those outside of the faith might consider them old-fashioned and trite.
Still, I believe wholeheartedly that God’s moral wisdom belongs in our stories, and his themes should be resounded over and over. At the same time, there are certain themes that become our pet issues and we often beat them into the ground to the point that they become rote. How can we continue relaying the same simple truths time and time again without making them seem like platitudes to the secular world?
I think the answer, both in writing and in life, lies within relationships and attitudes. All the time, I hear people complain that they try to talk to someone about their faith and “they just won’t listen.” This just makes me wonder how the message is being given.
I’m not saying I think we need to sugar coat God’s truth, but I do think the delivery needs to come from compelling characters that people want to read or be around. In life, are we that person, serving others and forging friendships to open doors for conversations about faith? Or, are we that pushy, “my way or the highway” person, who forces the conversation whenever possible, as if it’s the only reason we have to talk to a particular person. In writing, do we interject our message to the point that it feels contrived, rather than the natural flow of the story? Do we throw a Christian message into the plot just to call it inspirational fiction?
I’ve learned this from teaching–the same general fact can be delivered to a class of students. From one perspective/attitude, they dismiss it. From another, they embrace it. And the perspective they embrace ends up being the one that requires the most effort, the one that makes it the most meaningful to them.
So, there you have it. We’ve come back to grit, which seems to be my favorite theme these days. It takes a little more effort to be that person who cultivates relationships so Biblical truths will be more palatable, as they are coming from a friend. It takes more effort to write characters who show their faith rather than just dropping it into a dialogue.
And for an extra bang for your buck, especially if you are interested in melodic trances, meet “Platitude,” mixed by Onova (otherwise known as Christian Lejon), released back in 2007.
I spent a couple of hours tonight on a Facebook party supporting debut author Nadine Brandes with the launch of her new release, A Time to Die, first in a series of three published by the newly-branded Enclave Publishing. It was incredibly cool, and a great time. She had video interviews, giveaways, great discussion, and it was interesting to connect with other writers and fans.
One of the activities we did centered on the premise of the book–what if you knew exactly how much time you had to live? How might you live differently? I would evangelize more. Although, I fear that knowing a date and time would just lead me to do as I sometimes do in other facets of my life–wait until the last minute and make a good run at it.
I’ve heard people, both in the church and out, throw around the “life is a vapor” and “no one knows when He’s coming” verses like candy, but they live their lives as if they don’t believe them. And they don’t share their faith as if they don’t believe anyone else is lost. So I’ve been thinking a lot tonight about evangelism and procrastination.
The Bible makes it really simple.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We whine all the time about how our churches are losing members and people are losing their faith in God’s existence. But I think it’s time we face a bitter truth–we aren’t doing our jobs!
Think about it. How many employers would be content giving us a task that we ignore day-by-day? God has given us a charge–to go into the world and make disciples. And if we aren’t actively working on talking to people about God each day, we’re ignoring that task. The message is simple. God exists. He loves you. He sent his Son to die for you. Obey him and receive eternal salvation. Why is that so hard to share?
And we ignore this task for what? Sports? Work? Entertainment? Fear?
Have we made these things our all, when the Bible clearly tells us that keeping God’s commandments should be our all?
One reason I want to write Christian fiction is because it gives me a tool to share my faith. Even if someone never reads my work, I can tell them about my books and it opens the door to a conversation about God. But I should do so much more.
How do you fit evangelism into your daily lives?
I Can Do ALL Things
Meet my little self-proclaimed “Peacock Girl.”
Her beautiful spirit amazes me, and her fearlessness paralyzes me with terror. This child does not believe in obstacles. She creates, loves, dreams, and experiences with every fiber of her being. But most of all, she believes.
Philippians 4:13 has always been one of my favorite verses.
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
But do I really believe that? Do you? All things? Or just some things?
I want to be a published writer. Not just of any fiction, but of Young Adult Christian Fiction. The edgy kind, where kids will look at it and say, “Yes. That’s me. I relate to that character, and I want her faith.”
I can write a lot of different genres. I suppose I’m lucky in that regard. But I want to move teenagers to find a faith that they embrace with Hunger Games intensity.
This past week, I received my first official rejection. Even though I expected it, it stings a little, because I’ve poured so much of myself into Cavernous. I say I have no intention of giving up. And yet, in the back of my mind, I have this little voice saying it’s impossible. One rejection, and it’s put a tiny dent into my belief.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about 2 Corinthians 5:7, and what it really means to “walk by sight.” It’s so easy to view the world through the misguided lenses of doubt and fear. Do I really trust God that He has a plan for my writing talent? Do I have the patience to let Him work through me?
Peacock Girl walks by faith because she doesn’t see those things that could stand in her way. She only sees the end game, and keeps her eyes on the goal. My goal in writing Christian Fiction is evangelism to a subset of our society who desperately need ministering.
So I’ll press on, and I’ll pray. And I’ll get busy writing book two of the Cavernous series, because I believe it’s a message teens need to hear. If I can do ALL things, I can do this, too.
The Anxious Writer
Weather forecasts like the one for today always make me nervous. I want to just cuddle up with my family in a cave somewhere and hide until it’s over. Twice in my life, I’ve driven in tornadic storms, and I don’t think I’ll ever lose that fear. Fear is something I carry with me a lot in my life, and something I need to let go of.
Fear has two meanings–anxiety and respect. It’s healthy to want to take cover in impending weather. But the anxiety… that’s something I really struggle with, both as a person and as a writer.
Joshua 1:9 is constantly on my mind:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong, and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Part of my struggle with this verse is that fear is such a physical response for me. If I have to speak in front of a crowd, butterflies fill my stomach regardless of how much I pray. If I have to drive home in a bad thunderstorm, I tremble. If I think my children are in danger, my heart pounds. Looking over a high point, my knees knock. But I think perhaps those fears come from the respect for the possibility of a dangerous or unpleasant outcome.
With writing, though, it’s another ball game. Complete and utter anxiety. What if I spend months writing and polishing this book and no one wants to read it? What if it’s not good enough? What if I finish and sell the first book of my trilogy and stall out on book two? What if teens don’t relate to my characters or plot? What if people do read it and they hate it? What if people think I’m weird for writing Christian fiction? What if my characters come across too weak? What if I inadvertently misrepresent God’s truth?
Charles Spurgeon says this of anxiety:
Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.
So true, and such hard advice to follow. And from a writer’s standpoint, our anxiety does not put words on a page, but only distracts us from writing brilliance.
Right now, my proposal is out there, in the hands of a couple of people who may hand me my dream or tell me now is not the time, and I’m anxious. But my brilliant editor gave me a fantastic pep talk this weekend, reminding me that I’m writing for Him, and He’s read the whole thing. Which makes me wonder–why do I not have anxiety over that?
I saw a Facebook meme earlier this week that asked why we worry so much about what others think and not enough what God thinks.
My prayer for today is that my words will please Him and further His truth.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and redeemer.
Fifty Shades of … Blush
Hey Ladies! Yes, Christian ladies who are raving over the recently released movie trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey. Christian ladies who apparently see nothing wrong with it–who are shamelessly posting it on Facebook and Twitter for the rest of us to see and share in its lustful glory.
Let me start by saying I’m not perfect or sinless, and sometimes I struggle with temptation. Perhaps, even mild curiosity. Maybe, a pause before deciding not to click. I haven’t read this book, nor do I have a desire to read something tauted as “Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving.” But lust is a sin that affects all of us, and you never know who, by sharing, you’ll entice into a deep battle with sexual sin. Are there teenage or college girls on your friend list, looking to your example and finding that you deem this acceptable?
Just the thought should make us blush. Right? But if we’re posting the trailer on social media, we’re surely not blushing. Have we forgotten how?
Kind of reminds me of Jeremiah 6
“Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest My soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.”
Then, these troubling words:
“Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush. Therefore they shall fall among them that fall; at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down,” saith the Lord.
Kind of scary, right? Enough to make a girl want to put down fiction novels for good. Unless…
We have an alternative! Today, there are thousands of writers in the Christian fiction market trying to make a positive change in the world. Multiple genres–YA Dystopian, Speculative, New Adult, Contemporary–just Google it and you’ll find tons of titles. Good titles. And a lot of free titles. You’ll find heartwarming stories that make you cry, romances that make you melt, and suspense that makes you shiver.
Check out some of these titles from Goodreads and Amazon.
Christian Fiction readers–what’s the best CF book you’ve read lately? I just finished Luminary, second of the Anomaly series by Krista McGee.
So, let’s forget about that whole grey thing, okay? And don’t forget to put your blush on.
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