Carrie Lynn Lewis

Words of Encouragement

Remembering Memorial Day

Farmer with Flag on TractorComing up with each week’s new post can be a piece of cake or a tough row to hoe.

Usually, I begin thinking about topics on Monday and gradually narrow the choices and develop ideas throughout the week. On a good week, I draft a decent post on Monday, then read and revise it each day until it’s ready to publish. Sometimes that takes just a few days.

Sometimes it takes all week.

Last week, I came down with a cold. I’m still battling it this week, though I think—hope, pray—the worst of it is now behind me. That means my creative powers are somewhat below par at the moment.

Coming up with something to talk about this week was like pulling teeth. Hen’s teeth. It just wasn’t happening. I felt so pressed down on Monday, that I opened my blogging program, looked things over, then closed it again.

I felt better Tuesday. Not great, but Monday was so bad, it seemed like it had to be the turning point. Time for a fresh start!

Except there was no fresh start. Other than having a comment to respond to—thank you, Jocelyn, it was good to meet you—nothing had changed.

And then….

I remembered Memorial Day.

Remembering Memorial Day

High Flying FlagToday is the beginning of Memorial Day Weekend. That didn’t provide a topic immediately, but it gave me something to do; look for photographs.

The photographs I found—some of which I’m sharing here—provided the rest of the pieces to the puzzle of this week’s post: Memorial Day.

Meat on a GrillI confess that for the longest time, Memorial Day was an opportunity for family gatherings and cook-outs.

I don’t remember much about cookouts until we reached our late teens and the practice didn’t really take hold until my nieces and nephews began entering the picture. Then any excuse to have them visit was a good excuse as far as my parents were concerned.

For all of that, I don’t know that we ever talked about why we were celebrating Memorial Day. I don’t remember talking about it at home or in school (though I’m sure we must have).  I’m not even sure I knew there was a deeper meaning.

One thing I am sure of is that I’m not the only one in this sad state, so here’s a quick history of the event we now call Memorial Day.

The Origin of Memorial Day

Grave CrossesWithin a year of the end of the Civil War, the graves of fallen soldiers from both sides were decorated by local citizens. Their desire was simply to honor the memories of those men and to acknowledge the sacrifices they made.

The practice was so widespread that in coming years, several cities, towns, and villages around the country (as it was then), laid claim to the fact that they were the first to observe the day. Waterloo, New York was later given the honor officially.

In 1868, General John Logan instituted the observance of Decoration Day in his General Order No. 11. He stated that he chose the date, May 30, because it did not commemorate any particular battle.

Decoration Day became an official national holiday after World War I, when it was expanded to honor all who died in defense of their country.

The official date was also changed from May 30 each year to the last Monday in May.

So it is that on the final Monday of each May, we take time to recognize, honor, and remember those who have fallen in service to the nation and on behalf of our continuing liberty.

Whatever Your Plans…

for remembering Memorial Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to remember the reason behind the holiday. You don’t have to decorate the graves of loved ones—though that tradition continues here in the south—but do pause to remember those who have given their lives to preserve and protect the liberties we all too easily take for granted.

And if you know a living veteran, thank him or her for their service, too.

Thank You Veterans

 

The Delight of Gray Days

I have always loved gray days. There is something utterly fascinating about the gray light of impending rain. Something motivating. Something inspiring.

The Delight of Gray Days

Usually, the inspiration is of an artistic nature. What colors would be best to convey the sense of mist, rain, and color that are both muted and saturated at the same time?

But there are also other pleasures. The smell of the air when rain is coming or falling.

The way light reflects off the water.

The patterns of raindrops in puddles. I ask you, what’s not to like?

Raindrops in a Puddle

Gray Days and Mondays

We’ve been getting rain the last few weeks. It seems each Monday has arrived with a veil of rain. As dry as it’s been in this part of the country, I’m not complaining. Every drop is a blessing to the winter wheat in the fields, the cattle on prairie pastures, and all of the rivers, lakes, and ponds. Our water table is also benefiting.

So are the lawns. Everything is turning green and those greens are especially delightful on a gray day. These two photographs—one looking west, the other east—don’t do the color justice.  That doesn’t keep me from taking pictures, though. If only to capture the mood and hold onto the memory.

First Street on a rainy, gray day

First Street Looking East on a Gray Day

All colors look more saturated and rich on a rainy, gray day. Look at the red tree in the photo above and the red roses below. Lovely! You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate their beauty.

Roses in the Rain

After the rain is over, there comes that time between gray day and sun-shining day; when the light has reached me and I’m looking at the backside of the rain storm, as in the photo below. The thing that would have made this scene better is a rainbow!

I’ve always been fascinated by the play of lighted trees against a dark sky, no matter what time of day it happens. When it happens in the evening, as in this photo, it’s even better.

Departing Rain

And then there’s all the wetness that follows a gray day. Street lights reflecting on wet brick streets are a delight all their own.

Sixth Street in the Rain

No matter where I encounter a gray day or when, there’s something especially delightful about the mystery and ambiguity of that wonderful, gray light.

What about you? Do you like gray days, too? What’s your favorite thing about them?

Perfect Opportunities Progress Update

I just made progress on Perfect Opportunities! So far I’m 70% complete on the Proofing phase, getting the manuscript ready for professional editing.

Of all the steps in bringing a novel to successful publication, this is the most intimidating one. It’s one thing to let friends, neighbors, and fellow writers read my book and give me advice.

It’s quite another to turn it over to a professional!

Perfect Opportunities Cover Design 2
Perfect Opportunities
Phase:Proofing
70%

A Godly Life Isn’t an Instant Transformation

A Godly Life Isn't an Instant Transformation

Do Fictional Characters Have to be Flawed?

Conventional writing wisdom dictates that fictional characters have to be flawed–especially lead characters.

Depending on the source, flaws can range from physical handicaps to personal struggles; besetting sins to outright criminal behavior. However a flaw is described, every book on writing and/or on characterization recommends flawed characters.

I’d like to take a look at this tenet of conventional wisdom, then offer a different perspective.

Do Fictional Characters Have to be Flawed?

Among the top reasons writers with a Christian worldview should have flawed characters are these:

  • The Bible is filled with Godly people who were also flawed.
  • Characters who aren’t flawed aren’t interesting.
  • All of us are flawed and can’t connect with characters who aren’t like us.
  • Redemption is available to all, no matter how flawed, and Christian authors need to exemplify that availability in their writing.

I have no arguments with any of these reasons. There are no perfect people. I have only to look into my heart to know that’s true.

What I am suggesting is that giving lead characters serious flaws just to create a flawed character is sometimes a disservice.

Do Fictional Characters Have to be Flawed

Biblical Examples

The Bible is full of Godly people who were flawed, some of them seriously. Samson comes immediately to mind, but he’s not the only one.

But there are also examples of people living a Godly life; people who exemplify living a godly life; people who show us what withstanding temptation and following God at every turn looks like.

Who?

Joseph. Sold into slavery, subject to repeated attempts at seduction, imprisoned on trumped-up charges, and forgotten. He served God faithfully and prospered at everything he did. He ended up second in charge in Egypt.

Daniel. Captured and taken into exile by the Babylonians as a young man, educated by them to serve in their government, he followed God at every turn. He confronted the machinations of political opponents through several kings and two kingdoms. Through it all, he stood firm, never wavering in his faith and dedication to God.

Ruth chose to leave her own country and family to go with her widowed mother-in-law when Naomi returned to Judah. Her devotion to her mother-in-law was noted among Naomi’s countrymen to such an extent that she was called “better than sons” to the widowed Naomi.

And, most notable of all, Jesus Christ, who lived without sin despite facing all the trials and temptations we face.

None of us can be Christ. That’s simply not possible.

But we can choose to live by His teaching. That’s what living a Godly life is all about and it’s how Joseph, Daniel, and others lived.

Such noble men and women live today, making choices every day to turn from wrong and follow God, living good and righteous lives, showing those around them what ‘doing things in a Godly manner’ looks like.

Interesting Characters

But would they make interesting fictional characters? Are the lives of these people and others like them any less interesting than those who have lived or are living debauched lives?

I say, no.

In fact, the life of Joseph or Daniel would be a fascinating study of dealing with challenge and temptation. The political intrigue that swirled around Daniel would make a great novel. And how many readers would like to know how to resist temptation before it’s too late rather than learn how to pick up the pieces afterward?

Are the only characters readers can identify with people who have made serious, sometimes deliberately bad decisions? Is it so impossible for readers to connect with or look up to characters who face temptations and challenges and stay true to their calling, no matter what form of resistance results?

I don’t believe it is.

If it were, there wouldn’t be such disappointment when well-known athletes and others who are considered role models are suddenly found to be guilty. If people truly want lead characters who fall short, why do they not also want role models who fall short?

The Matter of Redemption

Redemption is available to all regardless of the goodness or badness of their lives. That is a seminal feature of the Christian doctrine.

We all have character flaws. That is, quite simply, part of being human.

But a lot of people are good according to worldly standards. They don’t cheat on their wives or their taxes. They are honest and hardworking. They keep their word and are loyal. Are they any less in need of redemption than those who’ve struggled with addictions, divorce, or any of the many things commonly referred to as flaws?

No.

The plain and simple fact is that there is no such thing as good  in God’s economy. We have all fallen short of God’s standards for sinlessness. Without the sacrificial and atoning blood of Christ, we are sentenced to eternal separation from God.

The Risk We Run

The risk I run in writing about obviously flawed characters (or perhaps in not writing about role model worthy characters) is that I create the impression that people who are good  by worldly standards don’t need redemption.  People like my Dad, who said all during my growing up years that he didn’t need religion because he was as good as other people (including many Christians).

Is there room for role model worthy characters in today's fiction

I’m not against writing about flawed characters. Even I have lead characters who do not come close to Daniel or Joseph. Writers should write what they feel called to write.

All I’m suggesting is that writers need to be careful not to over-emphasize the flaw in order to emphasize redemption at the expense of writing about good people who also need redemption.

Or about role-model worthy characters; the type of characters who exemplify living a Godly life in the face of challenges, hardships, and resistance.

Is it not as noble a calling to set out an example of how to avoid willful flaws and deep sins as it is to show how to find redemption after succumbing to them?

Do fictional characters have to be flawed, or is there room for role-model worthy characters in today’s fiction?

7 Things I Remember About Mom on Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day; a day that’s all about Mom.

Since I can’t be with Mom today, I thought I’d reach across the miles and the years and list some of my fondest memories from younger years.

Read Me a Story!

I have loved reading from before the time when I could read for myself. Mom must have gotten tired of reading the same stories over and over, but she did it anyway. Even after I’d memorized my favorites and could tell them to myself.

Flannel Graph Stories

Mom was consistent in teaching us from the Bible from an early age. I’m old enough to remember her home-made flannel graph illustrations of Bible events. She even let us make some of them when we got old enough.

Although I sometimes thought they were pointless and refused to listen when I was younger, I now look back on those Saturday mornings around the kitchen table and confess that they are the foundation of my faith.

Green Coats

One year, us three girls—probably all under five—had matching coats. They were made of green corduroy and trimmed with white rickrack. I confess that I don’t honestly remember those coats, but I’ve seen pictures of them. And I envy Mom her ability to take a few yards of material and make something like that. I could do it if my life depended on it, but the results wouldn’t be nearly as cute.

Or probably as useful.

The Garden

No flower garden this! I don’t know to this day how big it was, but when I was six or seven, it looked more like a field. It was huge!

Mom did a lot of canning and grew everything she could grow. Peas. Sweet corn. Green beans and shell beans. Beets, carrots, tomatoes. If we used it and it could be grown in a garden, it was.

Of course as we got older, we were assigned garden duties. Namely, pulling weeds. But what began as a chore in the eyes of a child turned into a pleasure by the time Mom retired from gardening.

Canned Green Beans

Home Cooked Meals

One of the delights of growing up on a farm is fresh food. The garden, yes, but also from the dairy barn and the chicken coop. Of course, fresh food leads to home cooked meals, and Mom always prepared good meals. She knew how to fry liver just right, with the right amount of crispy crust and the right amount of onions.

And her spaghetti! I’m approaching 57 and still haven’t found any other spaghetti recipe that holds a candle to Mom’s.

Always There

Mom was always there. It didn’t matter what time of day or night, she was available (except for a few overnight hospital stays when sisters and brother were born). Skinned knees, broken hearts, sadness and rejoicing. She was always close by.

That didn’t always bode well. It meant she was there to see it when I threw a toy at a sister or when I did something else I shouldn’t have been doing. But from where I now am, I can look back on those moments with fondness because they contributed to who and what I am now just as much as everything else.

Maybe more.

The Most Important Gift of All

Faith, plain and simple.

Mom has always, for as long as I can remember, talked about God and how good and gracious He is. From my earliest memories to the days when Dad died and beyond, she has leaned on the provision of God and has not been afraid to talk about it.

She’s a faithful prayer warrior, praying for salvation for her spouse for over twenty years before that prayer was finally answered in the affirmative—two short years before Dad died.

She taught Bible to all of us from the time we could sit up and listen to Bible stories and she taught us by example what a God-serving mother and wife looks like.

For God So Loved

I went with her on the day she was baptized. I was a teenager then and rebellious in spirit, if not in action. I heard what the minister said to her on that day and I saw what she did. I knew why she did it.

Her example led me down the same path only a few weeks later.

And Mom is the one who baptized me in the family swimming pool. What a special moment. Born again in Christ at the hands of the one who gave birth to me.

There are, of course, many other memories from childhood and young adulthood, but time fails to list them all. It is in the spirit of all those memories—spoken and unspoken—that I say thank you to Mom.

Happy Mother's Day 2016

My Melancholy Nature

I have a melancholy nature.

I know what you’re asking. What exactly does that mean. What is a melancholy nature?

Here’s a definition I found that made me laugh out loud.

And fits me to a “T”.

Melancholic people are emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic introverts.

Attributes of a Melancholy Nature

Perfectionist

  • Unrealistically high standards for self and others
  • Generally dour due to an inner struggle between an imperfect world and a desire for perfection
  • Cannot let things be if they seem wrong
  • Argues using reason, evidence, logic, and explanations in an analytical or pleading manner
  • Argues in an effort to right wrongs rather than assert dominance
  • Blames self for mistakes because of an acute awareness of personal shortcomings
  • Responds poorly to compliments

Introverted

  • Prefers to spend time alone
  • Can enjoy time with others, but finds it draining
  • Selective in personal associations
  • Tends to think they’re not personally interesting
  • Forms friendships slowly, but is very loyal

Sensitive

  • Deeply moved by beauty and distress
  • Easily hurt
  • Moods can be like delicate glass structures—carefully built up, easily shattered
  • Tends to avoid things that cause distress or discomfort

Role

In the past, the melancholic members of a pack may have been the analysts, the information gatherers. They scouted for potential danger, or for food. The more accurate their findings, the better; this led to a trend towards perfectionism, as the ‘analysts’ closer to perfection survived better than those that made sloppy mistakes.

In current society, they often tend towards analytical roles such as scientists, analysts, programmers, logicians, and so on. In fantasy settings, they may be wizards or sages.

My Melancholy Nature

 

What All This Looks Like in My Personal Life

The list above hits only the high points of what I read, but for every thing I listed, an example sprang immediately to mind. Sometimes many examples.

For example, I have never been able to accept compliments on anything I do with any degree of grace. Whether it’s an oil painting, a story, or cleaning house, I receive a compliment and usually respond by pointing out what didn’t work or could have been done better.

I first noticed this in dealing with portrait clients or people who saw my paintings at shows. Conversations usually went something like this:

Potential Buyer: “What a beautiful painting.”

Me: “Thank you, but I could have done blank differently.”

I eventually got to the point at which I could say thank you and nothing else, but the thought was always there.

It still is.

Actually, as I think about it, that sort of internal dialogue happens all the time. Let’s say my husband says, “I love you,” which he does on a daily basis. Invariably, the first thought in my head is “I don’t know why” or “you could have done better” or something of the kind. I never understood why until recently, when I realized quite suddenly that my problem is that I know myself so intimately.

Inside Knowledge

Every project begins with a vision and it’s always perfect. Again, I first recognized this character trait in the studio. Every new painting was going to be a Masterpiece. Then it’s finished and it’s not a masterpiece.

I can now say with complete honesty that it applies to every part of my life. Every. Single. Part.

Everything I do comes with the knowledge of all the ways I fall short of the mark and, sometimes, the shortcuts I took just to get the job done.

Even if the shortfall isn’t my fault—the garden that was going to produce so well didn’t produce anything due to bad conditions—I always find a way to accept the blame myself.

As it turns out, that’s just part of my nature.

Overcoming a Melancholy Nature

Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do on my own to change this. It’s the way I was put together by The Maker.

But that hasn’t kept me from trying.

I can and have modified behavior, for example. But the root cause, the nature itself, is still there. I don’t always speak the words (behavior modified), but I do think the thoughts (inherent nature).

As with most of life, there is no easy solution and there is no self-help beyond behavior modification. Even that is a challenge because I can’t always be supervising myself. I need someone outside myself, someone who is ever vigilant, ever loving, and ever merciful, to watch over me. Someone who can change the tendencies that arise from a melancholy nature.

Hope of Freedom

In Romans Chapter 6, Paul tells his readers that they died to their sinful nature when they were buried with Christ in baptism. Baptism symbolizes the transition of death to the old nature and resurrection of a new nature.

Verses 5-7 give me hope in dealing with my own melancholy nature.

5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin. (NIV)

“…so that we would no longer be slaves to sin….” That’s the part that struck me this morning.

5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin.That doesn’t mean I’ll never sin again—never be subject to the characteristics of my melancholy nature. It means I’m no longer slave to those characteristics. Christ is my Master, not sin.

When perfectionism threatens to overwhelm me or when other aspects of a melancholy nature become more than I can handle, all I have to do is remind myself who my real master is and turn to Him for help. He is powerful and righteous and He will help. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

But therein lies the rub, you see.

I don’t always remember who my Master is. Sometimes I wallow in those old behaviors for hours or days before I remember.

The good news is that whenever I do remember and call on my Savior, He answers.

No. He hasn’t removed my melancholy nature.

But He is the master of it, as well as of me, and it’s only in Him that true help lies.

4 Things I Learned About Faith From My Mother

There are few blessing more important than a godly parent. A mother or father who follows God in living their own life and in raising their children is doing more than just living or raising. He or she is building a foundation upon which the child can build his or her life: A faith that will survive the years.

One thing I know about my mother is that she is a godly woman. When I was growing up, she was my primary example of how a godly woman lives and works.

Was she perfect? No. But none of us are. We are all born in sin and we all fall short of God’s ideals, no matter how good we look to the rest of the world.

But she practiced what she preached and she passed on her knowledge of God, the Bible, and living a godly life to each of her children.

4 Things I Learned About Faith From My Mother

There are many more, of course, but here are the first four to come to mind on this beautiful day.

God Is Good All the Time

All the time, God is good.

This little saying was used frequently in my home church, Eagle Church of God. A little country church whose members were primarily farmers.

But Mom exemplified this principle long before I ever heard it put into words. Even when things don’t go well—and that’s always a fact of life on a farm—she was able to find good and goodness in the provision of God. I wish I could be as faithful as Mom in that regard.

Be A Student of the Bible

Mom reads her Bible every day. She’s worn the covers off two or three Bibles, including one old Dickinson Bible that was originally my father’s mother’s Bible.

She didn’t rely on pastors or teachers to teach her the Bible, though she did ask questions as the need arose. A daily diet of scripture was all she needed to grow in faith and to follow God.

She passed that on to the next generation. She taught us not only how to read the Bible, but how to study it with the use of a concordance and pencil and paper. I still do contextual studies on specific topics.

But beyond that, there’s a hunger inside for the words of a loving Father that can’t be filled in any other way. The God-shaped void Blaise Pascal spoke of? Quite possibly.

Bible Open to John 18

Be Persistent in Prayer

Mom was always praying.

She prayed with us and for us in putting us to bed.

She prayed with us and for us whenever we faced some challenge at school or in life in general.

I know she prayed for us when we weren’t around to hear it and I know she still does, because I’ve heard her pray for other people in the community and among our far-flung family when they’re out of sight or earshot.

The most striking example of persistence in prayer, though, is the two decades during which she prayed daily that my father might accept Christ as a personal savior.

That prayer was finally answered and it’s a grand example to me to never give up and to pray continually, even when it looks like nothing is happening.

Share What You Know

Mom doesn’t have a seminary education, but that didn’t keep her from sharing what she knew about God and the Bible with anyone who came into contact with her. Even the missionaries who came to our house regularly to witness to her often went away having been witnessed to, as well. One kind lady made repeated visits to the house during one summer. There was always time for tea and a reading from the Bible on those occasions. I’m not sure who gained the most from those impromptu meetings.

The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I give thanks to the loving mother He gave me and for all the things she’s taught me, including how to nurture relationship with God in this modern world. No more important lesson could have been given.

Thanks, Mom!

4 Things I Learned About Faith From My Mother

7 Favorite Things About Being a Writer

sevensEvery writer enjoys different things about being a writer. It’s just like any other occupation done out of passion.

I have different “favorite things” at different times, but overall, there are a few that remain constant.

#1. It’s fun.

Yes, I enjoy the writing process. When writing is going well, it’s easy to get lost in the story. When that happens, everything else ceases to exist. Writing becomes a joy ride.

But even when writing is difficult, it’s fun to see how the difficulties can be overcome.

At least it’s fun after  the difficulties have been overcome!

#2. It’s challenging.

Writing forces me to look at things I might otherwise not want to look at. Issues that trouble me, personal shortcomings, special problems. All those things appear in my writing sooner or later.

Some stories are more personal than others, but getting words on the paper in a way other people can understand and relate to is a never ending challenge.

#3. It’s therapeutic.

There’s nothing like giving my problems to a character and working through them along with the character. I won’t go so far as to say that the character is my counselor or that I’m the character’s counselor, but I have learned enough about myself and about life that both the writer and the character gain from the process.

#4. It’s my calling.

Having a calling means different things to different people. To me, it means that God gave me the talent to tell stories and the ability to take pleasure in writing. I can’t marginalize those gifts by not writing, but it is also my responsibility to make good use of those gifts, to hone and sharpen them into useful tools.

#5. It’s never-ending.

No matter how many words I write or how many ideas I find, there’s always more. I suspect the journey of telling stories will last as long as I have breath.

#6. It’s always new.

There’s always something new. New words to write. New ideas to explore. New characters to meet. A new reason to get up in the morning.

#7. It’s impossible to stop.

Yep.

I’ve tried.

Art has always been my first love. Up until 2008, writing was something I did when I had time. It was my hobby. Because I always had to have a job to pay the bills, I painted first and wrote whenever I could.

But years sometimes passed between one writing session and the next.

In 2008, I decided to pursue writing with the same degree of determination with which I’ve pursued painting. Since then, there has always been something to write. Articles, stories, blog posts. Journals and even letters home sprang from that decision to spend more time writing.

Even on the days when I really don’t want to write, I’m drawn back to it.

I won’t say it’s addictive. It’s more like breathing. Actually, eating would be a better analogy. I can survive on just a little eating.

And life is okay if I write just a little.

But cut me off completely from food and it doesn’t take long to feel the consequences.

I suspect the same can be said of writing.

Conclusion

Those are just a few of the reasons I enjoy writing. There are many more, but they all boil down to one simple statement. Writing is usually the last thing I think about before going to sleep and the first thing I think about upon waking. It even informs my dreams.

It’s the only “work” I do that I really can do in my sleep.

What could possibly be better?

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Have We Lost the Power of Imagination?

They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

My husband and I watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the epic movies based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien on a regular basis. Two or three times a year it seems.

The first movie in the series, The Fellowship of the Ring, coincided with my viewing of Hillsdale College‘s not-for-credit online course, History 101: Western Heritage – From the Book of Genesis to John Locke.

The first lecture is an introduction to the course, presented by Dr. Larry Arn, President of Hillsdale. The most notable comment he made seemed aimed directly at me. He said, “Today’s students are not taught classical literature. They can’t appreciate it or enjoy because they’re not taught to recognize it.”

Have We Lost the Power of Imagination

The moment I heard the words, a light clicked on in my mind. A question about trends in writing and story telling seemed to suddenly have been answered. More on that in a minute.

That evening, Neal and I watched The Fellowship of the Ring and I was struck by the truth of Dr. Arn’s comments. The next night, we watched The Two Towers.

The combination of an interesting and thought-provoking course introduction and two epic movies in the same weekend awakened a desire in my writer’s mind. The desire to write stories that promote noble deeds and noble lives.

To write literature instead of popular fiction.

After a hiatus of a couple of very eventful weeks, we got around to The Return of the King and the ‘call’ I felt that first weekend was renewed.

But another thought accompanied it.

Not only are today’s students not taught to appreciate and understand classic literature. Today’s writers don’t seem to have the imagination to write sweeping epics.

Or noble tales.

At least not those steeped in a strong and vibrant faith tradition and in the principles of western culture.

I don’t make that statement lightly.

Nor do I make it merely to create controversy.

But the question does beg to be asked. It arises from the many resources I’ve used in my quest to learn the craft more completely.

Every writer who has written a book, designed a course, or led a workshop that I’ve attended has said basically the same thing.

Writers must write to today’s reader in order to be successful.

Let me paraphrase that, if I may.

Don’t try to lead your readers toward noble deeds. Don’t attempt to uplift them or inspire them. Readers don’t want to be challenged. They want to be entertained, amused, made to feel good, provided with escape. The best the enterprising writer can hope for is a gentle message in a well-written story.

Inspiration & Motivation

Evening Sky with CloudsI have always chafed at that idea. One of the purposes of fiction, to my way of thinking, has been to uplift and inspire readers. To present a light of hope for a better place and a better life. To motivate them to improvement and inspiration.

I don’t see much of that these days.

The popular explanation is that today’s western society is so jam-packed with fun and exciting things to do, that people don’t have time to sink their literary teeth into a classical style novel.

And that gets me back to Dr. Arn’s comment about students not understanding or appreciating classical literature or classical-style literature, because they aren’t being taught to understand or appreciate (or even recognize) it.

In other words, if our taste for fast food is not due so much to the lack of time as it is to the lack of learning the value and delight of a full-course meal, does that mean the chefs stop preparing full-course meals and focus on fast food?

I say all of that to say this: I wonder if today’s writers have the imagination that inspired writers like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and others. Writers whose imaginations were fired by and based in faith in God. And, I wonder, blessed by Him.

Don’t get me wrong. There are lots of good writers out there and lots of good stories.

But the imaginations of a lot of writers seem geared toward the baser human instincts. Violence for the sake of violence. Sex for the sake of sex. Ugliness for the sake of ugliness. Evil with no corresponding good. There is no need for imagination in writing about those things. None at all.

When fiction follows culture, it adds to the demoralization and debasement.

What I’m about to say will strike some as being preachy or reaching into an area where fiction has no right going. So be it.

It is my opinion that the purpose of fiction is instruction and uplift, not just entertainment. If you ever read one of my novels and are not uplifted, inspired, or instructed, don’t bother reading anything else I write. You have better things to do with your time.

Entertaining, Yes. And Much More

Hobbit's DoorLord of the Rings is entertaining. It’s hugely entertaining. That’s why all six movies were so popular and continue to be popular.

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia were also entertaining and continue to be.

But both are also rooted in the basic concept of Good vs. Evil and people rising above their ordinary lives to do extraordinary things.

“There is good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for.” Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers

Where is that ethic in today’s literature?

More to the point, where is today’s literature?

The point of all this is simple.

If your purpose as a writer is to entertain, then be the best you can be at providing that product.

But if your desire as a writer is different—if you want to produce literature and epic stories of noble and heroic deeds and even tragedies—then don’t let prevailing market winds deter you. Learn about craft, but also study the classic authors and their stories. Take another look at Lord of the Rings. Search out and find what made those epic tales so powerful.

And maybe take a look at history. See what noble and self-less acts look like in real life.

Then sit down and do the very best you can as writer of epic tales.

Prove I’m wrong.

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