My last soapbox rant for 2010

Boy, oh boy. I may be in trouble with this blog.

My goal is to keep it light, to make people smile, and to make people think—to encourage. But I’ve had this nagging idea to pervade my thoughts for several weeks, and it just won’t go away.

So here I stand on my soap box.

Most of us have heard pastors preach that we are to be in the world but not of it. That’s right. We have the go ahead to live our lives and mingle within society…but the red light of conviction stops us from compromising our values—from adopting the attitudes of the world around us.

I have no problem with this belief, but I do have a fear—perhaps burden is a better word.

I’m troubled that the majority of Christians have become so weakened that we can’t function in the world anymore. Instead of marching boldly into war, we retreat into our churches, our Christian schools, our home schools, our homes.

It’s really easy to stand up for Christ when everyone you know is standing with you. But if we all build fences around us to protect us from the world, who’s left to reach out to the world? Doesn’t it feel awkward when we finally step outside that fence and try to build a relationship with a person we’ve shut out?

It’s only natural we should do what we can to protect our children. I often wish I taught in a Christian school. But…what would happen if we all retreated to our safe Christian environments?

Imagine a world in which only the Christian engineers associated and worked together. Or Christian plumbers only serviced Christian homes. And Christian mechanics worked only on cars of believers.

Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? But we’re tempted to condemn those in the media when they mingle with others in their professions. I’m talking about musicians, film makers, actors, broadcasters, journalists, writers, novelists, etc.

Can’t we appreciate the skills or crafts of other engineers or mechanics even though they aren’t believers? Who’s left to share Jesus if we disappear?

Just as the little song says, if we retreat, we hide our light under a bushel. Darkness prevails.

My heart’s desire is to write Christian fiction for young adults. But I would be blessed even more richly should nonbelievers find Jesus through what I write.

The Christian voice has been silenced—not so much by others but by ourselves! We’re leaving the general market, and the general market isn’t necessarily forcing us out. When the majority of Christians retreat, the remaining Christian voices are drowned out by cacophony of competing beliefs. The Christian majority no longer exists.

Back in the 1990s, I spent a lot of time writing about contemporary Christian music. Not only did these artists receive condemnation from segments of the church, but I did too—just for believing in and writing about their work.

Yet, in my heart, I felt a strong conviction that these Christians were spreading the gospel of Christ in a non-confrontational way that helped others understand. I still do. These artists took the gospel to clubs and bars and pubs, places where empty hearts are often searching for something, someone to fill them. Why not Jesus? Listen to the question again.

Why not Jesus?

These artists spoke the language of the natives yet maintained their Christian convictions, not unlike what missionaries do in foreign countries. Jars of Clay, for example, toured with Sting and shared the stage with mainstream artists Matchbox Twenty, Seal, and Lenny Kravitz. They didn’t sing to the choir. They sang to the world, in it but not of it.

I fear a similar situation is happening in the publishing world today. We have a need for Christian publishing. But we have a greater need for writers to use their stories as Jesus did His parables as a way to share the Truth with people who would never look at Christian lit.

When we’re tempted to retreat to our safe havens, when we’re tempted to condemn those who, like missionaries. take the message to world–but through modern media, we should remember that Jesus left His haven, heaven, to come to the world—to be in the world so that we might hear and believe.

Jesus has His own plan for taking us out of the world. It’s called the rapture.

Right now I think we have a job to do. In my humble opinion, we need to get into the world and be the light. But we had better toughen up so that we don’t conform. Plus, it’s easy to share Jesus with people who already know Him.

It’s a whole lot tougher to do it in front of a world that may mock, persecute, or even kill us for our beliefs.

Tips for teen writers

Many of you have offered me great help and encouragement. Maybe I can point you in the right direction too. There was never a better time for teen writers to let loose their creativity. Many of you are already blogging, and some of you are ready to take to your writing to the next level. Here are a few tips to think about as you navigate away from this site.

  • Use social networking to your writing advantage. Rather than just ranting on Twitter, consider following other teens who post links to their blogs. Also, promote your blog. You can learn from one another and maybe share readers.
  • You should also consider following the tweets of literary agents and other writers.
  • Never think you’ve learned all there is know about writing. You’ll find out SOON that you don’t. If you have the time, devote an hour or an evening to exploring online websites about writing.
  • Teen writers can easily form a Facebook critique groups.  Share your ideas. Again learn from each other.

I’ve also listed a few sites that may serve your individual interests.

My High School Journalism

http://my.hsj.org/Home/tabid/124/Default.aspx

The site is a great help to all student journalists. Its resources include story ideas, games, ethics tips and more than I could possibly list here.

High School Journalism Institute

http://hsji.org/idea-sharing/share-your-newspaper-ideas/

Check out this link when you are having a tough time coming up with a story idea. Our staff can also collaborate to post ideas online. These are the first topics I spotted in 30 seconds:

  • Follow a freshman through his/her first week of school
  • Required sports physicals and the lack of insurance
  • Places in town where students can find free WiFi
  • Uncover investigation of proper hand washing
  • Spotlight on the Humane Society

Novel Teen

http://novelteen.wordpress.com/

The best way to learn how to improve your craft is to study the craft. Read, read, read. This website includes interviews with authors of Christian fiction.  

Literary Holidays

http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2010/07/11-literary-holidays-that-every-book-lover-should-know/

Okay, so this site doesn’t quite fit in with the other ones, but it’s a great place to go if you have time to wander. You may stumble unto the perfect idea. We just missed the Hemingway Days, but Hobbit Day is September 22, the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo. What’s the best way to celebrate? By feasting!

Teen Ink

http://teenink.com/

Many of you have already discovered this online publication. (There’s also a print publication.) The site includes teen photography, fiction, poetry, nonfiction and more. If you have ever contributed to Teen Ink, please add a comment and let the readers know about your own experiences. Don’t forget to include a link to your blog and a link to your Teen Ink contribution if possible.

 Publishing Companies for Teen Writers

http://www.ehow.com/about_5685940_publishing-companies-teen-writers.html

The site also includes info for teen photographers. Ever heard of Cicada, What If?, Claremont Review or Teen Hydro S. Magazine?  No? Maybe you should check out this link.

Writing-World.com

http://writing-world.com/basics/index.shtml

This site covers almost every question a beginning writer might have about writing.

If you know of a website that’s not listed here, please add a comment with the link. One of the BEST things I’ve discovered about going to writing workshops is the camaraderie among fellow writers. If you know what you’re doing, step up and be a mentor in the classroom and online.  I’m a newbie in the YA writing world. Often I have felt bewildered, but the more experienced writers have encouraged me to ask questions—and they have been so kind to answer them.

You can also post questions here. If I don’t know the answers, I will find someone who can help us.