What are you plugged into?

How are we as Christians like an mp3 player?

It's purpose is to play music, and it's built with the capacity to play music, but in itself, it has no power or music of it's own. By design, it must charge by plugging into a computer, and the music must be transfered from the computer as well.

We're much like this with God. But too many, myself included, thinking we're expected to do it on our own or whatever, feel ashamed when we have to go crawling to God for our music and our power, when this is not a shame at all, it's the way He designed us!

We're also only as good as what we're putting into us, and only as good as who's pushing our buttons, so to speak.

If you're reading this, you probably feel your purpose is to write. So what's your most valuable tool as a writer? What you're plugging into.

My MP3 player takes it's files in through a usb cable. We take our "music" in through our eyes and our ears (and technically all the senses). Our writing is only as good as what we're putting into us. It's only as good as the power source we're plugging into, what we trust and rely on to get us through the day.

What are you plugging into? What are you putting into you?

If you view writing as a ministry, the obvious answer given almost without thought is God. We know we have to be eating of Him, connected to him via prayer and the Word if we want our work to reflect Him.

Don't we?

As Christian writers of speculative fiction, we often face a unique challenge. We love speculative fiction and we love to read it. The ubiquitous advice is if you want to write a genre well, read all of it that you can get your hands on. Most of us read secular speculative fiction and watch the equivalent at the movies and on TV; most of us are well aware that much of what is put out in the secular counterparts to our genre is spiritual garbage. That's one reason we strive to "redeem" the genre for Christ. The danger is keeping abreast of our genre without having the mp3 player of our heart tainted with tracks downloaded from the world rather than from God.

At the same time, some of us don't write what we normally think of when we hear "Christian fiction" Some of us write what is normally classified as "Secular." The danger here is that since they're not into writing a "sermon in disguise" and/or since their motto is the ever-popular, "if you want to send a message, use Western Union" that they don't need to "plug in" to God when it comes to their writing. This forgets, or fails to realize, that when we serve the Lord Jesus Christ, no work we do is secular. Rather, it's all for His Kingdom and His Glory. No matter how the publishers, bookstores, or any other human judge classifies it. That's the life we're all called to, both in our overtly religious work, and the "secular" day job that so often pays a writer's bills.

We are Christ's ambassadors, representing him wherever we are, whatever we do, whatever we write. To represent Him accurately, we must plug into God--and God alone. In the bible (Hosea comes to mind off the top of my head), God was as blunt as Grace Bridges' last post in stating what he considered doing otherwise as: adultery.

Be aware of what's out there in the world, by all means. In a war, it certainly helps to know what your enemy is up to and what lies he's spreading. Just don't download the stuff into your heart.


Sex is in the Air

Surprised? Or offended? Or curious? All three? Great. Read on, please.

Let me begin by challenging our definition of the word. Sex is intercourse, interaction, a giving and receiving, a planting of seed. It requires someone to input something, and someone else to receive it, and it may grow in that person to the point of birth.

Think about it. Isn’t that also true of a conversation between two people? One person, in the role of the giver, may speak a sentence and plant the seed of an idea in the listener. If the seed takes hold, what result might it have? That person may change their behaviour or their thinking, or the idea might germinate and grow into something much larger than the original seed ever was.

Maybe you are writing a book or a blog. You take the time to sit at your desk and type in words and more words, thousands of them sometimes. You pause to grasp a vital concept and attempt to capture it on the page. Then you click on “Publish Blog”, or you send your book to the printer, and you wait. Sometimes it takes a long time. But your seed will bring fruit, if it was good seed. That fruit might be a few nice comments on your blog page, some nice public reviews of your book, or the like. That’s the visible part. The invisible part might be the lurker who read your blog, didn’t comment, but was changed forever by what you said. Or someone who bought your book on a whim and was so struck by it that they are constantly reminded of the story. However, whether you see it or not, the fruit is there.

Or take the example of you working on a project, or studying to pass an exam, or putting down your cash to pay for a watermelon, or a computer, or a pack of toilet paper. I’m serious. In every case, the interaction involves you giving up your effort, your time, or the money you earned with them, and you get something back in a vastly different form. Or maybe someone else will get it, if you work as a volunteer or donate money to a charity. Either way, the benefit is there.

There aren’t only good seeds. If you plant a hurt, a lie, a negative action, then that can grow just the same inside the person who receives it, and the result can be much larger than anyone thought. If a child is told he’s stupid, maybe he won’t even try to get into university, maybe he will vanish in a meaningless job and be too shy to ever ask a girl out. If a girl is consistently ignored, maybe she’ll get the idea that no-one values her and live her life accordingly. That is a lifelong “pregnancy” that can give birth to large-scale despair. How to avoid it? Try not to let the bad seed get inside you, I guess, and be careful what seeds you plant in others. Because not everyone is skilled at ejecting unwanted input.

Then again, sex does not always lead to pregnancy and birth. While there are some scientific and medical explanations for this, in the end we can’t always say for certain why it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Sometimes you hear a fantastic sermon, and walk away unchanged. Sometimes a conversation with a friend inspires you with THE idea you want to spend your life fulfilling, but you don’t. Many, many times, someone will come up with a brilliant book idea, but how many will actually start writing, let alone see it through to the end? And on the other side, it’s an everyday occurrence that people get hit with scathing remarks and are still able to shrug it off.

But let’s think about that conversation. A discussion between equals gives equal opportunity for each person to be the giver and plant a seed in the other. In this sense, both parties are both male and female at once, giving and receiving. Don’t freak. I’m only talking about the roles of giver and receiver. We have all played both more times than we know, and they can be found in everything we do. God and the church. Man and wife. Fingers and piano keys. CD and stereo system. Pen and paper. Letter and postbox. Smells and noses. Words and ears. Look around! It’s everywhere! That plant pot on your windowsill, that old radio, the telephone, the kitchen stove, the coffeemaker, the picture in its frame, the sun shining through your curtain. Everything is there to interact in a very specific way with something else, and each result is unmistakable.

The nations as we know them exist because of past interactions, whether in war or in peace. Societies were set up, laws were written, roads were laid – and railways, and power lines, and phone cables. Years ago, someone put in an effort and built the house you live in. And who can tell how many millions of hours it took to establish the Internet as it is today? Everything you see, every webpage, every town, every created thing grew from an idea, a planted seed, a powerful passion – human or divine.

Make sure you get this the right way round. I am not saying that all of life is intrinsically erotic, but that every day is filled with innumerable possibilities to spark off something – whether it’s you getting your morning coffee, or a more world-shaking concept that causes you to jump out of your chair, wave your fist and cry “I have a dream!”

Life itself is potent and creative and full of drive. Maybe that’s the fourth dimension, or the fifth element, or that power that keeps every atom spinning. Maybe it’s God.

Do you see what I mean? We have reduced the idea of sex to a physical or erotic phenomenon. Making love. Making babies. Although this sex act has the same potential for good (for fulfillment, happiness, and babies) and for bad (for boredom, injury and trauma) as the other things I’ve mentioned, it has its own particular power… but tell me: is there anything on the planet that doesn’t?

Art, movies, nature, music, people’s efforts in every arena, words on a page. Everything is sex. Not because the human race has an erotic brain fixation – but because every instance of interaction has the potential to spark off something much larger, whether good or bad. I’m not in a position to comment on physical sex – but all these other interactions? Oh, I have a lot of experience there. No question at all. I’ve felt how harmful inputs have crippled me, and how good seed grew inside me until it popped out – created by a fusion of the idea-seed and my own being.

Day by day, I feel these inputs raining down on me – conversations, words I read, ideas, news, stray thoughts, both good and bad. Sometimes I am the hard ground, not letting them in. But sometimes I am the good ground. Every day, some of these seeds will grow. Some will die like expired sperm, and some will strike the jackpot and go on to birth, that unsettling shift when your “baby” gets a life of its own.

And every day I can choose what I want to invest in my life, my work, my projects, my friends. Good words, time, effort, prayer, love. Or hurt, rejection, too-busy signs, indifference.

Open your eyes.
Recognise the adventure.
Live the journey.
See the sparks.

The whole wide world is full of them…