Thursday, January 7, 2010

Crossroads and Periscopes: How Stories Teach Us to Live

By Stephanie Duncan, Marketing Assistant at Moody Publishers

Welcome back to the new Moody Fiction Blog! Today we are continuing in the fourth day of our launch contest from Jan. 5-9th, and will be giving away 10 free copies of Miss Match by Sara Mills! Read on for details...

The Incarnation of Christ, as one of the core Christian beliefs, is composed of the Word given skin, of theology given a body, lungs, hands, and eyes.  John 1 speaks of the Incarnation beginning with creation, stating that “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3).  In this divine creative process, all things that were brought into existence began with the Living Word, and as humans made in the image of God, our words are  intended to function similarly.

Our words are not intended to stay stagnant or shelved, but to grow into our very doing, to become incarnate in the tangible outworking of our lives, and this applies particularly to the arts.  A biblical view of creative writing unfolds out of an understanding of the Incarnation, which teaches that just as the Word became flesh in the Son of God, language is intended to become manifest in life.

As writers, we are entrusted with the work of reminding a broken people of this wholeness, of picking up the pieces through story, metaphor and creative word, and so returning the minds of men to the Incarnation.
Stories also help us to interpret our lives in light of the greater, eternal context.  Madeleine L’engle comments in Walking on Water, “Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named.  And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.”[1]  Stories are powerful in their ability to inspire connectedness between daily life and heavenly glory.  Words can be for us anchors and footholds, able to tie down the majesty of idea to our level of living.

Michael Malone, a contemporary novelist, compares reading literature in one of his books to peering through a periscope: both enable us to “see around corners” and expand our vision.[2]  Stories give us the incredible gift of perspective: offering us a glimpse of eternal reality, showing us the connectedness of life, and assuring us that the glory we read of in Scripture and the daily cycle of our lives do, in fact, operate in the same sphere.

Flannery O’Connor suggests this as well, “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”[3] Good writing connects the regular details of our lives with the glory of our souls and puts them on the same plane.

The best stories are those that realize their sanctifying power in the word of truth of the Author of Life.  The glorious task given to the Christian writer, then, is to fashion words in the manner of the Incarnation: words that point men to wholeness, and language that teaches us how to live.
To enter to win a copy of Miss Match, all you have to do is leave your comment below (along with your email--important for us to contact you if you are a winner!) answering the following question or responding to this post, and you will be entered into the contest.  Winners will be selected at random and will be notified the day after their comment is posted. Good luck!
Today's Question: In your experience, how has either writing or reading sharpened your eternal perspective? How have stories reminded you of God’s unfolding drama of redemption? 

FBI agent Jack O’Connor receives a letter from Maggie, a woman he used to love, saying she’s in trouble in Berlin. The FBI refuses to get involved, so Jack asks Allie Fortune to help him investigate. Allie and Jack pose as a missionary couple who want to bring orphans back to the United States. 

A child finds important documents that everyone in the city — Soviets and allies alike — want for themselves. Maggie refuses to tell Jack what the documents are, saying if things go wrong, they are better off not knowing. 

Through the course of the search, Allie’s past is brought back to her, half a world away from home.

Find Sara Mills at: 

[1] L’engle, Madeleine.  Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and ArtWheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980.  Pg.  46.   
[2] McCullough, Donald W. “What Does Literature Have to do With Ministry?” Theology, News and Notes.  December 1991.  Pg. 3.
[3] O’Connor, Flannery.  “Novelist and Believer.”  The Christian Imagination: Essays on Literature and the Arts.  Ed. Leland, Ryken.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981.  Pg. 315.


  1. Books are more powerful than anything else in my experience! Books such as In His Steps move me to action, while C S Lewis books help me organize my thoughts into rational ideas that can be shared with others. No Graven Image by Elisabeth Elliot is a fiction book that has moved me in my understanding of Christian/mission service, and Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam is a book that has helped me realize it's not about me - it's all about Him.

    Music inspires, movies provokes thought, but books are what compel me to move and do and change and become...

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Wow! A truly "deep" question. To make a long story short: (I am in my early 50's) I discovered my career niche later in life, as a freelance photojournalist for our little local newspaper. I had the privilege of going to the Pentagon on 9/15 to see it firsthand and write about the experience. It was the most profound experience of my life. It was like being in a war zone including the check points. What I saw in my travels from Ohio to the Pentagaon-I saw our nation as it could be. I saw our nation embody the words, "One nation under God". I saw our nation humbling themselves before God and beseeching Him for mercy in a way we haven't done probably since WWII. I saw what our nation could be again.

    And secondly, as I stood there staring in awe/horror at what was done to the Pentagon and the obvious temporary morgue, it brought into focus that the ONLY safety and security is within the arms of God and His redemption through Jesus Christ.

    (had to repost as I neglected to add my email)

  4. Words are eternal. That is the truth behind my love for reading.


    Hey-- are you gonna post who is actually winning any books??

  5. The power of a good book can encourage me to live more fully the life God has redeemed for His glory.


  6. A good book is a great source of challenge, encouragement, and truth.

  7. Story speaks to the soul, to the heart. It has a way of communicating to us on a deep level (like music and visual art both can, as well) that we understand and can grasp.

  8. Hi Shelby, as I noted in the giveaway contest rules (in bold in the above post), winners will be emailed the day after the contest in which they entered. So the winners won't be posted, but they will recieve an email :)

  9. Wow!! 10 books a day. That's exciting.
    Please enter me, Thanks


  10. Wow, that is a deep question!
    I'm not much of a writer, but for me, I find that reading both fiction and non-fiction Christian theme books helps to keep my thoughts on God, and on his redemption. Reading other's thoughts, experiences, perspectives and journeys helps me think more about my thoughts, and keeps my mind on my faith. And I try to always have at least two Christian theme books in my "currently reading" pile (I tend to read multiple books at the same time).


  11. I find that fiction can help me see how to deal with difficult situations in my own life. When I read (or write for that matter), I find myself living out the story in my mind. I feel with the character and share in the victories and defeats. It is in this way that I learn through their story how I can respond in a correct way to God. Christian fiction is a wonderful way to get me thinking outside of my box of everyday experiences. I can experience what it would be like to have a cheating husband, drug addict child, or a manipulative parent, without having those things actually in my life.


  12. Books are what make made me realize that other people still live by God's way. With this realization I have learned that I too can live in a way different than the way I was brought up. The only thing I didn't get from book that I thought I would is learning how to spell better:)
    savingmomssanity at gmail dot com

  13. Books offer us a way to connect with other people. Fiction in particular gives us a chance to interact with and discuss topics and situations that are too personal or difficult to deal with in "reality".

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. This quote sums it up for me, and I wish I knew who wrote this. "If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions." I love many different genres and authors, and love how books make me really think about my own beliefs.


  16. Reading always gives us different perspectives. Seeing things through another's eyes and not through our own. Seeing God in someone else.

  17. The books truly get me thinking about God's wonderful redemption and works in my mind and my heart!

    Mollydawn1981 at aol dot com

  18. writing or reading have sharpened my eternal perspective and talk to me each time I pick up a book. Reminders of God are always around us, we just need to look and listen
    copperllama at yahoo dot com

  19. As a fairly new Christian I have found that reading about God's redemption plan in a fictional form really helps me visualize His truths in real life situations and many times clarify the drama of His plan unfolding today.


  20. Both writing and reading can enhance our eternal perspective.
    Writing forces to actually think through what we believe and find a way to express that to others. Often we say we believe something, but never find a way to articulate much more than that.
    Reading helps us see other people’s perspective. Each author has their own insights that can deepen our perspective.

  21. I am a reader only but to me there are soo many books that point out truths. They are very encouraging or instructive. I have gotten done reading a book and had to go open my Bible to check if something that was in the book was really in the Bible. I love when a book makes me think.
    Charity L

  22. derekannette at gmail dot com

    Jesus used stories (parables) to help others understand God's plan and purposes better. I think they really bring it home.

    The book that immediately came to my mind was Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers...but really, many, well written books can bring us better understanding of God. The Chronicles of Narnia do that for children and adults alike.

  23. This book sounds really good. Thanks for letting us get to know the story better. Love the cover.
    Thanks for entering me in the drawing.

    Finding Hope Through Fiction

  24. Thanks for letting me know I won!! I'm super excited.. I emailed you my address about one minute ago. thanks again :)

  25. I've just noticed that I added my name to the wrong blog for the Missionary!! I wrote to the person who announced this on their blog and they told me I needed to post my comment here. Oh, Man. I posted it on her blog yesterday.

    Oh, I also noticed that I was suppoed to answer your question. I know that I read Christian Fiction for how I can grow spiritually. I've noticed that since my guard is down and I'm really into the story and the characters I'm usually surprised how the Holy Spirit will show me something and it will hit me to the core.

    Either its feeling compassion for a situation I just blew off. Or with my book club ladies I've seen lives changed as they relate parts of a story that touched their heart and made them look at their lives differently. IT's a blessing to have such good writers and great stories that are causing people to think about their live, be encouarged to change and love one another like Jesus. It's Powerful Stuff. I'm honored to be a part of spreading the word about Christian Fiction.

    Thanks for adding my name to the hat. Dont' suppose you can throw my name in the hat for yesterday? Just thought I'd ask. Ha! HA! :D


    Nora St. Laurent
    ACFW Book Club Coordinator
    Finding Hope Through Fiction

  26. I love fiction as a tool for drawing us into a closer relationship with God. As we read about the problems in the characters' lives, we often recognize the same thing in our own lives and it gives us new perspective. A good novel can help us want to make adjustments in our own habits and attitudes without ever feeling preached at.

  27. There are so many books that I have read that helps me to remember that God really does love me. These books cause me to laugh, think, and cry. It seems that every book I read teaches me something about God's love and the wonderful salvation that I have thru Jesus Christ.

  28. I have read many 'mom lit' or women's fiction where I sat back in awe ass I read it... I am just like this character, I am doubting God, searching for God, waiting for God, displeasing God, over-looking God's hand in my life, etc....
    I am reminded by these characters (that I look so much like) that Gods love for me is bigger, brighter, bolder, higher, and more than I can ever imagine!

    And that right there, makes reading a Christian novel all the more pleasing for me to read, over a secular title!

    ladyverlina AT


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