Day Five: Uncle Orson’s Fiction Boot Camp

Day Five: Uncle Orson’s Fiction Boot Camp

“In the Hebrew Scriptures there is no word for spiritual. And Jesus never used the phrase spiritual life. Because for Jesus and his tradition, all of life is spiritual.  Everything is spiritual.” – Rob Bell

Have you ever had a moment when you discover spiritual truth in an unexpected way?  This happens to me when I watch movies or TV shows, hear music, have conversations with other people, or in the ordinary activities of my day.  God is always with us, and if we are sensitive to that idea, we become disciples (from “discere”meaning “to learn”) of the greatest Teacher ever.

Today, I typed notes as I listened to Card’s lecture on various aspects of fiction writing. The analogy of God-as-author and we-as-characters is inadequate and flawed.  The main problem with the analogy is that God loves us, His very REAL non-fiction characters.  And the Plan of the Ages is so much more than a story.  Nevertheless, for people who are able to look past what doesn’t fit, the analogy is loaded with spiritual truth.  Card is an author who is very concerned with explaining why people do what they do, and as an author, he explores the human condition through his fictional characters and circumstances in various settings from familiar to alien.  I always find some spiritual truth in his books because of this. In his writing class, he explains the brainstorming processes and techniques that he uses to invent his wonderfully imaginative stories, and like his books, I also glean spiritual truths from his lessons.

I’d like to share a few excerpts from the notes I typed today.  Card’s ideas and words (my paraphrase, NOT direct quotes) are in bold.  My observations are in regular type.

Writers tend to retreat from the scene that really ought to be written.  This can happen as a character flashback or narrative digression.  If you find yourself doing this, ask yourself, what is so important about the scene that I want to retreat from it?  This is the very thing you need to write.  This is what is powerful and interesting to the reader.  (And on a funnier note, if you want to make a character throw up, it is probably because you are hiding from writing a real scene.)

When I first began to notice inconsistencies and believability problems with spiritual concepts that I had always assumed were true (because the institutional church said so), my natural inclination was to retreat.  I was afraid explore, because what if I actually found something that clearly contradicted beliefs that were foundational to my understanding of Who God is or what God does?  What would my church friends think of me, if I were to challenge the “truth” of the pastor or highly respected elders?  Does God approve of “dangerous” critical examination of orthodoxy?  Am I allowed to do that?

As it turns out, God wouldn’t have it any other way.

Consequently, I have learned to recognize that when someone introduces an idea and I have the urge to retreat from it, I stop and ask myself why.  What is so important about the idea that I want to retreat from it?  This may be the very idea I need to explore.  This may be an interesting and powerful concept that God, the author and finisher of faith, wants me to understand.

The real question, then, is do I trust God enough to keep me from serious spiritual misdirection?  If the idea turns out to be false or corrupt, do I trust Him to keep me from embracing it in ignorance?  And what if I get it all wrong?  Do I trust God to set the record straight?  Do I believe that His love for me does not depend on me having an accurate understanding of everything?

Someone can be a brilliant writer, but if there is no story, that talent is wasted.

A pastor can be a brilliant speaker and natural leader, but it doesn’t mean he has the final say on what you ought to believe.

Christians can build magnificent churches and put on a high quality Sunday morning show, but if there is no hope in their message, why bother?

God can create billions of unique human beings, but if there is no hope, His creative act was a waste of time.

If you write, “She was sure that…” or “She believed that…” from the point of view of that character, you are actually introducing doubt.  If you are giving directions to someone of how to get to your house, you don’t say, “I’m sure that you turn right on Holden” or “I believe that you turn right on Holden”, and if you did, people would think that you don’t know where you live.

I think that this one speaks for itself.  There are times when we ought to say, “I believe ___” but we don’t.  And there are times when we ought to say just say, “___” but we add, “I believe” to it.  The trick is knowing when to recognize that you are a fallible human being, and knowing that there are some truths about Who God is or what God does that transcend our innate ability to screw things up.

If you have a character that is supposed to play a minor role and the character keeps becoming more important to the story than originally planned, don’t let the character just take over the story, go back to your original story plan and rethink it to include the minor character as a major character.

If you have an acquaintance that has a minor role in your life, and the he or she keeps becoming more important to your spiritual journey than you expected, don’t let the him or her just take over your spiritual journey, go back to who God created you to be and what God created you to do, and consider how God may want to include him or her in your spiritual journey.


 

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas June 23, 2012 at 7:05 am

    I like what you say about spiritual truth being all around us, not just where we might expect to find it, and about being open to God’s truth wherever we might find it.

    I like, too, your reflections on the idea of being attuned to where we find ourselves wanting to shy away from a subject. I like the connection you make being not wanting to write a scene and not wanting to examine critically a spiritual teaching. In the case of the latter, it is probably often the case that, as you point out, our resistance stems from fear of questioning authority and of challenging accepted teaching. I think you’re right on to point out that God wants us to own our faith and to be open to challenging and even abandoning spiritual “truth” that isn’t in line with God’s truth. I would add here that I think it’s important to study scripture and seek the truth not just by ourselves but with other Christians, including those who are different from us and who can help us recognize our biases and look at things from a different perspective.

    I especially like what you say about trusting God’s love for us no matter what, no matter if we get it exactly right in terms of our understanding of the truth of God or not. (I really need to print your penetrating question, “Do I believe that His love for me does not depend on my having an accurate understanding of everything?” and post it around my house as a constant reminder of God’s unfailing love as well as his promise to enlighten us and guide us.)

    I agree that when it comes to the Christian faith, the message is everything, that without the message (and the Spirit), no amount of talent or trappings will accomplish anything. I like what you say about knowing when to speak with less than certitude about our beliefs and when to express greater certitude. Pursuing dialogue with people who are different from us, including people of other faiths, discourages us from the folly of claiming either exclusive possession of or final certitude about the truth of God. I like the idea of consciously considering how someone fits into one’s spiritual journey rather than simply allowing oneself to be unduly influenced by the person.

    • admin June 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

      “I would add here that I think it’s important to study scripture and seek the truth not just by ourselves but with other Christians, including those who are different from us and who can help us recognize our biases and look at things from a different perspective.” – good point. I used to enter into such conversations with the expectation that the only influencing that would be going on would be me influencing them. This is a very arrogant approach to conversation. I have more to say about this, but our break is over @ bootcamp…

      • admin June 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm

        … (from where I left off earlier) I’m not saying that a person should be influenced in every conversation, but I’m saying that a person should be open to the possibility. Basically, I’ve restated what you just said LOL 🙂

        • Mary Vanderplas June 24, 2012 at 6:55 am

          I too often still, though I should know better, find myself trying to prove that I’m right and thinking that I have the answers, instead of listening to others whose views and perspectives are different from mine with an openness to learning something. I agree with you that it’s sheer arrogance to think that we are the only ones with something to give to the conversation, that others have nothing to teach us. Thankfully, God doesn’t give up on me in my arrogance and folly. I just keep trying, with his help, to do better.

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I noticed I have posted four short comments
    June 23, 2012 at 3:56 am
    June 23, 2012 at 4:03 am
    June 23, 2012 at 4:19 am
    June 23, 2012 at 4:52 am
    You have not moderated, but Mary’s and your posts are ALREADY moderated.
    Mary Vanderplas says:
    June 23, 2012 at 7:05 am
    admin says:
    June 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

    What’s going on, Alice?

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      our break is over @ bootcamp

    • admin June 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      I only had a few minutes to review/respond between sessions. Nothing personal.

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    “Do I believe that His love for me does not depend on my having an accurate understanding of everything?”

    Dear girls, that’s Abraham in Genesis 18. He didn’t know how TOTALLY destructive homosexuality was, that being “Gay” destroyed two complete societies totally. Judgment and eternal punishment was God’s only solution. {Mary, there wasn’t even one righteous person to be destroyed with the wicked.}

    Americans, wake up before it is too late. God promised in Romans 1: 24 – 32 to give them over to an unrepairable situation. Save American civilization before He gives them over to it.

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm

      Alice, you know Jerusalem is called Sodom in the Prophets and represents the whole of the Israelite peoples who were deported from their land and their temple destroyed because of their national sins. God did that with national Israel and He will certainly do it to all the nations of the earth that do not listen to Sodom and Gomorrah in the literal perfect Holy Bible. It is right and proper to use anti-gay rhetoric to stem the tide, saving individuals and laws from this plague.

      Come on, Alice, and stop letting the Gays bully you with supposed civil rights. The rest of you readers know also they will not stop here until they have dismantled American society completely. They want to “touch” every last one of you, and I mean, freely physically touch your body parts without your consent. They want that legal freedom of their expression, that legal protection; not now, but ultimately. They are now celebrating Gay PRIDE Week now.

      • admin June 23, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        Lanny, I’ve never had a gay person bully me, and I most certainly have never had a gay person attempt to sexually assault me. A lot of people give me grief over approving your hateful comments, but the way I see it, you are making a convincing case against your own ideas. People who read your comments can see for themselves how your view of God shapes your view of others and how your view of others is so contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

        • Lanny A. Eichert June 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm

          Go ahead, Alice, and sing your liberal love sweet love gospel with your head in the sand.

          Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. {Matthew 5: 17 & 18}

          contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ
          Who prayed that the son of perdition was lost and who will not believe it, Alice? And you want to call yourselves Christians? There is no remedy for John 17: 12 when Jesus did the keeping or not.

  • Stephen Helbig June 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

    These things COMMAND and TEACH.

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Command and teach faith in John 17: 12 that Judas Iscariot perished eternally according to the prophetic words of the Son of God. Any one refusing to believe Jesus’ prayerful declaration is no believer in Jesus’ words and cannot legitimately call himself a Christian.

      • Stephen Helbig June 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm

        I have been down this road with you previously Lanny. We are not on the same page when it comes to the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are way to many scriptures that uphold The salvation of ALL mankind for one to disregard and ignore, even for you.
        Nowhere in John 17:12 does it state or refer to “the eternal torment doctrine” that you proclaim. End of the anecdote.

        I do agree that all people cannot legitimately call themselves Christian. However God is in the business of drawing and draging all mankind to the image of His Dear Son and He choses a “called out people” in this age to proclaim that good news with the ministry of reconciliation.
        … For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. …
        … For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
        Who WILL HAVE ALL MEN to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time …

        • Lanny A. Eichert July 1, 2012 at 3:38 am

          Stephen, “that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” refers to the First Resurrection and ONLY those saved during their earthy mortal existence have part in the First Resurrection which is the resurrection of life as per John 5: 29 and all others have their part in the resurrection of damnation of which Jesus is not a part. Your deviant thought fails.

          You also fail to believe Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: 13 & 14 by which you need to change your insistence of “who will have all men to be saved”. Your lack of faith in Matthew 7: 13 & 14 ***. Same thing applies about your lack of faith in Jesus’ prophetic prayer in John 17: 12. You claim: Nowhere in John 17:12 does it state or refer to “the eternal torment doctrine” that you proclaim. However you fail to recognize that neither does it DENY “the eternal torment doctrine” nor does it affirm in even the slightest sense that there will be salvation for him AFTER he perished, especially since the way the Savior used the words kept and lost, He neglected to offer that He’d later reclaim Judas. His FINAL statement on Judas was simply lost, perished. Jesus gave no OTHER status of Judas. Since Jesus gave no other status, neither should you nor Alice nor anybody else ***

          • Stephen Helbig July 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm

            Lanny let me reply to your quote; “You (Stephen) claim: Nowhere in John 17:12 does it state or refer to “the eternal torment doctrine” that you proclaim. However you fail to recognize that neither does it DENY “the eternal torment doctrine” nor does it affirm in even the slightest sense that there will be salvation for him AFTER he perished, especially since the way the Savior used the words kept and lost, He neglected to offer that He’d later reclaim Judas. His FINAL statement on Judas was simply lost, perished. Jesus gave no OTHER status of Judas. Since Jesus gave no other status, neither should you nor Alice nor anybody else, because to do so is to call God a Liar and remove any legitimacy to the claim to be a Christian.

            My reply is this, as far as the final status of Judas you state that Jesus gave “no other status” or statement concerning Judas, but I say to you the promises of God are Yes and Amen.
            Note: Likewise there is also no statement regarding Lanny’s status or stephen’s status in your “literal’ bible according to this logic.. However as I stated the promises of God are ye and amen.

            For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Thus the final status for all,~ me, you, whoever, is yes and amen in Christ, ~ the sum of his doctrine, that is, that all the promises of salvation are sure and ratified in Christ. The promises of God which are made through Christ are yea and amen, these promises are the free gift of His Grace and relate to the pardon of sin; the sanctification of his people: support in temptation and trial; guidance in perplexity; peace in death, and eternal glory beyond the grave. All of these are made through a Redeemer,we are bought with a price, and that price was the precious blood of our savior and none of these shall fail. And that is the FINAL STATUS.

            and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

          • Stephen Helbig July 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

            Lanny’s quote ~ “You also fail to believe Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: 13 & 14 by which you need to change your insistence of “who will have all men to be saved”. Your lack of faith in Matthew 7: 13 & 14 means it is illegitimate to call yourself a Christian.”

            The following is something to be considered on Matthew 7: 13 & 14, of which by the way ‘I believe”

            Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
            Enter ye in at the strait gate – Christ here compares the way to life to an entrance through a gate. The words “straight” and “strait” have very different meanings. The former means “not crooked;” the latter, “pent up, narrow, difficult to be entered.” This is the word used here, and it means that the way to heaven is “pent up, narrow, close,” and not obviously entered. The way to death is open, broad, and thronged. The Saviour here referred probably to ancient cities. They were surrounded with walls and entered through gates. Some of those, connected with the great avenues to the city, were broad and admitted a throng; others, for more private purposes, were narrow, and few would be seen entering them. So, says Christ, is the path to heaven. It is narrow. It is not “the great highway” that people tread. Few go there. Here and there one may be seen – traveling in solitude and singularity. The way to death, (carnal thinking mind) on the other hand, is broad. Multitudes are in it. It is the great highway in which people go. They fall into it easily and without effort, and go without thought. If they wish to leave that and go by a narrow gate to the city, it would require effort and thought. So, says Christ, “diligence” is needed to enter life.

            Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
            Enter ye in at the strait gate – Our Savior seems to allude here to the distinction between the public and private ways mentioned by the Jewish lawyers. The public roads were allowed to be sixteen cubits broad, the private ways only four. The words in the original are very emphatic: Enter in (to the kingdom of heaven) through This strait gate, δια της στενης πυλης, i.e. of DOING TO EVERYONE AS YOU WOULD HE SHOULD DO UNTO YOU; FOR THIS ALONE SEEMS TO BE THE STRAIT GATE WHICH OUR LORD ALLUDES…
            … With those who say it means repentance, and forsaking sin, I can have no controversy. That is certainly a gate, and a strait one too, through which every sinner must turn to God, in order to find salvation. But the doing to every one as we would they should do unto us, is a gate extremely strait, and very difficult, to every unregenerate mind.

            By the way this is God’s insistence found in (1 Timothy 2:3-6) … For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have ALL men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified IN DUE TIME …

          • Lanny A. Eichert July 3, 2012 at 2:28 am

            Stephen, the promises of God are ye and amen applies to John 17: 12 and still many find the broad way and few find the strait gate. Nothing is changed. Death is final and there is not a choice given after it.

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