Easter 2018 – Mary Madgalene

#biblestudy #easter #hesalive #marymagdalene

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

 

Mary Magdalene has just been to the tomb and seen the stone rolled away (v. 1). She does not understand. Would any of us have understood? Of course not. The only explanation that makes sense is that someone has taken his body and moved it somewhere else. Why would anyone do that? Who knows, but how else do you explain the empty tomb?

Imagine how she must feel. She is already in terrible grief because her teacher, her friend, Jesus has died in a horrific and humiliating way. Now even the one last comfort of visiting the place of his burial has been taken away. So she runs to tell two of the disciples, Simon Peter and the “beloved disciple” we assume to be John. They are the first disciples to investigate, but they don’t understand any better than Mary (v. 9).

Did she know Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had placed him in this tomb and completed the Jewish rituals of burial on the body? I don’t think so, because she never looks for them. It would make sense to ask them if they knew what happened. Maybe they had to move the body for some reason.

Instead, she goes back to the tomb looking for answers to the questions that must be swirling in her mind. When she looks in the tomb, two angels are sitting where the body had been. All the burial cloths are there, but she is too grief-stricken to be impressed.

 

13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

 

Then for some reason, she turns around and there’s a man she thinks must be the gardener. She asks him if he took the body, and if so, where? He speaks her name, and finally she recognizes him as Jesus (v. 16).

It intrigues me that she did not recognize Jesus when she saw him. She did not recognize him when she first heard him. But when he called her by name, she knew. Her heart must have leapt straight up to heaven where Jesus was about to go. For some reason, Jesus tells her she cannot embrace him for the moment. Wouldn’t you want to if you had just received someone you love back from the dead? But he does tell her to go to the disciples and deliver this message:

 

17b  ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

 

In doing this, he commissioned her to be “the apostle to the apostles.”

Until the moment she recognizes Jesus, she is in a state of grief, questioning, and disorientation, almost to the point of despair. The mystics called this the Dark Night of the Soul. This occurs after you have encountered God in a personal way, and then you sense God’s absence. You are disoriented and maybe even despairing. But as the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. Mary Magdalene was the first to encounter the resurrected Jesus because she persevered through the grief, questioning, and everything that came with her dark night.

I feel like that has been what my journey of faith has been about, persevering through the dark night. Several times, I have felt the disorientation and questioning Mary went through. And so I find encouragement in her persevering. And now I have reached a place where some of those questions are starting to be answered. I can see the first rays of the dawn. The only thing that brought me here was perseverance. I didn’t know how to get out of those dark nights and into the light, so I persevered, because it was the only thing I knew how to do.

If you are struggling with grief, questions about God and your purpose in life, or any kind of darkness and disorientation, persevere through it. Like Mary Magdalene, you just might encounter the resurrected Christ.

And now, here’s another woman of faith to deliver the Good News more powerfully than I ever could.

 

Kingdom word association

This was an exercise a group of us did at a class in church. When you hear the word “kingdom,” what do you think of?

Words associated with kingdom

When you hear “kingdom of God,” what do you think of?

Words associated with "kingdom of God"

Holy Week is about a clash between two visions of kingdom. One is the kingdoms of this world that have existed throughout history. The other is the kingdom of God, which Jesus stood for.

Take a look at the list associated with kingdom. What would you add to it?

Take a look at the list associated with kingdom of God. What would you add to it?

What is most striking about the differences between the two?

I see the kingdoms of this world operating by strictly maintaining hierarchies with power and wealth. Hierarchy makes it easier to maintain order. We can hardly even imagine a kingdom being able to function without a king, someone who dominates everyone, and gives wealth, titles, land, and freedom to those he/she sees fit. But Jesus called us to imagine a different kind of kingdom. One where greatness is measured by love and service, not wealth and power. A kingdom distinguished by peace, acceptance, and joy, where freedom is for all, and no one lives in need because abundance is shared rather than hoarded by a few. And he offered us this kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Which do we prefer? Sunday, we were shouting “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” But on Friday, we will shout “Crucify! Crucify!” We welcomed him as a king but a king who would destroy our enemies. When he refused to seize power and take the kingdom by force, and he loved the people we hated, we rejected him. We would rather crucify Jesus than live in the kingdom of God with him. That is the hard truth we need to wrestle with during Holy Week.

To a Raging Anti-Feminist

Is International Women’s Day a good thing? I could think of many positive things about it, but I came across a blog that described it as “an estrogen fest of caustic female pride.” And this came from a young woman I have a lot of respect for. She went on to say that having a day to honor women dishonors men creates a double-standard. Sort of like, “Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?” And she fretted that she would have to tell men, “We’re not all raging feminists.”

I’m not linking to it, because 95% of the time, what she writes is pure gold. I don’t want that to be the first impression anyone has of her. However, this time, she could not be more wrong. In her quest not to become a raging feminist, she has become a raging anti-feminist. There is nothing about International Women’s Day that should make anyone feel threatened. There are very good reasons for men to celebrate International Women’s Day. But if you are still asking, “Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day,” there is. It’s on November 19.

Here is my response to her and anyone else who feels threatened by women and/or feminism.

*****

If you don’t mind, I’m going to try to speak the truth in love.

First, I don’t know what happened to you that made you think things like feminism and International Women’s Day are about bashing you, motherhood, men, and femininity. Whatever it is, I apologize on behalf of all of us. There are some man-haters and people who denigrated stay-at-home moms. And with the way some men behave, and some women who blame them for every ill of society because they worked outside the home, they probably have good reason. But real feminism is not about any of that. If it were, Jesus would not have been a feminist.

Jesus was a feminist.

I know that’s shocking to most people, but once you realize feminism is the radical notion that God created women equal to men in dignity and worth, it’s not hard to see (Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; John 4:1-26).

Perhaps the best example is that when women told the disciples they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, the (male) disciples didn’t believe them. When Jesus did appear to the disciples, one of the first things He did was upbraid them for not believing the women (Mark 16:14). Why wouldn’t they believe them? Maybe it was because at that time, the testimony of a woman was not considered valid evidence in a court of law. In this, Jesus was telling anyone who wanted to follow Him, “No more of that chauvinism in My church.” This is why Paul was able to say, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28-29).

Have we learned that lesson yet?

In some ways yes, and in some ways no. We still haven’t reached Jesus’ goal of equality between men and women. It would help if every once in a while, we stopped to ask, What does equality look like in real life? How have we progressed toward it? How do we still fall short of the glory God calls us to? It seems to me International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Honoring women is not just good for “raging feminists.” It’s good for women period. And it’s even good for men. That’s why many men celebrated by posting tributes to the women who have inspired them, taught them, and helped make them the men they are today.

A Reckoning

And a word about #metoo and #timesup, because all of America needs to understand what’s happening there. The Bible tells us over and over again, when a society allows injustice to flourish, God will give the perpetrators time to repent. If they do not, then at some point God says, “Time’s up,” and the reckoning comes. The reckoning is happening now, and movements like #metoo and #timesup are just the beginning

To close, I will say this one more time. Real feminism is the radical notion that God created men and women equal in dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:2). In real feminism, there is room for the stay-at-home mom and the mother working outside the home. There is room for the mother of eight and one who never has and never will bear children. It’s good for anyone who believes women should be free to use the gifts God gave them, the same freedom that men take for granted. I pray one day you will see that, because we really are on the same side.

Faith Pitch, Feb. 28

Tomorrow, there is a Twitter event called Faith Pitch. It’s described as a

Twitter Pitch Party exclusively for faith-based fiction MS. Pitch agents & editors. Three 2018 dates: Feb. 28, June 28, Nov. 28! 8a-8pCST.

I’ve come up with two pitches to tweet for my MS of Through Fear of Death.

  1. One of Rome’s most popular gladiators is arrested, but his prison guard becomes his ally. Their unlikely friendship could be what saves Rome.
  2. One of Rome’s most popular gladiators wants his freedom. When he refuses to fight, he is arrested. But his prison guard becomes his ally. Their unlikely friendship could be what liberates Rome.

This is first a PSA for other Christian authors, if you have a manuscript you’ve wanted to pitch to agents and editors, you don’t want to miss this opportunity. Second, I would really appreciate feedback on how effective you think they are. Thanks for stopping by.

On Meeting Editors and Agents at Writers Conferences

Most writing conferences offer opportunities to meet with agents and/or editors one-on-one. Some people are confused about the purpose of meeting with an editor. Before you register for a writing conference, you need to be clear about this. And of course, meetings with agents and editors are for writers who want to be published through a traditional publisher. If you are self-publishing or indie-publishing, you don’t need to meet with agents and editors.

Logo for Carolina Christian Writers Conference 2018
Source: https://www.fbs.org/christian-writers-conference-2018/

But first, you need to understand there are two kinds of editors. Some operate like independent contractors. You can hire one to edit your manuscript. I’m still trying to decide if I want to do that, because it is an added expense, I’ve already done a good bit of self-editing, and I don’t know if it will really help me get accepted by an agent or publisher. But if I were self-publishing – which I’m still considering – I would definitely hire one of these editors, because I don’t have a traditional publisher to provide one for me. However, when conferences offer a chance to meet with agents or editors, these are not editors who edit your manuscript.

The other type of editor works for one publisher, and part of his/her job is to acquire new manuscripts for his/her employer, i.e., sometimes called an “acquisitions editor.” Ultimately, an editor is a gatekeeper to the publisher, but most of them will only accept manuscripts submitted by an agent. An agent has relationships with many publishers. He/she can submit your MS to editors who are looking for your type of book. Though the role of agent and editor is different, they are both at the conference because they are looking for new manuscripts and authors they believe are ready to publish now.

An agent is usually necessary to get your foot in the door with an editor. However, the one exception is at conferences, editors will hear pitches directly from authors. And if they like your pitch, they may ask you to submit a book proposal and sample or even a complete MS.

Logo for Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
Source: http://ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/blueridgemountainchristianwritersconference#.Wo2lvHxG3IU

So in moving up the ladder to publication:

  1. An agent shops your MS to (acquisitions) editors.
  2. An editor presents your MS to representatives of his/her specific publisher.
  3. Publisher representatives accept your MS and offer a contract.

At that point, you will want your agent to negotiate your contract with the publisher, and the editor will be your liaison with the publisher.

Moral of the story: Agents and editors are both necessary to get published, so talk to any of the ones who are most likely to be interested in your manuscript.

Q: So this is not an editor who is offering to edit my manuscript?

A: Correct. There may be some of those editors as attendees, but the kind of editors conferences will make available to you are the ones that could potentially get you accepted by a publisher.

Q: If these editors will only accept manuscripts from agents, should I only talk to agents?

A: Normally, yes. But as I said, the one exception to this rule is at conferences. When editors offer one-on-one meetings at conferences, they are offering a rare chance to bypass the agent and pitch your MS directly to them. If they like your idea, they might ask you to submit something to them. Every editor is different in terms of what they want to receive initially, but most will ask for a book summary and/or outline, some sample pages, and a brief author bio. Only submit directly to an editor if they ask, and give them what they ask for specifically.

Q: If through the conference I can get an editor to accept my MS without an agent, why do I need to talk to agents?

A: Two big reasons:

  1. Your chances of being accepted by an editor are still much greater through an agent than on your own.
  2. Even if you do get an offer from a publisher because an editor was excited about you and your MS, you should still have an agent represent you in contract negotiations. If publishers can take advantage of you, they will – even Christian publishers. They’re not bad people, but this is a business to them. They want the most advantageous deal they can get. An agent knows the tricks they will try to pull and how to protect you from them.

Q: What if I do get a publishing offer, but I don’t have an agent?

A: Contact a few agents who represent your type of book and tell them you have a publishing offer and need an agent. My guess is your phone will ring off the hook.

Q: How do I know what agents and editors are interested in?

A: Find a recent copy of the Writer’s Market. For the editors listed in the conference, look at their publishers and see what they publish. That will tell you what the editor is looking for. You might be able to find a copy in your library. However, if you are serious about getting your MS published through a traditional publisher, it is worth buying. If you want to focus on agents, the Guide to Literary Agents can give you more detailed info.

Q: So at the conference, is it better to talk to an agent or editor?

A: It’s best to talk to whoever is most likely to take an interest in your manuscript. You will need both of them to successfully navigate the publishing process. If you get an editor first, you should have no problem finding an agent. If you get an agent first, his/her job is to get your foot in the door with an editor. Where you start your journey is not nearly as important as finding someone who really wants to help you get in.

Valentines Day Post

For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d tell you how I met my new wife. Before I met her, I had given up on my dream of marrying the love of my life. So if, like me, you’ve reached a point of giving up and thinking it will never happen for you, I hope this will give you some hope.

image of me and Fran with wedding cake

Fran and I met at a meeting of American Christian Fiction Writers, which my mom told me about, so she gets credit for that. Fran and I were placed in the same critique group, and she had brought the first chapter of a suspense novel she was working on. She had a man watching some security footage of his cabin, thinking he would catch the thieves who stole his canoeing equipment, but instead witnessed a murder. And then through conversation, he found out his boss might have been involved. I was impressed. I told her she had already created fertile ground for suspense.

After the session, we talked a little. I asked if she would like to meet at a coffee shop next Saturday for a mutual critique session, and she agreed. Now you have to understand when I’m interested in a woman, I go into stealth mode. I don’t want her to know I’m attracted to her until the right moment. So for now, we were just talking about writing.

Our critique session went well, and our personalities seemed to click. But before I knew it, we were about to go home. I started to panic, because I had to tell her before she walked away. Time to get out of stealth mode. I said, “I was interested in your writing. But the real reason I asked meet with you is I noticed you’re not wearing a wedding ring.”

And she said, “I think I’m a little old for you.”

Oh no!

I blurted out, “I’m older than you think.”

People tend to think I look younger than I am. I always thought this would be an advantage in approaching women. But now, I had to totally get my head turned around, because I had to convince her I was actually old enough for her. I told her how old I really was, and she replied, “A southern lady doesn’t tell her age.”

I was not going to ask, in case you are wondering. But since the topic was in the open, I needed to reframe it so she could answer in lady-like fashion. I told her, “And a southern gentleman doesn’t ask. But since you know my age, maybe you could just tell me, am I within your range of possibility?”

She said yes, and that’s how it all began.

Creativity and God

This was a devotion I gave to the South Carolina chapter of ACFW.

 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring’ (Acts 17:28).

As a writer, this verse is special to me. It crystallized in my mind why I get joy from writing stories. I imagine characters and stories for them. These characters become real people in my mind, who have dreams and aspirations, who make decisions, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but I love them because they are a part of me. They live and move and have their being inside me, in the same way that every person, along with this world we live in, lives and moves and has their being inside God. And since you are writers, I think it’s safe to assume you have had that same experience. There are entire worlds inside us that need us to give them expression in the world. And like God, words are the vehicle we have chosen to express it.

The Word was with God and the Word was God

It’s not much different from the creativity God exercised in making the heavens and the earth. God first imagined them, and then used words to bring it all forth into existence. This world we inhabit exists, we exist, because God is creative. And as humans made in God’s image, “his offspring,” God has given us the same creativity, and that is both thrilling and humbling.

Jesus writing in the sand

Creativity has always been important in communicating the Word of God to people who do not see its relevance for their lives. Think of the creativity Paul had to use as he spoke this verse. In the 17th chapter of Acts, he is speaking to a group of people in Athens. He wants to tell them that Jesus is the Messiah who was promised in the scriptures. But they are gentiles. The scriptures are Jewish. The Messiah is a Jewish hope. They worship many gods, but the God of the Bible is not one of them. To get them to listen, he first has to answer the ever-present unspoken questions, “So what? Why should I care?” How does he do that? He gets creative.

  1. He starts by talking about them – tactfully. “I see you are a very religious people,” he says. Even this statement is creative. If you read the whole chapter of Acts 17, you know what Paul really wants to say is, “I see you are a very idolatrous people.” Religious or idolatrous? Both words are honest, but one is much less negative. Creativity allows you to be tactful when it’s appropriate.
  2. He makes a connection with something they can see. He mentions an idol inscribed “to an unknown god,” and says, “That is the god I want to talk to you about.” With that, he has made a connection with their world. They know what he says now is relevant to them. But it’s still too soon to talk about scripture and messiahs.
  3. He continues with a theme that they are much more likely to respond to. He talks about one God who made all things and all people, Jews and gentiles. If he can convince them that the God of the Jews is their God as well, then they can see that the Messiah was sent for them and not just the Jews. Then they will listen to what he really wants to tell them.
  4. He even uses their own pop culture. In the verse we started with, he quotes two pagan poets. Notice in his whole speech, he does not quote one scripture. That seems counter-intuitive, considering that everything Paul said and did was rooted in scripture. Paul knows this audience doesn’t care about the scriptures. So he uses something from their own culture to point toward Jesus and the scriptures. If you can point and get them looking, you have a better chance of influencing them than if you quote sources that mean nothing to them.

There will be a time later for them to hear about Jesus as the Messiah. But for now, Paul is meeting them where they are, not where they should be. By the time he is finished, an audience has gathered around him. Some of them leave, but others say, “We would like to hear more about this.”

A lot of people say they don’t like Christian fiction because it’s too preachy. I have to admit I’m one of them. I think what people mean when they say that is it’s not creative. The characters are not fully developed, because the author did not get to know them. They are just props and mouthpieces for a sermon. If they aren’t real to you, they won’t be real to the reader. This makes me sad, because I think now more than ever, there is a gap between the Word of God and people’s understanding. Throughout the Bible, Paul, Jesus, the prophets, and the disciples used words and creativity to bridge that gap. As writers, words and creativity are our stock and trade, so we are in a unique position to bridge that gap.

Now I’m happy to say that in the last few years, I have found writers – some in this room, even – who are bucking that stereotype. They give the reader characters who talk and act like real people. They give them a compelling story with believable action that leads to a satisfying conclusion. They understand that in a story, the goal is to show your values, not tell them. They are learning the craft of storytelling and using it to maximize their God-given creativity. They use their stories to point, not to preach.

So let your characters live and move and be who they are. Tell their joys and sorrows, their tragedies and triumphs, or better yet, show don’t tell. If you do that, you are much more likely to make your readers say, “We would like to hear more about this.”

Let us pray.

Creator God, thank you for sharing your gifts of creativity and language with us. Help us to use it wisely, to tell good stories, to know the words you want us to share that will make our stories and characters come alive for our readers.

Further Reading

62 Bible Verses on Writing

Mark 4:40 – Where is your faith?

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

I’m reading from the Revised Standard Version. This verse comes from the story of Jesus calming the storm on the sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). With so many translations available now, some words might be different, but this is basically how most of them read this verse. Occasionally, though, you find someone who wants their translation to stand apart, like one that says, Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” (The Message).

As a writer, I look at that and say, “Wow, that’s powerful dialogue. It’s got some punch to it.” But as a follower of Jesus, I have to be honest, I don’t respond well to that kind of tone. It just reminds me of so many times when I was wracked with guilt for not having enough faith, which led to me thinking I was a coward, and of course, God does not bless cowards, which was why He wasn’t blessing me.

stock-photo-jesus-calms-a-storm-on-the-sea-41828683

A couple of weeks ago, Fran and I went to a baby shower at a friend’s church. The preacher was very good. She preached from this text – Yes, she was a woman, and with an accent that sounded Australian. Not what you expect to find in the boondocks of Abbeville County. Anyway, the version she read from said it this way: “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?”

I haven’t been able to find this translation. I guess I will have to go back to that church and see what they use as their pew Bibles. In her message, she pointed out that Jesus was not condemning or reprimanding the disciples. He was not berating them, saying, “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” as that one translation put it. He did not even get angry at them for waking him up. Because if you remember, Jesus was in the bottom of the boat asleep, and they had to wake him up, saying, “Don’t you care if we perish?”

First, he calmed the storm, so they could hear him clearly. And then, the question was, “Where is your faith?” In other words, have you forgotten your faith? Have you forgotten who I am? And in the midst of the storm, it is so easy to forget.

Forgetting

I felt so good when I finally finished the manuscript for my novel. When I shopped it around to agents and editors, however, they weren’t exactly thrilled. And the most common and frustrating objection I kept hearing was they didn’t want multiple points of view. It’s too confusing.

Are you kidding me? I know there are bestsellers with multiple points of view. Some of my favorite authors use multiple points of view. How can you tell me multiple POV makes my novel unpublishable?

Those who use it are already bestsellers. And I’m not an established bestselling author.

I seriously considered reworking it to tell the story with two point of view characters. Maybe I could, but I don’t believe it would be as good a story if I did. And only one point of view character for the whole novel? Forget it.

Don’t you care if I perish?

So I turn to God like, “Why didn’t you tell me? How was I supposed to know they wouldn’t publish multiple points of view?”

I wrestle for weeks and months with what to do. Should I keep looking for that one publisher who’s willing to take a chance on me? Should I try to make a better query letter and book proposal? Or should I go through the daunting task of self-publishing it? Eventually, a conversation like this unfolded in my mind.

Do you believe God gave you this story? Yes.

Do you believe God would give you an unpublishable story? No. No. NO! God did not give me this story, knowing how long it would take, writing and rewriting every scene until I had it to where I thought it was good enough to publish, and had that confirmed from critique groups and friends and family, just to find out, “Sorry, the publishing industry has changed. No one is buying novels with multiple points of view anymore.” Agents and editors know a lot, but they don’t know everything.

So now what are you going to do? There must be a path to publication, and God knows what that is. I will seek, and I will find it.

Storms in the life of a creative

If you believe God has given you a gift of creativity, at some point you have to share that gift with the world. No matter how you decide to do that, there will be storms ahead. You may think you will never be as good as that writer you admire so much. You may get so many rejections that it will cause you to question every decision you’ve made in life. You may start a blog and after two years still have fewer followers than your shirt size, and then hear that Edie Melson’s blog has 900,000 followers and wonder what you’re doing wrong. You may hear God calling you to make this your career, and six months later you’re not even being paid enough to make rent or mortgage payments. And I could go on, but I don’t want you to lose sight of the hope offered in this story.

In these storms, do you hear Jesus saying, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” To me, that is a gentle reminder that God did not send me out in this boat to drown in the storm halfway to the other side. It simply comes down to what everything in life seems to come down to: God saying, “Do you trust me?”

Now hear these words from Isaiah.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Is 43:2).

If you like this, please share it or leave a review.

2018 Writing Resolutions

Found this post in one of my FB author groups, BooksGoSocial Authors’ Group. It’s a closed group, but if you are an author, you might consider joining.

What are everyone’s writing goals for 2018? Mine is to finish and release my two WIPs: the sequel to IVL and my side project novella.

Here was my answer.

David Anderson This is not official yet, but here are some of my ideas.

  • Complete two unfinished nonfiction projects
  • Find a publisher for my novel, win at least two contests
  • Publish at least ten articles, become an Amazon bestseller in Biblical Fiction, Historical Fiction, and a yet-to-be-determined Nonfiction category
  • Make enough money writing to finally justify this career choice.

Looks like 2018 will be a busy year

To be continued…