My journey to writing a novel

As some of you may know, I am currently engrossed in attempting to write my first novel. I’ll admit at first, such a prospect was scary and seemed practically impossible. I’ve written a few short stories, poetry, blurbs about different things, etc.  Writing a book however, was something I felt beyond my scope of ability. After all, I’ve never taken a professional writing class, nor did I get the chance to learn High-school level English and writing studies, and let’s face it, my grammar can be quite bad at times. Regardless, the thought started rolling around in my mind about a year ago after I learned a few friends had started writing, or had written their own books already. I thought to myself, if they can do it, I can right? Henceforth, I had been bitten by the “I must write a book” bug, and of all the books I could have chosen to write, I settled on a novel. Talk about going big or going home!

So I started putting together my idea for a story around Fall of last year, but made no effort to begin writing, as I have always been a very private and self-conscious person, and writing a book for the world to see, even close friends was mortifying. Questions filled my mind:  What if people don’t like it? Do I really have what it takes, I am no C.S. Lewis.. Etc. After much pondering and time spent in crippling insecurity-ville, I finally started writing chapter one of my novel after some research. The book I am writing is a Christian historical romance/fiction that takes place during the time of the Crusades, and I had a lot to learn about the events and the time period despite the fact I readily devour Christian medieval fiction books on a regular basis. During a Kindle search, I found not many Christian historicals center around the crusades, so I went with the premise of “Write the book you’d want to read” and chose the Crusades as my book’s subject.

When I first wrote chapter one of my book, I was nervous but also pleased with how well it turned out despite my fears. I was so excited that I showed my husband and a few other friends and family, and it received great praise. Having the support of my wonderful husband had to be the deciding factor on whether I’d continue, and his unabashed encouragement and the fact he was so thrilled with my work jumpstarted my book-writing journey which continues to this day. I no longer feel as insecure as I did before I started writing a book, and I believe that I’ll be able to finish it and eventually put it out there for readers. I slowly prepare myself for inevitable criticism and bad reviews, knowing that regardless, my husband and friends and family’s support remains. I am currently almost finished with the rough draft process, and will begin editing it into something worthwile. I hope to have it published possibly by next year, if not earlier depending on how life goes. I want to conclude with thanks to those who encouraged me in my writing, and who pointed out that it might be a possible gift. Thanks to y’all, I am on my way to (hopefully) becoming a published author.

Oh, and I am considering doing NanoWriMo this year also, Lord willing, but we’ll see how that goes.

Stay Blessed,

C.R. Fayas

Worship: emotional or logical?

Everyone has their own favorite style or worship. For some, singing old hymns to the tune of a pipe organ is their favorite way to worship the Lord. For others, it may be a catchy contemporary song with guitar, drums and keyboard. As Christians, we have the freedom to worship our Lord in whatever way resonates best with our personal tastes, as long as the end goal is to bring God glory and praise.

One issue that seems to be prevalent, apart from the age old debate over whether hymns or contemporary is better, is whether or not worship should be an emotional thing or a logical thing. I heard a sermon not too long ago from a speaker (whom I usually enjoy listening to) about how he believes worship should not be emotional at all. For me, this struck a wrong nerve, because I am a highly emotional, right brain dominant person. Some hardcore folks seem to want to make worshipping our Lord God into a mathematical formula, completely shunning any feelings in the process.To me this seems absurd. Think of a marriage relationship, for example. You don’t say things to your spouse like: My life partner, I have come to the logical conclusion that you are the only one who makes the chemicals in my brain soar. No, you say I love you very much, because love has an emotional element to it. Yes, love is also an action word, where despite feelings, you sometimes have to simply choose to do what you know is right, but without emotion it becomes robotic and dull. The same goes for our relationship with God. When we think of His greatness and His glory, we can’t help but feel emotionally moved. On Good Friday, why is it we are driven to tears when we think of all that He suffered just so we could be saved? It certainly isn’t because some logical formula. I think about King David in the Bible, who wrote the majority of the book of Psalms. Many of them were extremely emotionally driven, as David was a very emotional person in general (see Psalm 88).

We also see in the scriptures that God looks at our hearts above any logical machinations. One huge example is the Mosaic Law in the Old testament. The Law told people what needed to be done and gave them logical reasons for it. However, with that knowledge the people still turned away and did evil because their hearts were not in it, aka their emotions. Instead of feeling love and reverence for God, they simply followed the written law with their brains when their hearts were far from it. God’s word also shows He values genuine repentance and a sorrow of our sins, not a simple going through the motions with a dead faith. The same goes for worship. If we are simply spilling words of praise from our mouths without feeling it in our hearts, are we really pleasing God with our worship? He wants our hearts too, not just our minds.

Now I will put this out there that when it comes to scriptural interpretation and study, emotions can be a very bad thing in excess, as with anything tainted by this fallen world. Nowadays there are too many preachers who rely on their personal emotion above knowledge and wisdom and end up bringing false teaching to people. When reading and studying God’s word, we need to rely on understanding and knowledge above any emotion or feeling we may have about a particular verse, or we may end up misinterpreting God’s word or changing it to suit our own thoughts and feelings.

When it comes to our relationship with God, I personally believe its all about balance, when you get the pendulum swinging too far to one side, problems arise within our spiritual life. We need to have the emotion, but we must not let it override our knowledge and logic on certain matters. I pray that we can all see that worship is not all emotional, or all logical, its a combination of giving all of ourselves to God, not just one little piece. I hope this article helps us to rethink our views on praising our worthy and holy God.

Casey F

Book review: The Alliance series (fiction)

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I recently read the first book of a series called “The Alliance”, a medieval-type fantasy fiction with Christian symbolism. I must say I was very impressed with book #1, In the Palace of Rygia. I saw this series while browsing Amazon Kindle for Medieval Christian fiction, and noticed the Prime label underneath. I had recently returned my last borrowed prime book and decided to give this series a try. Needless to say, It was a very good read. The book tells a fictional take on the Creation story in the Bible; There are 4 main “races” of people who live in a medieval-type world with castles, swords, kings, princesses etc. One race, the Temanites (seems to be a metaphor for the Israelites) serve God (called Elan) and live in a castle in the mountains. The other race, The Rygians (metaphor of Gentiles) are worldly, and serve no God. They live in a well-fortified castle outside of a forest. In this book a Temanite woman gets captured by Rygian soldiers and is brought to their palace where she spends a lot of time trying to escape. One of the Rygians begins to soften toward the Temanite people after an incident during battle changes his heart and now haunts him. This novel is full of suspense, epic battles, adventure and a love story all woven in too. The author uses a similar style to Ted Dekker in the Circle Trilogy, where he explains Biblical things using allegories and symbolism. The writing was very clean, easy to understand and kept my attention too. The battle scenes were not overly gory, nor was there a lot of sensuality either. All in all, a great read for teens and adults alike!

I am excited to rent the next book in the series once this month ends and will write a review on it as well once I finish!

Devotional: weaker brethren and our response as Christians

Devotional

Romans 14: 19-21

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

 

This verse is a very touchy subject for some. In the fourteenth chapter of Romans, Paul is explaining to the church how to behave toward and show sensitivity to the weaker brothers and sisters in the faith. As Christians, we can get a little too caught up in our supposed freedoms that we forget what our behavior is saying about us and our walk with Christ toward the weaker and newer Christians in our lives.  When we carelessly flaunt our freedoms in front of other believers without knowing their feelings or heart condition on certain subjects, we in essence are giving Jesus Christ a bad name and could be hindering their growth.

I’ll come right out and mention some personal experience of my own on both sides. First of all, I have a weaker to moderate faith but it’s getting stronger slowly. There are a few things that as a Christian, I believe are sinful in my conscience. One of them is drunkenness. It can be hard for me as a believer when I hear of other believers getting drunk or tipsy on alcohol, because I know what it says in the Bible about drunkenness, and often times it leads to lewd behavior which does not honor God. And to me this is a stumbling block and hurts my conscience. Can Christians drink alcohol? Yes absolutely! Even Paul recommended Timothy drink some wine for his stomach ailiment and not just water, and Jesus turned water into wine during the wedding feast. The line here is a fine one. Its’ okay to have a wine or a beer, but if you are around another believer and you do not know their feelings on this subject, it would be best to abstain or ask them if they are bothered by it.

Another of my stumbling blocks is R rated movies. Sometimes when I am amongst other Christians and there is the prospect of seeing a movie, I always feel very nervous or panicky because I don’t know if an R rated movie with gore, violence and sexual content will be chosen. I have made my objection known to some but have gotten ridicule for it. The only R rated film I will watch to this day is The Passion of the Christ, and even then I feel sick. When it comes to movies I’d rather see a family friendly animated film or an action adventure no higher than PG 13 rating. My reasoning is my mental weakness when it comes to violence and sexual content. Most R rated films are laden with swearing, nudity and graphic violence, all of which hurt my conscience and make me feel like I am sinning against God. For some Christians who are strong in their faith, these things do not bother them because they don’t feel that they’re sinning and that’s fine. The fine line here is to be considerate of everyone present when making a movie choice, and settling on something that everyone’s conscience will be okay with.

Now, to some things that I do that may be stumbling blocks to others. One of them is my love of rock music, Christian rock music to be exact. There are some who believe all rock music is not of God, and the only acceptable music for God is hymns and that is perfectly okay. My take on it is that it does not matter if you use an organ, a guitar, a piano or loud drums, as long as you’re praising God he is satisfied. I’ll admit that my favorite praise and worship music involves guitars and drums. I love the bands Skillet, Thousand foot Krunch, Disciple, Flyleaf, Fireflight and others. There are believers who don’t and I respect that. I won’t play Skillet or the others if you are with me in the car and you feel this way about the bands mentioned. That’s our freedom as Christians and I try to consider your conscience on the matter.

Another area that I participate in that could be a stumbling block is role-playing games, both online and table top. My husband and I play World of Warcraft as a pastime, and we also play Pathfinder on the weekend. To some these games may seem evil or even of Satan. The way I see them is there is tons of freedom to make either a right or wrong choice, just like in real life. In essence, we have free will in the games just as much as we do in the world. One thing I have noticed is no matter what the media is, if there is an outlet for man’s depravity, it will come out. From the heart of a person comes every evil thing and when they have an outlet, be it a book, a game, a phone app or TV, they will show their true fallen nature. I found this to be the truth. One example is trade chat in world of Warcraft. Because the people are anonymous, they can spill their wretchedness without fear of identification or repercussions. Same for Pathfinder, it’s a very neutral game and you are allowed to make whatever choice you want as long as it contributes to the story. Some people will do evil things because they can. I’ve witnessed a few people make these choices and it shows the condition of their souls: unregenerate and still wallowing in sinfulness. My husband and I play these games because they are fun, and allow you to choose to do good. But we realize others do not view them this way therefore we don’t mention them often to believers.

Other areas that are stumbling blocks for some are: eating meat, participating in things of this world, companies who have “sacrificed to idols” ie; those who support gay marriage, abortion, etc. and more. As Christians we have freedom, more than we may believe. It’s how we use those freedoms that matters. I hope this devotional helps us to think about our approach to certain things. I hope we all can become compassionate to our weaker brethren and be willing to temporarily sacrifice for their sake rather than lead them into sin.

God Bless!

Casey F

Devotional: Mark 5:6-11

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

In this passage, Jesus recently drives a legion of demons out of a man. The demons then proceed to ask Him to send them into a group of pigs feeding on the hillside. Jesus does and then as soon as they enter the swine, they rush off the edge of the cliff and drown in the water.

How many times are we tempted to follow the “crowd” even if they are following teachings of demons? As we see with the unfortunate pigs, demons and Satan only lead you to ruin and death. We could say the “in crowd” or those who are following what is trendy or hip, are just like those pigs, all rushing toward certain destruction.  Nowadays there is a formula used by the world and if we don’t follow it we are often looked down upon and scorned by the world. Because of this we can be tempted to follow them and get caught up in sin just to look good to the world out of fear of being an “outcast” or not “cool”. And when well-meaning Christian brothers or sisters try to show us our error, we get defensive and shut them out because we have been convicted of our sin. In today’s world, it’s common to engage in sexual sins, lie, cheat, steal and hurt others just to get ahead. The world is all about “every man for himself” while God’s word says to put others before yourself always. God’s word says it’s NOT okay to lie, cheat, steal or partake in sexual sins and support such sins.

We must remember to listen to God above all else: friends, family, etc. Even if we do stray and get caught up in the world’s formula we can repent and turn back to God and He, like any good shepherd will gently guide us back to the safety of His green pastures. We need not feel condemned because He is just and gracious to forgive any of our trespasses. Beloved ones, please return to God and turn away from the world’s ways. It only leads to ruin and destruction and just like the pigs, we too will eventually fall off the cliff into the waters if we follow the crowd too long.

Be Blessed!

Casey F

A word on 50 shades the movie

Valentines’ Day is almost here, A holiday all about love and romance. As we prepare for it and open our pocketbooks to shell out cash for chocolates, roses, jewelry, etc. Some people (including some self-proclaimed Christians) are preparing to see a movie adaptation of a pornographic novel called 50 Shades of Grey. After doing some research and reading of other Christian blogs I learned that this series started as an X rated Twilight fan fiction which was then published and made into the erotic novel so many are gushing over at this moment. I could state hundreds of reasons why I believe Fifty shades is so wrong especially for Christians to partake in, but I’ll instead write about how we should approach physical love with our spouse from a biblical standpoint. Yes, the best way to counter the world’s twisting of sex and romantic love is to go back to the way it should be, a wholesome, exclusive representation of Christ and His church.

The husband and wife were designed to complement each other in the marriage relationship, to selflessly give to one another and serve each other. God made marriage to be pure, with no unwholesome things sneaking in to pollute it. Erotic novels, movies and other worldly things have no place in a Christian marriage. Many will try to defend 50 shades as a story of redemption or healing, and while the story may have this kind of ending, the fact it’s labeled and written as erotica completely negates any positive messages that may be underlying. The very definition if erotica is similar to pornography: Material designed to evoke a sexual response, thoughts and excitement from people. This is simply not a good book series if you are looking for a “redemptive” story. Many read 50 shades for the same reason a person watches pornography and that’s to get their kicks off or fill their minds with elicit images believing the lie that it will “spice-up” their marriages. Fantasizing about another person or people engaging in intimacy could be likened to adultery, Even Jesus said whoever looks at a woman (or man) with lust has committed adultery with them in their heart, so when women fantasize about “Grey”, the main character of the book series, they are robbing their husbands of his rightful place in their minds and hearts, and letting another  man steal the thoughts they should only reserve for their husbands.

As for Bondage and domaination in the marriage relationship, if we dig deep into God’s word, we can learn that it also has no healthy place in the bedroom. BDSM, as it’s called is  all about “pretend abuse” in order to make our relations more “interesting”. This subject is the focus of the 50 shades books and many people cite this as the reason it “helped” their marriage. Not only is this behavior not helpful, it can cause harm and even be dangerous in the long run. Every day women are subjected to abuse by controlling and violent spouses, and 50 shades makes this behavior “okay” as long as boundaries are established.  But we all know as sinful human beings, allowing our sinful nature an outlet is asking for trouble. Our base sin instincts are difficult to control, no amount of “safe words”, boundaries or limits can be truly an assurance that a person won’t be in danger. The old saying goes if you give it an inch, it will take a foot, and so on. This could be said about nothing in the world as much as our sin nature. If you feed it , it will grow and only get hungrier.

A second point about violence in the bedroom is something we read in scripture about our bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 1 Cor 6:19
Because of this, we need to do the utmost care and treat our bodies as holy ground and we should not let anything defile them because it’s akin to defiling holy ground. This also includes abusing the temple,  and defacing it simply to receive pleasure. Bondage and domination practices abuse our bodies and cause pain. No loving marriage relationship should induce pain. The Bible also says that husbands are to love their wives and present them as blemish-free to the Lord:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless-Eph 5:25-27

You see, nothing about BDSM glorifies God in the way it treats His Holy spirit’s temple. As wives and husbands we are to care for our partner’s body as it was our own. More scripture says that the husband’s body is not his own and same for the wife, therefore it’s our responsibility to take care of and cherish it as if it was our own flesh. If we ought not abuse our own temple how much more should we not abuse our spouse’s?

All in all, 50 shades is something a Christian should stay far away from. If you need something to spice up your marriage, I’d recommend reading the Song of Solomon. This Old testament love poem can be found in your Bible, and has such wonderful symbolism and a beautiful depiction of a marriage relationship, without all the grime and smut that erotica and pornography has. This Valentine’s day, stand up for marriage and love and refuse to see 50 shades.

Casey F