Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

writing

Step Two – “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore our writing to sanity

 

How do you remain spiritually sane? There are many methods that will keep you grounded, solid, and living in truth. The same practices that keep you balanced in your personal spiritual life will keep your writing grounded. Below are some of the practical ways to remain faithful.

 

Talk to your Parish Priest – When I first started religious writing, I went to my parish priest for advice. That may not seem like much to you, but for me it was monumental. I was raised in the era when priests were called by their last name and the most you (as a woman) said to them was “Good Morning Father” or “God Bless you Father” There was no such thing as “Father Joe” or “Father Bill.”   I really only had what resembled a conversation with a priest in the confessional, safely hidden behind the screen. I loved my parish priest. I loved his homilies and teachings. He heard my first confession when I came back to mother church. However, I was afraid to tell him that I was writing religious articles and that to my surprise they were being published. I finally broke down and told him when I was writing my first novel. There were things I needed to check and he was always there to answer my questions. He has become one of my greatest supporters and even now that he is retired he is always ready to help. When I wrote my second novel, I didn’t hesitate to ask for his guidance. Both he and my Bishop have been accommodating and willing to help.

 

The Catholic Catechism There are many ways to be sure that you are literally correct, but one of the best resources is the latest catechism that was published during the reign of John Paul II. I always turn to this wonderful resource whenever I am in doubt about the validity of what I am including in fiction. For example, my novels contain numerous references to the angelic. I personally have great devotion to my angel and all in the angelic realm. However, I could easily become confused because of what I was taught as a child and by how the secular world portrays angels. When in doubt I double check what the church believes in my catechism. I keep it on my shelf right next to my dictionary and thesaurus.

 

Fellow writers, readers, and friends Some writers are afraid to share their work with others. They seem to have a deep seated fear of their ideas or themes being stolen. I think the fear limits them and some valuable resources that would make their work shine. Getting the opinion of people of various backgrounds is a wonderful way to find mistakes, flaws, and just plain bad writing or thought in your work. First, you have to pick your ‘readers’ carefully. Don’t pick friends or family who will tell you how wonderful your work is no matter the truth. Pick readers who feel safe enough to tell you where you have strayed from the truth. Secondly, be sure that you don’t pick readers who agreed with all the ideas you hold. People tend to associate with like-minded people. Conservatives hang with and commiserate with conservatives. Liberals attract other liberals. That is not only true in politics but in religious circles also. If your beliefs tend to the conservative, find a moderate or liberal believer to read. Find a few non-believers to read your tale. Some of the most valuable advice I receive is from atheists and agnostics who aren’t afraid to tell me when the story is too preachy or I am out of touch with main stream opinion. That doesn’t mean that I want to change it. It means that I have to consider my audience. If I am writing for a practicing Catholic, what I wrote may be fitting. If I am writing for the general public and hope to touch them with a Catholic truth, it doesn’t pay to be preachy or overly dogmatic. Creating a circle of people from various beliefs and backgrounds will not water down your writing. It will sharpen and hone your skills and help you create a larger fan base. Join a secular writing group. I find it one of the best ways to expose yourself and your writing to different opinions and interesting discussions. Don’t be afraid of dissention. Your faith should be strong enough to weather other viewpoints. Remember Jesus never avoided the faithless or confused. He avoided the judgmental Pharisees. You can’t reach the world if you are afraid of it.

 

Next Blog, let’s explore the Spiritual practices to keep your writing balanced and sane.

 

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com

 

 

 

Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

 

writing

Step Two – “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore our writing to sanity.”

 

What is sanity? My definition of sanity has always been in the form of a negative. In other words being sane meant not being ‘insane.’ And to me insanity came with images of strait jackets, locked doors and high institutional walls. It surprised me when I actually looked up the definition. According to the Merriam – Webster Dictionary the word sanity means – the condition of having a healthy mind or the condition of being based on reason or good judgment.

 

So how does sanity relate to our writing? To understand sane spiritual writing means that our writing has to be based on reasonable truth, foundational faith, and a true understanding of the God we worship. That is not as simple as it sounds.

 

Many people, including many who claim to be spiritual writers, have a distorted image of God. Their image of God may be one of intolerance, judgment, and cruelty. Their God is up in heaven waiting to cast bolts of lightning down to burn the heads of poor sinners. We see that when a mentally ill person kills people at a Planned Parenthood clinic because he claims to be pro-life. It is not sane to claim respect for all life and then kill people. It is a distorted image of God and what he teaches and wants of the faithful.

 

The same disturbing disconnect can occur in spiritual writing. A writer who claims to be true to the Magisterium of the church may follow the letter of the canon, but present a God without mercy, love or forgiveness.  The writing is judgmental, and the treatment of the lost is cruel. We are presented with an image of a relentlessly punishing God, who is just planning the destruction of mankind. The most disturbing thing about this kind of writing is that the author actually seems to enjoy the destruction of those whom he considers less religious or less holy than himself.

 

On the other end of the spectrum is the God who has no rules. He blesses those who promote sin and rewards those who question every rule He has ever created. The human, who this writer thinks is naturally more understanding than God, teaches God a thing or two about humanity. There is no darkness or evil and all is goodness and light. I have read many works like this from both types of spiritual writers and I believe both have missed the mark.

 

The one and probably the only sure thing I know about writing is that the author of any work cannot hide himself from the reader. Without wanting to or even being aware of it, a writer’s soul is written between the lines of everything they produce. It is an intangible wisp that floats through the air. Unseen and hard to grasp, it lingers in the thoughts of characters and whispers from the twist of plot. Like a sudden fragrance that floats on a gentle breeze it is suddenly there and just as suddenly gone. I can only say this, if I read a work, I know the author. I know how he thinks and I know who he is.

 

It is not a matter of talent. Some of the most talented authors I have read are not people I would like to meet in a dark alley. Some of the least experienced writers are people I would love to have lunch with. It is not even about genre. There are authors whose supernatural musings display a moral sense of justice that is more religious than many of the sermons I have heard. There are religious writers whose cruel condemnation of humanity and God’s judgment display a dark heart full of hatred.

 

So how do you make your writing sane, spiritually sane? You have to be religiously sane yourself. You have been given a gift. It is a wonderfully powerful gift. And someday you will stand before Jesus and tell him how you used that gift. I wouldn’t want to be the standing there explaining how I scared my readers away from His Mercy. Nor would I want to explain how I conveyed that our God has no standards. We are very much responsible for what we tell our readers. Whether you are writing about people, vampire, wizards, or angels your writing should convey the truth that God reveals about himself.

 

How do you know that the God you worship, and the God who flavors your writing represents the true God? That is where the teachings of the church come into play. Ours is a large and inclusive church. There are sections and groups of the church, both conservative and liberal who may carry a truth of God into the extreme, making it an untruth. That has been happening since the time of Jesus. Keeping all these extremes centered and compliant with the actual teachings of Jesus is the job of the church. There are ways every individual can be lead astray. Next week let’s look at Step Two and how we can keep both our spiritually and our writing spiritually sane.

 

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am an American…

 

norman

Last night I had a dream. I dreamt that I was in a bomb shelter in England during the blitz. I heard nothing but British accents and all I longed for was to hear another American. I found myself shouting, “Are there any Americans here?” I was delighted to hear a voice with an American accent call out, “Here, down here.” I didn’t ask if that person was Black, White, Asian, or Native American. I didn’t ask if the person was male, female, poor or rich.

 

I worked my way down to where I thought the voice came from, just longing in a moment of danger, to be with another American. I failed to ask whether the person was Jewish, Protestant, Catholic or Muslim. It never occurred to me to worry if the person was an Atheist or a Christian. I didn’t check if that person was a Democrat or a Republican. I really didn’t care.

 

I just wanted to be with someone who understood what it meant to be an American.

 

I am an American… because I think it is everyman’s right to believe or not believe in God as they see Him. And I don’t think it is the right of any person, group, or government to make him go against what he believes. We are Americans… descended from tough people. We can handle situations when someone else’s beliefs collide with ours and respect their right to follow their conscience.

 

I am an American…because I believe in the right of free speech. The right of all people to say what they think without fear of reprisal. That’s the right to be wrong, not politically correct, and even inspired beyond themselves. I believe that even those I disagree with have the right to offend me. We are Americans…descended from tough people. We can handle a different point of view and may even learn enough to change our mind.

 

I am an American…because I believe that every sane person has a right to carry a gun, to protect himself and his family from harm. Or to protect his other freedoms from a tyrant or over reaching government. We are Americans…descended from a tough people. We can handle the right of every person to protect themselves and possibly others who need protection.

 

I am an American…I believe in the right of each individual of any race, religion, gender, or background to aspire to a greater life, education, and calling. It is an individual’s right to rise above the class he was born into and follow his or her dream to a better life. We are Americans…descended from a tough people. We can handle the fact that the American dream is for everyone who the courage to reach up.

 

I am an American…I believe in the uniqueness of the American people and the grand experiment that created a special country. We are Americans…descended from a tough people. We have welcomed right-minded people  from all over the world seeking refuge from persecution. We have learned to respect former enemies and even fought to correct the mistakes that our founding fathers made.

 

I am an American…who can accept that even our Democratic Republic can make grave mistakes. Mistakes that need to be learned from and corrected. We are Americans…we are descended from a tough people. We can criticize the Congress, the President, the Supreme Court when they allow or promote slavery or discrimination, the slaughter of native Americans, the destruction of the environment, or the killing of the unborn.

 

It is more than a right to freedom that makes me an American. It is a firm belief in a better future where every man, woman, and child has a right to pursue their dreams. A future where we will explore the oceans and outer space, end hunger and starvation, find a cure for cancer and end poverty. We are Americans…descended from tough people. We can handle any challenge that the future holds as long as we stay true to our beliefs and destiny.

 

This week we didn’t stay true to ourselves. I watched Americans being shot and killed for who they were. It was very discouraging. But then I remembered. We are Americans… descended from tough people. We can handle the pain and loss caused by misguided, hateful people. People who are the enemies of the American dream.

 

We are at war. Like our ancestors who fought greedy royalty, Nazi, tyrants and terrorists. The enemy can only win if we forget who we really are. We can’t bunker down. We need to rise above our fears, our violence, our hatred. We are at war with a new evil – Islamic Terrorists who want to destroy our culture. They can only win if we destroy ourselves.

 

So the next time someone asks you who you are, look up and shout–“Here, here I am. I’m an American!” Not an African-American, or a German-American. Don’t answer that you’re a Catholic-American or an Democratic- American. Words matter! They can unite or separate. Tell the truth to others, but especially to yourself. Just answer, as I will, “I am an American!”

 

Death Panels by Michelle Buckman

cover of death panelsI received this wonderful yet disturbing novel at a writer’s conference, and it was relegated to a pile of books that I wanted to read. When I finally reached this work and started to read it, I devoured it in one day. I was so sorry that this gem had been unopened while I struggled through lesser works. It was a light shining quietly in the fog of struggling talents. Michelle Buckman takes a world of futuristic and terrifying possibilities and draws the reader into a world that seems both plausible and realistic. And the thought of this future world both fascinates and horrifies this reader.
It is a world where Christianity is outlawed and imperfection is decided by the state. Those who are deemed useless and less then perfect are terminated. The citizens of this future world are controlled by the government influenced media, a medical world of twisted morals, and the loss of the true sense of the value of life. What frightened this reader was the path our present seems to be taking to the creation of just such a world. What was considered unthinkable just a generation is true today.
Those who are different by virtue of their belief in the ‘ancient superstition’ called Christianity are collected into a concentration camp. At that camp no medical care, including antibiotics, are supplied. It is during an escape to find needed drugs to treat the sick at the camp that our hero impulsively saves a baby about to be euthanized and sets in motion a series of events that challenge the reigning government and accepted morals of this lost world. As with most transforming events, it is one individual that stirs the hearts and enlightens the souls of those who, entrapped by selfishness, have ignored the sufferings of others. Two thousand years ago a simple babe came to transform our world. In history, it is proven repeatedly that the individual courage and strength of one soul saves the world.
Michelle Buckman spins a tale that is believable and addictive. That is no small task when writing dystopic fiction. I have read many attempts that fall short. It is Buckman’s talent that makes the story flow easily and keeps the reader spellbound. The twists and turns of the plot make this novel exciting and unpredictable.
I highly recommend this work. It will challenge your thoughts of the future and open your eyes to the possibilities of the present. You can purchase this novel at  https://www.amazon.com

photo michelle buckmanAbout the Author

Michelle Buckman loves writing fiction that rethinks life. She lives with her husband and five children near the Carolina coast, where she enjoys spending her free time walking the long stretches of sandy beaches. She shares news and welcomes comments from readers through her website at www.MichelleBuckman.com. The Death Panels is her fifth novel.

Mind Over Mind by Karina L. Fabian

cover of Mind over MindKarina's award

Most of you who follow my book reviews know that this is only the second time that I have reviewed a Science Fiction work. I only do it when the work is extraordinary. Mind Over Mind fits that bill. I couldn’t put the novel down. It kept me up late and got me up early. And that doesn’t appear to be the end. Mind Over Mind is the first of a trilogy and if the first book is any indication of the strength of the  next two books, my summer reading list has grown.

 

Fabian weaves a tale that captivated my imagination and held my attention. In this, the first novel, we meet Joshua Lawson. Joshua is a genus in psychology although he is just a young intern. His courage and faith as he reaches out to his special patient fascinates. His use of experimental and common sense techniques to help his young patient are both brilliant and compassionate.

 

That young patient, Daryl {Ydrel} Stephens is a young teenage psychic who lives in three worlds, ours and two alien worlds that demand his attention at inconvenient moments. It is these two alien worlds and his belief in them that has him locked away in an expensive and  luxurious mental facility. The  changes that these two characters bring to each other transform both lives and leave the reader satisfied but longing for more.

 

Fabian’s power of description leads the reader seamlessly from one world to another. Her command of dialog flows with a smoothness that never jars, but fails to be mundane. Her  plot carries the reader  easily through intrigue, romance, faith, and  the mysterious flawlessly.  Her writing skill is superb and her gift of imagination fascinating.

 

I fell in love with Fabian’s characters, and after all, isn’t that the job of a talented author? To make us care about the characters.   Karina L. Fabian does just that. She makes the reader not only care  enough to follow the  characters through three books but allows them to captivate the reader enough for you to look forward to the journey.

I  gave this work five stars and highly recommend it. Whether you are a fan of Science fiction or not, you will love this book. You can order this book at:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Fabian-Karina

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karina photoAfter being a straight-A student, Karina now cultivates Fs: Family, Faith, Fiction and Fun. From an order of nuns working in space to a down-and-out faerie dragon working off a geas from St. George, her stories surprise with their twists of clichés and incorporation of modern day foibles in an otherworld setting. Her quirky twists and crazy characters have won awards, including the INDIE book award for best fantasy (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem), an EPPIE award for best sci-fi (Infinite Space, Infinite God) and a Mensa Owl for best fiction (World Gathering), and top placer in the Preditor and Editor polls. In May 2010, her writing took a right turn with a devotional, Why God Matters, which she co-wrote with her father. Mrs. Fabian is former President of the Catholic Writer’s Guild and also teaches writing and book marketing seminars online.

 

Her personal marketing efforts have built her a reputation for writing faith-filled fiction and gotten her writing contracts as well as book sales. She recently started a business mentoring authors in marking. You can find her business, Kickstart Marketing, at http://karinafabian.com/index.php?name=Content&pid=24.

 

 

 

Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

writing

Step Two – “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore our writing to sanity.”

 

Do you believe in God? Do you really believe in God? You may bristle about the question, but there are so many layers and levels to faith that it seems like an appropriate query to me. When I was a child, I had an unwavering faith. I couldn’t understand doubt. I believed what my parents, the nuns and the adults in my little world taught me. It was faith, but it was the faith of a child.

Some people grow into an adult faith without much trouble. Then, there are the rest of us. We rebel. We grow into teenagers who question everything, doubt everything we are told and give our parents long nights of despair. I was one of those.

 

I see parents worrying about their atheistic teenagers and the children who never go to Mass. I tell them not to worry – just pray – pray not only for your children but for yourself. Pray that you receive a gift; the gift you need is the patience of God. He understands rebellion and young people. He has a lifetime to reach them. They will be back before you know it. It’s funny how the first real need or tragedy in their life brings them to prayer. What level of faith do you have? The only guarantee is that your faith will grow and wane over your lifetime. That is true for all people. As a spiritual writer, it may be even more true.

 

What is it about writers? We are different from other people. We live in our mind. Correction, not just our mind but in our imagination. We create people who don’t exist, who live in worlds that were never real. We dream up situations that haven’t happened and set our imaginary friends in those emotionally powerful or action packed situations. Once our story is started, it is hard for us to return to the ‘real’ world. Standing in line at the supermarket, we don’t see the cashier, we envision our main character destroying the evil villain. While making dinner, we are lost on the alien planet of our latest novel.

 

While all the world is paying attention to the outside world, we are living on the inside. It came to me the other day, that what isn’t real often requires more of my time and attention than what is real. Is it hard to understand that our relationship with God can become part of that lost world. That our faith in a heaven can get lost in the flow of our own musings. Does God become just another character we conjure up? Do we believe in the true God or the image of our imagination? Do we believe in the God who created us, or the God we have created.

 

We, the story tellers of the world, can get lost in the story. That is why having an anchor like the Church to guide us is even more important for us than for the “sane” folks out in the real world. We can lose the true God in two worlds, the real world and the world of our imagination. We need the unchanging teachings of the Church to guide us. Are the angels in my books anything like the real angels? If I don’t have a guide, I am in danger of creating new-age renditions of angels much like the occult imaginings so popular today. Is Mary able to hear our prayers in heaven? The teachings of the catechism of the Church can answer that question. As spiritual writers we need to hook our imagination to the truth and that truth is found in the Catholic Church. We need to believe in a power greater than ourselves. I have a God of my imagination. He is a lot like Santa Claus. Soft and chubby, kind and joyful, he is there to pick me up when I stumble, and smile at me when I am sad. Your God may be judgmental and strict. Whose God is real? Probably neither.

 

The truth is that God is like a multi-faceted diamond. We focus on the facet that we need and know. He is beyond our understanding. However, just because we cannot have faith in the God of our imagination, we can have faith in the God who created our imagination. The trick is not getting lost in our own mind. We need the Church to guide us in the truth. We need to separate what we imagine from what is real. That is where the gift of faith comes in. And we as spiritual writers need faith in the Church and the real teachings of the Church to guide us. How do we stay connected to the truth and how do we reflect that truth in our work? There are numerous practices we need to follow to keep us on the narrow path.

 

In the next few blogs let’s talk about sanity and what that is. Let’s discuss the practices that will keep us living in truth. The truth about ourselves, our writing and our spiritual life.

 

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com

 

 

 

 

Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

writing

Step OneWe admitted that we are powerless over our human desire for fame, wealth, and power – that our writing life had become unmanageable.

 

Now that we have been truthful with ourselves about the dreams and longings that are natural and have looked at how Jesus handled temptation, what do we do with this knowledge? As Catholics, let’s take each temptation and see how we as believers can admit and follow “The Way” in our writing life.

 

Let’s start with our desire for fame. We would all like to be famous writers. Who wouldn’t like to be on Good Morning America talking about our latest book? Why wouldn’t we feel joy if there was a long line at our book signing? Wouldn’t we just love to be considering which movie production company we should sign a contract with as they scramble to secure the title of our work? Surprise! There is nothing wrong with this dream. There is nothing wrong at all if the dream comes true. However, when we let the dream or desire overtake our faith, we run into a problem. We run into the danger of becoming prideful – thinking we are better than those who are famous. We may become resentful – not understanding why others are well known and why we seem to be ignored. We see Stephen King on the late night shows and feel a twinge of jealousy. We watch another writer receive a top prize, and we wonder why it isn’t us. The danger is not in the fame. It is in the jealousy, comparison, and loss of mission.

 

How do we control this temptation? I was taught as a young child in Catholic school that the solution to jealousy was simple. Pray for the success of those who make you jealous. Pray for them to win that fame you always longed for. Say a rosary for that other author to win the prize. Go to Mass and offer up for that writer who is your competition. You cannot sustain jealousy of someone who you are praying for. You cannot help but be joyful when someone you have fasted for wins that prize. It is the Way of Christ. It lifts the burden. It doesn’t allow the devil into your dreams or emotions.

 

How do we, as Christians, deal with the desire for wealth? First, let’s establish that being wealthy is not a sin. It is not a sin to make money! And if you do make money from your writing, that is surely a gift from God. There is nothing wrong with using advertising or any other means to sell books, short stories, etc.

 

Again the problem is what can happen to us when the desire overwhelms our need to be generous. We know in our hearts that everything we have, and everything on earth is a gift from God. We know that the early Christians lived a communal life where all goods were equally shared. It is not that they were of a socialist or communistic bent. It was that they knew that greed could kill faith faster than most character defects. What to do about it? Again, try to go through the narrow door.

 

Rejoice in the success of others. And if you should happen to write that next best seller, rejoice in the gift that God has given you. After you have taken care of your family’s needs – give something back. However, there is no need to wait until or if you become wealthy to give. Give little things back – buy a package of paper for that young writer. Lend that book to the other writer who is struggling – or even better – give a portion of your royalties to others. It doesn’t matter if it is five dollars or five thousand dollars, give it back to God by giving it to someone else. If you can do it secretly so God gets all the credit, that’s even better. When you desire money so you can help God’s children it becomes a virtue, not a fault.

 

Now, what about power? Power is an illusion – it doesn’t really exist because the future is only known to God and the mighty fall harder because they tumble from a higher height. However, people long for control and for what they think they can manage in life. You want to manage your writing career. You want to plan and execute your path to success. Knock yourself out! It isn’t a sin. It is just a waste of time. Do what you need to do to promote, and market your work. And know this, God alone has the Power. He is the Power. The only power we have is to choose Him and follow his teachings and even that is all gift. I watched Nixon resign and Bernie Madoff in handcuffs. I have seen pictures of Hitler hiding in a bunker in the ground. The power to love God and others is the only power that counts.

 

Go ahead and dream of fame, wealth, and power because the dream in not a sin. The sin is in the lie. The Pharisees liked to look holy – but they were lying to themselves. Admit that you want to be famous, wealthy, and powerful. It’s okay to be human and have human desires. But also know that Jesus has given us the means to overcome our human tendencies.  Live in truth and actually be the person and spiritual writer God created you to be. Write that review for someone else, donate some of your royalties, teach some children how to write, and share your time and your platform to promote others. God will pour his grace on those you touch. And grace is a funny thing – it always splashes back. Next post let’s explore the second step of being a spiritual writer.

 

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com

 

“Dying without Crying” by J.I. Willett

Dying without crying cover

As a cancer survivor, I was attracted to this little golden book with the cherry blossom branches reaching across the cover. What a title? Dying without Crying? What could this author mean? I had to investigate.

Death is not a popular subject. It seems we spend most of our life avoiding the elephant in the room. J. I. Willett doesn’t hide from the uncomfortable. She plunges in. With faith, hope, and fascinating personal stories, this author encourages us to look at the road ahead to see what awaits us beyond the horizon.

“This is your journey. You need to have your mantra, ‘I will do the best I can for as long as I can. I am the captain of my ship.’ ” ~ page 17

Readers are taken on that journey. We travel with Willett on the road we eventually all must walk. It is a spiritual path, not a depressing one. With great care and wonderful talent this author brings us safely down the path of death and into the arms of our awaiting God.

“and just at the moment when, someone at my side says “She is gone”

 others take up the glad shout “Here she comes!” and that is dying” ~

    (Bishop Charles Henry Brent) pg. 4

With chapters like “Know Thyself” and “Who needs a Martyr” we are guided into the importance of facing our own death and the death of those we love with courage and planning. We are drawn spiritually and emotionally into the truth that we have been avoiding most of our life. We are all going to leave and we are going before we are ready if we don’t look at death and live our lives in the present.

How to stand beside those we love as they leave this life is touched upon with tender gentleness and practical advice.

“No matter who, no matter how, no matter what…No one should have to die alone” ~page 50

This book may be tiny, but the impact is enormous. The easy – to – read prose may be simple but its concepts are deep. It is a book to read and refer to repeatedly as we face the inevitable. It is a volume that should be given to all the harried caretakers who carry loved ones through the end of their days on earth. It should be read by all health care workers and hospice volunteers. It is a gift to be given to those with terminal illnesses. Dying without Crying is a gem that glows with the wisdom of the ages and shines a light on faith, death, and love.

Willett

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 J.I. Willett, Amazon #1 International Best-Selling Author, brings to us “Dying Without Crying” her second compact faith-based book with a big message. Her first book “Affairs of the Heart-God’s Messages to the World” debuted in late 2013. Since then this NJ native has been interviewed for Christian Talk Radio, EWTN Eternal Life Radio, The Bridge/Tandem Radio, and WCTC The Voice of Central Jersey. She has also been featured in The Monitor, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, NJ; and has been a guest on “Called to Serve” with host Jane Merritt, TV10- New Bern, NC. Ms. Willett’s passion is to make a difference in the lives of others through compassion, hope, faith and healing of the mind, body and/or spirit.

You can purchase Dying without Crying at:  www.amazon.com

 


Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

writing

Step OneWe admitted that we are powerless over our human desire for fame, wealth, and power – that our writing life had become unmanageable.

Now that we have been truthful with ourselves about the dreams and longings that are natural and have looked at how Jesus handled temptation, what do we do with this knowledge? As Catholics, let’s take each temptation and see how we as believers can admit and follow “The Way” in our writing life.

Let’s start with our desire for fame. We would all like to be famous writers. Who wouldn’t like to be on Good Morning America talking about our latest book? Why wouldn’t we feel joy if there was a long line at our book signing? Wouldn’t we just love to be considering which movie production company we should sign a contract with as they scramble to secure the title of our work? Surprise! There is nothing wrong with this dream. There is nothing wrong at all if the dream comes true. However, when we let the dream or desire overtake our faith, we run into a problem. We run into the danger of becoming prideful – thinking we are better than those who are famous. We may become resentful – not understanding why others are well known and why we seem to be ignored. We see Stephen King on the late night shows and feel a twinge of jealousy. We watch another writer receive a top prize, and we wonder why it isn’t us. The danger is not in the fame. It is in the jealousy, comparison, and loss of mission.

How do we control this temptation? I was taught as a young child in Catholic school that the solution to jealousy was simple. Pray for the success of those who make you jealous. Pray for them to win that fame you always longed for. Say a rosary for that other author to win the prize. Go to Mass and offer up for that writer who is your competition. You cannot sustain jealousy of someone who you are praying for. You cannot help but be joyful when someone you have fasted for wins that prize. It is the Way of Christ. It lifts the burden. It doesn’t allow the devil into your dreams or emotions.

How do we, as Christians, deal with the desire for wealth? First, let’s establish that being wealthy is not a sin. It is not a sin to make money! And if you do make money from your writing, that is surely a gift from God. There is nothing wrong with using advertising or any other means to sell books, short stories, etc.

Again the problem is what can happen to us when the desire overwhelms our need to be generous. We know in our hearts that everything we have, and everything on earth is a gift from God. We know that the early Christians lived a communal life where all goods were equally shared. It is not that they were of a socialist or communistic bent. It was that they knew that greed could kill faith faster than most character defects. What to do about it? Again, try to go through the narrow door.

Rejoice in the success of others. And if you should happen to write that next best seller, rejoice in the gift that God has given you. After you have taken care of your family’s needs – give something back. However, there is no need to wait until or if you become wealthy to give. Give little things back – buy a package of paper for that young writer. Lend that book to the other writer who is struggling – or even better – give a portion of your royalties to others. It doesn’t matter if it is five dollars or five thousand dollars, give it back to God by giving it to someone else. If you can do it secretly so God gets all the credit, that’s even better. When you desire money so you can help God’s children it becomes a virtue, not a fault.

Now, what about power? Power is an illusion – it doesn’t really exist because the future is only known to God and the mighty fall harder because they tumble from a higher height. However, people long for control and for what they think they can manage in life. You want to manage your writing career. You want to plan and execute your path to success. Knock yourself out! It isn’t a sin. It is just a waste of time. Do what you need to do to promote, and market your work. And know this, God alone has the Power. He is the Power. The only power we have is to choose Him and follow his teachings and even that is all gift. I watched Nixon resign and Bernie Madoff in handcuffs. I have seen pictures of Hitler hiding in a bunker in the ground. The power to love God and others is the only power that counts.

Go ahead and dream of fame, wealth, and power because the dream in not a sin. The sin is in the lie. The Pharisees liked to look holy – but they were lying to themselves. Admit that you want to be famous, wealthy, and powerful. It’s okay to be human and have human desires. But also know that Jesus has given us the means to overcome our human tendencies.  Live in truth and actually be the person and spiritual writer God created you to be. Write that review for someone else, donate some of your royalties, teach some children how to write, and share your time and your platform to promote others. God will pour his grace on those you touch. And grace is a funny thing – it always splashes back. Next post let’s explore the second step of being a spiritual writer.

 

Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer (part 3)

writing

Step OneWe admitted that we are powerless over our human desire for fame, wealth, and power – that our writing life had become unmanageable.

The second temptation of Christ in the desert is:

Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning you,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” – (Matthew 4:5-6)

Temptations and the devil have not changed over the years. In the first temptation Satan questions Jesus about who he is. He tried to undermine his faith in who God the Father tells him he is and what his mission in life is to be. When that fails, Satan reverses himself. He goes from doubt to presumption. He is challenging Jesus to prove that he has favor with God. He dares him to go against the laws of nature and presume that God will save him from his wrong decision.

What does this mean to us as Spiritual Writers? In the first temptation we learn that we must trust God when he tells us who we are. We are writers. We don’t need the approval, fame, or rewards of the world to prove who God made us to be. In this, the second temptation, we are told not to presume that we can go against logic and the rules of this world and expect God to come swooping in to save us. In other words, if we want to sell our work and reach an audience we have to do the human legwork that is required of all earthly writers. Ha! Who didn’t know that! I must tell you it is not always obvious to the faithful. I know religious writers who are so driven by ambition that they become obnoxious and step on everyone’s toes to get ahead. They seem to think that because their work is Christian, they can forget all the principles of Christianity because they are doing “God’s Work.”

On the other extreme, I know a woman who has one of the most fascinating novels I ever read sitting on a shelf in her closet. When I encouraged her to send it to a publisher, she told me that if God wants it published, He will send a publisher to her. I think she believes that a publisher will someday knock on her door and announce that God sent him. It reminds me of the old joke about a man sitting on the roof of his house with a raging flood around him. First, a boat stops and offers to take him to safety and he refuses. Next a helicopter offers to lift him to safety and he turns them away. Finally the flood water rises and he drowns. When he gets to heaven, the man questions God asking why he didn’t save him. God answers, “What do you mean; I sent a boat and a helicopter.” The first temptation shows us. If God has given us the gift of writing, we are to have faith in ourselves and who we are. We don’t need worldly rewards to show us who we are. The second temptation reinforces that we have to do what it takes to succeed and get the message out there, without compromising our Christian beliefs. What the world considers success in not what God considers success.

In the second test of the desert, Jesus teaches us not to presume on the favor of God. We are to work towards our goals and our goal should be to reach as many people as we can with the healing grace of Jesus. We are to work toward publication. We should market as much as we can. We should hone our story-telling skills with ongoing education. However, because we are doing the Will of Jesus in our writing life, we do not have to burden ourselves with what the world considers success. In a wonderful way, it lifts the burden and struggle to ‘make it.’ His burden is easy, and his yoke is light.

Let’s look at the third and final temptation: Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me.” ( Matthew 4:8-9)

Finally, beyond doubt and presumption, Satan offers Jesus the world. All he has to do is worship the ruler of the world. Isn’t that what the world says to us? Couldn’t we have the world by a string if only we wrote what the world wanted to hear? I have seen the talent and gift of our writers. I have no doubt that they would be worldly successes if they wrote about steamy affairs instead of Christian marriage. They would be on the best seller list if they wrote graphically violent novels instead of pro-life tales. They could be touting six figure incomes if they glorified greed, self-indulgence, and relativism. I have faced this temptation myself. I was offered a lucrative contract for my third novel, Down Right Good. It was so tempting. All I had to do was take any reference to ‘Mary’ out of the book. I couldn’t do it. I’ll lay my treasures in heaven. So when you work the first step, remember what Jesus said to temptation.

 “Begone, Satan! For it is written. ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10)

God does not leave us alone in our struggles. “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him (Matthew 4:11) He will send his angels to guide and comfort us as we use our gift according to His Will. Next time, we will discuss further how to follow step one of becoming a Spiritual Writer.