Staying Relevant

by Deborah Heal

A Dangerous Trend

I don’t believe fiction, especially Christian fiction for young people, needs gratuitous violence to make the plot exciting. I was happy to discover Wall Street Journal book reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon and her Imprimus article, “The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books.” In it she gives examples of unbelievable violence taken from current, best-selling young adult fiction and then makes a compelling case for why this is a dangerous trend:

What I do wish is that people in the book business would exercise better taste; that adult authors would not simply validate every spasm of the teen experience; and that our culture was not marching toward ever-greater explicitness in depictions of sex and violence. Books for children and teenagers are written, packaged, and sold by adults. It follows from this that the emotional depictions they contain come to young people with a kind of adult imprimatur. As a school librarian in Idaho wrote to her colleagues in my defense: “You are naïve if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school lives.”

. . . Let me close with Saint Paul the Apostle in Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. And let us think about these words when we go shopping for books for our children.  (Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.)

I wholeheartedly agree with her position. You can read the rest of her excellent article HERE.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

But in writing fiction, you do have to have bad guys. I believe that to be compelling, relevant, and useful Christian fiction should honestly address the difficult issues of our times. How will the good be revealed unless it is contrasted to the bad?

One of the minor themes that developed in Unclaimed Legacy is spousal abuse—not a pretty topic to be sure. This is why I don’t recommend it for younger teens, even though I kept the violence to a minimum and mostly offstage.

It wasn’t easy writing about domestic violence, but it is a part of daily life for so many families that I felt I couldn’t gloss over it in telling Reuben and Franny’s story (the historical backstory in Unclaimed Legacy).

As the blurb for Unclaimed Legacy says, sometimes when Abby and John are “time-surfing” they learn more than they want to know about people from the past. (Read the full blurb and a free chapter of Unclaimed Legacy  HERE) Sometimes, when I’m researching for my books, I learn more than I want to know too! I discovered some shocking facts. Futures Without Violence.com says:

One in four women has experienced violence by a boyfriend or spouse.

Seven million children live in families in which severe violence occurs.

On average 500 women are raped or sexually assaulted each day in the U.S.

Trish Jenkins says in her book Treasures of Darkness—which I highly recommend, by the way—that the prison nurse estimated that 96% of her fellow inmates had been the victims of sexual or other physical abuse. (You can see my interview with Trish HERE.)

And domestic violence begins earlier than I ever dreamed—with dating teens! According to the Joyful Heart Foundation, 51% of all 15-22-year-olds in the United States know a victim of dating violence or sexual assault.

And lest you think Christian families are immune, think again. Religion Today tells the story of “Marleen” whose husband was an upstanding member of the church—a deacon and a Sunday School teacher no less. When “Marleen” went to her pastor for counsel, he advised her to “try to submit more.” Two weeks later, she was dead, murdered by her husband. I think there will be a special punishment for this kind of thug.

The Worst Fictional Bad Guy I Could Imagine

And I imagine that the horror and and psychological damage of domestic violence must be much worse where perpetrators use the Bibleabuser (misinterpreted and bent all out of recognition) to justify their crimes—as my fictional character Bertram White does.

When I needed a bad guy for Unclaimed Legacy, I couldn’t think of a worse thing than that he would be a man who quoted the Bible while beating his wife. I kept the photo of this unknown angry man over my computer while inventing Bertram White.

Meet Bertram White in this excerpt from Unclaimed Legacy:

Bertram White slowed his buggy and turned into the lane, eventually coming to a stop in front of the barn. He lumbered down from the buggy and unhitched his lathered mare. Slapping her rump, he turned her out into a pasture that lay beyond the board fence that ran behind the out buildings. He took off his gray felt hat and wiped his face with his handkerchief. His face was red, his mouth set in angry lines, a vein prominent on his nearly bald head.

Kicking at a chicken that was in his path, he stormed across the yard and up the steps onto the porch, the boards creaking under his weight. The screen door wailed softly before banging shut behind him. He walked into the dim kitchen and looked around in disbelief. legacySupper not even started. He swore in disgust and started down the dim hallway, his boots falling like sledge hammers on the wooden floor. When he reached the parlor at the front of the house, his footsteps were hushed by the Oriental rug, but still an aura of violence followed him into the quiet room. He saw that his wife sat staring out the tall front window, its mullions casting a cross-hatched shadow on her face.

He flipped open his pocket watch and she jerked out of her reverie and turned to him. Her face drained of color and she stood, stumbling against the chair leg in her haste.

“It’s getting on to six o’clock,” he said, snapping the watch case shut. “But for some strange reason I don’t smell supper cooking.” His voice was like angry hornets looking for the farmer that had stirred up their nest.

“I was watching for the stagecoach.” She made her lips turn up in a smile, because sometimes she could jolly him out of a bad mood. “Only two riders today, Bertram. We’ll miss seeing the stage coaches go by, won’t we?” A little breeze pushed its way into the stuffy room, shushing the burgundy damask drapes and playing with a few strands of dark hair that had escaped from her chignon. She lifted a pale, thin hand and nervously smoothed it away from her face.

“Well, I for one, am happy to see the railroad come, but that’s neither here nor there. I warned you about having my supper ready on time.”

“I’m sorry, Bertram. I’ll get right in the kitchen and I’ll—”

“It’s too late for your excuses now.” He took off his jacket, laid it neatly over the arm of the settee, and unbuttoned his top shirt button. Even that didn’t take away the angry redness from his face.

“You have to obey me! The preacher said so, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands.’ Ephesians 5:22.”

“I will. I promise I will.”

He whipped his leather belt through the loops on his pants. The snapping sound caused her to flinch.

“You make me do this,” he said, grabbing her arm.

John snapped the laptop shut and stalked off. “That’s enough,” he said, exhaling loudly.

In the gloom of the museum theatre Abby could barely see him, but she heard his breath coming in a sort of wheezy pant. Then she realized she was wheezing too. “I wish there was a way to call the cops on him.”

“I wish there was a way I could get my hands on that sanctimonious toad for just one minute,” John said.

Abby sank onto a seat in the front row. “He’s so full of hate. Guess he forgot that next verse about men loving their wives. I feel a little sick to my stomach.”

Merri sat down next to her. “And I thought my parents’ marriage was bad. Please don’t ever make me go inside that guy’s head again. And why did we, anyway? One minute we’re watching that woman waving at us and the next—”

“I was trying to lock onto her, but we’re too far away from Shake Rag Corner. So it locked onto that Bertram White guy when he drove up.”

John came and sat on Abby’s other side. “I wish we could get closer,” he said.

Abby blinked. But then realized John meant get closer to Shake Rag Corner. She wished he would put his arm around her and hold her for about an hour. She was sure if he did, the hate and violence of the scene they had just witnessed would go away.

What Would Meghan Say?

I think Meghan Cox Gurdon would approve of my handling of the subject. (Now if only she’d post a review of Unclaimed Legacy in the Wall Street Journal!)

I pray that if anyone reading this is in a violent relationship you will be rescued from your misery. If Christians—even pastors—are telling you that you are obligated, as a good wife, to endure the beatings, I want you to know that I and many other Christians—even especially pastors—would tell you that you are not! Flee to safety! The first step might be calling the National Domestic Hotline. 1-800-799-SAFE. Meanwhile, know that I’ll be praying for you.

I am the author of the Time and Again time-travel mystery series. I was born not far from the setting ofEvery Hill and Mountain and grew up “just down the road” from the setting of Time and Again andUnclaimed Legacy. Today I live with my husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where I enjoy reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. We have three grown children, four grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout. I love to interact with my readers, so I hope you’ll leave a comment below.

For a limited time, Unclaimed Legacy is available for 99 cents!

trio

October is Survivor’s Month

October has been nominated the awareness month for two great causes: Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. These causes affect mostly women, although it can affect men as well. More and more we discover that men are victims of domestic violence in the same way and intensity that women are and they are even more afraid of getting help due to fear of ridicule by society. To my ignorance, I discovered that men are also sufferers of male breast cancer, so this is for all of you too.

Today I want to give you some sources to obtain help. There’s no shame in seeking assistance with your issues. With cancer there’s nothing you did to cause this, it’s a disease and feelings of despair and frustration after being diagnosed and during treatment are totally normal and there is help out there for you.

If you are in a domestic violence situation, know that this,also,  is not your fault. Nobody deserves to be mistreated in a relationship. Also know, that because you don’t have bruises does not mean that it’s not domestic violence. If you are being controlled, threatened, or humiliated, know that is not God’s plan for your life and you deserve so much more.

Breast Cancer

Domestic Violence

Please be safe and get help.

The Road Home Cover (1)If you want to share your survivor story with us (even anonymously) please send us an email at  therisingmuse@gmail.com If your story is chosen to be featured you will receive a copy of my new book The Road Home.  If you are currently enduring these situations and need prayer, do not hesitate to send us an email and we’ll pray for you.

Be blessed and be safe

No Small Job

I observed a man this morning in a suit trying to push a wagon of boxes. He was truly struggling to balance the load and pushing the cart. The boxes were empty by the way. It reminded me that the things we do, do not define who we are.

People have the tendency to place certain professions, jobs, tasks or qualities in a pedestal. The body has many members, and all of them have different functions, but none of them are less than the other.  Look at your hand for a minute, if you lost one finger, any of them, you would miss it terribly and you would have to make major adjustments to go back to “normal function”. The same is with the way we are as a collective, everyone has a function to do and nobody is better or worse for the position they have been placed.

I used to work with a brilliant doctor. It was a delight to hear this man speak, full of knowledge and wisdom, but totally technologically challenged. He couldn’t operate his computer or his cell phone. If some of us in the office didn’t pull out his e-mails and voicemails, he would not be in the loop of the things that needed to be done. That didn’t make him less or didn’t make us more. We had different skills and functions to complete.

I also remember being a manager. I’m a pretty gadget and technically savvy person, but for some reason the fax machine at that office and I did not get along (anyone remembers the movie Office Space, yes that was my relationship with the fax machine). I tried to not bother others and do my own thing. When I would disappear for a while and my assistant knew that I was not in a meeting, she usually checked the copy room and there I was fighting the fax machine. She would take the papers from my hands and get the job done in fifteen seconds.

My dad used to say, someone needs to sell hot dogs on the corner of the street otherwise I wouldn’t have a place to buy it, and someone needs to pick up the garbage, otherwise it would pile up in our house.

So no matter what you’re doing today, don’t look at it with the eyes of the world that classifies tasks as better or worse. Look at your job as a gift from God to render a service that in the large scheme of things it’s just as important as the next one to keep things working the way they should.

Luke 13:30
indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Blessings.

Beautiful and Handsome

As God’s children we should aspire for the best as we are the children of The King. With this I’m not talking about our expectations for others, but for our own selves. The media is filled with images that define beauty for us, and in my quest for meaning I decided to research the world view and God’s view on beauty.

When talking about the beauty in terms of human attraction these tend to be defined by gender. Women are beautiful; men are handsome. What does that really mean?

 Beautiful

I usually start with my friend Webster who says that beauty is the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).  It’s an individually pleasing or has beautiful quality; grace; charm.

Reading this also entails that beauty is very subjective. Something pleasing to my eyes is totally disgusting to the person next to me. Therefore beauty will depend on our personal experiences, our culture and our personal taste. Not much for an objective definition.

Of course I went to the Word of God and this is what I found:

  •  Proverbs 31:30(NIV)”Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” This one I found particularly interesting because Webster said that charm was part of beauty, but the word of God tells us that charm is fleeting.
  •  1 Peter 3:3-5 (NIV) “such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”

So according to the Word, in reality being beautiful has nothing to do with how we look, but who we are. I think this definition can transcend cultures, tastes and personal experiences. I could even dare to say that it doesn’t divide even by gender as a man can have a gentle and quiet spirit as well.

Handsome

Now for the gentlemen, this was Webster’s definition of handsome: having an attractive, well-proportioned, and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; good-looking; having pleasing proportions, relationships, exhibiting skill, taste, and refinement.

Once again it focuses on the outer appearance and the subjectivity of what is perceived by it, but in this case it goes further talking about skills, which is something that I think I never thought was included in this definition.

I found in Daniel 1:4 the following message,young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace”  The bible doesn’t deter much from Webster in this definition, it talks about no physical defect, which I’m sure is not talking about lack of flaws, but about a healthy body; but adds something to it, which is knowledge and the ability to learn. So for a man to be attractive, the six packs may be as equally important as the knowledge he presents, if not more.

The irony for me was that doing this research I found pictures that do not conform to our Hollywood mentality of beauty, which reinforces the notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Yes, I did find pictures of Brad Pitt in the midst of it and of  Julia Roberts, but I found pictures that defined beauty that are unusual for our traditional mindset. Here I share some:

Beautiful:

See full size imageSee full size image

Handsome:

    

So here’s the bottom line:

  •  Are you woman, being defined by the world’s definition of beauty or are you beautifying your spirit with the Word of God?  Also, are you looking at men within the God’s definition of beauty?
  •  Are you man, being defined by the world’s physical view of handsome? Or are you being teachable and in the search for the true knowledge? Also, are you looking at women within the definition of beauty that God has set for you?

Food for thought,

Blessings

Naty

DVAM:To friend and family of victims

Today I want to direct my attention to those who know someone who is or has been in an abusive situation. Someone who has not experience the fear or the trauma of abuse has trouble relating to the person inside or coming out of this situation. As a friend or family member you may want to help, but sometimes you may make things worse for the victim.

Never approach the abuser– more than likely you will make things worse for the victim. You probably don’t understand why this person keeps going back to the situation. It’s hard to explain the psychological grip that an abuser can have on your friend or family member.  Don’t lose sight that the victim may still love their abuser and you may in fact alienate them farther from you.  You may ask yourself, why does he or she lies to the authorities and makes it seem like nothing is going on? Because the consequences behind close doors; physically or psychologically, can be worse. You are also may be placing your own safety at risk by doing this.

Support, do not demand- Some people think that pulling the person out of the situation by force is the answer. Until the victim is emotionally ready to take a step, it will not happen. Do not criticize his or her efforts, all you will achieve is for them to retrieve and think that you’re not part of his/her support system as well. The potential for escalated violence and even death increases exponentially the moment a victim tries to get out of the situation, which is exactly the moment that the abuser loses control of the situation. Understand that a victim needs to feel power over of her/his own life again, and the last thing this person needs is another person stepping in to take control. Read more: How to Help a Friend Out of an Abusive Relationship | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_2101401_help-friend-out-abusive-relationship.html#ixzz11mw6GOOc  It’s on his/her time, not on yours!

Be part of the plan not part of the problem- That you can do. Be there, support the victim. Educate yourself in matters of domestic violence. Gather and share resources that could help the person who is in or just got out of an abusive relationship.   Let the victim know that you can be counted as part of the safety plan and in which way you can be of support; that meaning shelter, emotional, financial, transportation, whatever the case may be. “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible ” 3 John 1:5

Listen without judgment- A victim of abuse is already oppressed by their situation, the last thing they need is someone judging their feelings and emotions. Once again, all you’re going to achieve is for the person to retrieve. This also applies to victims in recovery. Never forget this is not the victims fault. Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, social or financial status, education level or even religious beliefs.

Show honest concern-If you’re not going to be a friend or support, don’t offer it. A victim domestic violence has already been hurt and disappointed by engaging into a love relationship with someone who has or had hurt them physically, emotionally, psychologically or mentally; the last thing they need is someone else added to that list. To show true interest in their lives and in them can make wonders for their sense of trust and safety on their way to recovery. Support is needed and the victim needs to know to trust that you will be there for him/her. Take honest interest in him/her, otherwise, just pray for them and do no harm.

Open your house and heart (if possible) As Christians we are called to help those in need. If someone is finally leaving their situation, look inside of you and see how you can be of help. Leviticus 25:35 “If one of your brothers becomes indigent and cannot support himself, help him, the same as you would a foreigner or a guest so that he can continue to live in your neighborhood. Don’t gouge him with interest charges; out of reverence for your God help your brother to continue to live with you in the neighborhood. Don’t take advantage of his plight by running up big interest charges on his loans, and don’t give him food for profit.”

 Never…did I say never…just act or say to a victim…”you’re out now, just get over it! ” No matter how much information you think you have about what went on, you will never have a clue of the depth of this person’s wounds. Be supportive, let them heal. Allow time and God and hopefully your support to get them through this time in their lives!

I read this post and I think it totally exemplifies for those who have never experienced domestic violence how it feels and a way to understand the mindset of the victim or the victim in recovery.

http://exboyfriendexgirlfriend.com/relationship-advice/my-friend-left-an-abusive-relationship-and-now-feels-guilty-what-do-i-tell-her

Maggie says:(the question was how to help a friend overcome the guilt of leaving an abusive relationship)

February 18, 2010 at 2:00 am

This is all part of the abuse and the control. As long as she feels guilty he is still controlling her. These abusers are consummate actors. If she still has any contact whatsoever with him, then believe me he will be piling on the guilt and portraying himself as heartbroken. At this point he doesn’t have to be living with her to still pull those strings.

Any break up is hard and takes time to get over fully but emotionally abusive relationships are worse because the manipulation that has gone on tends to be deeply ingrained and is very, very hard to get over and resist.

This man has turned her into someone who is reliant on him emotionally and every feeling has been in response to what he has allowed her to feel. If he wanted her happy, he will let her be happy. If he wanted her crying her heart out and feeling like crap, then that’s what she would be. Help her to understand that she doesn’t have to respond that way anymore. Now she is free of him, she can be happy when she wants to be, her emotional life is her own again and under her complete control.

She has to learn to be emotionally distant from him and build up her self esteem and confidence. Someone else has been controlling her for so long.

Get her to seek some professional help. She needs to understand more about how this abuse works to be able to fully get over this man and build her confidence back up. Encourage her to talk. She will not have had the courage to admit to a lot of things to anyone outside the relationship before. Abuse makes you ashamed and one of the hardest hurdles to overcome is to be able to talk openly about what you have been subjected to without feeling that others will see you as pathetic or weak. Emotional abuse can be so much more painful than physical abuse as unlike a punch or a slap, the pain of a humiliating put down or an insult designed to make you feel worthless returns every time you remember. It takes longer for the hurt to fade.

She has been incredibly strong to walk away from this man so build on that and help her to see her strengths.

I hope this helps all of us, help those in pain inflicted by domestic violence…the right way!

Be blessed

DVAM-Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence against woman.
Image via Wikipedia

Abuse is a cause very dear to my heart; all kinds of abuse. I think it’s despicable that someone will use their God’s given talents to overpower another creation and enslave it. October is domestic violence awareness month and I want to use this forum to give some hope to those who are in a domestic violence situation or recovering from it.

It may sound very basic, but there are people that have not realized that they are in a domestic violence situation. The primary causes its denial. Many people feel like their situation is not abusive because they don’t have bruises to show or their partners have never raised a hand on them. Others do know that they are being abused, but shame, guilt, erroneous beliefs, finances and fear may have them paralyzed to make a decision out of their abusive relationships. I don’t judge your choice of staying or leaving. All I do know is that God wants so much more for you.

Abuse comes in different shapes and forms. Physical abuse is more evident and not to be taken for granted. Emotional and psychological abuse is just as traumatizing and leaves permanent scars in those who endure them.

What is emotional and psychological abuse?

I want you to read the article in the link below. Basically it says that when you’re humiliated, manipulated and coerced into things that you don’t want to do. That’s emotional abuse!

http://www.womansdivorce.com/psychological-emotional-abuse.html

Regardless of the type of abuse someone is enduring, this is not what we were created for. For the most part the abuse comes from men to women, although we recognize that there are men that are being abused and it’s totally unacceptable as well. The Bible specifically states “God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. (Malachi 2:16 MSG). In a marriage, who’s the “one flesh”? The spouse. God doesn’t approve of violence in our homes.

Proverbs 10:11 “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covered the mouth of the wicked” We are supposed to treat others in love, God doesn’t approve of verbally abusing each other. James 3:10 “Out of the same mouth proceeded blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” Our mouth was created to praise God, eat…lol!, and bless others…not to use it as a weapon against others.

There’s so much ground to cover on this subject. To be honest, I’m learning along with you. Join me in this journey during this month, to uncover the truth of God’s plan for our lives, which is to prosper us and give us a brighter future (Jeremiah 29:11) and not of destruction. Abuse destroys lives and that’s not the plan of God.

If you’re in an abusive situation, seek help. Even if a door doesn’t open right away, keep knocking. Yes pray, but act! Even if you’re not in a domestic violence situation, join us in this discussion and support our brothers and sisters in pain.

Be blessed.

Smile!

My smile
Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever pondered on how much a smile can affect another person, including yourself? I honestly had not thought about it until I discovered it myself in the craziest of ways.

 Doodling at my desk at work, I pulled out a post it and drew some eyes a nose and a smile. I pulled the post it on the top of my computer screen. I know it’s totally silly and those of you who know me know that I have more than one screw missing. Every morning when I start working I see that post it and it makes me smile. That is a piece of paper (yes, I’m not that crazy…I do know it’s not real) Can you imagine, the impact that it can have on people around you if YOU who are real gave away a smile?

In this new era of technology where most of our communication is hidden behind some kind of gadget we tend to forget the basics about how to relate to others. We were created to connect, to form relationships. So smile today, smile a lot, to all those around you and if you’re like me, hidden in a cubicle, create your own smile!

Job 9:27
‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile,”

Have a blessed day!