95,000,000 Shades of Success

95,000,000 Shades of Success

 

The 2012 earnings reports were in and no shocker here, E.L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, was at the top with over $95,000,000 earned in 2012. Yeah, you read that right, all of those zeroes are supposed to be there.

As I watched the news program I found myself having a little talk with Jesus (or, more like a whine-fest), “Why is it like that, Lord? Why is it that a book like that sells like that? Why is material like that so successful?”

But Jesus is good about bringing me back to the truth when I get all worked up over injustices, because it is an injustice. It’s an injustice when people—including many Christians—are more willing to spend money on a message about sex than on character building, encouraging, hope or healing. The demand is high for escape-ism, and painfully low for truth and reality. Sex and erotica are perfect avenues of escape into more me-ism (that is, the study of making ME happy, because I’m all that really matters) and those are avenues that earn writers (in those markets) a lot of money.

As great as having financial success sounds, it’s not what I am about. I don’t write Christian devotionals and articles and Bible studies because I want to be rich and famous. And if that was my motive, God wouldn’t bless it anyways. The more paychecks I’ve earned over the past year (and I use the term “paycheck” loosely), the more God has purged my heart of improper motives and given me multiple opportunities to bail on this whole writing-for-publication-in-the-Christian-market thing.

But you wrote a book, Rebecca, you’re an author. Surely you have some financial success in that regard?

Well—the truth is, my last (and only) commission check for my self-published Bible study was a little over $10, and that was for selling nearly 50 copies over nine months’ time. I make about $0.24 per book sold. So, contrary to popular belief, being a writer/author is not synonymous with money or glorious stress-free days of sipping mochas while watching the bank account grow with each online sale.

paycheck

(The above is a photo of a recent “paycheck” I earned)

Of course, there are exceptions to this. And I’m not saying all writers (namely, Christian writers) are simple folk like me. But I’m pretty sure if you talked with those “successful” writers, they would all say the same thing: If you want to make a living as a Christian writer, be prepared to work hard, sacrifice much, and make some investments of time and resources long before you’re earning that much desired “nice” paycheck.

I know this post is coming across as whiney but I am not whining, I’m merely sharing my heart as I’ve wrestled with this issue. A lot of you who read my blog are writers as well, or are involved in another Christian ministry of some kind where you’re tempted to judge your “success” in that area (heck, I am even tempted to judge my “success” as a Christian parent). I’m here to tell you right now, you can save yourself a lot of frustration and disappointment if you let go of your expectations; I mean really let them go—your expectations for money, success, or even how many people will be helped in whatever ministry you do.

In His response to my prayer, Jesus made it clear that there is only one shade of success as a Christian writer, or even as a Christian in general, and it is measured by how I choose to apply in my own life (live out through my behavior and my words) the following:

•Seek His will above my own (Matthew 6:33)

•Give all my expectations/rights to God—they were never mine to begin with (Job 38-42; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

•Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by making this about ME; it’s about Him and the fact that He really does know what’s best. Make it my goal to listen to Him and follow Him wherever He leads (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Timothy 6:6)

•Seek peace and pursue it (not the hippy, new age peace, but the inner personal peace that comes through living out my God-given purpose), and I’ll find that the success I was after was already a gift I’d been given (Psalm 34:14-15; 1 Peter 3:11-12; Psalm 119:165; Philippians 4:7) 

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Refusing to Back Down: What it Really Means to Speak the Truth “In Love”

Refusing to Back Down: What it Really Means to Speak the Truth “In Love”

On the heels of yet another heated political debate the tweets, status updates, and blogs are running full steam. I would certainly be no exception to this. On the other hand, though, there are many Christians who feel it is offensive to openly talk about their political views or their beliefs on touchy subjects such as homosexuality and abortion. This proverbial “duct tape” silences many well-meaning believers, especially in the world of writing, where platforms and likeability are ranked high on the author’s list of things to succeed in.

No doubt, this is a controversial topic. To speak or not to speak: that is essentially the question. For me the answer came in the form of another question. Do I care so much about getting “likes”, “follows”, and “subscribers” to build my platform that I keep quiet about such topics? What is more important, speaking the truth or being liked?

I live in a state where people have been arrested for holding Bible studies in their homes. Refusing to allow and even prosecuting such acts of religious expression is becoming more common in today’s world. Am I to look the other way when things like, say, who will become the next president would directly affect issues of religious freedom? I’m not convinced that speaking the truth “in love” or having my words “seasoned with salt” means to keep silent. But let’s look at the Bible– because I am human and maybe I am wrong. If so, I want to allow God to correct me and keep me on His path to truth.

First of all we have Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. The things Jesus said were highly offensive, especially to the Pharisees who were the most “spiritual” people of that time. They knew how to follow all of the rules and live about as perfect as a sinful person could possibly live. But Jesus wasn’t impressed because He saw their hearts. He called them out on their hypocrisy and warned the crowds of listeners not to be like them. I really can’t think of anything more offensive then calling someone out in front of other people, pointing out their faults, and warning the audience not to be like them! But—Jesus was, well, Jesus! As God living and breathing in a human body, He had the right and lived the life to back up His words of truth. I don’t have that luxury. I’m not perfect, I am not God. I cannot see someone’s heart, so publicly calling someone out is probably not a form of expression God has called me to partake in. (And under this light, I am aware of some instances where I have sinned in this area.)

But then we come to Paul. Now, the Colossian Church had become infiltrated with false teachers, and Paul, led by the Spirit of God, stepped in and spoke up about a controversial topic: false teaching. In this same letter to the church he says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)” Several verses in the Bible have been taken out of context to support erroneous practices, and this is probably no exception. It has been used over and over again as an admonition to keep quiet about important issues. In the context of the passage, however, that is absolutely not what Paul is saying. In fact, in the previous three chapters Paul warns the church about following the philosophies of man and the patterns of the world (2:8) while at the same time pointing the congregation to the Solution to their problems (2:9-3:1). Now that is what it means to speak the truth with love and grace.

The difference between condescending pious gibberish and sincere warning in the nature of love and concern come out of a sincere heart focused on the One who has given abundant life as well as freedom from the bondage of evil entanglements.

So what does all of this mean? As Christians we have a responsibility to speak the truth, to always be ready with an answer for the hope that dwells within us. When I stand up and say why I believe one candidate it a better choice for America, I am doing so out of love for my country and the people in it. I do not want to see our religious rights taken away. I want to be able, for instance, to hold a Bible study in my home without fear of retaliation. If one candidate can provide that, then I am going to talk about it. In the same regard, if one candidate is clearly supportive of the dangerous deception that a “woman’s right to choose” or a woman’s right to kill her baby is more important than the life growing inside that woman, as a Christian I have a moral responsibility to speak up for the unborn who cannot speak for themselves. I haven’t always done this, and I live every day with the regret of my silence and what became of a situation where I refused to speak. Never again will I make that mistake.

I think an important distinction in all of this is the delivery used to convey our messages. Are we saying things like, “If you vote for so and so you’re an evil demon of darkness” or are we saying, “I believe so and so is a better candidate because…” One of these expresses a view with respect and dignity while the other bashes on those who would hold a different opinion. I can’t find any example where Paul put down the character of another believer because of the choices they were making, no matter how poor those choices might have been. Instead, I see a great man of God who desperately wanted people to understand the truth, and understand where the truth comes from—Jesus. Paul always, always, always pointed people to Christ. I know I have failed in this area many times (and I confess it to God), but that is my ultimate goal in all I say and do.

I will not apologize for my views because they stem from personal convictions. On the other hand, I want to keep me speech grace-full, making sure to avoid name-calling and character bashing of those who would disagree with me. In the end, for me, I feel it is more important to be real with people rather than sensor my beliefs in the name of “likeability”. Do I want to be a successful author with a large platform to reach others with the message of Hope? Of course I do! But I will not compromise the truth in the form of silence. This is a critical time for our country, and we cannot afford to exchange silence for popularity. Yes, I want to have integrity in all I say and do, especially in a public outlet. But I also want people to know I am a real person, with real struggles, real opinions, and real convictions. Maybe I’ll lose a few “fans” along the way, but ultimately I will be the only one held accountable for my choices. In that regard, God’s opinion of my words and actions are all that really matters.

How about you? Have you experienced backlash in your efforts to speak the truth in love? How has God used your experiences in approaching touchy subjects to teach you how to speak in a grace-full way? Have you every failed in this area of “seasoned” speech? Do you feel it’s more important to convey a certain public “persona” then it is to convey your personal convictions? I look forward to your responses and hope to learn from what God has taught you through your experiences.