Encouraging Parents – Post #2

Encouraging Your Children In Their Writing

While I am not a homeschooling parent, my parents have homeschooled me from the beginning. My dad taught me that the only way to improve in my writing was by writing a lot, getting edits, and then writing again. For my book, “A Cry From Egypt,” I did over ten drafts of the book to get it to where it is today. My dad told me that when he was in school, his writing teachers didn’t tell him how to write. They didn’t explain to him how to make an outline, make his papers have a point and a consistent flow, or how important revision was. Instead, they simply corrected grammar and gave him low grades. He didn’t get any constructive criticism until college when he had a professor who taught him the importance of editing and re-writing. Constructive criticism, focusing on the main goals and ideas over the perfect grammar or spelling, is what will help your children succeed in their writing.

While your children need support and constructive criticism, you also need to encourage them to write for a purpose that brings glory to God. As parents, give them support. Be genuinely interested in their writing and in their stories. If they veer off of their theme and towards another direction, help them get back on track. Encourage good morals and strong, scripturally-based truths.

The last, but probably the most important point, is to help them to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ. My parents helped fuel my relationship with Christ and kept me sheltered from worldly or sinful atmospheres and thoughts. They encouraged me to be in the Bible every single day and to do my personal quiet time in the mornings. They did family devotions with my little brothers and me every night. They gave me books to read with a Biblical worldview. Books from Vision Forum, Mantle Ministries, Grace and Truth books, and biographies showed me what living for Christ really meant. My mom read the entire Elsie Dinsmore series aloud to me when I was younger. But we didn’t just read books. We discussed them. My dad read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series aloud to us. We talked about the allegories that were found in the books and the spiritual truths. We also talked about C.S. Lewis’s theology and searched the scriptures to see where he was accurate and where the scriptures had other things to say.

When our parents gave us opportunities to watch movies or read books that had less-than-Biblical morals or lessons in them, we saw the negative lessons and steered away from them. We held those books and movies up to Scripture instead of the world’s standards and reviewed them critically and with discernment. Now granted, it takes a long time to cultivate wisdom and discernment in your kids. But the younger you start, the easier it becomes. When my dad and I were talking about my blog post this week, he was talking about all the ways he and my mom encouraged me to develop a Biblical worldview. I’ve been surrounded by it for so long that I didn’t even realize how deliberately my parents were discipling me and pointing me towards Christ.

This may seem like quite the uphill battle. But I promise you this – your children are hungry for the Word of God. They want to live upright and pleasing lives. They have the capability to take back the medium of writing for God’s glory!

Check back Monday for the last installment with an inspiring story on how God’s word changes the lives of our homeschooled children!

Encouraging Parents – Post #1

We Need Homeschooled Writers! 

God can use your homeschooled children to take back the medium of writing for His glory!

How do I know this? I’ve seen it! And I’ve seen the overwhelming need for good, spiritually solid Christian books to fill the shelves of bookstores all across the nation and all across the world.

When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I was finishing up my sixth or seventh draft of my book, “A Cry From Egypt,” which is now published. I went shopping with my mom one day, and we ended up in a Christian book store. I hurried over to the young adult section, dreaming of the day when my book might be on those shelves. But I was very discouraged. Many of these so-called Christian books didn’t appear to be Christian in the least! They were filled with boys and romance, as well as disrespect to parents. God might be mentioned occasionally, but it was only when the characters were so desperate and far away from God that they would turn back to Him for a few moments. The teenage years are some of the most important and formative years. We shouldn’t be filling boys and girls’ heads with garbage and relationship drama. Instead, we need to be pointing them towards Christ and His Word and His commands.

I realized that there aren’t many excellent books out there for young people that are written with a solidly Christian worldview. They’re either not written well, or are very light and fluffy theologically, or are preachy and the readers can’t relate to the characters and end up being discouraged instead of challenged. My goal in writing became to take back the medium of writing for God’s glory. He’s the one who blessed us with the ability to write and create stories that can captivate the world. Why do we not write books that lead people to Him? Why don’t we write books with heavenly values instead of earthly values?

You may be wondering, “How does this apply to my home-schooled children?” Homeschoolers have some huge advantages when it comes to writing and publishing books. They have the time and creative energy to work on honing their craft. And in many cases, they have a solid Biblical foundation which is what turns a great book into a life-giving book.

It’s amazing the responses I’ve gotten from budding young authors when I talk about writing, and in particular writing for God’s glory. Young adults and teens come up to me after my sessions with some of the most amazing story ideas I’ve ever heard! There’s so much talent and excitement coming from our youth! But there is also something that concerns me. While many young writers are incredible talented, some don’t really have a point to their writing. They may have an amazing plot and characters and a good moral to the story. But their chief end is not to glorify God, but to glorify man. This has truly grieved me. Our Christian young people need to be separated from the world in all areas of life, not conformed to it, especially in writing! There is such a need! It saddens me to see this amazing talent not being channeled in a way that will yield eternal benefits to the world.

At a conference I spoke at in May, I quoted Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” I also read 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

How do we encourage our homeschooled young adults to write great stories and books as unto the Lord?

Check back on Saturday for more advice to parents!

Meet “Lemuel”!!

Hello All!

I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite fifteen-year-olds in the world, Brandon Hall. Brandon is playing the role of “Lemuel” in the radio drama. There is a very interesting story for how he got cast as that role.

Brandon is in my acting group, and I soon found out that he lived very close to Tori, who’s playing our “Jarah.” I was already bringing  Tori back and forth to CYT, and so I eagerly offered to bring Brandon along for the ride, as well. I had noticed his love for the Lord and how he was a true servant-leader in the class and really cared about people. He was also fun to be around, and liked writing. It would also make two boys and two girls in our carpool (Brandon and my brother, Caleb, Tori, and myself). We love our awesome carpool, and it’s never complete without all four of us there. We have so much fun! :-)

Brandon Hall as “Lemuel”

But anyways, back to the casting story. I was impressed with Brandon’s audition and saw that he was really diligent and dedicated to his work. As I was thinking through which guys I knew could play which roles, Brandon came to mind as Lemuel. For the very first cold-read I did for the radio drama, I asked Tori and Brandon to read one of the scenes together (chapter 2, as a matter of fact). While I didn’t show this to Brandon and Tori at the time, I was literally jumping up and down inside. As I heard them both speak, I could hear my characters. It was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever experienced!

Several guys tried out for the role of Lemuel. And while they all did a great job, I kept coming back to Brandon because of how his voice sounded in the role. We talked it over, and while Brandon was worried that he wouldn’t do a good job for me, everyone was impressed by how well he pulled off the part. There are some intense, and some very serious things that he has to act out! And he nailed it! :-)

Brandon is a also fellow writer. He’s got a great story idea going right now. Hopefully he’ll get it published in just a few years! :-) But instead of doing the traditional “introducing you to the character,” I actually interviewed Brandon and had him write up almost everything himself. Here’s what Brandon says about himself and his portrayal of “Lemuel”:

Brandon: “I am a 15 year old sophomore attending my homeschool, Royal Oaks Academy. My favorite subject is English. My favorite hobbies include running, video games, and creative writing. Ideas for college and beyond are hopefully to write novels, or to use the talents God has given me that are related to English; be it teaching, publishing, editing, or writing, I’m planning on spending my life around words a lot. They can be very powerful.

“Probably the coolest thing about Lemuel is that he was around my age. However, he had the mindset of an adult and wisdom beyond his years. It was very cool to explore and portray a character who had been forced into adulthood so early, due to his slavery. Experiencing a sliver of his life led me to wonder how a modern 15-year-old would cope nowadays under that kind of pressure. Lemuel’s life has been an encouragement to me to stay strong and trust God in the hardest of times.

“The entire recording process was incredible. Being surrounded by friends and siblings in Christ, while making a novel come to life, was an experience I won’t forget. It may have included many crazy late nights, and copious amounts of whipping and screaming, but it was a very positive and amazing experience.

“I for one have always struggled with the Old Testament. Some chapters and books have always been tedious for me. Growing up, I heard the story of Moses over and over. I had the “John 3:16 syndrome”; while I could rattle off a verse or story from memory, some things had become stale and bland in my eyes. The process of reenacting the lives of Hebrew slaves really made Exodus come alive for me. In turn, it’s helped me appreciate and better understand the lives of many more Old Testament characters.

“A recurring theme that I noticed throughout this process was how well History and Fiction were blended. For example, when all of the plagues struck Egypt, it was interesting to see the Hebrew point of view and how they reacted. I especially liked the character of Mariel, Jarah’s mother. Viewing the plagues from the lens of a Hebrew who believed in the Egyptian Gods was something I had never considered. I suppose the diversity of beliefs in general was what stuck out in the story; it would have been easy to simply make everyone a devout follower of Yahweh, or a rebellious Hebrew.

“One of my favorite experiences was when Hope was recording the beating scene. The script said that I was supposed to be thrown into a wall, and then beaten. So, we started recording, and I threw myself against the mattress and fell to the floor. Patrick, the overseer, started whipping the pillow next to me, and I began to scream bloody murder. Apparently I was very convincing, because everyone outside of the recording closet was freaking out, thinking that Patrick was actually beating me up!” (Note from Hope: That was probably the scariest moment of the whole recording process! When Brandon hit the wall and cried out, I almost screamed. It sounded so convincing! I really thought he was hurt!)

“I sincerely believe that God brought this specific group of people together, under Hope’s direction, to do something awesome for his Kingdom. The Bible says that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” He has brought us this far, and I am looking forward to how he will use it in the future.”

Numbers 7:89

Well, you all know I’m writing books based on the Pentateuch in the Bible. One day, I hope and pray that I’ll be a “Pentateuch Expert.” :-) But for now, I’m still learning so much as I read through different passages of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Joshua and some of Judges are on the list, too! :-)

I’m working through Numbers right now. There are so many great stories of God’s mercy, justice, and provision in Numbers. But right now, I want to share with you a verse that really jumped out at me as a read through it. This is when Moses, the Levites, and the tribes of Israel had finished the tabernacle and were dedicated to the Lord, Yahweh.

Numbers 7:89, “Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, so He spoke to him.”

As I read that verse, I thought, “Whoa!! God was really, truly talking to Moses! With a real voice that Moses could hear, not just feel or hear in his mind! I wish I could have that kind of experience and talk to God like that!”

But then I realized, “Wait a second. I can talk to God whenever I want! And I have His whole Word to read and study whenever I want. Moses didn’t have any of that. He had to purify and cleanse himself before he could be in front of God Almighty and talk to Him. I can pray whenever and wherever I want, and I know that God hears, knows, and forgives.”

How cool is that?! While we might not hear God’s voice coming from the Ark of the Covenant, we can hear His still small voice through the Holy Spirit speaking inside of us. We can know His will from His word and His commandments. And we can go to Him no matter what.

While Moses’s experience might have been amazing, awe-inspiring, and astounding, I don’t know if I would really trade my life for His. I know that now I’m so much more grateful for what God has given me in this life. What about you?