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My Least Fave Thing About Writing A Novel

April 21, 2015

Five years old little cute boy hiding behind a table

It’s been less than two months since my debut novel released, but it feels like ten years. I’m thrilled with the hubbub of activity that surrounded the launch (after all, I prayed for it a l-o-n-g time). But at this point I’m sort of … kinda but not really … I hate to say it but … Okay, I’m tired of doing the hard things.

To be more specific, interviews are not my BFFs. I’d much rather sit alone with my laptop, writing all day and never-ever speaking to anyone. I considered taking applications for a stunt double, but the job would require a talented impersonator since I have that weird, squeaky voice going on.

All joking aside, interviews are getting easier, as are all the other unexpected duties I never knew I’d be performing. (I thought writers … wrote. Silly me.) But evidently I’m getting used to it because, after this last interview, the fear-induced diarrhea only lasted a day.

Click over to Josh Old’s “Life is Story” blog to listen to our conversation on church hurt and Jaded. I can honestly say I enjoyed the interview and wouldn’t mind doing it again someday. (But if you think your voice could pass for mine, message me privately.)

vvdenman newletter sneak peek

Restored in the Ruins – Guest Post by Lynne Gentry

April 14, 2015


Today I’ve invited my friend, Lynne Gentry, to tell us how God worked in her life, even while she experienced church hurt. Welcome, Lynne!

Restored in the Ruins, By Lynne Gentry

IMG_1011While exploring the ruins of the Roman bath in Bath, England, I stood at this quiet pool and wondered about stories hidden inside these crumbling walls. What were the people like who used to slip into these steamy waters after a long day? What alliances did they make while slaves slathered their bodies with oil? Who were they plotting to marry, to put into political office, or to kill?

During the second century reclamation of Carthage, the Romans rebuilt the baths of Antonin from the ruins of three previous wars. Their shiny new complex overlooked the beautiful Carthaginian harbor. Marble and granite pillars soared fifteen meters high. Inside these stone walls people of all classes chatted, relaxed, and made political connections.  Never would the Romans have expected their extraordinary work to be laid low by something as simple as a virus. When the Plague of Cyprian struck their treasured port, the labor force was nearly obliterated. Construction ceased. The baths fell into disrepair. It looked as if all was lost.

carthage punic portBut then, a group of Christians said, “Enough!” They put aside their fears, joined hands, and began caring for the sick. This may not sound like such a big deal, but these Christians were caring for the very ones who’d made a sport out of nailing Christians to crosses and setting them on fire. For fifteen years, this scruffy little band of Christians worked tirelessly and thanklessly. Some of them forfeited their fortunes. Some of lost their lives to the sickness. But some of them lived to see Carthage restored.

If you’ve ever had your hard work side-swiped by an unexpected setback, then you know the devastation of painful loss. When you’re world crumbles into ruins, what do you do?

Five years ago, I experienced an unexpected and painful setback at the hands of the church. I was crushed. The world I’d worked so hard to build crumbled. As I stumbled about in the ruins, I wondered if anything good would ever come of the destruction.

Then the same thing that happened in Carthage so many years ago happened to me.

IMG_0636A small group of Christian friends said, “Enough!” One by one, they rallied around me. Loving me. Encouraging me. Rebuilding my self-esteem brick by brick. They encouraged me to keep writing. During this time I couldn’t have sat down at the computer and typed a single word if they hadn’t goaded me on. Day after day, page after page, I wrote. Slowly, sprigs of new life began to sprout through the ashes. Before I knew it, I’d written the first book in the Carthage Chronicles series. Beauty rising out of ruin.

Look around. Is the destruction too overwhelming? Too much for one person you say?

Imagine what could happen if we joined hands and built each other up. Maybe the restoration won’t take things back to their original shape, but something new and different and possibly even better can arise.

When the church becomes the hands and feet of Christ, broken lives are restored. This smile on my face is proof your life does not have to remain in ruins.

Hi-Res Cover RTEBIO

Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. Return to Exile is her second book in The Carthage Chronicles series. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, playwright, and inspirational speaker. Lynne loves spending time with family, working the cancer centers with her medical therapy dog, and connecting with readers. Connect with Lynne here:

God Still Pursues Us Even When We’re Jaded

April 7, 2015

GodStillPursues

I’m glad you dropped by as I wrap up my Jaded blog series. I started off explaining How The Church Hurt Me, then lightened up with Why I’m Done Being Hurt By The Church, and last week we touched on How To Stop the Hurt.

Today I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine who left the church. She refused to worship with the saints, and for good reason. She was badly hurt by the church and eventually became jaded.

But God started working on her.

She was angry at the Christians who turned their backs, and she didn’t always think before she spoke and spent even less time considering her actions. She drove herself farther from the One who loved her most.

But He kept pursuing her.

God put people in her path to encourage her and keep communication open. Those Christians became a fragile cord connecting her to the church … even though she didn’t always want or appreciate their friendship,

But God was still there.

Opportunities arose: a job offer here, an acquaintance there, an open door. She didn’t recognize it as the Lord’s work or the Lord’s plan,

But He was patient.

When the Holy Spirit pricked her heart, she began to feel the prayers of her friends. She softened, reconsidered, and wept. She didn’t acknowledge the Spirit’s power, but God didn’t give up,

He just kept working on her.

Finally, she began to notice what was happening, and she listened to those who cared. Then she admitted the luck she’d had was more than that, and she let go of her anger and started to forgive.

And she realized how long God had been pursuing her.

This woman’s journey is a blend of my own story and the stories of several of my friends. There’s a lot of us who have blindly walked the rocky path, not realizing God was by our side the entire time.

How has God pursued you when you felt jaded to the church?

I’d love to hear how He helped you through a difficult time. Consider leaving a message in the comments section below, and we’ll have a virtual celebration of God’s goodness.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about being jaded to the church

To link your own #GodStillPursues blog post to this list, click HERE.

To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.

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Click to Tweet: God is bigger than my hurt feelings. How to overcome church hurt. http://wp.me/pM9q6-2RF #GodStillPursues

How Do We Stop Church Hurt?

March 31, 2015

StopJading
What is church hurt?
You know…stuff that gives church members that I-don’t-want-to-be-here feeling. Stuff that makes them want to stay away. Stuff that’s icky.

I’ve talked about How The Church Hurt Me, and I’ve talked about Why I’m Done Being Hurt By The Church, but the more I talk about it, the more I realize almost everyone has a story of being jaded to Christians. From something as trivial as the minister not shaking their hand, to something as huge as congregational shunning (It happens). The stories are out there, and they’re painful.

So how do we stop it? It’s easy.

Love. Forgive. Everyone.

Okay, maybe that’s not so easy, but it’s a place to start, and it’s what Jesus said to do.

I’ve seen a church completely ignore a woman who got pregnant out of marriage, but I’ve also seen a church celebrate the same situation with a baby shower. These days, it seems people are becoming less judgmental and more forgiving.

But I’m not sure who I feel more sorry for: the pregnant woman or those who ignored her. Both did something wrong–and depending on the circumstances, one may be easier to forgive–but I need to love them both.

I’ve been on both sides of the jading issue, and it ain’t pretty from either perspective.

But it all comes down to changing our attitude. The question isn’t how can we stop jading, it’s how can love and forgive each other.

And be more like Christ.

What do YOU think? How can we stop jading in the church?

How has God worked in your church to spread love and forgiveness? How have you seen church hurt diminish in your congregation? What do you think would help us to help the hurting? Consider leaving a message in the comments section below.

Check back next week for the conclusion of the series: God Still Pursues Us Even When We’re Jaded.

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1Peter 4:8 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about Jading in the church:

To add your own #StopJading post to this list, click HERE

To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.

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Click to Tweet: How Do We Stop Church Hurt? http://wp.me/pM9q6-2RD #StopJading

Why I’m Done Being Hurt By The Church

March 24, 2015

DoneBeingJaded
Last week, I wrote about How The Church Hurt Me, but I can’t leave it at that.

I’ve been hurt by the church and will undoubtedly be hurt again, but I know the pain I feel is usually inflicted unintentionally. But even when it is decidedly deliberate, holding a grudge only hurts me.

At times it’s easy to heal. If someone comes to me and apologizes, we both live happily ever after. But when there’s no hope of penitence, let alone an apology, then the responsibility falls on me alone, and I don’t always shine like a beacon of Christianity.

I’ve spent too many worship services thinking jaded thoughts about so-and so who did such-and-such, and I’m tempted to talk behind their backs. But then I remember those persistent Bible verses that tell me to be bigger than that, and I try to . . .

Let it go.

One phrase. Three words. Seven letters. And ten million reasons I don’t want to do it. After all, pain is pain, and when I’m hurting, I want someone to pay.

But, WOW, someone already did. Two thousand years ago, on a cross on a hill.

I don’t mean to oversimplify church hurt—it’s real—but Christ called me to love Him. Not just when I’m pain-free. Not just when other Christians are getting it right. Not just when it’s easy.

The church is bigger than us Christians who are making a mess of things. It’s forgiveness and tolerance and openness and communication. It’s icky feelings and awkward apologies and overlooked offenses. It’s not easy. But God wants me to love the church like He loved them, whether it’s easy or not.

What has helped you let go of church hurt?

Were you one of the lucky ones who received an apology? Or maybe the pain wore off gradually? Did you have to stuff it for a while—fake it till you make it? Or are you still in pain? If so, what do you think would help you heal?

Consider leaving a note in the comments section below. I’d like to hear your story, and draw from your experiences, and grow.

Ugh. Growth. Now there’s something that’s painful.

Check back next week for the continuing discussion: How Do We Stop Church Hurt?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about overcoming church hurt:

To link your own #DoneBeingJaded post to this list, click HERE

To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.

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Click to Tweet: Why I’m done being hurt by the church. http://wp.me/pM9q6-2RB #DoneBeingJaded

How the Church Hurt Me

March 17, 2015

WhatJadedMe

Admittedly, I take the church for granted. I’ve been at worship three times a week since birth, and I’ll be there till they wheel my casket up the aisle. For me, the church is life. It’s breath. It’s nourishment.

But it’s also pain. We’re always harder on those we love, and in my lifetime, I’ve seen way too many bad/sad/mad things happen among Christians. I’ve seen believers ostracized for their sins, ridiculed for their weaknesses, and gossiped for everything under the sun. All in the name of Christ.

And I’ve been hurt.

There was the time church work was pushed on my husband and me, even though our marriage was struggling. There was the time a family member’s parenting skills were scrutinized because of the behavior of their teenage child. There was the time family members were ridiculed because of their convictions on social issues.

But it all started when I was much younger, at the age when I first became aware of my appearance. Like most adolescent girls, I felt insecure in my skin, and I worried about make-up and clothing. Boys began to figure into this concern, and I struggled to balance my need-to-be-noticed with the Christian values my parents had taught me.

Good girls wore this and not that. Bad girls wore that and not this. I thought I was getting it right, until one of the deacons looked at me from head to toe and made a disgusted face at my clothing or my make-up or my body … or me.

Yes, the church hurts. And I include myself in that accusation. I don’t always say or do—or even think—the right thing. In fact, twenty-five years later as I walked into worship, I caught myself scrunching my nose at two teenage girls in short dresses, and I realized

Christians don’t always act like Christ.

But there’s a reason for that. Duh. We’re not Him. We’re human, and we’re a mess. As long as there are people in the church, there will be problems, but we’re trying. It’s true we’re harder on those we love, but the fact is, we DO love. We just love imperfectly.

The Lord’s church is all about forgiveness, and we give each other plenty of practice. We hurt each other, we forgive each other, we love each other. We strive to love like Christ, but not until we get to heaven, will we finally get it completely right. And to tell you the truth, I’m looking forward to that day.

In the meantime, I suppose I’m a little jaded to the church. I feel lucky I haven’t been wounded worse, and I hurt hurt hurt for those who have.

Are you jaded?

I’d like to hear your story. I’d like to give you a virtual hug and tell you there are others who have been there. I’d like to pray for you. If you feel comfortable then leave a comment at the end of this post, telling your personal story (but leaving out the names and places).

And check back next week for a lighter discussion: Why I’m Done Being Hurt By the Church

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 1:7 NIV

Interview with Varina Denman, author of Jaded

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Read what other bloggers are saying about jading in the church

To link your own #WhatJadedMe post, click HERE.

(To leave a comment, scroll down a little farther.)

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Click to Tweet: Have you ever been hurt by the church? Share your story. #WhatJadedMe

 

 

Pride and Forgiveness

March 10, 2015

varina denman seventh gradeMy seventh grade year was marked by floundering attempts to fit in with the cool crowd. I was tall and lanky with bushy hair, and my friends were just as awkward, but Karla, Shelley, and I were inseparable. To tell the truth, sometimes our awkwardness embarrassed me, but I figured it was better than being alone…

*****

To read more about my embarrassing story of pride and forgiveness, visit T.L. Gray’s blog, Behind the Maskwhere I’m guest blogging.

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