Written by Lynn Dove*

I have always loved the children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could”.  I loved the pluck and spunk of that little engine with the “I think I can, I think I can” attitude.  Love underdogs!  I love the idea that despite all odds and being the smallest and definitely not the strongest, this little engine succeeded when all the other bigger engines failed because he believed in his heart he could do it!

What’s that got to do with me, you say?  Well, in 2009 I published my first book, Shoot the Wounded, a young adult contemporary Christian fiction that has spawned two other books, Heal the Wounded and my latest release Love the Wounded  (The Wounded Trilogy).  The books delve deep into the real world of teenagers trying to live out their faith in the midst of upset and struggle.  The books have garnered much praise and attention for their sensitivity towards social issues such as teen pregnancy, gossip, bullying and cancer and the books are listed as resources on one of the largest anti-bullying websites in the world: www.bullying.org   They have won awards and 5 star reviews, and teenagers and parents alike are buying and reading the books in numbers I never imagined.

But the books were almost never written…

I wrote Shoot the Wounded nearly fifteen years ago.  It started out as a short story, something I just plucked away at for a weekend writing,  but 100 pages later I realized it was not a “short” story any more.  I added a bit more to the manuscript now and then, not sure what it was that was driving the effort because I never planned on doing anything more with it than tucking it away for my eyes only to see.

Then life happened.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and it was a two year battle where everything I was doing before basically went “on hold” until I was healthy again.  I was just starting to grow back all my hair that I had lost after chemo, when God called me to seminary and also to be Minister to Children at my home church in Cochrane.  My daughter got married.  Life was full and busy.  I graduated from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary with my Master of Religious Education degree in 2007 and one day as I was cleaning out all the “old” files on my computer I came across the then untitled Shoot the Wounded manuscript, collecting computer “dust” you might say and I almost hit the delete button…

My husband, Charles stopped me.  “Why don’t you finish that story and do something with it?” he said.

That led me on a writing/publishing journey that has now culminated into the recent release of Love the Wounded (May 30, 2012), third and final book of the Wounded Trilogy.

There were many ups and downs, seemingly endless hills to climb on this writing journey…times I felt just like the little engine that could…but with the help of God and MANY mentors and supporters of my efforts all along the way (including MANY members of the Blackaby clan I must say!) I puffed my way up those hills with an “I think I can” attitude.  When there were days when my thoughts were: “I DON’T think I can anymore”, and I felt weak and worn out from the effort, it was then that I could feel all those encouragers God had placed in my path helping to push me up and over those mountains!

God is using the message in my books to encourage students who are victims of bullying.  My books, written from a Christian world-view perspective are reaching out to teens and adults who need to know that they are not alone…God is always there for them.  My writing has become a ministry and I am humbled God would use me and my books to spread His message of Hope to the nations in this way.  I have an extensive following on my two blogs: Journey Thoughts (Winner of a 2011 Canadian Christian Writing Award) and Word Salt (a blog for those called by God to write).  Blogs I would never, ever have even thought to write had it not been for publishing my first book.

I don’t know where this “track” I’m on will continue to take me but with God and all my encouragers beside me, I’m pretty sure it will be a great ride!

*This interview is borrowed from my brother’s blog “Imagination’s Underground Railroad” (https://danielblackaby.wordpress.com/)

Have you heard of the “Reason Rally” coming March 24th to Washington D.C. (http://www.reasonrally.org/about/)? It is supposed to be the largest gathering of secularists in history, and features such prominent and popular atheists as biologist Richard Dawkins, comedian/musician Tim Minchin, and rock band Bad Religion. Their intent, stated on the website, is “…to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it!” As I browsed the website, I couldn’t help but notice something. This event is so similar to Loui Giglio’s “Passion” it’s scary! Switch out God for Reason, and you basically have the atheist version of Passion.

So what are the similarities? Well, for starters, there are the speakers. These are not just informative speakers like you might find at a business event or conference; they are popular names representing the secular worldview, and their goal is to empower and embolden their listeners. But empower them with what? Their atheist worldview, of course! Supposedly driven by reason instead of faith. Does this sound similar to a Christian conference? Let’s see, like-minded people coming together to be empowered and emboldened in their worldview to go out and make a difference in their world. Hmmm, sounds familiar!

But the similarities don’t end there. They claim, “The purpose of this particular rally will be to advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society.” All one has to do is replace “advance secularism” with “preach the gospel” and you’ve got a full-blown Christian rally. And this is coming from the very people who condemn Christians for “proselytizing.” The hypocrisy (which they also accuse us of) becomes more and more evident the more you explore their site.

In January, I had the privilege of experiencing Passion in downtown Atlanta. I can’t help but be reminded of that gathering when reading statements like this: “On March 24, 2012, from 10:00AM – 4:00PM at the National Mall, nontheists from all corners of the nation will descend on Washington, D.C. en masse to deliver the good news: ‘We’re huge, we’re everywhere, and we’re growing.'” Passion 2012 used similar language to describe over 40,000 people descending upon the Dome to lift high the name of Jesus (which is the “gospel” or “good news”). At Passion, the outward focus was on putting an end to slavery and sex-trafficking in the world. One of the purposes for Reason Rally is to promote “legislative equality” and give secularists a stronger voice in society. Seems kind of weak when compared to ending world slavery (which Passion definitely helped by giving several million dollars and raising awareness in the eyes of people worldwide). But hey, the point is they are promoting a cause…just like us Christians.

So why do I write this? I guess partly it is out of ironic frustration that the very ones who accuse religion of poisoning society are replacing it with a religion all their own, complete with their own bands, speakers, causes, and rallies. The point is this: We were created to worship, and so each one of us will devote our life to some religion, ideology, or philosophy. You can’t escape it. If the loudest and proudest atheist today, Richard Dawkins, can’t help but headline a massive event as a sort of atheist version of Loui Giglio, you know that it’s inescapable! I’m sure they would argue the differences between Reason Rally and Passion, and there definitely are some big ones. But at the most basic level, they are the same. Reason Rally is a massive gathering of like-minded people to support and empower the furthering of their worldview in society. It’s basically a big ‘ol secular church service, with Dawkins standing in as the priest. But I guess this is not surprising, coming from a guy who even has a “Converts Corner” on his website, where people can share their story of how they gave up religion in favor of atheism. In the spirit of classic spy vs. villain movies, I simply say, “We’re not so different, you and I.”

In this clip there is a great line: “When the pupil is ready, the master will appear.” When we are spiritually born again into the family of God, we are just baby Christians. And, like babies, we are ignorant but anxious to learn (even if it means walking into a few coffee tables!).

God found us hopelessly lost; an empty shell of what we could be, our own best efforts leading only to our death. But then He saved us and made us something new. We have a purpose now! But we still have so far to go and so much to learn. I have come to find that the Bible is what God uses to teach us. It takes a new Christian who is woefully unprepared to live the Christian life and begins to train him or her to be more like Jesus.

It’s actually a lot like exercising. Over this Christmas break, my sister has taken upon herself the enormous task of whipping her “post-graduation-hasn’t-been-good-to-me” older brother into shape (bless her soul). What we found the first day (apart from excruciating shin splints) was that growing requires consistency. One day of running is just not enough to see growth. However, the more time you spend with your trainer the more you will start to see changes.

So I have to ask myself, How much time do I spend with God in my Bible? What results do I see after years of being a Christian? I can’t expect to be spiritually fit if I neglect to spend time with my teacher. As busy as life can get sometimes, it is vitally important I carve out time to read and study my Bible. If I want to grow, I must train, and if I want to train, I must spend time with my Trainer.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”   2 Timothy 3:16-17

Around Christmas time, there always seem to be those that want to claim “Christmas is a pagan holiday, and not Christian at all!” Although there is a LOT of complicated history behind the holiday of Christmas, here are a couple thoughts on it that I think are interesting.

First of all, the Bible never tells us what specific day Jesus was born, so there is really no way to know. But how often have you known people to have a birthday party on a day that wasn’t their actual birthday? Lots of times people will have a party on Saturday if their birthday was actually on Wednesday or something. The point is, you don’t have to celebrate someone’s birth on the actual day. The important thing is that you celebrate the FACT that they were born! The birth of Jesus is important to Christians because He had to be born first in order to die and be raised again (Good Friday and Easter). We know that Jesus was born, even if we don’t know the exact day of the year. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. December 25th is often called “The Birthday of Jesus,” which probably confuses people. It may be more appropriate to call it “The day we celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

The way Dec 25th came about was kind of weird. Jewish tradition believed that great figures (like Moses) died on the same date as they were born (so they died on their birthday). Some Christian scholars (Tertullian and Hippolytus) determined that Jesus probably died on March 25 (near Passover), so he must have been born on that date. Another guy named Sextus Julius Africanus later said that Jesus was actually conceived on March 25, and was born 9 months later…on December 25.

There were 3 pagan feasts that were celebrated on or around this day (Deus Sol Invictus which celebrated the Sun god, and the birthday of the Persian fertility deity Mirthra both fell on Dec 25.  The immoral drunken orgy of Saturnalia was celebrated from Dec 17-23). Christians would often celebrate something Christian in place of the many pagan festivals of the time, so this was an opportunity for them to replace these pagan feasts with a Christian celebration instead. The earliest reference to the established Christian feast of Christmas was in 336 A.D., so Christmas is almost 1700 years old! Of course, over the years many other traditions were added (the story of Santa Clause and that other stuff came later). The cool thing is that, even though there are a lot of non-Christian traditions added to Christmas now, the main things (family, giving, love, the Nativity, helping the poor) all trace back to a Christian worldview.

So yeah, there were pagan feasts on Dec 25 before Christmas came along, but that really doesn’t matter. Reformation Day (in which Christians celebrate the Protestant Reformation) is on Oct 31…the same day as Halloween. It doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it because Halloween is also on that day…they just share the same date! So even though there are other historical traditions dating back to Dec 25, the fact is that Christmas has survived while those other pagan traditions have died. Christmas has now become the biggest holiday celebrated in America, and at the very center is a celebration of the birth of Jesus.

two types of people…

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Video Clips

Within each one of us is what has been called a “God-shaped Hole.” John Calvin noted that each person has a sensus divinitatus (sense of the divine) that recognizes this innate need for God. Religion has been a part of every culture throughout history, and reflects our need for God. In fact, religion has historically been the natural reaction of people, not atheism. Each person will seek to fill that void with something, whether with God or with something else.

Is it any wonder that the greatest command of God is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30)? It makes sense, that His greatest command fulfills our greatest need.

Do you feel that void? Have you tried to fill it with something else, only to be left fearful and empty? Perhaps you have been seeking to fill your life with things that were never meant to satisfy your greatest need.

A Godly Legacy…

Posted: November 11, 2011 in Video Clips

We do not choose what we inherit, but we choose what we will pass on.

We live in a generation that is turning away from God rapidly. We each have a choice to embrace the evil that has been passed on to us, or rebel against it.

For many, you have not inherited a godly legacy from your parents. Perhaps you grew up in a home that was far from God. But now you have the ability to start a new legacy. You can break the chain of sin that has plagued your family tree for generations. You can pass something different on to your children.

For others, you have been blessed with a godly heritage. But you still have a choice: Will you continue that legacy, or will it end with you? It only takes one generation to end a godly legacy. But it also takes only one generation to begin one.

What have you inherited? You are never too young to begin a godly legacy. Josiah was 16 years old when he began to seek the God of his ancestor David (2 Chronicles 34:3). He inherited a godless legacy from his evil father Amon, and yet he was not content to follow in those footsteps. In the end, his life could be summarized like this: “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him.” 2 Kings 23:25

May we follow the example of Josiah and leave our world different from the what we inherited.

crossing the line…

Posted: November 5, 2011 in Video Clips

The decision to follow Jesus is not one to be taken lightly. It promises to be difficult and even costly. It is so much more than “Ask Jesus into your heart.” In fact, Jesus draws a line in the sand, lays out the requirements, and asks “So who’s with me?” This is a challenge for me everyday. I must ask myself, “How far am I willing to go with Jesus?” Being His disciple is more than going to church on earth and enjoying heaven when we die (although it is certainly not less than that!). It’s about denying yourself (your ambitions, your selfish desires, your comfort, your safety) and following Him—wherever He leads. What if He leads us to hard places? What if He leads us out of our comfort zones? What if He leads us to forsake our desires for His? We must count the cost before we too quickly claim the name of “Christian.” Becoming a disciple of Christ is many things—exciting, fulfilling, compelling—but it is not easy.

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’”

Why we need the church…

Posted: October 21, 2011 in Video Clips

I have come across many people who said something along the lines of “I love God, I just don’t believe in the church.” This is problematic in many ways, not least of which is 1 John 4:20 “If anyone says ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

I realize that “The church is full of hypocrites.” The thing is, everywhere is full of hypocrites! You’re a hypocrite, I’m a hypocrite. We’re all hypocrites! I remember a big, deep-voiced, Texas man named D.K. Every time someone objected to church by saying it was full of hypocrites, he would bellow “And there’s room for one more!”

But that’s not the issue.

The main issue is that we need the church, because no matter how strongly we believe, we still need others to spur us on. Even a solider fighting for what he passionately believes in will needs his fellow troops to encourage him to keep fighting when times get hard. Especially when the Christian walk presents us trials we need others to push us to keep fighting for what we believe in. If you forsake meeting together with other believers, who will do that for you when you need it? Who will you encourage when they want to give up?

Proverbs 27:17 says man sharpens man as iron sharpens iron, and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says to pity the one who falls and does not have a brother to pick him up. I need the church and so do you. God designed us that way. Let’s not forsake meeting together.

Hebrews 11:23-25 “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works; not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

“Courageous” Movie Review

Posted: October 15, 2011 in Movie/TV Reviews

Pop-Culture is an arena dominated by a secular worldview. Because of this, whenever a faith-based movie is released in mainstream theaters, Christians hold our collective breaths! Courageous, after earning almost 9 million it’s opening weekend despite being screened in far fewer theaters than other box office releases, made a strong case that Sherwood Pictures is doing something right.

Now, I’ll have to be honest. I wasn’t a big fan of Facing the Giants (although I usually like football movies) and wasn’t thrilled with Fireproof (although firemen are the bomb). Of course I loved the themes presented in each of those, but I felt like they fell plague to the curse that most Christian entertainment does: cheesiness. Whether it is Christian music, movies, or (a soapbox for another day) T-shirts, Christians seem to only make art that has absolutely no substance. They often preach so loudly that the world hardly takes notice (except to ridicule) and are left to simply entertain church youth groups on their bus rides to camp. That’s fine and serves a certain purpose I suppose, but I really feel like Christians can do better.

I was privileged to attend an advanced screening at the Fox Theater back in August, and actually met several of the actors. I didn’t really know what to expect since I knew nothing about the film prior to the screening. I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it definitely has it’s cheesy moments of “Did they just go there?” but the Sherwood filmmakers have grown by leaps and bounds in every area. The acting is better, the film quality is better, the humor is better, and there are action scenes (what?! Don’t worry, no guts.).

The story centers around four policemen and their realization that the courage they display in their daily jobs must start at home with their families. If you have success at work, and yet lose what’s really important, everything falls apart. And it does, when tragedy strikes the central family. Most of you have probably already seen it, so I won’t go into detail about the plot, other than to say reality comes barging in on all these men and they are forced to make some serious decisions regarding what it really means to be a man.

What I noticed most is that Sherwood is really starting to find their stride. The added humor (especially a scene in which a character pretends to be a psychotic gang leader in the back of a police car to scare his seat-mate into submission) adds a lot to an otherwise very emotional plot. There are several tender moments that had me (as a pretty unemotional guy) sniffling (but just a little!) because of their depth. The actions scenes bookending the movie also add some adrenaline that you need in a movie about cops!

Of course, there is the obligatory conversion scene with the agnostic cop coming to terms with his need for a Savior. But even this was done in a much better fashion than in previous efforts, and I found myself hearing words I have used in sharing the truth of the gospel in real-life situations. I probably would have made the movie about 30 minutes shorter, just because it seems to attempt too much (by following the story-arc of 5 main characters) for one film.

Of course, secular critics will (and have) had a field day lambasting it for being preachy or cheesy or narrow-minded. And this is where I get fired up. Do people honestly expect a movie made by a church to say nothing about God? Preachy? Yeah, it’s made by two pastors! What makes me so angry is that every movie preaches something. Mark Driscoll has said that movies are simply sermons using pictures. Did a movie like “Brokeback Mountain” preach a certain worldview? Duh, and yet it won 3 Academy Awards. In an industry run almost exclusively by secular filmmakers, actors, and philosophies, apparently there just isn’t room for a Christian voice. For a culture that is supposedly open to free expressions of art, I’m disgusted (but not surprised) by the reactions of most film critics reviewing this movie. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But review it on the basis of it’s film credibility and artistic expression, not based on the fact that you have a problem with anything Jesus-related.

That’s a rant I could go on for much longer, but I’ll save it for another time! In the end, Sherwood Pictures is inspiring to me because they don’t just sit back and criticize Hollywood for making movies celebrating secular values; they have entered the fray and gone where few Christian artists have dared to go. As with the Truth Dare in Fireproof, Courageous also promotes the message of the movie through books and the Courageous Resolution for dads. It does not seek to simply entertain, but to transform people and thus transform culture through the gospel of Jesus. And for that goal, I applaud them.

A Christian Worldview…

Posted: September 30, 2011 in Video Clips

When you become a Christian, you are born-again (John 3:3), brought from spiritual death to spiritual life (Eph 2:1-5) by receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and are transformed into a totally new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Wow! We don’t “Ask Jesus into our heart” like we so often tell children; we are transformed into a completely different person! If you ask Jesus into your heart, you can also ask Him to leave. But if you are transformed, there is no going back.

In this clip, Neo is offered the truth. Becoming a Christian is like taking that red pill. All that we had once known is ripped away to reveal a reality we never knew existed. It is one we cannot just be told about—we must experience it. When you become a Christian, God doesn’t just save you from hell; He opens your eyes up to true reality. He changes your entire worldview (the lenses through which we interpret all reality and experience). Because of this, our relationship with Jesus affects everything!

Unfortunately, we often want to contain God to just certain areas of our lives. We are ok for him to occupy our religious or moral space, but we don’t want him interfering when we choose a college or a career or a spouse. Sadly, many Christians make everyday life decisions the very same as the world does. We try to confine God to our half-hearted “Jonny Appleseed” prayers before meals, but we don’t even consider Him when it comes to our finances.

What doors of your life have you kept locked from God? When you are born-again, God changes your entire worldview. That means you see everything differently! Now all areas of your life should be filtered through your relationship with Jesus. Why do we choose our careers based on worldly reasoning and not based on the Great Commission? It’s time we as Christians opened the doors of our life to God and let Him have access to everything. He requires nothing less.

“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”