Inspirational thoughts and random writings from the alumni and friends of Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

50 Shades of Not-So-Grey

(Today's post is a little different from what you usually read on our blog.  I want to personally thank Charis Seeley for tackling a topic that is uncomfortable to many Christians.  Please read and respond to her insightful and absolutely dead-on post about the current best-seller "50 Shades of Grey."  After reading, I hope you plan to stay as far away from this book as I do.  Thank you again, Charis.--Gail Smith.)

 By Charis Seeley

The Hunger Games is a novel trilogy that’s wildly popular with teenagers. They’re being made into movies and my local Sam’s Club had a themed display for the books. In fact, the series is so popular that this Sam’s Club sold enough of those books that there was empty space on this end cap and the staff had to fill those shelves with another series. What did they suggest for those teen readers? 50 Shades of Grey.

This post isn’t likely to win me many friends. The 50 Shades trilogy has sold 40+ million copies, it’s pornography, and it’s being sold to our teenage girls. That’s right. Today, we’re talking youth, sex, and some hard truths.

What is 50 Shades of Grey? You might have heard the title and a few flitting rumors. It was based on the wildly profitable Twilight series. It features some unconventional and explicitly detailed sex that’s got the married-with-kids-30-something-year-old-wives whispering and raving. It’s being dubbed “mommy-porn” and too many Christians are silent about it.

The story centers around a female protagonist and her love for a man that wants to control her. Control her thoughts, control her actions, control her body, what/how much she eats, where she goes, who she sees, what she does and more. He tracks her movements on her cell phone. He tries to engage her in a sex contract and he does all these things, why? Because he has issues and he “loves” her.

And our women are eating it up.

The author, E.L James, hides all this abuse under an extremely misused umbrella of BDSM. Boiled down, BDSM is a consensual practice of two partners in which one partner is in control of the sexual pleasure. The hinge word is consensual.

Because at some point in this series, the female protagonist tells her “love” interest no, and he ignores her. That’s right. He rapes her. Let me remind you again, this series has sold over 40 million copies.

This is the cover of the first book. It certainly doesn’t look like something the media could dub “mommy-porn” does it? I mentioned that the author was inspired by the Twilight series, but that’s not entirely true. 50 Shades started as an erotic fan fiction of Twilight. The protagonist was Bella Swan and her love interest was Edward Cullen. The cover photos of the two series even look similar. Both have a black background with one object serving as a metaphor or theme from the book. I encourage you to take a walk through the Young Adult section of your local book store sometime because the vast majority of those titles have the same style covers. It’s a marketing stratedgy.

And Young Adult books are for ages 15+.

And now we arrive at my core heart of this post. This abusive, XXX detailed novel series is being marketed to our high school girls. Godly and Christian mothers are unknowingly buying their daughters porn because their church stands silent.

Erotica isn’t new. But before 50 Shades, the covers were half naked men with long hair, riding stallions and holding roses on a beach. The covers of 50 Shades are a neck tie, a mask, and a pair of handcuffs. Twilight was an apple, a bloody flower, a ribbon, and two chess pieces. The Hunger Games is different incarnations of a bird called a Mockingjay set against a solid color background. 50 Shades looks like all the other books teens are reading right now.

And what message are these books giving our youth? That abuse is normal. That if a man loves you, he will control your life, what you do and who you’re friends with. That if he can’t control his sexual need for you, that if he rapes you and sends you lavish gifts, that’s love.

Whether your definition of love comes from a Christian perspective or not, no one should consider this love or something to be glorified and reveled in. This is abuse. This is not a story about a woman that fixes a broken man. This is abuse. This is not about kinky sex, or having a handsomely rich man love you, or finding your happily-ever-after. This is physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. There is nothing “grey” about it.

The silence of our churches and Christian leaders on this series disgusts me. If this were a XXX movie with the same plot and scenes that prominent male members were watching and sharing with their guy friends, our pastors would be outraged at the pulpit. But it’s in a book, not a movie. (Yet. The 50 Shades movie is in development.) And it’s for women. It’s a difficult subject to talk about not least because its popularity is such an odd phenomenon.

The question can be raised that if a married woman is reading these books and finds them erotic, is it really harming anyone? If we assume that she’s lusting for an imaginary character but taking her bolstered enthusiasm into her marital bed, is it that really sinning?

Matthew 5:28 tells us, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery and lust are not sins exclusive to men.

Wives: Would you encourage this same behavior from your husbands? Reverse this and turn it into a man lusting after a female XXX film star. He’s coming to his wife, asking her to replicate things he watched another woman do, chasing a high created by sin. Again, the picture becomes a lot clearer. We’re dealing with something that is black-and-white Christianly immoral, not something meandering in grey area.

What can you do? Send this post to your friends. Send it to the women in your Bible Study, to your sisters, to your daughters, to your granddaughters. The women most at risk to being taken in by this series are those who are not of this world and buy these books without knowing what’s between the covers. Send it to your pastors. To your elders. To your youth group leaders.

Help break the Christian silence.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


 Photo Collage by Sharon Wilhite

  Red is the color of passion, energy, redemption, and love.
 Wearing red always seemed to give me energy and confidence when tired or nervous during my college days.
From my childhood on I wanted a red winter coat to brighten up a long winter - I'm still waiting.
 Red cars are always a fascination to men young and old - and especially to the highway patrol!
 Red is the color of life continually running through us.
It is the color of new life spilled for us by Christ on the cross.
You can see more of Sharon's work at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Learning to Bend

By Kathryn Lang

I bend, but the storms have helped me develop the strength not to break. Unexpected ice storms cause me to creak. Strong winds storms push me to my limits. The heat of summer forces my roots down even deeper. Through it all I stand.

But there are days when the bending, creaking and stretching seem like to much to take.

It would be easier to quit. The stress and strain of it all seems like a ridiculous choice when the toughest times are at hand. There is an easier way. There is a better way. There is a way that would make me happier. There HAS to be.

Relax in the midst of it all and just bend. Do it right now. Bend your head forward and breathe. Bend to the sides and breathe. Bend just a little and soon you break the hold the storm has on your life.

Today it was working through papers for my dad that had to do with my mom. She died in March, but the pain of her absence hit me with a vengeance I could never have expected. One thing piled up on another thing and soon something as trivial as being put on hold caused me to break down.


I cried. I bent over my desk and let the tears fall for a moment. It was too much.


I wiped the tear and took a deep breath. Pain will happen. Tears will fall. But I will not break. I will keep bending and shifting and bending and shifting until the storm has passed.

Pushing on with a writing career, no matter what direction that career takes, is not for the weak. The attitudes and behaviors of people thrown at something you cared for and molded will cause some to want to fold. Cruel words, rejections, and the lack of sales can all drive you to want to give up. It can push you to the breaking point.

Just bend. When it comes down to it, bend your head down. Now say a prayer. And let the peace that passes all understanding be the soothing water that makes it possible for you to keep bending until you find your way.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


By Marie Tschopp

My name means “Mother of all living.”  I am Eve, created by God from one of my husband’s ribs, a visible reminder of my calling to work side-by-side with Adam, to be his  helpmate. 

Life was good then, back in the garden.  The aroma of the lush, ripe fruit and beautiful exotic flowers was intoxicating.  We played with the animals; Adam had a name for each one!  We had complete fellowship with God, our creator.  Sometimes in the evenings, God would walk in the garden with us.  But, this was before I ruined everything. 

God had given us every tree to eat from, except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  God had warned us that on the day we ate of that tree, we would surely die.  But, the serpent told me otherwise.  He twisted God’s words.  He said that if I ate of the fruit, I would be like God, and I chose to believe him.  I took a bite.  I gave some to Adam, and he ate, too.  Life as we knew it, ended.  A sparrow fell from the sky.  A lion pounced on a lamb.  We looked at each other and were ashamed. 

Now, some hurl verbal stones at me.  “Eve,” they say, “How could you have been so stupid? You had everything a woman could want…a home in paradise, a husband who adored you, fellowship with God—and yet it wasn’t enough.  How foolish!” 

Don’t you think I know that?  When evening comes, and I see Adam’s bleeding, blistered hands from working an unyielding land, don’t you know a part of me dies inside?  When my daughters cry out in agony, don’t you know a knife pierces my heart?  I have a dead son.  Dead at the hands of his own brother.  No woman should ever have to bear that!

If I could go back into time, I would.  If I could change what I had done, I would.  If I could hurl that snake out of the garden, I would.  But I can’t.  I can’t.

Maybe some of you are like me.  You enjoyed a good life, but it wasn’t enough.  A temptation called, and you did not resist either.  Life as you knew it ended.  And, if you could change your reaction, you would.  But you can’t.  You can’t. 

Don’t despair, my friend.  There is hope.  God offers forgiveness.  He knew of our rejection, so he planned for our redemption. 

As long as there is life, there is hope. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, September 6, 2012


By Robin Steinweg

 Do I ever regret time in prayer?

Sadly, maybe before-hand. Like when the pillow is coziest, sleep beckons or I have tasks to check off my to-do list. 

Few things get interrupted like my time for prayer—at least initially. If I sit down intending to pray, the computer will blink at me, the phone will ring, an appliance will act up, the neighbor’s dogs will yap, the garbologist will take a break outside my house with the engine running, a plane will sound as though it’s going to crash, I’ll suddenly think of fifteen dozen things that need to be done without delay, and my dog will beg to go out. And that’s saying a lot, because I don’t have a dog.

The computer can wait.  In fact, I can turn it to face away from me. The answering machine can take a message or the caller can get back to me. I can unplug the appliance and check it later. I can close the windows. I can put in ear plugs. I can pray for the pilot. I can keep pen and paper next to me and add to my list as things pop into my head, and then keep praying. I can remind myself that I don’t have a dog, and tell the devil to get behind me, because I AM GOING TO PRAY anyway!

That’s what it might take—a commitment to pray no matter what. When my sons were little, they knew not to interrupt me from prayer unless one of them was choking or bleeding. Our day would be better if they let Mommy pray. As my wall hanging states, “A day hemmed in prayer seldom comes unraveled.”

And has there ever been a time that I wished instead that I had stayed in bed or run errands?

Just yesterday I nearly didn’t pray because of interruptions. Important things, you know? But I sent up some heartfelt requests for safety for my sons and husband.

In the afternoon my younger son perched atop the log ride at the amusement park where he’s worked for the summer. A sudden bolt of lightning scored the air close enough to him that he felt the static. They closed the park early, and he came home—safe.

Do I regret that I spent the time yesterday in prayer?


Instead, I grow more determined.  Not only to ask for things, but to thank God for listening to me, and to take the time to listen to Him.

Let me rephrase: it’s not taking my time. It’s an investment of my time, and it could continue to pay into eternity!