Friday, May 1, 2015

Faithful Fridays: Philippians 4:8 PART ONE

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, 

whatever is honorable, whatever is just, 

whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, 

whatever is commendable, if there is any 

excellence, if there is anything worthy of 

praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 

(English Standard Version)

     I would be the first to say that I don't have much wisdom on our walk with Christ...that I still have so much to learn; but I do know that God has been teaching me a lot, and these things have been on my heart for quite some time.

     Just bothering me. A niggling uncertainty. Prodding me to look into them. To figure out if they're right or wrong. To discuss my findings with others.

     So bear with me here, and try not to get offended or anything. I'm going to say what I feel led to say. And if you read this, please do so with an open heart, and then tell me your thoughts! :) I don't mean to cause divisions...the Church is not meant to be divided!!! However, I think a lot of my friends won't agree with if we're in disagreement, may we learn something from each other and then go to God and let Him show us the true way! :)

     Here's my thoughts to tie in with Philippians 4:8 today: Sensuality and Magic. Should we as Christians read or watch materials that have such content?

     ...Pure. Honorable. Lovely. Commendable. Worthy of Praise...


     First I'd like to discuss sensuality. If you're like me, and love to read, you've probably noticed that many Christian authors add a certain amount of sensuality to their novels. The amount ranges from not too noticeable (but still makes you want to recommend it only to older teens and up) to downright scandalous (you decided not to read by that author again/give it a low rating even though it was adventurous otherwise).

     I was just reading a review from a fellow reader today, and she had rated this Christian novel less than she wanted to because of the sexual themes in it. She said things like, "How do we expect unmarried women to keep their minds pure when reading scenes like this?" and "are Christian novels just getting more and more edgy??"

     Yikes. I don't know about you, but nothing about that sounds pure and commendable. I mean, I like a good romance as much as the next young woman; but what I actually am looking for is a beautiful, real love story ...not a steamy romance that's pushing at the boundary lines.

     Does it honor God? Not only are single ladies having their heads filled with things they probably shouldn't ponder as of yet, but practically only the physical side of a romantic relationship is coming across in most of these novels. I think unmarried women are getting the wrong expectations from sensual novels, among other things. Romantic love is not all about kissing, and the excitement of a whirlwind courtship, and having fun in the moment. It's much, much bigger than that! Romantic love should start as friendship. That friendship should deepen. Christ should be the center of the relationship, from start to end; His approval naturally should be sought!! The physical side should wait; many now-married, Christian couples I've listened to said that saving their first kiss for their wedding day was how they avoided temptation and firmly upheld a godly purity. Yet many Christian romance novels these days are not teaching that at all.

     It's all about how fun the other person is to be with. How delightful the relationship is at the moment, even though they're not sure where exactly its going. And after meeting several times, they might share a kiss, because they have to let the other know they're not "just friends"!

     And on top of that, we get all the details. Come now, writers, I know we like to make things as real-feeling as possible, but ultimately, its the characters' romance, not ours! I think we need to keep the more private moments of their relationship to themselves, just as it would be in real life.

      Some Christian romances I've read even go inside the man's head and mentions what he thinks of the woman's "very fine" figure or whatnot. And I'm thinking, "Yikes!" Isn't that boarding on lust?

     Here's some thoughts on the subject from author Rachel Hauck: Writing Sexual Content in our Stories.

     One thing she said that caught my attention was something like, "Imagine someone reading the kind of scenes you write to your children, your mother, or grandmother. Or Jesus, for that matter."

     Is it honorable, pure, and lovely? Is it building up and helping others? Is it showing God's hand in the romantic relationship? Is it a light and example to unbelievers or younger brothers and sisters in the faith?

     I have read so many lovely, great books with beautiful romances, that are not at all sensual! So why are a huge part of the Christian authors letting it seep in and sometimes almost dominate their books? Authors like Jaye L. Knight, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and Janette Oke do an exceptional job of writing sweet/clean but incredible romances. Shonna Slayton, Sarah Holman, Amber Stokes, Claire Banschbach, Molly Evangeline, Nicole Sager, Christopher Hopper, R.J. Larson, Melissa Tagg, and Margo Hansen also, from what I'm remembering and what I've read so far, have clean romances. However, many other authors of YA-adult romance that I've read by have at least a little bit of sensual content or else something like shallow romance/premature kissing, *wrinkles nose*

     I'm not saying all of it is simply sinful! But I do think heavy sensuality is definitely crossing the line.

     To tell you the truth, I'm just plain getting tired of reading these type of romances. Give me a Jace and Kyrin love story (Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight) and I'm thrilled and my heart is sighing because its just so beautiful, meaningful, and long-awaited. It's true love. Whereas the sensual romance focused all on physical and self has me sighing for a whole different reason. It's shallow. It has little meaning to me. It definitely doesn't grow my faith or teach me more about the godly marriage Christians should seek.

     I know I'm going on and on here...(I'll have to touch on magic next Friday)...but I feel this is rather important.

     Marriage is meant to be sacred. A holy covenant. A beautiful relationship. A godly romance.

     Are the books we read conveying that?

     Also, in a world where we're bombarded by sexual temptations and depravities right and left, is it okay for us (unmarried or otherwise) to read such books? Is it helping or discouraging our minds to stay pure??

     So what are your thoughts? Do you think that a lot of Christian fiction is getting a little too edgy these days? When is crossing the line? Do you think popular Christian romance authors like Marylu Tyndall, Lisa Tawn Bergren, Melanie Dickerson, Tamera Alexander, Julie Klassen, Laura Frantz, and Francine Rivers write tastefully despite some "heated moments" in their love stories?

     I would love to hear your thoughts! Please join the conversation and comment below! Commenting as Anonymous is available; you don't have to have a Google+ account or whatnot. :)


  1. Hi friend! I totally agree with you! (I think you already knew that. :) ). And that's why I love your book so much! The love story is so precious-- pure and glorifying to God! The attraction is based on the beauty of Christ shining through the character's, not their lust-inducing bodies. A love story based on Christ is a true love story, written by the Creator of genuine love. May we honor our God who created love, sex, and marriage, through absolute purity in our words, actions, writings/stories, and our own relationship decisions. Praise God for His perfect standard of purity and that through the grace of Christ we can be made pure and enabled to enjoy beautiful, Christ-honoring love stories!

    ~ Talitha

    1. Aww, thanks for your comment, Talitha! So encouraging! :) And yes, I did figure that you would agree with me, :D We've talked about this kind of stuff a lot.

      Oh, and I'm SO happy and honored that you see my story that way!! Yay! That's absolutely what I wanted it to be! :) :)

      Yes, praise the Lord! And may we continue to stand STRONG for purity and beautiful romance, even if others think we're weird...:p

      Thanks for stopping by!! Blessings, dear friend!! <3

  2. This is so true. I had the misfortune to stumble upon one of the less clean christian romances lately and was wishing that people wouldn't write such things. I'd rather read something cleaner even if it wasn't written by a professing Christian.

    1. I would agree, Bria! A clean, non-Christian story can sometimes be a lot nicer than one of those really sensual "Christian" romances. :(

      It's hard. I hope you will find some more clean, lovely, Christian books soon!! The authors I mentioned above, especially Jaye L. Knight, write clean romances.

      Thanks for commenting; it was great to hear your thoughts! :)

  3. I agree whole-heartedly! Sensuality is a beautiful thing between a husband and wife. I wouldn't share this part of my marriage with anyone else, so why would I read/watch this in another's life? Besides, reading details as these can cause emotions that are better saved for that special someone :)

    1. Yes! It's just strange that Christian novels would kind of showcase moments that are, in real life, kept private, especially between Christian couples!

      I agree. I think of that verse from Song of Solomon, "Don't arouse or awaken love..." And reading of special moments that are meant for only husband and wife might well do that!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! :)

  4. Very nicely put..I could not have said it any better!!! Thank you for speaking up and writing about this. I have a pre teen and I honestly am sad that we would even have to worry about christian books that she might read. Keep standing for truth and thank you again. P.s. your momma did a good job with you :)

    1. Aw, your welcome! Thanks for your encouragement! I was kind of nervous to write this post, wondering how people would react and if they would think I'm being silly, :p So its so good to hear agreement! :)

      I know! :( I'm trying to find clean books for my younger sisters to read, and its just hard sometimes! I definitely wouldn't want them to read some of the sensual, Christian novels that I've come across!!

      Thank you! I will keep on striving to! :)

      :) And yes, my mom has shown me a lot of truths and been a support and encouragement in my life!! :)

  5. Lovely post, Shantelle. I entirely agree. It's bad enough when the mainstream books/films/TV that I watch has some of this what I call "ickness"; but Christian books?? They should know better. -_- *sigh* Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :) I do LOVE a good romance, and most of my favorite books have a romantic subplot that is sweet; but when it crosses that line it just ruins it. :-/

    *nervously awaits your post on magic because fears that we may be having a large disagreement on that point...* Ahem. >.>

    1. Aww, thanks, Deborah! I'm glad you agree, :)

      And I know!! Christian books should be safe to read when it comes to that! But unfortunately... Yes, "that kind of romance" definitely knocks stars off my rating, if not ruins the entire book for me! :(

      Meep! Hopefully not too large of a disagreement! :p Fortunately, I'll probably mostly be pointing out some things, repeating some wise-sounding arguments I've heard---rather than saying, "Well this is the way it is!" :p I still have a lot to learn! Haha.

      Blessings, and thanks for commenting! :) :)

    2. Haha, hopefully not. ;) No, it's just that whenever this topic comes up I'm generally of a different opinion than others and it gets tiring, with people automatically bashing books I love because they have "magic" and... I don't know. :-/ It's just really complicated. XD That being said, I AM very much looking forward to your post on it!! :) And yes, we ALL have a lot to learn (me too!) and it's good to be open-minded. ^_^ Anyways, I'll look forward to your post. :) *hugs* <3

    3. O.O Never fun when people bash your favorite books!! Especially when they do it in the "know-it-all" way.... :/ I understand completely!!

      Thanks! I guess you can read what I think, and then tell me what you think, and we can discuss it peaceably, ;D

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts Friday! :) :) *hugs back*

    4. Heh, thanks--glad you understand a bit. ;)

      Yes! Yay peaceable discussion! :D Hopefully we can always be peaceable friends. ;) *hugs*

    5. YES, I'm counting on it!! ;D We can always agree to disagree if it comes down to that, ;p :)

  6. I think you're right on target. I've noticed the same thing and pointed it out to my younger siblings and they agreed. I honestly think that some of the Melanie Dickerson books are borderline, especially at the end when I'm thinking "keep your hands to yourself!" lol!! But that's just my opinion.

    I don't know why all books for young people have to be set around the theme of "young girl falls in love with the first conveniently handsome man who pays attention to her for a millisecond." *cough* rant over. I promise! :)

    Looking forward to seeing what you have to say about magic next week! :) (And thanks for the shoutout. ;) When I do write in romance I try to keep it real and go the friends to eventually something more route.)

    1. Yes, its really become an issue.

      I would probably agree! I haven't read by Melanie Dickerson for a while, and couldn't remember if her's went a little overboard or not. :p I shall rectify that.

      Hey, I understand your rant perfectly!! :) It's just plain silly, and even harmful. Not true love.

      Thanks! I'm kind of nervous--but its really been on my heart lately. So I'm researching and seeing what others have to say! :)

      Your welcome! Thanks for commenting! Yes, keep it real and pure! :) :) Sounds great!

  7. I really liked this post, it is an issue most people, especially Christians skirt around and try to avoid. I have never liked romance, I am a self proclaimed tomboy. That being said, this year I started liking cute and sweet, love stories. Yours was one of them, but I don't generally read books classified as romance. Fantasy is much more my thing. I did notice that even in books like that, romance always seems to be the focus.
    Nothing is more disappointing to me, than a Christian book that takes it to far. I mean Christian books have a standard to live up to. Non Christian doesn't bother me as much because there isn't that standard. I find too often in Christian books for teens, that all the girl character's are obsessed with finding a boyfriend, and getting married,or getting kissed. I think it's making girl's worry about all the wrong things.
    Great post, good for you for writing about it. :)

    1. You're absolutely right, Skye!! I feel like rolling my eyes with a lot of Christian teen novels these days... they seem to have this obsession and unhealthy relationships with guys. And then when it focuses all on the physical... :{ Your're right. It just shouldn't be our focus!

      Yeah, romance definitely is popular in books. So the very least we, as Christians, can do is portray it in a godly way! And hopefully make the point that finding a guy isn't the "big goal" in our character's life as well! :)

      Thanks so much for commenting, and for your encouragement!! :)

    2. Oh, and I totally love fantasy as well!!! =) And I usually like romance in the grand scheme of things, but not as the absolute focus! :)

  8. Thanks for your heart Shantelle:) What you say rings true to my heart. I know.. this is something I have thought of more and more.. especially with my gals in mind... and myself. You are right. Even if a couple is married..what business do I or anyone else have in their private moments? Since I don't know authors that well, it is nice to have a heads-up on ones to avoid. I've tended to think that since they are "Christian books," they've got to be good. Nope! In fact I have a few stashed away at the moment .. probably should just dump them in the trash. (I have a hard time throwing away books:P) Yup, as "keeper of my home" I need to be even more vigilant in this area and sift my bookshelves thoroughly! Good thoughts.. love, Marla

    1. Aww, thanks, Marla. I feel honored yet humbled by all the good responses I'm getting... glory be to God of course!! :)

      Yes, I also tend to think, "Well it's Christian...should be fine!" But...yeah. Oh I know, it is so hard to throw away books!! But I guess if they're not going to benefit us or anyone else... what else can you do??

      For sure! Some of those authors I mentioned at the end of the post only have a few "iffy scenes", but I have noticed that Francine Rivers can seem to go overboard; though her stories are SO powerful! Julie Lessman, Deeanne Gist, Dina L. Sleiman, Jamie Carie, Tamara Leigh, and Liz Curtis Higgs (at least their adult novels) are authors I have chosen not to read by anymore, because some of their books just...yeah. Not exactly pure, lovely, and worthy of praise, because, yes, we don't have any business getting into characters' private life like that.

      Yes! You're right! I'm trying to go through my bookshelf and even to-read list and make sure I'm only reading godly and clean books! :)

      Thanks for your comment! I hope to hear from you again this coming Friday, when I post about magic...because I'm kind of nervous! Meep! Hoping to have some mature Christians thoughts and encouragement!! :)

      Blessings! <3

  9. (So I know this comment is way late, but I'm going to say it anyway. :P)

    Thank you for this!!! I love good sweet romance (hehe, and I love what you said about Ilyon) and extremely sensual "Christian" books bug me. :P

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, and I can't wait to read your book!

    1. Great! I don't mind if they're "late", I always love comments! :D :)

      Ah yes, Ilyon Chronicles! Jace and Kyrin are just wonderful!! <3 :D

      Same here!! ...As I'm sure you know from reading my post! :P Sweet romances are the best!

      Your welcome! I'm glad it was helpful/enjoyable. And aww, thanks!! ^__^ I'm so excited to share my stories with those who would enjoy them! :)


  10. I admit, I do love Christian romances, but as someone who has decided to save her first kiss for marriage, I also have noticed that there are quite a few Christian romances in which the heroine and hero share a kiss before marrying (or even getting engaged). I waffle between thinking whether it's good or bad. This article regarding saving your first kiss one that I really enjoyed and it really encouraged me 10 years after making that decision.

    You touch on some points/concerns I wanted to in my #Called2Speak post, but didn't get a chance to. I almost feel like I can't comment, since I haven't been in a serious romantic relationship --I know a lot of critics say that the romance genre (whether general market or Christian) give women (I realize some men read romance also, but the target group is generally women) unrealistic expectations towards romantic relationships. As a reader, I know that "life isn't a fairytale" --I know that what I'm reading is fiction ... is that enough? I try to be aware of and constantly check myself ... I don't expect a Prince Charming --I know that despite a lot of Christian romance having a drop-dead gorgeous hero, good guys don't have to be physical Adonises.

    I've heard of married women cutting down on reading romance when they felt it affected their relationships with their husbands (such as making them feel dissatisfied, longing for the early more romantic years), so I do think you have a valid point ... For now, I'm still a single girl that loves reading HEAs and 'shipping my favorite couples, but I definitely try to keep an even head while reading. =)

    1. I love a good romance too! ^_^ But yeah, as one who's also for saving your first kiss for marriage, it can sometimes be hard reading Christian romances where the couple is always kissing. Like ... not sure what to think.

      Yes, I think it's good to get a variety. I try not to read only romance ... A lot of times, the fantasy, dystopian, and other such genres that I read will have a romance element, but it's not consuming. They have strong faith themes, adventure, action, and other relationships too.
      I've never been in a relationship either ... I find that reading a lot of say, Christian historical romance, could make me a bit discontent/wistful. And then I might need to cut back and read something that doesn't focus completely on a love story. I think if the books we read have "instant love", "dashingly good-looking, perfect hero", "the guy always says sorry first", "focusing all on physical instead of the emotional and spiritual part of the relationship", then it could be giving us unrealistic expectations. But a Christian romance that's real, godly, and beautiful (of an imperfect man and imperfect woman who are striving to glorify God and love and serve each other)... that just gives a picture of how beautiful God made marriage, and makes me happy for the people who are experiencing that, and excited for if I ever get married, :)

      So yeah. Reading too much romance (especially if it's just fluffy and unrealistic), could definitely be harmful. But actually, I really am a hopeless romantic too! :D My biggest point of this post was to say to be sensitive with how sensual our romance novels get ... because we want to be careful to keep real private moments private and special between the couple! And write things in a clean, beautiful way that shows how romantic love and marriage honor God! Not focusing so much on physical and self. And keep the really physical stuff for married couples, not acting like it's all okay to do outside of the boundaries of marriage!

      I'm totally with you there! :D I love fangirling over sweet couples too!! As long as the romance is godly and (at least) more realistic, then I really enjoy it! :)

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your thoughts!

  11. Thank you so much for this post! It was really helpful to me.