Unexpected Masterpieces—How God Uses Creativity

No one doubts Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 or Les Misérables or The Lord of the Rings are deserving of creative masterpiece status. But creativity and masterpieces come sometimes in unexpected forms. Often people say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” but most likely these folks are not seeing the giftedness in their lives and lack a vision for how they can use their gifts and abilities.

If you are a skilled painter, writer, or musician . . . wonderful! You need to steward those abilities from God until they shine, always keeping in mind they are gifts. But outside the official world of the arts, creative thinking is alive and well and appears in many forms. Engineers may not be hammering away at their most recent novel, but they go to work daily to solve high-tech problems in the realms of security, travel, communications, business, and more. The same can be said for the scientists, mathematicians, and anyone thinking creatively outside the box.

The very idea of “creating” means to make something that didn’t exist before just as God once made humans out of dust. And it means to mold already-created resources into something fresh. Daily we are surrounded by people who feel like nothing, yet unknowingly wear the amazing title of God’s most valued masterpiece: you, your loved ones, coworkers, enemies, the folks inside a prison, the one standing at a street corner holding a sign saying, “Anything helps. God bless you,” or the one spraying graffiti on buildings. Some people may look more like rough drafts than finished products, but God wants to chisel away at us all, smoothing down sharp edges and bulky surfaces, aiming for that precious finished product underneath. How would the most lost and broken among us feel if they knew, really knew, what lay beneath their surfaces? The good news is, we are invited to befriend and support these wounded souls so they move closer to realizing their masterpiece status in Christ.

When we invest in broken lives through our time, prayers, wisdom, and counsel, what joy Jesus must experience as the dirt and detritus from shattered lives vanishes to unveil something unimaginably new. We share in that joy as we accept His invitation to cooperate in His work and cast a vision for people. Maybe we can’t all write a symphony, pen a novel, or paint a stunning landscape, but we can all dial the phone number of a hurting and lonely person, speak to a stranger, or share our resources. In doing so, we are given the privilege of investing in human works of art.

In Francine Rivers’s newest novel, The Masterpiece, we meet two broken people who have experienced deep trauma in their past, leaving them disengaged and withdrawn from healthy relationships. Drowning in shame, they hide their histories from each other. Artist Roman Velasco draws one practice sketch after another, aiming for the finished vision in his head but in the end tossing them in the garbage, unable to reach his imagined work.

Often a troubled background leaves people believing they deserve the same outcome. But no matter how rough the appearance, no human being is a practice sketch to be thrown in the trash. And here’s where we all come in: next time you claim you don’t have a creative bone in your body, take a look around your town and neighborhood and ask how you can put your hands on an in-progress masterpiece. We can image God by encouraging wholeness where only fragments existed before, offering a way where previously there was no way.

For other stories highlighting God’s intervention and healing in broken situations, check out our e-book specials this month:

Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli

Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke

The Grace Medical Collection by Candace Calvert

Visit E-book Extra for more great deals available this month!

NaNoWriMo – Are You Taking the Challenge?

What’s NaNoWriMo, some of you may ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Yup. People write 50,000-word novels in a month. Not yours truly, but some crazy, die-hard, devoted, energetic writers—like Sarah Rubio, an editor for children and nonfiction at Tyndale House.

Sarah is a NaNoWriMo pro, having taken part since 2007. She feels NaNoWriMo has taught her to achieve really ambitious goals, which she meets by calculating in advance how many words she’ll need to write daily to stay on track. Producing 2,000 words a day after her kids are in bed usually takes her about 1.5 to 2 hours. “I try to have a general idea of where I want to take the story so that when I sit down to crank out words I don’t have to spend too much time thinking.”

For anyone feeling a desire to attempt NaNoWriMo for the first time, here are a few suggestions to prime your pump when you’re freewriting in the beginning to familiarize yourself with your story:

Begin with brain dumping, pouring out those unedited, unfiltered ideas onto paper and seeing where they take you. Often the results surprise even the writer. Who knew what odd, interesting ideas lurk inside your brain! Type continuously to keep a flow going during a freewriting session. Sarah uses a version of freewriting with uninterrupted typing during her designated writing time. “If I get stuck on plot, I’ll start writing descriptions, fleshing out my characters or setting, or writing notes about what might come later or something I want to change about what I’ve already written.”

Writing prompts can familiarize you with your characters—their quirks, voices, problems, and wants. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Try beginning a series of paragraphs with one of the following phrases:
    • The unspoken apology hindered the . . .
    • Everyone knew who was lying by the way . . .
    • If stories could have scents, this one would carry the aroma of . . .
    • The last time we saw him . . .
    • Don’t ever forget the day . . .
    • He should’ve known better than to . . .
    • The sounds outside the window bring to mind . . .
  • Put your main characters in a scene together and create a power struggle, allowing the power to shift from one character to the other by the end of the scene. This can be done verbally or through action.
  • Write a letter to your main character empathizing with her struggles, encouraging her to get over her struggles, or chastising her for her selfishness. Cast a vision for how you’d like to see this character grow.

You get the idea. To become better acquainted with your story and characters, clarify your characters’ wants by brainstorming those wants and their influence on your story’s conflict, plot, and tension.

Setting: Freewrite about where your novel takes place. How does your setting contribute to the mood or metaphor of the story?  Is it an urban or rural setting? What is the novel’s time period—modern, futuristic, or historical?

 

Point of View: Brainstorm about who you want to tell your story and why. Remember that a unique point of view adds interest for your reader. How would your story change if you switched from third person to first person? Consider introducing a very unusual narrator—like Death (The Book Thief)—or a collective narrator, as in “we” when a group of cousins tells a story in During the Reign of the Queen of Persia. Experiment!

Characters: Sketch out and introduce unexpected and unusual characters. In Chris Fabry’s novel The Promise of Jesse Woods, the author introduces us to a young boy who moved from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, with his pastor father. Feeling out of place, Matt forges a fast bond with two unlikely friends: a mixed-race boy and a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

Revision: We wouldn’t recommend anyone write a novel in six months and then send it to an agent or publisher the following day. Revisions are important and offer you the opportunity to layer and deepen your work. Take advantage of these opportunities—but take advantage of them after November.

Most of all, be kind to yourself. Anyone who attempts to write a novel in a month is a rock star. Sarah Rubio didn’t make the 50,000 word goal her first year attempting NaNoWriMo, but she’s reached that goal every year since. The moral of the story? Don’t quit!

One of the best ways to get story ideas is to read voraciously. If you’re in need of a new book this month, consider picking up one of the many great e-book deals we have . . .

The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

Visit E-book Extra  for more great deals available this month!

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Thanks for reading! Are you trying NaNoWriMo next month? Let us know in the comments!

5 Reasons to Purchase Joel C. Rosenberg’s J. B. Collins Collection This October

With the gift giving season right around the corner, we wanted to let you know about New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg‘s new collection, the J.B. Collins Collection

  1. Start your Christmas shopping early!

Skip the lines, beat the holiday gift-buying rush, and order this mass market collection for your loved ones now. Check your husband, son, uncle, grandpa, or Secret Santa off your shopping list early—you’ll be glad you did. And when they open this fantastic collection on Christmas morning, so will they.

 

  1. Read the whole series at once!

For those of you fiction fans who despise a cliff-hanger, the wait is over! If you haven’t started the J. B. Collins series yet, now’s the time. Does The Third Target leave you feeling like the plot is unresolved? Fear not! Book two, The First Hostage, is ready and waiting for you. This October, experience the whole J. B. Collins adventure at once. Take a break from your favorite TV show, and try binge-reading this suspense-filled series instead.

 

  1. Take it on the go!

The J. B. Collins Collection makes a wonderful travel companion this Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Due to their compact size, each book in the collection slips perfectly into a travel bag while also helping you avoid the back pain that comes with carrying multiple hardcover books from your to-read pile in your carry-on.

 

  1. Use it as a conversation starter!

Are you tired of answering your family’s barrage of questions at holiday gatherings about your job, relationship status, etc.? Tell them about the last great book you read from the J. B. Collins Collection and how scary accurate Joel C. Rosenberg has been in writing about current geopolitical events, like the threat of ISIS.

 

  1. Save big in October!

If the above reasons have not yet convinced you to pick up a copy of this collection, then how about a great sale price? During the month of October, Tyndale.com will be offering this newly released collection at 20 percent off. This means you get all three books in Joel C. Rosenberg’s most recent series for under $20 when you order from Tyndale! Now that sounds like a plan to me.

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Interested in this collection? Enter through the Gleam app below to win a copy. One winner will receive the 3-book collection (US entries only).

Happy reading!

The J.B. Collins Collection Giveaway

September New Releases + #BookGiveaway

Hey there, readers! Don’t miss out on a chance to win one of these new must-reads, hitting shelves this month!

Rule of Law by Randy Singer

Rule of Law asks the question: Is the president above the law? Available in bookstores and online.

Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore

Crisis Shot is the perfect read for fans of Castle and romantic suspense. Available in bookstores and online.

Loving Luther by Allison Pittman

Explore Loving Luther, a novel unearthing the love story of Katharina von Bora and Martin Luther. Available in bookstores and online.

How Sweet the Sound by Amy Sorrells

“With poetic prose, lyrical descriptions, and sensory details . . . this story dives into the Gulf Coast culture of pecan orchards and debutante balls, exposing layers of family secrets and sins. In the end comes redemption, grace, forgiveness, and faith. Bravo!” —Julie Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author

Available in bookstores and online.

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Enter to win one of the above novels through the Gleam app below. One winner (US only) will be chosen for each novel.

Good luck!

September Crazy4Fiction #BookGiveaway

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