Forgive and Forget?

This weekend I visited a church I used to attend.  Many changes have occurred since I walked out the door seven years ago: new people came, old people left, babies born, décor changed from gaudy to simple, pastor put out of the church, former youth group members become new church leaders.

The service was excellent and I enjoyed worshiping with old friends.  Yet something nagged me. I knew too much to forget. I witnessed the cover up, spoke to the victims, watched families fall apart and children question God. Then, I saw the church go about their business as if cleansed of evil doers.

What do I do with all that knowing?

I know that Christians are called to forgive as Christ forgave us, but do I forgive and forget or do I forgive and tell the truth in love?

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People DO Judge a Book by It’s Cover

What’s in a Title?

Nothing, if you don’t want to attract readers or if you want to give readers the wrong message. But If you want to attract readers, you need a juicy hook, and a good title is that hook.

As a reader, you know that the title is what persuades a reader to open a book.  Without an appropriate title, the reader moves on to another book, possibly not as good a book as the one you have written, simply because something about the title and the cover design appealed to them more than your book title and design.

People DO judge a book by its cover.

Don’t think that a short, catchy, punch-of-a-perfect title is easy to find.

Some titles come through a dream.  Other titles can come from a person particularly talented in thinking up great titles. Usually, finding a great title takes time.  It took me almost 9 years.  Mama mia!

So, what does a title really matter when most titles are subject to publisher input or change? It matters! You still need a title that “sells” the book idea to a publisher. A working title is essential.

As an example, here is a sampling of some of my former titles and why I did not ultimately choose them:

 

Home of the Gentiles

“Home of the Gentiles” is a metaphor for Christian church. I love this title, but it is too obscure; i.e., meaningless to the general reader.

 

Misplaced Faith 

Too much focus on the toxic-faith aspect of my story when the bigger theme is the emotions and experiences that made me vulnerable to toxic faith.

 

Unfriendly Faith

Same as above.

 

Emotionally & Spiritually Handcuffed

I have experienced periods of emotional and spiritual “suppression,” but the majority of my faith journey has been positive.

 

A Search for Love and Acceptance in Church

Does not portray the pain in my story.

 

A Search for Love and Acceptance in (Abusive) Churches

Too negative.  Turns people off.

 

Oops, I Didn’t Go to Church Today

This Sunday morning, my sanctuary is my backyard.  My sermon is the various bird chirps, squaws, hums, and tweets that fill the vast Maple tree hovering like a huge, green tent over my yard. My pew is a black wrought-iron chair shaped to my body with a feather pillow folded against my lower back. My brethren are three lazy West Highland White terriers and one lazy Shetland Sheepdog. For the most part, they lounge beneath my wrought–iron chair with no conscious whatsoever.  They are the experts, not regarding spiritual things, but regarding guilt-free living.  The sermon today is guilt-free living.

Not that long ago, I could not skip church without feeling guilty. Not long ago, to skip church for anything other than a bedridden condition was reckless, naughty, negligent. An encompassing need to justify my delinquency badgered my thoughts.  I don’t do that as much now.

Now I realize how 31 years in controlling churches seriously confused me.  Now I am unraveling. Now I know that “whatever the law says, it says it to those who are under the law” (Romans 3:19).

I am no longer under the law.

And that is a big HALLELUJAH!

Cracking the Literary Nut

What is the “nut”?  What is the nut of a story?

Not the cashew or the almond, but the central idea upon which everything else in a story originates.  You can call it theme, but I like nut better.  Not just because I like to eat nuts, but because huge things grow from a tiny nut.

My story is a huge living thing that grew from one tiny idea.  What was that tiny idea?  Is it my experience in toxic-faith communities or why I had the experience?

These two one-sentence summaries describe two different nuts. The first nut is a what nut.  The second sentence is a why nut.

Old: In her fervor for Jesus, a newly born-again Jewish woman finds herself captivated within exciting but cult-like Christian churches.

New: A young girl who doesn’t fit in with her peers, her religion, or her culture finds acceptance and excitement in cult-like churches.

I have had my share of trouble deciding between a what nut and a why nut.  But I’ve also had trouble with the who nut. For whom am I writing this story? 

My sentence summaries contain a what nut and a why nut.  They also contain a who nut.  Am I writing to a religious audience or a secular audience?

A friend who always makes me think had this response to my new one-sentence summary:

A friend A fairly radical departure from your old tag lines. It feels like it would have more of an appeal to a less religious audience.

My response:

I am really stuck. I’ve gone through about five titles and subtitles and I don’t think anything I’ve come up with yet describe the core of my story.

The question is how do I crack the nut?