Sci-Fi Writing Contest

Hey writing friends! I received an e-mail about this contest the other day and thought you might be interested. Check it out, and if it looks like a good fit for you, send in your sci-fi stories! There are some great prizes, including a free copy of Scrivener (which I’ve never used, but which many writers swear by).

Inkitt’s latest Science Fiction writing contest “Beyond Time” is now open for submissions!

beyond_timeInkitt is a free writing platform that aims to help writers achieve their fullest potential. On June 22nd the site launched a new Science Fiction writing contest:

Beyond Time
Submit your most imaginative and fantastic Science Fiction stories! Take your readers on a journey; ride a spaceship, explore an extraterrestrial universe, travel through time – the possibilities are endless and the universe is yours. Be spellbinding, be world altering, and let your imagination run free.

Contest guidelines
Authors will retain all rights to any and all works submitted in the contest.

Original stories of any length are accepted.

Entries must be posted on the Inkitt contest page to be considered eligible.

The contest opens on June 22th and closes on July 27th.

The contest is completely free to enter.

The top 10% based on reader votes get the chance to be picked by the Inkitt staff for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize.

All entrants will have the chance to show their work to a rapidly growing community of authors and readers hungry for high-quality fiction.

Submit your stories here: http://inkitt.com/beyondtime

Heel Blisters and What I’ve Learned About Pain

A few days ago I returned from my second major hiking trip in the Bruce Peninsula — we covered 22 km of clifftop and woodland trails along Lake Huron this time. Breathtaking. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places in my life, but this region — especially the parts you can only get to if you’re willing to hike over difficult terrain for 7+ hours and sleep in the backcountry — is one of the most incredible.

georgian bay photo
Photo by TranceMist

This was a challenging hike, don’t get me wrong, but it still didn’t equal my first real hike in the Bruce. That day, my hiking buddy and I walked a total of approx. 38 km (23.5 miles). Yes, in one day. The trail was challenging nearly the whole way (you’re clambering over a ton of exposed rock, and up and down short, steep inclines that will really mess with your knees), and I was carrying an overweight backpack.

Also, I had done a little bit of conditioning before the hike, but probably not enough.

Now, I’m not advising that you follow suit, but that hike was amazing. I learned a ton about what I can actually DO — what endurance can accomplish.

We have a sort of life slogan that came out of that trip: It’s amazing what can happen if you just keep going.

But a significant part of that lesson was learning to let pain just be there. Not deal with it, not stop it, just let it be.

hiking boots photo
Photo by cobaltfish

See, when you’ve been walking for miles and every part of your body hurts, but you’ve still got a lot MORE miles to go and the sun is not going to stay up forever, you can’t actually just stop and nurse your heel blisters, or cry over your sore shoulders, or take a break to pity your knees.

(I’m not saying you shouldn’t stop and avail yourself of tape, Band-aids, Neosporin, and knee braces — DO take care of yourself. Okay, disclaimer over.)

The thing is that pain wants you to think it’s the most important thing in the world and you must deal with it THIS MINUTE. If you can’t make it stop, it wants you to not do anything else either. Just focus on how badly it hurts.

Are you seeing the application to life yet?

Life hurts. Often, and badly.

When the pain is bad enough, it wants you to stop everything and deal with it. Medicate it. Dwell on it. Make it stop, or else make it the center of your universe.

And I get that there are times you really do have to sit down and feel what you’re feeling. I’m a believer in embracing pain, not denying it.

But that DOESN’T mean you have to give it first place, and it doesn’t mean you have to let it take over, and it doesn’t mean it cancels out every other priority.

Many years ago, the missionary Amy Carmichael wrote about her grief in losing a friend, “In acceptance lieth peace.”

I learned on that hiking trip that sometimes you can just let the pain be. You can live with it — accept it for what it is and keep going. You know it’s part of the deal — you ARE hiking 38 km over rough ground with an overweight backpack, by your own choice — and it isn’t the End of Everything.

Actually, if you keep going, you’ll reach the end of the trail, find time to deal with the pain properly and recover from it, and come out stronger.

The results of plunking down in the middle of the trail and refusing to go on any further because it hurts too much? Not great.

The Bible teaches that suffering doesn’t have to be feared and avoided at all costs. It teaches that we can actually choose to embrace and enter into it in such a way that we “suffer with Christ” and “fill up his sufferings,” and in doing so are given a way of participation in his resurrection and glory as well (Romans 8:17, Colossians 1:24, 1 Peter 4:13, 2 Timothy 2:12, Philippians 3:10-11). It also teaches that God is working everything — including pain — together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

None of that means suffering won’t come.

It means suffering doesn’t have to stop you.

No matter how loudly it yells at you, pain does not have to become the first thing in your life. It doesn’t have to sit on the throne.

That place belongs to God, who is working all things for your good.

Rather than asking, “How can I get rid of this?” you can ask “How can I walk through this?”

There’s always an other side to reach — the end of the trail to get to. No suffering lasts forever.

cross photo
Photo by Claudio ?

Take heart. The Lord who walks with you knows pain, agony, and deep soul suffering. He sweat blood in the garden. He didn’t skip out on the pain — he went through it.

And he was raised from the dead.

This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy:

“For if we have died with Him,
We will also live with Him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with Him.”

(2 Timothy 2:10-12, HCSB)

Our Freedom Hasn’t Changed. Our Opportunity Is Growing.

storm at sea photo
Photo by Vegar S Hansen Photography

I returned home from a hiking trip on Friday to learn that earlier that day, the US Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage had been handed down. Like many, I’m saddened and concerned, though not surprised, by the decision.

I do believe this decision opens the door for religious people to be targeted and important religious freedoms (not to mention freedom of speech) to be curtailed. It truly looks like a hard road ahead.

But I don’t really want to write about politics or how our freedoms are evaporating. Because here’s the thing:

Our most important freedoms have nothing to do with laws. Laws do not actually change much on the grand scale of things. They don’t change truth. They don’t change human nature. This law doesn’t change what marriage is. And if the Son has set us free, we are free indeed.

Because all of THAT is true, I hope that we as Christians will step up and recognize the enormous responsibility — and opportunity — in front of us.

This ruling should remind us that our culture is headed into deep waters that will leave many desperately needy people grasping for a rescue, a way to avoid drowning. Again, the ruling itself doesn’t really change the direction our culture was heading, though it may accelerate it. But the sexual ethics of our day are destructive, and they will destroy human beings — precious, beautiful human souls.

More than ever, the world around us needs what we have: The truth, the gospel, and the unconditional love of God which we are commissioned to herald and to represent.

I hope that we won’t react to this decision with fear, anger, or isolationism. I hope we’ll recognize that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. I hope we’ll remember that the kingdom seeds in us are meant to grow into a tree that shelters all around us, a bit of yeast that winds up transforming the whole loaf.

Yes, more than ever we need to hold the line on morality, because immorality is a rot in the bones that destroys real people. But we need to do more than that: while holding that line, we also need to be light, to be salt, to be a hand reaching out to a drowning culture and drowning people and saying, “Come, there’s a solid ground and a place of shelter and healing for you here.”

Our culture is not any darker or more immoral than the culture in which the church was born. The early Christians transformed their world. We can do the same.

If You Step Out That Door

One of my favorite moments in Avengers: Age of Ultron is when Wanda Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch, although you’d never know it just from watching the movie) is huddled in a traumatized, whimpering heap in the corner of a building while genocidal robots overrun her city — traumatized not because she’s a coward (she’s anything but), but because she’s realized her own complicity in what’s happening.

wanda“This is all our fault,” she says, hands over her ears against the destruction outside. “How could I have let this happen?”

Up until that point, Wanda has never exactly been a hero. She’s an immensely (immensely) powerful young lady with a desire to help her people and a personal vendetta; THAT deadly combination leads to that moment of trauma. At this juncture she’s chosen to be on the good side rather than the bad side, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Clint Barton, catching a few breaths in the building beside her, gives the movie’s best speech. “Listen,” he says (I’m paraphrasing), “you can stay in here and be safe if you want to; there’s no shame in that. I’ll send your brother to come get you. But I’m going back out there because it’s my job, and I don’t have time to do my job and babysit. So if you want to stay safe, stay safe–

“But if you step out that door, you’re an Avenger.”

She takes a minute to think about it.

And then she steps out that door.

In my opinion, it’s one of the best hero introductions in the MCU to date–an immensely powerful moment both visually and in the arcs of both character and plot.

Since I’m a firm believer that all stories reflect the Big Story, and I have a lot of fun finding parallels in Marvel movies particularly, that moment resonated with me on several levels.

Because if you’re going to really follow God, and not just sit on the sidelines, there comes a moment when you have to step out that door.

You have to move past repentance (and the self-pity that camping out too long in regret can lead to) and choosing to be on the right side instead of the wrong side, and you have to actually own your power and step out that door.

You have to realize that the team needs you. You have to realize that you have a place no one else does, and you have to decide to face the danger and do what you were born to do.

You have to step out that door and help save the world.

wandaconceptIn an earlier scene, when Wanda’s former ally (the evil maniac trying to destroy the world) accuses her and her brother of turning against him, she says bitterly, “What choice do we have?”

But after stepping out the door, when our heroes are at their most critical moment, Wanda chooses to be the last woman off the island. She’ll remain and guard the movie’s holy grail until everyone else is safe.

When Clint casts her a questioning look, she tells him, “It’s my job.”

For all of us, there comes a time when we have to embrace the fight.

Move beyond repentance.

Realize only you can play the role you play.

And step out that door.

(On another note, Barton’s role in the scene is telling. Wanda doesn’t actually come to her senses alone; left to her own devices, I’m guessing she would have stayed there, drowning in self-deprecation. She needed Clint’s help to push her out of her mental entrapment; he gave it — in part because he sees a heroine where nearly everyone else still sees a “witch.” To borrow another line from the film, how do you overcome impossible odds? Together.)

Good, Evil, & Winning the Fight

As an author of fantasy adventure stories, I write a lot about what’s popularly termed “the battle of good and evil.” Even in secular popular culture, that phrase gets a lot of traction. We might officially deny there’s any such thing as objective good or evil, but get us telling stories and we all know the war is real. And important.

A few months back* I blogged some about a new organization here in Canada, started up by some very good friends of mine. Strength to Fight exists to “take back our homes, our schools, and our culture from the invasion of pornography.”

In my opinion, this is one of our culture’s most important battle fronts.

It’s INCREDIBLY important that we win this one. For the sake of our culture and especially for the sake of individuals, whose lives — whose very souls — will be shaped by this one issue.

Last time I blogged about them, the guys were raising funds for a launch. Well, they did it, and at three months in they have been busy nonstop, presenting in schools, churches, and community events across Canada. They are hugely effective; I’ve seen this firsthand.

But they need help to do what they do. If you share our passion for this issue and want to make a difference here in Canada, I highly recommend supporting Strength to Fight.

Download the PDF for more info or visit their website at www.strengthtofight.ca.

 

*At the time I was using the book FIFTY SHADES OF LOVED as a fundraiser. This little book is a project I spearheaded. It doesn’t specifically target porn, but it does target some of the wrong identities our culture tries to create and replace them with an understanding of God’s love and the identity given us by our Creator.