Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Three Favorite Christian Novels

Essay #2

My Three Favorite Christian Novels
By Julia Hopkins

Many people enjoy a good novel. Some read for entertainment. They want to be swept away from reality and taken into another world temporarily. They want to run on the beach on some deserted island in the Caribbean or scale a mountain in the Far East. A well-written novel can vicariously take them there. Others want to be educated and may choose to read historic fiction that will teach them about a specific period in time. They can learn what it was like for a slave on the Underground Railroad or what foods were eaten at medieval feasts. I, however, like novels that engage my mind in deeper issues. Books that challenge me to live a better Christian life. My three favorite Christian novels are In His Steps by Charles Sheldon, Soon by Jerry Jenkins, and Yada, Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson.

While in college I was given In His Steps by a classmate who claimed that it changed her life. I had never enjoyed reading but began to flip through this book because I respected the person that gave it to me. Before long, much to my surprise, I was engulfed in its pages. This book tells the story of a church group that has an unusual encounter with a homeless person, which teaches them about being the hands and feet of Jesus. They begin to ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” and vowed to do that very thing, no matter what the consequence for an entire year. The book then chronicles their experiences both good and bad with this new venture of doing everything, living every part of their lives, as Jesus would have them. Naturally, after reading this moving story I began to look at my life and wonder if I were truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. Was I really doing what Jesus wanted or just trying to fit my wants into His will? This book caused me to ask, “What would Jesus do?” before making any decision in my life, big or small. Just as with my college classmate, it changed my life.

Soon by Jerry Jenkins was another book that caused me to think hard about my life as a Christian. It takes place in a fictional world where all religion is outlawed. To be a Christian in this fabricated universe is a criminal act and the Church is forced deep underground. The protagonist starts out as a non-believer in a very high position in government. He is promoted to a special unit that hunts down Christians to have them killed. Then much like Paul in the Bible, this man is blinded and begins his life as a believer after he is healed. This caused me to contemplate my life. I wondered how I would do in a world where worshiping God is illegal. Would I fit in? Would I be killed for my belief? Would anything about my life change at all? These are the provoking thoughts that Mr. Jenkins’ book awoke in me, and why I have read it more than once.

The last book that has seriously affected my walk with Christ is really a series of books by Neta Jackson that center on a group of ladies who meet at a women’s conference in Chicago. These girls have nothing in common yet they form a real and lasting friendship with one another. They are from different ethnic backgrounds, social standings and life circumstances. The only thing that keeps them together is Christ. The Yada, Yada Prayer Group books follow the lives of these women as they live day-to-day and meet up with one another every other week to pray for and encourage one another. It may sound boring to some but it hit me right where I live. I identified greatly with the main character, a preachers kid from a conservative family in Iowa, who moved to Chicago with her husband and kids. She had little experience with city life or other cultures when she first became a part of this group yet she was willing to get out of her box to experience love in a Godly way. After reading these books I began asking myself things like, “Whom do I ask to pray for me when something happens in my life?” And “Am I really a prayer warrior for my friends like these ladies?” Neta Jackson’s books even inspired me to start my own ladies prayer group.

These three books have touched my life deeply. They have caused me to look at my Christian walk in a whole new way. Novels that are entertaining but also have a deeper spiritual message are special. One day I would love to write a book that would touch the life of someone the way these books have touched me. And who knows, maybe my book will be the subject of an essay such as this in the future?

Three Lessons My Kids Taught Me

Essay #3

Three Lessons My Kids Taught Me
By Julia Hopkins

No one ever really stops learning because we will never know everything there is to know. Although, as we become adults much of the knowledge we acquire is less useful than what we learned as a child. Like knowing enough to win a game of Trivial Pursuit or who is on this weeks cover of the tabloids and why. Some admit that everything they needed to know to live a successful life they learned in Kindergarten. I, however, picked up some very valuable nuggets of wisdom once I became a parent. My kids have taught me three very valuable lessons.

One lesson that took me a long time to learn is that things aren’t always what they seem. Closed eyes don’t always indicate a sleeping child. A clean plate might mean a well-fed dog and not a nourished little one. And, an evil laugh should not always be interpreted as a mischievous child. Children sometimes do things that make one wonder if something catastrophic has happened when they are just playing. Unfortunately, some young ones also learn to lie and hide the reality from us. That’s why you can never tell. Things aren’t always how they appear.

To choose your battles wisely is another gem of wisdom I’ve picked up over the years. We all want to be right but being right can be a dangerous thing for which to fight. It tends to place rightness above the relationship. Someone once told me that others will not care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think with this we can add that they will not care if you are right unless they know that you care about them. This is a lesson I have learned from my teens. They tend to think they are right most of the time and only listen to those that have proven their love and concern for them.

Kids do not stay little for long and watching them grow has taught me one last lesson. Life is too short not to have fun. There will always be work to be done, clothes to be folded, floors to be mopped and windows to wash. If we use all our time doing these chores, one day we will look up to notice that our baby isn’t a baby any more and the only thing we will have to show for it is a clean house. Parents need to take the time to play and have fun while making good memories for their children and themselves. Life isn’t always fun however in our family we live by the saying, “Life’s not fair; but you can make it better.” We are not always put into a great life situation but whatever the circumstance, you can make it better by having fun.

These three lessons I didn’t learn until I was a married woman with many children. Maybe you were able to learn these things earlier in life. Or perhaps you’re just learning as you read this essay. Either way, I pray you use these lessons to make your life better.

My Hidden Talents

I recently took an essay class with my two oldest girls that I thoroughly enjoyed. I've decided to share some of the essays I wrote for class here on my blog. I've spent a lot of time away from writing anything. Busy with daily life. Now I am going to try to find the time to begin writing again.

My Hidden Talents
By Julia Hopkins

The audience is filled with curiosity as they watch the little girl enter the stage with a fiddle and a pogo stick. What on earth is she going to do with those two totally unrelated objects? The people wait with bated breath as she balances herself atop the pogo stick. Then very carefully she places the fiddle underneath her chin. The crowd, now silent, watches. Can she do it? Cheers and laughter irrupt from the crowd letting everyone know that she was indeed successful. She has the uncanny ability to play a tune on the fiddle as she bounces on a pogo stick.

“Stupid Human Tricks” is what David Letterman used to call them on his late night talk show. He would have people lined up to perform all kinds of feats. People would fly in from all over the US to show the American public that they can actually lick their own elbow or flatulate to the tune of a popular song. Some may say that this proves that America’s got talent, but I don’t know.

If that’s what one calls talent then I’m not sure I have any. However, an online dictionary defines talent as “a marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment, natural endowment or ability of superior quality.” Going by this definition I realize that our Creator gave us all talents. Although I’m pretty sure that He intended them to be known by others and not hidden, there are a couple of things that I’m good at that not many people, other than my family, know about.

First of all, I am a songwriter. I have always lived by the idealistic theory that life is a musical and we are the cast. Every life situation brings with it the opportunity to sing and write your own song to fit the occasion. With my first baby I sang to him a simple lullaby that I composed while I rocked him to sleep. Then as my children grew, I wrote them each a silly song about their name that made them laugh and giggle. But I suppose I began writing songs when I was a teen and received my first guitar. Maybe I don’t write enough to be given the title of songwriter but it is something I enjoy and I believe those who listen enjoy as well.

I also have the ability to keep my children connected in fun and creative ways. Perhaps one would call it creative bonding. At times my children have been given a school assignment that ended with a formal dress, family dinner in which we all affirmed one another with the papers they had written about one specific sibling. Every leap year we pull out a time capsule and read about what the children were like four years ago. Then we create a new paper to go inside the time capsule that tells about each child’s current interests and favorite people. Even a ride in the car can become a lesson in creative bonding when we try to surprise one another with a game we made up called HEY! Having as many children as I do it is difficult to keep them all focused and bonded but with some crazy ideas I think I’ve been able to do a fairly good job.

I may not be able to wiggle my ears or touch my tongue to my nose and I may never appear on David Letterman or America’s Got Talent but these are a few things at which I am talented. In the end, I would rather write a song for my children and keep them bonding with one another than to have my fifteen minutes of fame.