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Saturday, September 02, 2017

FIFTY SHADES OF … PRAY?

by Julie Lessman, @julielessman

Wouldn’t that be wonderful? In a world where our God created passion and romance, wouldn’t it be amazing if a Christian romance novel topped the best-seller lists around the world? Sold over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015? Was translated into 52 languages? Set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time? Became a box-office breaking movie?

I’m talking, of course, about the runaway bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, a romance novel that single-handedly catapulted erotica to the top of TBR lists everywhere.


I wonder, does this tick anybody else off? I hope so. Because the truth is we followers of Christ are supposed to be salt in an unsavory world, and trust me, it doesn’t get anymore “unsavory” than the romance genre. A genre with approximately $1.08 billion in sales in 2013 per Romance Writers of America and cinching 34% of the U.S. fiction market in 2015.

According to an American Religious Identification Survey “nine out of ten women nationwide consider themselves to be Christian.” Ironically, most of these women who do read romance wouldn’t choose Christian romance to save their soul. Why, you may ask? Well, those I’ve talked to say they prefer more heart-pounding, 21st-century romantic passion realistic to today’s society. As a result, most of my friends, Christian and non, read secular romance, which, of course, generally promotes the world’s amoral lifestyle rather than God’s. What’s wrong with this picture? I mean if the world can take something God created and use it to sell its amoral agenda, then why can’t Christians utilize this God-given passion to promote Him and His precepts?

Look at the world today—it’s obsessed with illicit passion. Hollywood promotes adultery and unmarried couples sleeping together as sexy, and living together is “the new normal,” according to Pamela J. Smock, Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. Why? Because passion is important! Not just to romance readers, but to everyone on the planet. We were created that way by a passionate God who analogizes His own depth of love for each of us in a very passionate love letter called “Song of Solomon.” And what happens? The world uses this beautiful, God-given gift to shove sin down peoples’ throats, and I, for one, am really sick of it. I’d love to see the Christian market broaden its tent pegs to use romantic passion to teach people God’s precepts and therein, His love.

The cry of my heart is that my stories of romantic passion translate into passion for God, which is why my tagline is “Passion With a Purpose.” But those who disagree with me do give me pause to think … and pray … that I stay the course with God’s plan and not my own. I thank them for their passion for purity, which I assure them, is as fervent as mine, something I’ve expounded on in greater detail in my blog entitled, Life on the Edge.

I truly understand the concern and “passion” of those who feel Christian romance must remain chaste and pure. But on the other side of the spectrum, there are Christians like me, who worry that “chaste and pure” will not reach the Fifty Shades of Grey or MTV crowd anymore than old-time Gospel music will reach those who listen to Christian rock such as Pillar or Underoath. The Body of Christ is just that—a body of human beings at varying levels of faith. It’s not one size fits all in reaching people for Christ, but it’s the cry of St. Paul who said “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Salt … in an unsavory world.

So at the core of who I am as a woman and a writer, I have this deep, primal longing to please and honor my God, something I pray about often. In fact, I was praying about it with my prayer partner one day when her 25-year-old daughter stopped by, a girl who had strayed from her Christian roots—living with her boyfriend, not going to church anymore, heavy drinking, etc.

This young women proceeded to tell me that when she read my books, she actually got angry at me. Why? Because the spiritual parts convicted her so much that she wanted to throw the books out. But she didn’t, she said, because the passion and intense romance so grabbed her by the throat, that she was compelled to finish the books. And when she turned the last page of one of them, she told me it had brought her up to a whole other level with God. I had tears in my eyes when I learned she is now back at church and trying to live for Him.

Call me “edgy” if you will, but for me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

So … “Fifty Shades of Grey?” Or “Fifty Shades of Pray?” My hope is for the latter… and so are my prayers.

TWEETABLES



Christian Romance in a secular world. The harvest is great, but the workers are few @julielessman @NovelRocket http://bit.ly/2vJ1Slx

Salt … in an unsavory world. 
@julielessman on @NovelRocket #writng http://bit.ly/2vJ1Slx


__________________
His Steadfast Love (Book 3 in the Isle of Hope Series)

She’s a prodigal. He’s a pastor.

Will his steadfast love woo her back home?

Cat O’Bryen is not happy with God. First the pastor father with whom she finally with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever.

Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who almost destroyed his life, ex-Navy-Seal Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back, both to them and to her faith. But when the attraction she poses proves too strong to resist, he must rely on a higher strength to offer a friendship as steady and strong as the God Whose love is wooing her home.

A Glimmer of Hope, prequel novella to the Isle of Hope Series is currently available as a FREE DOWNLOAD.

Isle of Hope, book 1 in the Isle of Hope Series is currently on e-sale for 99 cents.

Love Everlasting, book 2 in the Isle of Hope Series is currently on e-sale at 50%.





Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015 and 2014 as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets.

Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com

27 comments:

  1. This is SO true!! I read so many amazing Christian romance books, and I wish that they were made into movies as frequently as secular books are. It's getting harder and harder to find quality media choices on the screen. Thank goodness we still have them in books! ;-)

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  2. Funny story: My first christian fiction book I read by accident. I didn't know what the inspirational sticker meant on the books at the library. If I had known I probably wouldn't have picked it up.

    It is now my favorite book and now I read almost exclusively inspirational (christian) fiction and it's my favorite genre! I wish more people who read secular would give this genre a chance. It really is lovely.

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  3. Karen, I SO agree, my friend, which is why I am a HALLMARK addict because they are taking the TV world by storm. I think I read they are in the top five of most watched channels and are now actively recruiting more "romances and mysteries that also celebrate friendship, family, and/or community ties," so that just confirms that you and I are not alone in our desire for quality media choices that show romance NOT according to the world's morality.

    Thanks for coming by!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  4. Oh, Annaleigh, I love, Love, LOVE that story, so thank you for sharing it, my friend.

    You said: "If I had known (it was Christian)I probably wouldn't have picked it up. It is now my favorite book and now I read almost exclusively inspirational (christian) fiction and it's my favorite genre!"

    OH MY GOODNESS, LOVE THIS!! I have received so many emails that say JUST that, too, Annaleigh, so THANK YOU for reinforcing this point AND for coming by. MUCH appreciated!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie, I so enjoyed all your series. I reread them the last 2 summers. I so agree with your tagline "Passion with a Purpose" Christian married women need the inspiration of passion. I should have discovered this earlier to help me in my romantic nurturing of my husband.

      And, yes, your books should be on film!! I like Hallmark but, lately I prefer reading (or listening to audio books) Christian romance/historical fiction.

      It is also uplifting to read love stories with reminders of God's word and promises. Philippians 4:8

      God bless you and I pray many women and men who read your stories will come to know the Savior and to those who know Him already that they maintain their personal daily walk with Him as they read your stories.
      Love in Christ,
      Virgie

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  5. Excellent points. Thank you for being real and willing to go deeper, to deal with issues of passion and morality. Thank you for being salt and light to your readers!!!

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  6. Julie, I love that you're not afraid to put passion in to your books, but in the right way. I think that's what is lacking is much of Christian fiction and when we're too sterile or legalistic in our stories (can't mention a church raffle, anyone?) then it's a turn-off to those we're trying to reach. Jesus came to save a real, fallen, and messed up world and that's the way the world still is...unfortunately. I echo Kate above, thank you for being salt and light to your readers!!!

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  7. P.S. The link to "LIfe On The Edge" just goes back to Seekerville, not to your own blog and I was interested in reading that blog post - just wanted to let you know. :)

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    1. Please try it again, Laurie - I just clicked on the link that Julie included in her post, it took me to her post: Life on the Edge, which she posted on the Seekerville blog.

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  8. Yes, I'm ticked off along with you!! The world becomes less moral day-by-day, Christian Fiction plays/can play a part in helping reverse the situation.

    I've noticed just in the past year that a few Christian Fiction authors are beginning to write more realistically in portraying the problems of today's world. Which is something you've always done in your writing - I want to thank you personally, as a reader, because your transparency, candidness, passion, and showing marriage as a triangle (with God in the center and He as the answer to all of life's problems, including those of romantic passion) are what attracted me to your writing and have kept me glued to the pages of each of your books. Reading about realistic, passion-filled situations in which characters are redeemed through the love of God helps me better understand the problems of others living in a lifestyle different from mine, and reach out to them.

    I wholly agree that romantic passion in Christian Fiction can be used to teach readers God's precepts/love and draw them to a closer relationship with Him. I feel it can be done through the author showing compassionate, realistic understanding of the reader's problems by portraying her/his characters in like situations - with God as the answer to their problems. My prayer is that more Christian Fiction authors will feel His call in "stepping outside of the box" to reach those readers for Him who may not otherwise be reached.

    There are those who wouldn't step inside a church or open a bible - but would read a fiction book (inspired by God) which portrays their lifestyle. As you commented - passion was given to all people by God. Why should there not be a place for it in Christian Fiction when written in a God-honoring way?

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  9. Oh my goodness, Virgie, I cannot thank you enough, not only for your kind comment, but for ALL the wonderful reviews you posted on each of my books -- thank you, Thank You, THANK YOU, my sweet friend!! I pray God blesses you as much as you have blessed me!

    HUGS AND MORE HUGS!!
    Julie

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  10. Aw, Kate, thank YOU for your kind comment AND for your incredible support -- I appreciate it more than I can say, my friend.

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  11. Laurie, thank you SO much for your support and kind words, my friend, and for reading my books in the first place! I appreciate it -- and YOU -- more than I can say!

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  12. Bonnie, thank you SO much for responding to Laurie -- you are SUCH a sweetheart, my friend!

    And, Laurie, Bonnie's right -- that Life on the Edge blog is one I did for my group blog, Seekerville, so it's one and the same. :)

    HUGS!!
    Julie

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  13. Dear Bonnie, have I told you lately just how much I love you? You and I are two peas in a pod, my dear friend, and I am SO grateful God caused our paths to cross! I only wish we had become friends much, much sooner because a friend like you is a true treasure!

    Thank you as always for your continued support of me and my writing. Love you to pieces!!

    HUGS,
    JULIE

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  14. No, Susan, thank YOU for taking the time to read it and comment.

    Hugs!!
    Julie

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  15. I love this post! Your books truly are passion with a purpose, and not just empty romances. They do bring us to prayer and to see what real and healthy relationships can be. I can't wait to read your newest book.

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  16. This was a great article. I love the passion in your books. I feel inspired do better in my relationship with my husband and with God at the end of each book. The steamy and erotic romance genres leave me feeling unclean and like I've dishonored my marriage by reading them. Your books bring to mind Philippians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. Thanks for writing such wonderful books about passion with a purpose.

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  17. Aw, Martha, you have no idea how much that means to me, especially coming from someone who has professed not to be much of a romance reader, so THANK YOU, my sweet friend!!

    Hope you enjoy His Steadfast Love -- it contains the 2nd most important spiritual lesson I ever learned.

    Hugs and more hugs!!
    Julie

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  18. Kerri, thank you SO much, my sweet friend -- your comment about feeling inspired to do better in your relationship with your husband and with God blesses the socks off of me!! I soooo appreciate your support and your friendship!!

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  19. Wonderful post,Julie!! You summed up the problem of Christian vs Secular romance perfectly. Unfortunately many readers think that if you're a Christian or read Christian Romance that you can't enjoy the God given passion we have. It's such a shame that people think that the perverted erotica that some secular romance offer is love. As I've said before your books are a perfect example of what Christian Romance is. "Passion With a Purpose " is something that should be taught to everyone!

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  20. Hey, Lynne, thank you SO much for your kind comment and for taking the time to come by -- MUCH appreciated, my sweet friend!

    Hugs and more hugs!!
    Julie

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  21. I've tried to read Christian romance, but each time the portrayal is so out of touch with even Christian lifestyles that I'm afraid I'll get cavities from reading the sugary, sweet twaddle.

    I write historical fiction, which makes it easier to avoid the outright sexuality of character relationships, but the passion is still important to the story. Just because people didn't live together in the past, it didn't mean they weren't tempted by desire and lust.

    God gave us love, passion and yes, even lust. But He also set boundaries; not to confine us, but as protection and provision for the woman and her children. That's the message I try to express in my stories.

    I have not yet been published, but will continue to learn and to write what I believe the Lord is leading me to write.

    Thank you for your post and as soon as I submit this comment I’m rushing out to buy one of your books!

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  22. So true Julie!!!

    I try to support authors like you as much as I can. Passion is not wrong like you said in Song Of Solomon it's filled with passion,but just like anything else in this world it can be twisted even just a little bit that can make it not pleasing to God. I wish they would start making movies out of your books.

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  23. TAMI!! My thoughts exactly, my friend, so stay true to the mission God has given you, which won't be easy, but as we all know -- in our weakness He is strong! :)

    And I hope you didn't rush right out and "buy" one of my books unless it was the free prequel novella to my Isle of Hope series, A Glimmer of Hope, or one of the 99-cent sale ones because those are a good way to see if you like my style of writing. Whatever you read, thought, let me know if you like it, okay? And if you don't? Well ... uh ... never mind! ;)

    Hugs and Happy Reading,
    Julie

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  24. GOD'S WINK!! First off, let me say that I absolutely LOVE your addy -- SO cute!! Secondly, THANK YOU for your very sweet comment and let me just say that I wish they would start making movies of my books, too! ;)

    But especially thank you for your support, my friend -- I appreciate it more than I can say!

    HUGS!!
    Julie

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