God Sighting: I Think I Can Hear You

I have a habit of looking for God in secular culture because I believe God can, will, and does use anyone to plant the whispers in our lives that often, if we’re listening, lead us to him.

Michelangelo_-_Sistine_Chapel_ceiling_-_bay_4_croppedSometimes the creative person participates in giving God an outlet, sometimes she doesn’t. I do not care either way. But looking and listening for these breakthrough moments when God gives the world a nudge is a fun, and ultimately rewarding, hobby.

For instance, J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books. For me, there are echoes of the gospel simply bleeding from those stories. I get that others can’t see past the wizardry, and that’s OK, but that’s not me. I am interested in using whatever tools come my way to shine a light and communicate truth. See, if we can get the heart open sometimes we can insert truth.

I heard another whisper today while listening to a song from Carole King’s 1972 album Rhymes & Reasons, “I Think I Can Hear You.” You can listen to it below.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what King’s inspiration for this song was. I haven’t even tried to find out. For me, it’s a prayer—and I have sung it to God as my prayer—of commitment and dedication.

As a creative Christian—and if we’re made in God’s image and God is the ultimate Creator shouldn’t all Christians be creative? —I often struggle with finding a creative outlet within an evangelical mode. How can I communicate truth in a world that increasingly rejects the very idea of truth? It’s a toughie.

This song’s opening questions expose my desires and insecurities about my place in this world: “What can I do(, God)? How can I serve you? Is it (even) true what I do is a way to be near you?”

Sometimes those questions are answered, sometimes we’re left wondering, as the next statement suggests, whether we can even hear God when he answers. Regardless, it’s true, as the verse’s closing line suggests, that just thinking about God (praying?) can soothe the restless, creative heart.

Right now, I’m struggling with a novella I’m writing. Is the idea not good? Do I just not have enough information? Have I gotten ahead of God? (I’m only 3,500 words into it, so I don’t think so.)

The tone and tenor of this story are quite different from my last novella, which was a light-hearted, humorous tale of finding big love in a tiny house. For this story, I’m writing about a man who has made humor his lifeline, who discovers what’s left after it seems the joke is over. It’s anchored on the hymn, “Be Still My Soul,” about living in God’s peace amidst chaos.

That ties beautifully into King’s second verse:

But I’m here, and life is dear,
And I guess that’s a good enough reason to say
Just let me do
What you put me here to
Let me be what you want me to be
And I hope it’ll cheer you.

No, my character is not going to hear King’s song played on a radio or some other contrived occurrence; the song won’t even be in the novella. But that place of belief, that place of “but I’m here and life is dear” acceptance, is exactly where I need to get him by “The End.”

I’m going to sidestep the universalism in King’s third verse—I’m no theologian—but after spending a decade pretty much self-sidelined in my writing by a lack of belief (and a world of crushed hopes and dreams), I do find lasting comfort in knowing, now, that God never stopped believing in me. As King sings, “Even when I thought I didn’t believe, you believed in me.”

I can’t help thinking about Mathew 18:12-14 and the kind of shepherd I have: A shepherd in charge of 100 sheep notices that one of his sheep has gone astray. … God’s shepheContains the novella rd goes to look for that one lost sheep…

Where in secular culture do you find God? Leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll enter you for the chance to win a copy (print or e-book) of Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection which houses my novella, “Big Love.” 

Mike-9Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as the author of “Big Love,” a novella within Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection, he is enjoying his playground. Previous playgrounds include being the Managing Editor of the magazine ACFW Journal and the ezine Afictionado for seven years. He also plays with words as a freelance editor and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, worked in corporate communications, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.


The Summer of Success

Facing a crossroads at the moment—what step to take next and all that. I’m not all angsty over it, but I have been thinking a lot about the late Donna Summer lately, as a result.

Donna Summer? The Queen of Disco?

First of all, thinking about Donna Summer is not new for me. I’ve had a long time interest in her career and in the singer, herself. I’ve even been known to be a defender of Summer (she’s so much more than disco), because I think her talent was far overshadowed by her persona and by the Super Storm known as Disco that came in and tried, unsuccessfully, to obliterate the Rock and Roll shoreline.

Variety defined her career

Still, I’m more interested in Summer’s genre-hopping than in her music, per se. For instance, did you know she was nominated for 17 Grammy Awards in eight different categories (sort of like fiction genres)? Further, did you know she won five times in four different categories—twice in Inspirational? That’s right, Inspirational. The singer of 1975s 17-minute+ disco moan-fest, “Love To Love You, Baby,” won two Grammy Awards for Best Inspirational song (1984 and 1985).

Conventional wisdom is to not genre hop in the publishing world. There’s greater freedom in music (Linda Ronstadt also played the field, musically). But in publishing, writers are often advised that if they start in romance (or speculative or historical or suspense) then they should stay in romance (or speculative or historical or suspense).

But, I must have a little Donna Summer in me because I don’t want to be constrained in that way. Before we get all crazy, let’s remember that no one is knocking down my door for my next book—or, for that matter, my first book.

But—again—we can look to the diva for guidance. Because “conventional wisdom” isn’t called “conventional-sort-of-good-advice,” you know?

Summer made her mark in one genre—disco. It was the red-hot genre of the time and she rode that horse for all it was worth.

But when the horse started to get hobbled, she made the smart move of wrapping up that era with a Greatest Hits collection, changing record labels, and then came roaring back in 1980 with a rock-pop disc without even a whiff of disco, The Wanderer. And a song from that project earned her one of her Grammy nominations.

What are the lessons for a writer?

  1. Do your homework. Summer worked in Germany and Europe in various touring companies of shows like “Hair” and “Godspell” before connecting with Giorgio Moroder for her first major album, Love To Love You Baby.
  2. Establish yourself as an excellent writer of (choose one: romance/historical/suspense/other) and then, like Summer, work your butt off to make your mark. She released seven disco albums from 1975 to 1979—that’s four years—three of them in a row were blockbuster double albums.
  3. Keep your nose to the ground and your face forward. If you pay attention to the market and publishing trends, you’ll know when it’s time to change genres. If you’re a big enough success, you’ll get your opportunity. When you do, show the same quality, perseverance, and dedication to craft that got you where you are.

That’s the way to build a Hall of Fame career (Summer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013) and do all the things you want to do.

Summer died May 17, 2012, at age 63. At her death (from cancer) she was working on two albums simultaneously—a collection of standards and a new dance music collection.

For the record, Summer’s Grammy wins were for:

  1. Best R&B Female Performance, 1979, for “Last Dance.”
  2. Best Rock Female Performance, 1980, for “Hot Stuff.”
  3. Best Inspirational Performance, 1984, for “He’s A Rebel.”
  4. Best Inspirational Performance, 1985, for “Forgive Me.”
  5. Best Dance Music Performance, 1998, for “Carry On.”

Additionally, she was nominated four times for Best Pop Vocal, twice for Best R&B Vocal, twice for best Rock Vocal, once for Album of the Year, once for Best Disco Vocal, once for Best Inspirational, and once for Best Dance Music.

Not a bad career.

Your turn: So, do you have a little Donna Summer in you?

Mike-9Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as the editor of CHEFS Mix Blog for CHEFS Catalog he is enjoying his playground. Previous playgrounds include being the Managing Editor of the magazine ACFW Journal and the ezine Afictionado for seven years. He also plays with words as a freelance editor and has edited several nonfiction books, proofedited for Abingdon Press, worked in corporate communications, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

Originally posted on Novel Rocket

Quote It! Billy Joel

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. billy-joelIt’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

–Billy Joel, who so far has had 33 Top 40 hits in the United States, all of which he wrote himself, is also a six-time Grammy Award winner, a 23-time Grammy nominee, and has sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

As a writer, I’ve always felt a connection with music. It plays while I write, heck it plays while I’m not writing. There have been times in my life, when God has ministered to me through music.

And like Joel, I believe music has healing properties. I’ve seen how music has revitalized the elderly in nursing homes–how it has comforted those who are bereft. I’ve experienced being brought back from the edge by a favorite song, or a favorite memory my brain links to when that song plays.

Music routinely ushers me into the presence of God. “Revelation Song” by Jesus Culture, for instance. Both Coram Deo projects by Charlie Peacock, or the City On A Hill projects by Marc Byrd, Steve Hindalong, and Derri Daugherty, also do it for me.

But it’s not just music from the Christian genre: “Misty” by Johnny Mathis, “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers, and “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys have gripped my heart and inspired me.

How has music affected your life? Do you listen while you write?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.