Hi Chawna! So nice to have you share with us today. Is there a story behind your series, Bearing the Sword?
Bearing the Sword is a nonfiction book.
That obvious fact would seem less than noteworthy until you realize I consider myself a novelist first and foremost. Storytelling is my heart and fiction my passion. Writing nonfiction—that was something I did only when absolutely necessary.
But about six years ago, I started vending home educator conferences to promote a genre I love but many Christians find unsettling—science fiction and fantasy. As I vended and talked with both parents and students, I discovered a startling lack of discernment, especially concerning fiction. Many believed what they read and watched had no impact on them, and so they could enjoy anything out there. Even more believed in handling only explicitly Christian fiction, figuring that the label “Christian” guaranteed the material to be perfectly safe.
Both of these philosophies are fallacies. Every producer of fiction I know, Christian or non-Christian, works with the intention to impact, and they have often chosen fiction because of its ability to slip past our normal defenses. Likewise, while Christian material may be safer, you cannot accept what is written as true on that basis alone. Christians are human. We can and do make mistakes. We even sometimes promote ideas that directly contradict Scripture.
When I would point this out, many would wave off my words with some vague reference that the Holy Spirit would give them an instinctual knowing.
While I fully believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifting concerning the discernment of spirits, my studies have also lead me to believe that discernment is a spiritual discipline. For if discernment were a gift only, something given to a select few, why would Hebrews 5:14 tell us that the ability to distinguish good from evil is a mark of maturity—something God desires for all of us? And if it is only an instinct, why would that same verse tell us that the ability to distinguish comes from training?
So after hundreds of such conversations, I did what I do best: Write. And the Bearing the Sword curriculum was born.
What does this first part of Bearing the Sword cover?
Bearing the Sword is a curriculum designed for high school students to teach them the basics of discernment and critical thinking. Over fifteen weeks, this book lays the foundation of biblical discernment by looking at what is discernment, why it is important, how we can practice it, the biblical definition of what is good, and a word-by-word dissection of Philippians 4:8. As a result, although this study is intended to be the first in a series, this book can also easily stand on its own.
Rather than asking students to only answer a list of questions or to memorize a set of principles, Bearing the Sword synthesizes intense Bible study with the analysis of film clips. For a Bible study in of itself is good and necessary, but sometimes it is hard to go from being a hearer of the word to a doer of the word.
That’s where the film clips come in. Film (and story in general) mimics reality, but unlike with life, you can control, pause, rewind, and repeat a film clip. So once a week (as well for the entire fifteenth week), the student is asked to analyze a series of film clips related to what is being learned that week. This allows the student to immediately and consistently apply the principles he or she is learning in a controlled environment with plenty of time to discuss and wrestle through the issues before they are encountered in life.
What distracts you from writing the easiest?
That’s easy: another person’s story, whether a movie, book, television show or a conversation. As I said, fiction is a passion for me, and it’s easier to enjoy someone else’s work than write my own!
I agree! What kind of books do you enjoy reading?
All kinds of fiction, though especially science fiction and fantasy! The works of Kathy Tyers (Firebird Trilogy), R. J. Anderson (Ultraviolet is my current favorite), Sharon Hinck (The Sword of Lyric), and Jenny L. Cote (Max & Liz/Epic Order of Seven) are the first that come to mind. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles, a secular science-fiction series for young adults; how can I not be intrigued by a cyborg Cinderella!
Nor is any year complete without a re-reading of certain favorites: A Little Princess (by Frances Hodgson Burnett), A Wrinkle in Time (by Madeleine L’Engle) or The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (by Margaret Sidney). I’ve also recently rediscovered delight in the works of Tomie dePaola (The Clown of God) and Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings). It’s really hard to beat a good children’s picture book.
I read less nonfiction, but I still enjoy a thought-provoking theology book or encouraging devotion book. Jonathan Edward’s essay, “The End for Which God Created the World,” has especially impacted my thinking.
What is a favorite memory from your childhood?
Listening to my dad make up bedtime stories. Each listener would give him one object or character, and then he would create off the top of his head a story around those things. “The Man-Eating Jelly Bean” story (yes, someone asked for a man-eating jelly bean) remains one of my favorite stories to this day.
Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I don’t know if I would call it a spiritual theme, but I do love helping people safely stretch themselves, especially in their perspective of God. God is so vast, so majestic, so . . . glorious. Yet we often try to make Him after our image, which not only limits Him, but also restricts who we can be. Therefore, moments of awe, the wonder of God, pushing our faith to its logical end, discernment, and dealing with uniqueness all frequently resurface in my writing.
Could you share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you?
Isaiah 40, especially verse 26. This verse, indeed the whole chapter, so beautifully captures the wonder and majesty of God side-by-side with His care and intimacy. So often like Peter when he walked on water, I find myself distracted by life’s storms. I haven’t forgotten Christ is there; I’m simply focused on the winds and the waves. These verses help me restore my perspective: Look around, look up; remember Who you serve and that He cares for you.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I’m currently working on the second part in the Bearing the Sword curriculum. Whereas the first part focused on the biblical foundation of discernment, this second part will tackle the effects of maturity and personal limitations on our discernment. An exact release date has not been set, but the second part should be out early next year, if not sooner.
Thanks for sharing with us today!
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Chawna Schroeder is offering a complete pack of Bearing The Sword curriculum for the giveaway, including the manual (lesson book), student workbook, answer key, media log, and DVD set, worth $65. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.