Jim Ware Answers The Faithful Fifteen
FR: What kind of testimony to your faith are you demonstrating in this book? If you are writing fiction, do you write fiction that is based upon your faith or that has a message for the reader? Is your goal to demonstrate your faith in your writing?
JW: There are two points I hope to communicate through GOD OF THE FAIRY TALE: 1) Christ really is the Lord of all, and for this reason we can expect to see evidences of His hand and traces of His grace everywhere --- especially in tales and stories that spring out of the depths of the human heart, which is, after all, created in His image. 2) It is important that Christians have "eyes to see" --- that they cultivate a talent for finding these pictures of God, whether in the mustard seed, the lilies of the field, or a story about a boy who slays a giant and wins a princess. We need to be like the apostle Paul who, instead of censuring the Athenians for their polytheistic pagan beliefs, found in the Greek poets and the altar to the Unknown God a door of opportunity for the gospel.
FR: When did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Where are you today in your walk? Is your faith an important part of what you do?
JW: I grew up in the church, but came to a vital, exciting, life-changing experience of Christ while in high school, during what became known as "The Jesus Movement" (in Southern California). After being married, my wife and I held a Bible Study/Fellowship Group in our home for about fifteen years (while I worked as a custodian and taught Sunday School classes --- college and young adult --- at Hollywood First Presbyterian Church). I went to Fuller Theological Seminary and earned a Master of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies (subsequent to earning a Bachelor's degree in Classics at UCLA). Later I went to work for Focus on the Family and moved with them from Los Angeles to Colorado Springs.
At present I'm trying to finish up the task of raising six kids in a Christian home (the oldest is very zealous for the Lord and wants to be an overseas missionary!). I also play Irish music at a local "session," an activity I try to use as a vehicle for Christian witness as often as opportunity presents itself. Though I am an extremely imperfect individual, I think it's fair to say that my faith is central to everything I do.
FR: Tell us about your church experiences, how you grew up (or maybe didn't grow up) in the church, where you attend now, your involvement in your local assembly, etc.
JW: I covered some of this in answering the last question. My upbringing at Hollywood First Presbyterian was profoundly important to my growth as a Christian. It was there that I memorized Scripture, earned my first Bible, and really began to read God's Word. The Salt Company Coffee House ministry (1968-1972) had a huge impact upon my development as a serious disciple. So did my experiences as a member of the church's Summer Deputation program (local evangelism and outreach).
Nowadays I'm a member of First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs, a church that is in many ways a sort of "sister" congregation of Hollywood First Presbyterian (Senior Pastor John Stevens also grew up at Hollywood Presbyterian). I'm involved in leading worship music for several different Sunday School classes at the church, and I've written several scripts for the children's semi-annual choir productions. My wife and I also attend Saturday evening services at Woodmen Valley Chapel, where we are thoroughly enjoying the preaching ministry of Pastor Matt Heard.
FR: Tell us about your current church family/fellowship. How does it influence your work?
JW: At present, my church fellowship tends to be fairly fluid and informal. As mentioned above, I serve several different groups as a worship leader. The opportunities I've had to write scripts for the kids' musical productions --- that, along with the stint I did as an "Adventures in Odyssey" staff writer at Focus on the Family --- have helped me hone my skills as a storyteller and writer.
FR: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?
JW: Unfortunately, I've lost touch with most of the spiritual mentors who impacted my life in a big way during my early years as a Christian: Mickey Berberian, who now pastors Elim Baptist Church in Seattle; Mr. Ed Doring, a lay leader at First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood; Robert Norris, now Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. My literary spiritual mentors are the ones claimed by a host of other writers: people like George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and Thomas Merton. My "professional" mentors --- writers who have helped and encouraged me --- include Paul McCusker, Al Janssen and Kurt Bruner.
FR: Discuss your calling/mission --- as a writer and as a Christian.
JW: I do not find it very easy to discuss my calling as a writer; I'm still very much in the midst of the bewildering process of discovering it. I've loved books and stories from the time I learned to read. For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a writer of some kind. But it was a dream that had to die. It's been many years since I resigned myself to the idea that it would probably never happen. I was too busy earning a living and raising children to pursue it seriously; besides, I never had the self-confidence to push for it.
But one thing leads to another. I hired on at Focus on the Family as a Correspondence writer; I've been answering people's letters, empathizing with their hurts and responding to their concerns and criticisms, for seventeen years. That led to an opportunity to write scripts for Focus's radio drama for kids, Adventures in Odyssey, and to do a few Bible-based novels for young readers (the KidWitness series, published by Bethany House). Next came FINDING GOD IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS with Kurt Bruner. The relative success of that book has opened a number of doors for me, but I have no idea what will happen next.
FR: What are your Scripture reading habits?
JW: Every morning I spend about an hour reading from the New Testament in Greek and the Old Testament in Hebrew.
FR: What books have most influenced your work?
JW: Everything by C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton and, of course, Tolkien. Also, mythology, folklore and fairy tales.
FR: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors and why?
JW: I guess that depends on how you define "secular." I don't read much "modern" stuff --- most of the authors I like have been dead a long time, and back in their day the distinction between "secular" and "Christian" was not so clear-cut. For example, I love Dickens, Jane Austen, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky (though Malcolm Muggeridge --- another big influence on my thinking --- calls the last two "the greatest Christian authors of the last century.") I've also enjoyed William Morris's and Lord Dunsany's fantasies (THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END, THE KING OF ELFLAND'S DAUGHTER), James Stephens's and Padraic Colum's retellings of myths (IRISH FAIRY TALES, THE CHILDREN OF ODIN, THE GOLDEN FLEECE); also Sir Thomas Malory (LE MORTE D'ARTHUR), Antoine de Saint-Exupery (LE PETIT PRINCE), TALES OF HOFFMAN, the Brothers Grimm and, of course, Hans Christian Andersen.
I love epic --- Homer and Vergil and BEOWULF (I'm currently trying to read part of it in the original Anglo-Saxon) and the Norse sagas. I have a taste for poetry, too: Keats and Shelley and Coleridge, William Butler Yeats, and Wordsworth. Oh --- I'm forgetting J. K. Rowling; at the risk of being labeled a heretic (or worse) I will freely admit that I'm a fan of Harry Potter (a friend gave me a copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE in Latin, and I'm working my way through it slowly). At present, I'm in the middle of Joseph Campbell's THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES and finding it heady and enriching, if decidedly un-Christian. I could go on, I suppose, but…
FR: What are your other media habits --- television, movies, music, etc.?
JW: On the whole, I consider television a wasteland and a waste of time --- see Neil Postman's book, ENTERTAINING OURSELVES TO DEATH. (There are a few good things on cable and PBS --- for years, my wife and I loved the British TV series All Creatures Great and Small, based on James Herriot's books. Now we own all of them on video!) Most of the movies I see are the ones my kids want to see (despite the Christian boycott of Disney, I've been a fan of Disney animation since I was about four years old --- I even wanted to be an animator at one time). For the most part, I've enjoyed Peter Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien --- Chris Columbus's Harry Potter movies, too. And I think Pirates of the Caribbean is great! I PLAY Irish/Celtic music and LISTEN to Celtic and Classical. Beethoven is probably my favorite composer.
FR: Do you and your family have any special faith-based traditions?
JW: Besides church and occasional family prayers around the table on Sunday nights, most of our traditions center on holidays --- especially Christmas. At Christmas we like to pack as many people as possible into our house, play musical instruments, and sing carols (I'm of the opinion that Christmas, like Tolkien and Fairy Tales, still represents a great "bridge" or point of connection for communicating the gospel to non-Christian people).
FR: Tell us about your prayer life and habits.
JW: My personal prayer time is basically a part of the Bible-reading time mentioned above. That's in addition to the prayers of desperation I'm breathing out all through the day!
FR: Describe what you believe the role of writing in religion is.
JW: In my opinion, writing is part of the heart and soul of Christianity. As Muggeridge has said, the Bible says, "In the beginning was the WORD" --- not "in the beginning was the celluloid or the videotape." God has communicated Himself to us through speech, through the written word, and through the Word Incarnate. (On this, see my chapter on ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES --- "Magic Word" --- in GOD OF THE FAIRY TALE.)
FR: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.
JW: No contest on this one. It would have to be the encounters I've had with kids who have liked my KidWitness books. One of them told me that THE PROPHET'S KID was "awesome." Don't you think that made my day? Another, the daughter of a friend in California, loved DANGEROUS DREAMS so much that she wrote a book report on it and made a diorama of a scene from the story. That means more to me than any reviewer's opinion.
FR: Would you share a story about someone you've brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?
JW: My best story about leading someone to Christ has nothing to do with writing (I'm actually still quite new to the writing game). It has to do with my friend Raul Cardenas, a former gang member from downtown L.A., who became a Christian while working with me on the custodial crew at Hollywood First Presbyterian Church. Raul used to stay overnight at my house just so he could come to our Bible Study. His love for God completely changed his life, though he continued to struggle with a drinking problem. He finally broke that pattern by moving out of L.A. to a community in the California desert. At present he attends church every night of the week, serves as an usher, teaches Bible Studies, and even preaches from time to time.
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