November 16, 2017

A Writer’s Prayer by Nina Faye Morey


“It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.
A good person produces good deeds and words season after season…
Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation.
Words can also be your damnation.”

~ Matthew 12:36-37 (MSG)

When I first began studying the Bible, God led me to the verse describing the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). In my teens, I’d discovered my talent for writing stories. But I’d never given much thought to their purpose—other than to entertain. While reading this verse, I experienced a flash of inspiration. Could I use my creativity for more than just amusing stories? Maybe I could use it to serve God. So I prayed about this revelation and sensed God urging me to share my experiences with others to bless them and glorify Him.

Despite this, I still lacked self-confidence. Did I actually have anything meaningful to say? Could my experiences benefit others? Was I truly worthy to write for the Lord? I thought about this for a long time before I acted on my inspiration. Knowing Jesus used Parables to help His followers understand His teachings, I began to study them. I discovered that He didn’t create elaborate stories. He simply used ordinary, everyday experiences. After taking a brief inventory of my life experiences, I realized I had stories that might be of value. But being an introvert, it would take some time and lots of courage to share these intense and emotional personal stories. I eventually wrote Christian stories about several of my life experiences: mental illness, emotional abuse, bullying, caring for elderly parents, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and adoption. I’ve discovered that no matter how gloomy our situation, God always finds a way to shine some light into the darkness.


In spite of inspirational moments of creativity, it’s still difficult to discern exactly what God expects from me as a writer. But I’ve discovered a few practices that help reveal His desires. Each day when I sit down to write, I pray for God’s guidance. I also like to spend some time searching God’s Word for verses relevant to my topic. This gives me the knowledge and insight I need to be faithful and fruitful in my writing. The Holy Spirit is my trusty mentor. I sense many times that the Spirit has guided me to just the right verse or the right insight to express what’s in my heart and bring glory to God. I desire to faithfully convey God’s love and grace to my readers. I pray my words will touch their hearts, move their spirits, and encourage them to seek comfort in His Word. I’ve found my daily prayers give me confidence that God will guide and bless the work of my hands (Psalm 90:17).

When you find your faith in yourself as a Christian writer waning, here’s a prayer to help restore your confidence:

O Creator of the universe, who has set the stars in the heavens and
causes the sun to rise and set, shed the light of your wisdom into the
darkness of my mind. Fill my thoughts with the loving knowledge of you,
that I may bring your light to others. Just as you can make even babies
speak your truth, instruct my tongue and guide my pen to convey
the wonderful glory of the Gospel. Make my intellect sharp,
my memory clear, and my words eloquent, so that I may
faithfully interpret the mysteries which you have revealed.

~ “O Creator of the Universe,” St. Thomas Aquinas



Photo Credit: @2017 Nina Faye Morey

November 15, 2017

Imperfect Word Offerings - Tracy Krauss

At the halfway mark of the month, I thought I'd start with Sandi Somers' prompt on day one:

InScriber Bryan Norford once wrote on how he is driven to pray each day before writing: "Lord, my thinking and understanding is so often fallen and distorted. I desperately need your insight and wisdom, that as I write, I may clearly express your thoughts and desires.” How does Bryan’s quote resonate with you?

Honestly, I struggled with this one - not because I don't pray or believe in the power of prayer - but because I felt inadequate. My thinking and understanding are so fallen. So distorted. Like Paul, I feel like 'the chief of sinners'. I want my words to express His thoughts and desires, but I know beyond a doubt that I fall short - a lot.  
And yet I am convinced that God wants to use me as a writer. 
I'd like to say that I pray consistently before writing, but that would be a lie. I pray more often than not, and even if I don't, I think my motivation is to always write for the Lord, even if I'm writing fiction. I have started many writing projects bathed in prayer and I have started many without. Often I am compelled to pray before hand, but sometimes I forget. I'm sure that the times I've prayed have worked out the best, but then again, as Glynis and others have pointed out, God has been gracious even when I haven't been faithful. Those are the times when my prayers - after the fact - are full of thankful humility. I'm reminded that God often uses the weakest vessels for His purposes, and boy, do I feel weak at times! Too weak to be of any real use.
This, too, is distorted thinking. For when I am weak, He is strong. There is no point beating myself up for my shortcomings. He can see past my inconsistencies. He knows my heart. And in my heart, every word is an offering - even if it's an imperfect one.  

November 14, 2017

Thoughts on Praying and Writing - Ruth L. Snyder

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” 

-Martin Luther King


The longer I live, the more I realize how important prayer is, for all aspects of life. Before I get out of bed in the morning, I pray, committing the day to God. I pray as I sit down to have my daily devotions, asking God to open my eyes and teach me from His Word. As I interact with my husband and children, I often pray. When I see a beautiful sunset, I thank God.

I find it interesting that although I'm a Christian and I pray about most things, I neglected to pray about my writing for many years. In the past several years God has impressed on my heart how important it is to pray before, during, and after my writing sessions. Shelley Hitz challenges Christian writers to have a prayer team support them in their writing projects.

This year I sensed God leading me to write a 31 day devotional book about spiritual warfare. I knew I needed spiritual protection for me and my family as I wrote, so I sent out a request. I have twelve people who promised to pray for me on a regular basis. Every few weeks I send my prayer team updates and prayer requests. I know they are praying, because they check in with me. They ask me how my writing is going and send encouraging emails. What a gift!


I'm thankful that I have been able to complete the rough draft of my devotional book. I'm also grateful that over twenty beta readers agreed to read my book and give me feedback. In the next couple of weeks I will be making revisions based on the feedback I receive. Then I will send the manuscript to a professional editor. In the meantime, you can read a sample below.


Praying in the Spirit
“…Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD.”
Zecharaiah 4:6

This morning before I started writing, I cleaned stacks of paper and layers of dust off my desk. For months I have ignored the mess and focused on writing. However, sometimes clutter on my desk results in clutter in my brain. It was time to purge and clean. After I finished, I felt lighter and actually sighed in relief. Now my mind is free to focus on writing again.
In our prayer life, sometimes we are so busy praying, that we rush ahead without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The result is powerless prayer. God has provided amazing access to Himself. If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38.
One of the tasks assigned to the Holy Spirit is to help us pray. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” It is not our job to figure out how or what to pray. We simply need to rely on the Holy Spirit and pray.
Jesus urged his disciples to “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” Matthew 26:41.
Paul talks about praying in the Spirit in I Corinthians 14:12-16. As believers we are all given spiritual gifts. Paul urged the Corinthians to “try to excel in those (spiritual gifts) that build up the church” (verse 12). He went on to say that we can pray in tongues, but that only involves the spirit and not the mind (verse 14). Instead, he encouraged people to pray and sing in the spirit and with the mind, especially in the context of corporate worship, so that people can agree and support each other in prayer and worship (verses 15, 16). This same idea is shared in Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
In Ephesians 4:30 we are urged, “And do not grieve (according to Strong’s Concordance, also translated, “to make sorrowful, to affect with sadness, to throw into sorrow, to make one uneasy, cause him a scruple”) the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” When we harbor sin in our lives, refusing to confess the sin the Holy Spirit reveals to us, we grieve Him. I Thessalonians 5:19 exhorts “Do not quench the Spirit.” This is a metaphor of someone extinguishing or throwing something on a fire to make it go out. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, this is the same metaphor used in Ephesians 6:16 “…of ‘quenching’ the fire-tipped darts of the evil one…through ignorance of His ways, or through failure to recognize, or refusal to submit to, them, or through impatience with the ignorance or self-will of others, the Spirit were quenched…” If we are not actively seeking God’s will and living in obedience to Him, we will revert to our sinful self and grieve and quench the Holy Spirit.
Think About It
Do you pray in the Spirit? Are you grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit? Journal or draw a picture in response.
Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and for His ministry to me in prayer. Help me today to confess known sin in my life and to live in obedience to you. I choose to pray in the Spirit, allowing you to work in and through me.
In Jesus Name,
AMEN.



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November 12, 2017

Sea Change: Moving in God's Rhythms - Karma Pratt

My prayer life is becoming an integral part of who I am. Indeed, I am learning that movement without prayer results in missteps more often than not, and a need to correct course time and again. 

Over the past year God has been guiding my steps through some challenging places. He has been showing me what needs to change in order to follow Him in all circumstances. Two words stand out in the midst of this journey: surrender and sacrifice. Surrender, because a life lived fully and well can only be lived under the full sovereign reign of the King of Kings. And sacrifice, because there is always a cost associated with following Jesus. 

There has been some rocky terrain and turbulent waters over the past year. Even my writing went dormant as my heart searched for answers in the depths. The only writing that remained were prayers scribbled in journals and on napkins. Scraps of paper searching for clarity, glimpses of the promises God has for my life, clues as to how He wants to re-shape it. 

Over the past year I found myself letting go of everything I thought I knew about myself. Every role and title I have ever proudly worn has been called into question. Business woman, professional communicator, entrepreneur, creative visionary - these have all gone by the wayside to one degree or another. Every way I have ever attempted to identify myself; every direction I thought I needed to go in order to build a life - all has been stripped down and pulled away. I found myself questioning why: Why such drastic changes? Why do I have to leave it all behind? God answered (He always does if you listen long enough). "Stop trying to shape yourself. Let Me mould you". In a word: Surrender. 

As our family's circumstances changed, I found myself stepping into new and different roles in this season. Some are not unfamiliar, but they have taken on new significance. I have embraced different titles: Wife, Mom, Home Schooler, Teacher. I have traded my version of traditional - full time work outside the home - for a much more traditional role (ironically). I even helped pack our bags and move our family to a new community based on the direction my husband and I felt God was calling us to go. The only thing I have done consistently amidst all these changes has been to pray. 

I have learned that God often gives glimpses of His plan and one of my jobs is to wait patiently on His timing. Sometimes the "what" does not immediately occur. I have learned to pray for guidance about the "when". They say timing is everything, and learning to trust God's timing is another exercise in surrender and sacrifice. 

It can be difficult to know what to call yourself when God continues to strip away everything you thought you knew about who you are (or were). So I cling to the promises. I call myself beloved. I make room in the midst of the sea change: room for grace to unfold, for mercy to wash over me like so many waves in the storm, for love to change this heart. I pray for peace, leave thanksgiving offerings at the foot of the cross, leave everything at the foot of the cross, seek God's face, and I just keep praying. 

The transformation continues. Physically, we are in a new location. My once-dormant writing desk has taken up new residence at its place beneath the window sill. It faces north, out into the back yard, and I can see the seasons change even as I continue to transform from the inside out. I still do not know the "how" of this unfolding plan, but I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in it. This life with its ever-changing trajectory, this sea change, is finding its way into my heart, mind, soul and spirit. I started writing again last month, something beyond prayers and petitions. It felt good. I know God has called me to this little writing desk. I know He wants me to practice this craft, and so I will continue. I am settling into the unforced rhythms of grace. I find the storms are far less turbulent here.

____

Karma writes from the golden house in Northeastern BC. You can connect with her online at redraincoatcreations.com

November 11, 2017

The Pre-writing Battle and Prayer by Connie Inglis

  
I am a foot soldier in the midst of battle—part of a centuria moving forward against our foe. We’ve reached a low ditch and now I freeze, my body flat on the ground, my fingers clinging to the grass and dirt, for I know what lies ahead. The enemy. I peek my head over the ridge and see my target—a large, fortified castle but 100 feet away. I see my General standing on the battlement, looking out upon the field.

The field. One hundred feet of nothing. No protection. I watch other soldiers attempt to cross. Run! A barrage of enemy arrows come zinging from the left, then right. Put up your shields! Some make it. Some freeze. Some turn around and dive back into the ditch. Can I do this?

I look up at my General. I feel like he’s looking right at me—calling my name—telling me I have everything I need to get to the gate—promising me that the victory has already been won. I believe—oh help my unbelief!

I check my armour—my weaponry. All is ready. That helps put my mind at ease. I can taste the fear, bile sticking to the roof of my mouth. I swallow hard and close my eyes, focusing on the words of my General and his promise of victory. I recite his words, giving me strength and hope.

I feel a surge of energy in my legs, my arms. I go! The blood pounds in my head. No more thinking—now just doing! I hear the high-pitch of the approaching arrows and instinctively shift my shield of protection. They hit hard. My soft soles slip in the clay. I stumble. Doing an internal body check, I look up at my General. He is shouting. Calling my name. Urging me forward. I am a soldier. I obey.

Back on my feet, I run hard, keeping my eyes on the gate. It’s shut tight. Will it open for me? Will I get in? Closer. Closer. I’m but a few feet away. I made it! The gate opens—I fall in. The gate closes. I am safe.

My General is there. He picks me up. “Well done,” he says. Those two words flood my mind with peace. I rest in that peace.

“Now,” he says. “Now you are ready for your true calling.”

* * * 

That soldier is me, and you, even before writing one word--before settling into our writing chair--for there is a battle going on, a fight for our minds because the enemy does not want us to fulfill our calling as writers. 
This picture of the spiritual battle for our minds came to me in the winter of 2015/2016 after I agreed to become one of the spiritual advisors for ICWF. As I took on the role of intercession, I became suddenly overwhelmed, discouraged and weakened by the enemy. My own writing suffered. I cried out to God for strength and understanding.  He heard my cry and provided a way out through prayer--and a desire to fight for my mind and the minds of fellow writers. 
And, in that, He guided me to seek a mind of peace, because only out of peace can true freedom be realized--freedom to stand firm against the enemy's lies and distractions, freedom to hear Him as we write and freedom to write what He wants us to write. Isa. 26:3 and Phil. 4:6-8 are my go-to passages in this. I have learned my need to pray before writing--a Pre-Writing Prayer, if you will. Or, what I have termed, "My Prayer Manifesto." This is my verbal declaration combating the enemy and then calling upon and believing in God's promises. This is where I go before I write.







Connie Mae Inglis lives life out of the silence of spending time with God. She loves to write, paint, travel, read, sing, laugh, play with her grandchildren and just see God in those things. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta but part of her heart will always be in Southeast Asia where she lived and worked as a Wycliffe missionary for almost 20 years.