January 22, 2018

Faith, Writing And Painful Challenges by Alan Anderson

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” ( Isaiah 41: 10 NKJV)

2018 began how 2017 ended for my wife and I. In the latter part of 2017 we began regularly attending an Eastern Orthodox Christian church. It continues to be a welcome change in our worship and day-to-day life.

Near the end of 2017 it was confirmed my wife, Terry, has uterine cancer. We entered 2018 with the prospect of her having surgery. People asking, “Lord have mercy”, sent many prayers to God. I rejoice that her surgery on Jan. 9 went well. She is still recovering from her surgery at the date of this post. To date, she has experienced little pain. Now we wait for her lab results that will hopefully confirm the cancer has been contained.

I have to be honest and confess that the ending of last year and the beginning of this year have been met with mixed emotions. I experienced joy that our family, friends and new church are an amazing support network. I also experienced a sense of fear at the prospect of Terry’s cancer. In my joy I expressed my faith in God. In my fear, I guess I showed a lack of faith and a reminder of my frailty.

This month’s writing prompt asks, “How is God speaking to you about your faith and writing this year?” At this point in time I’m not sure what He is saying to me. I have a strong desire to bring hope to my readers in spite of pain or challenges that life brings. Perhaps then God is saying keep writing regardless of painful challenges. Maybe that’s the direction God is preparing for me.

In anticipation of this direction I am stepping out in faith by accepting an invitation by a local wellness business owner. She invited me to present a series on grief related issues. I view this as a step of faith due to the fact the first time this series was scheduled no community interest was shown. Hopefully it will be different when I begin the series in March.

I also began a series of posts on my Blog at scarredjoy.wordpress.com. This series began at the end of 2017 and is carried over into 2018. I call the it, “Things That Matter In The Face Of Cancer.” It is a consideration of what I am observing as I walk with Terry in her experience with cancer. Perhaps I could also have called it, “Writing with Tears.”

I hope I am not discouraging readers as they read this post. I do have faith in God. I sense His presence. I know Terry’s cancer has not taken Him by surprise. I think what it might be is cancer has reminded me of our mortality as we live this life. It has also confronted us with the reality of living a life of faith in all circumstances.

When her doctor confirmed Terry had cancer I was fearful. Forgive me if that showed my lack of faith. I also asked God why it wasn’t me who had cancer. I mean, this is Terry’s second time with cancer, only a different kind. It was one of these experiences where as a man and husband I wanted to protect my wife. He allowed me to express that to Him.

In writing this post, in showing the frailty of my mortality, I realize once again that painful challenges are part of life. I cannot prevent things like cancer, no matter how much I hate them. I can, however, live and write a life of faith, knowing God knows all about it.

Blog: ScarredJoy@wordpress.com

January 21, 2018

A Plethora of Possibility .... by Jocelyn Faire

It's not unusual for me to want to come up with a catchy phrase or acronym to help focus on a goal. It's also not unusual for me to use my gift of taking scripture out of context and apply it to my scenario.

“So here's what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let all those good intentions grow stale. Your heart's been in the right place all along. You've got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can't. The heart regulates the hands. 2Corinthians 8:10-12 The Message

In the above quote Paul writes to the Corinthians re their intended financial gift, but when I read this verse a few years ago it jumped out and applied itself to a writing project. In pondering 2018 and goals the verse came back to me and once again I apply it to a writing project.
Over Christmas my husband and I were in N Africa, and every time I visit my daughter and her family I come with away with an urgency to to pray—especially for their ministry and the daily challenges they (especially my grandchildren) face living in a Muslim culture. Focusing on prayer is always a good start to the year. After starting with the idea of Prayer I began to play with the P words ... and more goals for the year popped up.

Pursue inner Peace It is a pursuit. Thou wilt keep him in Perfect Peace, who's mind is stayed on thee. As I pray my mind will be focused on God, and my peace increases. As my peace increases I can extend it to others. Recently I heard a pastor reference Paul's frequent salutation of “grace and peace.” He challenged us to respond to situations with a simply reply: someone cuts you off in traffic—Grace & Peace, You're put on hold—Grace & Peace, someone gets under your skin—Grace & Peace. My husband and I have tried it on each other a few times. It's helpful.
Partnership—after being solo for a decade, I have husband to consider ... we are learning to do things in partnership. Thankfully I am partnered with God in this.
Practice His Presence-being aware of God at all times throughout the daily activities.
Praise & thanksgiving. Living in gratitude and giving praise to God for all his goodness.
Power—a reminder to myself that we are given the same power that raised Christ from the dead. (Can I really grasp that? Why do I still struggle?)
and Publish? Publish-how did that get into here?
Susan Barclay, in her January 4th post, aims to finish her first draft of a novel, even if it lies on the shelf somewhere ... and Joylene Bailey responded that this thought also released her from the pressure—just finish the work, move on and let God guide for the next step. Well, I haven't got a novel I'm working on, but I do have a short manuscript from before life got crazy and I got married. While taking the creative writing course through U of C a few years ago, we submitted our final project. It was to be the beginning of a longer work, or a completed short work intended for possible future publication. And here it sits on my computer waiting for such a time as this. At the time my preceptor for the course told me she hoped I would publish it. Perhaps this is the year to do something with it? That is a scary thought. But an idea has already come to mind: to have a certain number of copies printed to give as gifts to my family, and close friends. The manuscript Becoming is a collection of prayers, anecdotes and declarations of hope ... a series of inspirational notes to move forward in life.
So how do I sum up for my goals for this year?
Prevail and Persevere ... Keep at it. It is easy to get discouraged as all these things have been on lists before. What makes me think this time is different?
PRAY and then
Plan—I need a scheduled plan to make this happen. Daily I want to commit to thirty minutes of prayer and initially I thought thirty minutes of Proprioceptive Writing. Then I realized that the writing part needs more flexibility and Prayer is the focus. Perhaps I need to partner with someone to keep me accountable?

There is a plethora of possibilities that I could proceed with Panache ... but even better to proceed with PRAYER.

January 19, 2018

Capturing Moments by Eunice Matchett

For me, a new year is an open, brand-new journal. A pretty one, because I like pretty. The prettier my journal the harder I try to make each story or poem unique. At the end of each year, I have a treasure house of my thoughts to read. Sadly, the more recent the journals, the emptier the pages. Somehow, I’ve allowed myself to get off track. My direction and discipline have packed up and gone on a trip.

I need a plan. One to keep me on track.  I though back over the previous year. My well-intended writing time had been crowded out by other things. Feeling ashamed of myself for allowing this to happen, I asked God to help me in these areas this year.  An element of peace crept into me.

 Then, alas, life set in. 

The phone rang. My son had suffered another medical episode. I grabbed my coat and keys and was out the door in minutes. Hours later, I returned, totally exhausted. My laptop remained on the ottoman right where I left it. The discipline and direction I’d promised myself earlier shriveled up, and I flopped across my bed, only to be woken a few hours later. My son needed care. This went on for three days. The following three days I flat-lined. Now, six days later, I retrieve my laptop from the ottoman where I’d laid it all those days ago.

Prepared to continue with my thoughts, I re-read what I’d written, but the discipline and direction no longer felt so important or possible. I prayerfully stared at my screen wondering if my writing days were withering. Self pity popped in to join me for a cup of tea. The tea was delightful, and the conversation was all one-sided. Mine. But, as the conversation moved on, little spots of light appeared and grew. Self-pity excused herself for another appointment, and my mind kicked into gear.

I have less control over my life than most people, so direction and discipline can be no more than an illusive dream. Or I can dwell on them, and turn into an old hag. But I choose not to. My prayer for this year has changed to, “Lord, help me recognize the small openings in my life in which I can sit and write, and please enable my mind to kick into its writing mode instantly.”

January 18, 2018

The Story That Wouldn't Go Away - Gloria Guest

"How is God speaking to you about your faith and writing? How are you anticipating God’s presence? How does He want you to step forward in faith?"

When I put the words ‘my faith’ and ‘writing’ together these are the thoughts that come to mind:

Last year I took the opportunity to write a short story for Inscribes Anthology, Christmas Stories & More. It was a faith inducing experience for me as I’ve resisted sending my work out for publication for years (other than newspaper articles and columns). Due to the encouragement of a good friend I pushed through that wall of resistance and sent in my story, even though I wasn’t happy with it and could only think about its flaws after it was sent. Thankfully the editor team saw more than flaws and it was published in the book.

I’d always had the tendency to simply forget about my newspaper articles and columns once they were in print. Once in a while someone would mention an article or column they liked and I was always so surprised and just brush off their kind comments. 

And so I thought I’d just forget about this story too. But for some reason that story just would not go away. Some people who read it offered encouraging comments more than once. Then a friend (also an Inscribe member with a story in the book) read it out loud at her Author’s Reading (things were getting out of control) and then told me that a lady who attended the meeting wanted to read it at her church’s Christmas program (now things had really gone off the deep end) This story seemed to be taking on a life of its own.

 I had offered a copy to my physiotherapist to leave in her waiting room and she phoned and left a message just to encourage me that she loved the story. And then at my appointment she brought it up again and wanted to know more about my writing. Being the encouraging person that she is she asked me if I’d ever thought of writing for Christian magazines, especially since I had experience as a reporter. Little did she know that she had touched on a dream in my heart; to be able to write articles for a faith based magazine on a regular basis.

I have to admit that I’ve always been the ‘hide my talents under a bushel’ kind of person. But with the comments and other promptings I’ve been coming to understand that that maybe my writing is meant to expand beyond my small thinking.

This year, I will choose to anticipate that God’s presence will go with me as I make more attempts into the published world. I haven’t decided yet what they will be and I may never write for a faith based magazine, but I’m trusting that when I hear that small voice prompt me to step forward in some way, that I will and can act.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” [Phil 4:13 NKJV] is the perfect scripture for my writing life this year.

January 17, 2018

New Year's Resolutions - Lynn Dove

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions.  Perhaps it’s because I fail so miserably at keeping most New Year’s resolutions that I make.  It is so very discouraging for me.  I have these lofty goals and have such good intentions but a week into the New Year and I’m already making excuses or giving up entirely on any resolution-keeping I may have made.  The same is equally true when it comes to making writing goals for the New Year.  I have these lofty ambitions, I make writing deadlines for myself, schedule my days and then inevitably something comes up and I have to scrap my plans and start all over. 

A writer’s life is full of lofty goals and ambitions, but it is also filled with distractions, re-writes, re-writes, rewrites…and occasionally scrapping the project entirely and starting from scratch.  *sigh*

My life verse is, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9  I have embraced that verse because I have learned that if I make any kinds of plans on my own, I have to be willing to also look out for the God-sized U-turns that may have me scrap my original plans and follow another course direction that He has set for me.  Faith is all about setting off in an entirely new direction, knowing that His leading is always best.

 When I make my own plans, I tend to fail.  I don’t have the stamina or the endurance to stay the course.  New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside.  Writing projects get put aside and artistic procrastination sets in.  I’m the queen of excuses when it comes to keeping writing deadlines.  Distractions abound that seem to take far more precedence than my writing.  Again, all my best laid plans tend to dissolve and another opportunity for writing ministry wasted.

With New Year’s resolutions, the only way I can succeed is if I know there is a greater goal in keeping them.  For example, I have been told by my doctor that I must walk more to stave off a chronic health issue.  The quest for fitness is not just a New Year’s resolution now, it is necessary for long term health.  That’s important to me because I’ve got to keep up with very active grandbabies!  With a new, more purposeful focus, I can be disciplined and stretch towards the finish line.  Unfortunately, I will fail in the attempt, if I think I can do this on my own.  Prayer and a good accountability partner will guarantee a positive result.  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Phil. 4:13

 It is the same with writing.  I consider my writing a ministry.  As soon as I refocus on why I write in the first place, I can rededicate myself to the task at hand.  I am not writing for myself.  Every project, every article is ultimately to bring Glory to God.  I believe God is actively involved in leading me to those writing projects He wishes me to contribute to, and He is with me throughout the writing process.  He requires me to be disciplined in setting goals and keeping them.  It is important that I pray for His direction throughout the process. 

If you are setting writing goals for the coming year, here are a few scripture verses to ponder:

“My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  Psalm 45:1

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

And lastly, I sometimes replace the words “speaks” with “writes” in the following verse to further encourage and challenge me as a writer.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.”  1 Peter 4:10-11

You can find other encouraging verses for writers on my website.

Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at lynndove.com