May 29, 2016

Sowing Seeds For Eternity Bob Jones

Every year in the spring I go to Canadian Tire and purchase perfectly good grass seed. Then I throw the seed away. Not wastefully, but hopefully. I throw it away in my yard with the hope that the seed will “take” and new grass will grow. Agricultural engineers call this process “seeding or “sowing”. I call it “more grass to mow”. Every summer I watch expectantly for evidence that my efforts were successful.

Words are a lot like seeds. Writing is a lot like sowing. Its simply thrilling when writers observe evidence that their words have resulted in encouragement, nourishment or even redemption in those who read their works. The response may come in the form of a blog or Facebook comment, a book review or an old fashioned letter.

I’ve written blogs about depression, mental illness and suicide. Its personal for me – my young cousin took her life after a heartbreaking divorce brought on a deep depression.
The church can feel like an unsafe place for people with mental illness and I’ve taken it on myself to communicate grace-filled acceptance, understanding, support and hope.

The responses have told me I’m on the right track:

“I love this! After taking four years away from church, I finally realized that I needed to start again and found North Pointe. It was through talking to the psychologist I see that I realized this, and seeing this after only two weeks of being back was perfect timing! Knowing that I’m now attending a church who gets that depression isn’t something wrong with someone and their relationship with God is an amazing feeling! Thank you for this post!”

“I’m so thankful that you address this openly. I’m so thankful our church isn’t living in the dark about the reality of depression. Love “… physical illness with spiritual symptoms” so true. Having suffered with depression myself it’s uplifting to not feel shamed by it.”

“May I commend you for such an excellent article on a subject that many in the Body of Christ put a “Christian” facade over. The article provides a thorough understanding of what so many need to know.  As someone who had severe depression for decades (even 17 years as a born again Christian), it’s good to see God lifting the stigma of depression. I, like so many, did not meet one Christian who understood what I was going through.
Fortunately, today (18 years later) God has provided Victory Over Depression – primarily through seeing CHRIST IN ME. I see myself the way God does. My new life is Jesus in me and I choose to focus daily Jesus living in me (Galatians 2:20.)
Life is now such a fantastic joy to grow in this relationship. It is Jesus in me living His life through me.”

My first published book was “Ornament” – the story of a young singer/songwriter and of three boys, facing inoperable cancer and the faith, hope and joy she exuded for the world to see. 

Readers commented:

“This book really touched me. It reminds us to put life into perspective and be grateful for every moment. The strength and grace of Kristen Fersovitch is truly an inspiration. I will treasure this book and pull it out every time I need a reminder of how one person can make a real difference.”

“The story of Kristen and her family is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. Kristen's unwavering faith and joy inspired thousands of people as she battled cancer and lived her life to the fullest. Kristen is a superstar, warrior, and hero. She shows us that God uses all circumstances, good or bad for His glory. Do yourself a big favor and get this amazing book.”

One of my family members gave a copy of “Ornament” to an avowed agnostic. She had been a person of faith until her mother died a sudden and tragic death. I was visiting in her area and when she was told she could meet the author of the book she jumped at the opportunity. She had me autograph her copy and in our conversation about the book I directed her to page six - a prayer of faith. She prayed the prayer.

Marcia Laycock, Inscribe writer says, “As writers of faith we are planting a vineyard with our words…a vineyard that will reach into eternity.” 

You can only reap what you sow. I encourage you to sow your seeds. Your harvest may simply be an earthly “thank you” in the form of feedback or it may be a heavenly “thank you” from one who was redeemed because of your words.

May 28, 2016

What Profit will a Prophet Receive? - Bruce Atchison

 I must admit that this month's writing prompt makes me feel embarrassed. I can't think of ANY meaningful way in which I've ministered to the body of Christ. No flood of testimonials have ever piled up in my e-mail IN box about how my How I Was Razed memoir or blogging revolutionized somebody's life. Neither have I received an abundance of article publication offers from Christian magazines.

There are days when it seems like I'm just filling in time rather than accomplishing something for the Lord. I feel guilty for being ineffective and I'm ashamed of my failures.

Even so, I take comfort in Old Testament prophets who weren't heeded. They didn't fail because nobody listened to them. God even told them they wouldn't be taken seriously. Zechariah 1:4 (KJV) says, "Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, 'Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings:' but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD."

I also take comfort in the fact that God will reward us for good works which we didn't even know we did. Matthew 25:37 (KJV) reads, "Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, 'Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?'" This shows that we have no idea of the ultimate end of what we've done to and for the Lord.

In those frequent moments of discouragement, I remind myself that what I do now can be greatly used by God for his glory, even if it seems like a futile effort now. My hope and prayers are that my latest book and my blog will be edifying and a great comfort to my fellow believers in the long run.

May 27, 2016

Inscribe is so much more!

We have set aside the 27th of each month as a promotional day on the blog. It seemed like a great time to recap some of the many advantages of becoming an Inscribe member.

Did you know that Inscribe supports affiliate writing groups all across Canada? It's true. If you're looking for a writing group in your area or if you want to start one, all you need to do is check out the information on writing groups on our website. We'll send you a start up package full of ideas and information to get you started - or to inspire an already existing group.

Did you know that there are more than 200 members in our organization from across this great country and that you can connect with any of them via the 'listserv' (that group email thingy) or in our facebook group? Join the conversation!

If you're reading this blog, you already know that we offer encouragement and insight about writing and faith on this blog and that you can become a contributor. It's a great way to practice writing on a scheduled basis and get to know one another. But did you know that we also have a professional blog on writing on our website as well? That's two opportunities to read, learn and grow - and even contribute as an author.

Speaking of ways to contribute and gain writing experience, our quarterly magazine Fellowscript is an awesome way to gain some writing creds. Check out the submission guidelines in the front of the magazine or go online to our website. I look forward to getting my magazine each time it comes out and I always read it cover to cover.

Inscribe also offers several contests with cash prizes and a really cool writing opportunity called 'Word Challenges' moderated by Glynis Belec. Watch for her emails on the listserv if you like writing to a theme and also like having some fun!

I haven't even mentioned the series of wonderful 'WorDshops' held this spring around the country and what about our fall conference? This year it's going to be a full two day event with speakers and writers Rik and Linda Hall as well as tons of other exciting and informative workshops. And did I mention the special V.i.P. DAY on the Thursday before? It's a chance for authors to get a leg up on building a platform.

All of these perks and more can be found on our website. (Which is under reconstruction at the moment by the way.) There are just so many benefits to this wonderful organization, and beyond the ones i listed, and perhaps most important, is the sense of friendship and comraderie that develops when you get to know people of like mind.

Here's to Inscribe! Tell your friends!

May 26, 2016

Good Medicine with Side Effects by Marnie Pohlmann

Warning: this may be too much information for some... 
I apologize for posting this so late in the day. I’m five weeks post bilateral mastectomy and do not yet have back my rhythm of life. But, better late than not!

I have not been sharing my writing for very long, so while I see God providing opportunities, for the most part the pruning and planting of this particular vineyard has yet to produce much fruit. I very much feel God is still establishing my ministry in life. I trust He will redeem my experiences and learning to build His kingdom. Yet the process of growth is valuable in itself, so let me share a metaphor for my writing in this season...

Have you ever taken a medication to treat a symptom only to have a side effect of the medication present a more disturbing symptom? This can be an endless cycle of chasing answers while not treating the root cause.

I am presently on a strong antibiotic. While it is successfully treating the infection at my surgical site, there are some uncomfortable side effects.  One side effect is diarrhea. So while I feel better and I am regaining my appetite, the nutrients are flowing right through, so I am not benefiting from the food as much as I could.

However, not all side effects are negative. Because I have this particular side effect of the medication, I am shedding retained water and possibly even some fat. In other words, I am losing weight!

Weight gain has been a side effect of another medication I have been on, so for three years I have been losing the struggle to maintain a healthy body weight. Now, having shed some pounds through surgery and side-effects, perhaps I can regain the energy to exercise before the weight settles in again. One thing leads to another and a new cycle begins, with new life patterns.

I think my writing is like medication. Writing helps me redeem pain, and nourishes my soul. But writing has side effects.

One of the side effects from writing can be negative self-talk. “I only won that contest because not many entered.” “Their encouraging comments are just because they are being kind to the new kid.” These kinds of thoughts cause the nutrients of feedback to flow right past. We easily accept the negative, yet quickly discount the positive. This false humility can be identified by taking the comments to God and asking for His view. Listening to feedback can be helpful only when we truthfully accept both the positive and negative.

Another possible side effect of writing is that eventually the words are shared. One never knows where the writing may end up. This opens one to the possibility of criticism, not only of your words, but of yourself. Putting yourself out there is scary, yet is the only way to share healing with others. Talk about the pain. Share the experiences. Encourage one another. God asks us not to heal and minister in isolation, but in community.

Some side effects from writing may not be negative. Perhaps, as the writing nourished my own soul while I wrote, it will also nourish others as they read. Maybe someone will be encouraged and able to deal with or shed their pain because I laid my own pain bare.

As I continue on with writing for my own healing, I will trust the side effects of my writing diarrhea will be positive, not negative, and will be used by God to build His kingdom in some way. As I learn the craft, share the words, and strive to glorify God, perhaps new exercise routines will be established to bring greater health to myself and to others.

Writing is good medicine that can help heal all ailments.

Marnie writes from Northern BC. Check out her blog, Phosphorescent.

May 25, 2016

Encouraging Others By Vickie Stam

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother  -- which is the first commandment with a promise -- that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." 
                                       Ephesians 6:1-2

Just about two years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to write something on the topic of "relationships" and then read it in front of a group of about forty women. I was thrilled, honored really. No one had ever asked me to write something for such an event and then share it. I thought this would be an easy task given the fact that I knew these women. They were none other than my church family; women I was surely comfortable with.

But the more I thought about this topic, the more I wondered what I would say. I am divorced and remarried and so I asked myself if this is what I should talk about. But --- would everyone be accepting of this even though they already knew this about me? Hmm, suddenly I felt a little nervous. But, knowing that it's never been a secret, I pressed on. I sat down in front of my computer and plucked at the keys. But, only a few paragraphs in I couldn't help but think about the many turning points in my life from childhood to adulthood and something struck a cord with me. I decided to write about depression and the affects it has on everyone, not only the person who is suffering from it but also those around them. This is an illness that takes its toll on relationships.

This would surely expose a secret my family lived with all the while I was growing up. It was something we were forbidden to talk about. As a child, I knew something was wrong in our home but I didn't really understand what it was.

My mother's illness was something most people didn't already know about. Writing about it helped release those feelings that were tucked inside my heart. Standing in front of those women that day was not as easy as I thought it would be. I was putting myself out there. I was careful when I was writing. I made sure the words reflected my situation and not that of others. Everything I shared was from my own experience. This was my journey. Even so, I wondered if there would be anyone in the room who had gone through a similar situation. I prayed that my words might encourage someone else. Let them know they are not alone.

All eyes were on me when I stepped up to the microphone. I held tight to my papers and read slowly and clearly, making sure my eyes did not drift from the page. Making eye contact with my friends would certainly open the flood gate. If the tears started, I'm not sure I could have stopped them. I began by describing my family in a single narrative, "dysfunctional."

Here is an excerpt from the story I read:

"It seemed so complicated. Yet when I sit down at night to watch television I'm reminded of what made it that way. Commercials illustrate its devastating affects. Brilliant actors portray characters feeling empty, sad and hopeless. Even comedians earn a living by making people laugh about something that has the potential to break a person."

"The year was 1963. I've been told my mother changed that year. She was no longer her ordinary self. Despite being married with two children and a loving husband, the news she received was too overwhelming. I can only imagine the expression on her face that screamed, this can't be happening."

"Inside her womb God was forming my fingers and toes and a beating heart. He chose to bring me into this world even if my mother wasn't prepared. Every tear that fell, I never felt a thing. Sadly, she began to withdraw to a dark place; somewhere my father couldn't go."

A few pages later I was finished. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. God had certainly used me to open the door for others to share some of their own experiences around depression. I was not alone.

My mother's depression left its mark on my family; a mark that we will never forget. During my adult years I learned that depression affects everyone differently. I learned that it wasn't her fault. It's an illness; something with no simple cure.   

Since her passing in 2009, my sisters and I have talked at great length about the mark we carry; the one that seems to never leave us. Still, we harbor no bitterness -- only love. I know that God walked with my family through those dark times and today I miss her more than words could ever express. I loved her back then and I love her still.