April 19, 2014

Murphy's Law to Peniel - by Linda Aleta Tame

It all started in the airport in Minot, N.D.  My flight to Phoenix was leaving at 9:30 p.m., but I arrived five hours early (long story).  I had my MacBook Pro with me, so I had something to do during my wait.  Check-in staff assured me I'd find a snack shop in the gate area, so I went through customs clearance, found a quiet spot for myself and settled in.

A couple hours later, my MacBook was running out of battery, there was nowhere to plug it in and I was hungry.  I was dismayed to discover the snack shop closed precisely fifteen minutes earlier.  Surely I'd find a vending machine, I thought, but no, there was only a drink machine which would not accept my U.S. bills.  I gave my most pleading expression to the customs officer to request change, or maybe a quick return to the check-in area where I could see machines brimming with sandwiches and chips, but that was not going to happen.  Okay, I thought, this is a First World problem.  I will survive.  Water will be served on the flight.  I finally got up to board the delayed flight at 11:00 p.m., and it was then I saw the plug-in for my MacBook, a few hours too late.

I'm learning that what once were expectations, should now be considered wishes or better, prayer requests.  The flight attendant said, "Two dollars."  With my eyes fixed on the water bottle, I handed her my U.S. bills.  "We don't accept cash," she responded, so I decided to thirst and hunger another three and half hours, because my debit/credit card was in the overhead compartment. After finally arriving in warm beautiful Phoenix, I recovered with a light snack, water and sleeping, but perhaps from the hours of sitting or the twenty hours of sleeping, I now had a severe stabbing pain in my hip.

Okay, Lord, I think you're trying to get my attention, I thought.  I took my green juice out to the patio, and relaxed into the embrace of my heavenly Father.  What's going on, I asked?  The first thought that came to me was Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32.  Jacob, who wrestled with an angel, Jacob whose hip was badly wrenched.  In verse 31, he received a new walk.  As Edward K. Pousson says in his article Bethel to Peniel, "Nobody struts into the Kingdom."  In verse 28, Jacob received a new name, a new identity.  He was transformed from Jacob to Israel, from "just me" to "commUNITY."  Also in verse 31, when the sun rose upon him, he received a new day, a new beginning.  All this newness in a time of loneliness and discomfort, and Jacob named the place of his transformation "Peniel," which means "face to face with God."

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix
Image from Free Christ Images
The following Sunday, I found a wonderful church near our home in Phoenix.  It's called "New Life!"  I love how God works, don't you?

It's hard to put into words how much these thoughts meant to me.  It wasn't because of my unfortunate airport and flight experience, or because of my painful hip.  Those were only preparatory for my encouraging Peniel encounter.  The significance was that my spirit was longing to hear from the One who makes all the difference in my life. My spirit was longing for fresh revelation, for transformation.  I've written before about my long dark journey, a time of introspection, reflection and spiritual bewilderment.  The emerging process seems long too, but it's so rich and valuable.  It's essential. 

Reading about Jacob in Bethel to Peniel by Edward K. Pousson gave me incredible comfort, inspiration and hope.  I hope you'll read it too.

April 17, 2014

The Primary Fact of Life by Bryan Norford

One revelation, the most obvious and natural fact of earthly life, has taken me a lifetime to discover. Unfortunately, my fallen nature can be as impenetrable as the ocean depths to an enlightening Spirit.

The most formative question about life is about God: is He or isn’t He? If He is and created us, then we will give account for how we have lived. Conscience—which we can manipulate or stifle—and His Word—which we may ignore or trash—warn us of our obligation to Him.

Without God, no rules, justice, order or love exist. It leaves a void for personal opinion and ambition. This fractures humankind and leads to the human chaos that history records and we observe. The sense that humans can and will overcome their fallen nature Is the principal lie of earth’s existence.

If my mind is dark, how much darker is the mind that conceives of humanity rising from its moral anarchy by its own efforts. William Ernest Henley’s words ending Invictus, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” meant to portray the ascendancy of the human spirit, also condemn us.

Those words, sung by a few with ability to overcome obstacles—at least for a time—are daily mourned by billions who find no hope from oppression, poverty, and disease. The human spirit can endure so much, but cannot cope alone with adversity.

Augustine penned the obvious answer “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Pascal confirmed: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”

So here is the basic idea about life that has recently become meaningful to me:

The most natural and imperative way of life is to walk through it with our Creator.

Anything less is the world’s greatest folly.

April 15, 2014

Confirming Purpose - Tracy Krauss

Many of this month's posts have focused on 'purpose' - what we want our readers to take away after reading something we have written. I found Shirley S. Tye's post 'Writing In the Nude' especially thought provoking. Putting your writing out there for all to see is a lot like exposing yourself. It's scary, uncomfortable, and even embarrassing at times. A sense of inadequacy accompanies the excitement, and inevitably, no matter how polished you thought that manuscript was, you wish you could 'make it better' once it's been put out there for all to see.

Several novels and plays later, I still feel inadequate. Then why put myself through all the hard work and stress? Simple. God has given me a desire to write.

I have learned that one of the worst things I can do is compare myself to others. I'm not talking about learning from others. This is a good thing and we all have room to grow. I mean the comparison game that leaves one feeling envious. Connie Inglis addressed this well in her post 'Sehnsucht'. Even Christian writers are not immune to the green-eyed monster. It takes purposeful prayer to eliminate these feelings of envy so that we can truly rejoice with our brothers' and sisters' successes. It also takes reliance on the Holy Spirit to rest in the fact that God also has a plan for me and my writing, separate, and different from what He may have in mind for someone else.

I write fiction. I'm not that interested in writing devotionals or other non-fiction, and I usually don't feel apologetic for that. (I did self publish a devotional recently called 'Life is a Highway' based on a series of speeches I gave at a women's retreat.) I was pleasantly surprised when a reader contacted me and told me she could identify with some of the things I said. I also got a personal card in the mail thanking me for my children's book 'The Sleepytown Express', saying how it touched her heart and reminded her of her own childhood memories. Cool. Truthfully, however, I don't plan on illustrating any more kids books or writing any more devotionals.

Like I said, my passion is to write fiction. I believe fiction can be a powerful tool and can profoundly affect people, just the way non-fiction can. Sometimes I feel like what I write is drivel, however, compared to what others are writing. My books lean heavily on the romantic side of things, (even though I insist that I am not a romantic!) This is why positive responses from readers of my fictional work is so encouraging. Even seemingly simple comments on facebook or elsewhere can be hugely validating.

One of my favorite examples happened several months ago, before Christmas. My daughter had lent my book MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to one of her colleagues. (Just as a side note, the book is quite long and in retrospect, I see lots of things I would like to change...) In any case, her co-worker was touched by Joleen's story because she also had a less than perfect past. She wanted her own copy and also bought one for her sister-in-law who was not a Christian, but whom she thought might also be able to relate to the 'realism' of the characters.

These are the kinds of responses that give me confidence; that confirm I am writing in God's will. I don't need to become a New York Times best seller (although this would be nice) and I don't need every reader's approval. I just need to continue to write what I feel God is calling me to write and let Him do the rest.

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author and playwright living in Tumbler Ridge, BC. Visit her website for more details. tracykrauss.com

April 14, 2014

Scent-Free Writing - Pam Mytroen

What I want my readers to feel

I have been known to get so caught up in a movie that I will yell out loud in the theatre. I have squeezed my popcorn bucket and hollered at Liam Neeson, "Get out! Get out of the car!” and fervently screamed "Please, please grab the gun!" 

Both times I noticed my teens had left the theatre before the lights came back up. So, naturally, when I first began writing I felt my mission was to evoke a dramatic response from my readers. They would pull kleenex after kleenex from the box and stuff their fist in their mouth to stop the sobbing.  They would sit back in their chair and shake their heads in awe at my finely crafted pieces.  

After a few published articles I waited for my inbox to fill with notes of thanks, or for the phone to ring. Thankfully I had four children to take care of so I got yanked back to reality pretty fast. Granted, three people did say a very quick thank you for my writing when I spotted them at the local drugstore, after I trapped them with my shopping cart in the "Depends" section. One lady even said that without my writing in the paper, it was not worth reading. (I have a feeling that she yells in theatres and spills her popcorn too). But most people didn’t even know I was writing. In fact, they are still surprised when they discover that I have articles and stories published. Hmmm . . . not exactly the soulful applause I had hoped for. 

Then one day something happened that changed my approach to writing. I still have the scar. I had opened the file of an interview I had written, wanting to remind myself of my outstanding talent, and pat myself on the back again. I hadn’t finished reading the first 3 lines before I was so moved I nearly bit my lip in half to stop the tears. Between sobs I mumbled, "I can’t believe I wrote this garbage!” In my attempt to impress, to draw a tear, I had layered heavily perfumed phrases, one on top of the other. In today’s world, my writing would not have been allowed in most public buildings due to allergies and sensitivities. People would have had to bring their nasal spray along every time they read my stuff to clear the sinus headaches and stuffy noses. Purple prose, I believe it’s called, had so clouded my writing that even if my readers had cried from the sheer beauty, the most they would have benefitted was an olfactory catharsis.

These days what I want my reader to feel is connection. Just to understand what I’m trying to say. I go for the simple wording when possible, and leave the lotions and perfumes in the desk drawer.

I’m happy with a much more sedated response now. A nod of the head is sufficient, a moment of enlightenment, or a resolve to make a small change in their lives. Oh I suppose I wouldn’t protest if they did a spin in their computer chair or even enjoyed a chuckle or two. A scene I like to imagine from my readers, instead of sneezing off the perfumed-prose, is to see them lifting their hands in praise to a majestic Creator or bowing their knee to an amazing Savior.  I don't corner people anymore with my shopping cart, but I wouldn't object either if they yelled out loud and spilled their popcorn while reading my writing. It sure would be nice, though,  if they sent an email to let me know, because after all, my children are grown now and I have time to sit all day waiting for the "ding" in my inbox. 

Pam Mytroen


April 13, 2014

Time By T. L. Wiens

I wish I could say I have something amazing to share with you—some insight about writing that would touch your heart. I don’t.

Instead I am exhausted and my mind is on my maternity ward in my barn. We’re lambing on one end and calving on the other.

I’ve spent the last couple of months assisting in the planning of His Imprint Writer’s Conference. There’s been exciting times updating the website, creating brochures and posters, answering questions that come in…whatever comes my way.

When I’m not doing that, I’m helping my daughter with her tea company, Jenna’s Steapin Party. Did you know every tea has a story? I’ve finally finished putting together the tea half of the catalogue.

There is still the trucking company we run and the editing I do to take up any spare time. And of course, my granddaughter. She can override the needs of all the above.

Time—it’s always my enemy when it comes to my writing.