October 31, 2011

A Legacy of Faith - Susan Barclay

My grandparents weren't perfect people, but they got the main thing right, and in so doing left a legacy of faith that continues to impact the lives of their children and grandchildren today.

I am thankful.

I am thankful for their example of what it looks like to actively seek a deepening relationship with Christ through daily prayer and reading God's Word. I am thankful for their great love for me and for their constant presence in my life, important investments that my earthly father was unable or unwilling to make.

Does their legacy live on in me? Ah, that is the question. I know I have a long way to go in gaining the crucial disciplines of regular prayer and Bible study. I can argue that I have a busy life as a wife, mother, employee, volunteer, and (aspiring) writer. But don't we all have time for the things that really matter to us? If Christ matters most to me - and I say that He does - won't I make time for Him? I'm not sure He buys the "I go to church, I give to the Lord's work, I write on Christian subjects" line. I know I don't.

I am thankful that He is patient with me. I am a work in progress and He knows it. Today, if you struggle as I do to be a disciplined follower of Christ, will you join me in turning over a new leaf? Let us commit to reading God's Word and praying on a daily basis. Even if when we start it's a mere ten minutes, I believe God will bless us and encourage us to spend more time with Him. Suddenly we will "find" time we didn't know we had!

As Steve Green sings in Faithful, may those who come behind us find "the footsteps that we leave, inspire them to believe." There can be no greater legacy.

October 30, 2011

Drum Roll For InScribe Conference - Sharon Espeseth

Stumped by technology and interrupted by the life’s duties, I took a long break from blogging, but I’m back. (Insert drum roll)

Two weeks ago I attended the Inscribe Fall Conference in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. I attended conference to touch base with my fellow Christians-who-are-writers. I went to learn more about writing and to gain confidence in my writing abilities. I went to discover ways to overcome my fears and inhibitions about committing words to paper and sending them out. I went seeking inspiration to become a more disciplined, insightful, and effective scribe for God.

A pretty tall order! After digesting ideas from Conference, I believe I can check off my needs listed above. The plenary and break-out sessions were refreshing dew for this writer’s soul.

Grace Fox, our guest speaker, shared her own experiences from the time she first sensed God’s call to write. As she confessed her own fears of inadequacy, of limited ideas, and of lacking skills, I identified with her. Instead of stalling on these fears, she asked God to guide her and give her courage and wisdom. The secret of overcoming our fears, Grace says, is “to focus on the One who calls us to write.” Several times a week she would go for a long walking/talking/listening session with God.

Grace advises us to say yes even when our knees are shaking. “If I never wrote through fear,” she admits, “my words would never fall like dew.” Here she is referring to the scripture theme for the conference. In Deuteronomy 32:2, we read the beginning of Moses’s swan song delivered to the Israelites before they crossed over into the Promised Land.

“Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.”

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, Moses was fearful and full of excuses. God rebutted these excuses. He demonstrated His own power and promised to be with Moses. Moses accepted God’s call. God took the forty-year journey with Moses.

Having discovered she can count on God, Grace tells us, “Whatever God is asking you to do, Do it afraid.” If we take that leap of faith, God will look after the details. Relying on God, Grace wrote many successful articles and profiles for magazines. Her writing credentials grew.

Then God asked Grace to write a book that would teach women to overcome their fears and find freedom. Grace says she argued with God for a year before submitting to this particular call and starting research for the book. Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation was published in 2007.

At the conference I attended other helpful and inspiring workshops. In Susan Plett’s session on freefall writing, I surprised myself by writing fiction, which has not been my forte. I tried my rusty hand at poetry. And I stopped in to see Brenda Leyland, my blogging mentor, at her workshop.

Here’s what Addy Oberling, a senior from Swan River, Manitoba said in a recent e-mail: “I had a great time. Grace is such an encouraging speaker. It is so nice that after a number of years, you do not just say hi, but a hug is included when you meet one another, because you are like family.”

We writers need time to speak with other writers. Who could better understand the potholes and bumps on the road to answering God’s call to write? We encourage one another. Speaking of encouragement, I placed first in the Essay to Theme Category with my entry, “Rain Down!” (Drum roll)

The Mission Church in Wetaskiwin was a wonderful, welcoming place for our conference. Gwen Mathieu coordinated the excellent meals with help from her family. Thanks, Gwen. (Another drum roll please)

October 29, 2011

Doing it Afraid - Ruth L. Snyder

Has God ever called you to do something that seemed way beyond your capabilities? How did you respond - fear or faith? Or maybe both? At the recent Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship conference in Wetaskiwin, author Grace Fox challenged fellow writers to "Do it Afraid".

A few years ago I was encouraged to put my name forward for the position of school board trustee. I felt God prompting me, but I argued. My kids are young; they need me at home. Besides, what do I know about being a trustee? For several weeks I argued. Then, like Gideon, I put out my first fleece. OK, I'll ask my husband about it. If he supports the idea, maybe. When Kendall and I discussed it, he told me he would fully support me if I decided to put my name forward. Still I hesitated. Still I made excuses. Then came the second fleece - I'll ask some people I trust. If they all support me, I'll do it. My friends ALL encouraged me to go for it. Not one voiced any doubt. Finding no excuses left, I filled out the nomination papers and handed them in. I became one of four candidates for the position. Two of the candidates had experience in politics and were well known in the community. I was definitely "doing it afraid"! The vote was held, and I was elected. I continued "doing it afraid", leaving the safety and security of my position as stay-at-home Mom and wading into the politics of education.

A month after I was elected to the school board, we received a phone call. "Hi, this is Brenda. I'm phoning to let you know that the boys you adopted have a baby sister who is just a week old. The department is wondering if you would consider adopting her." We were told the baby had heart problems. We were also informed that we could become foster parents and have her join our family within a few weeks. Although we had four children, our youngest was seven. Because our children are all adopted, we had never cared for an infant before, let alone one with heart problems. As my husband and I walked into the hospital, I clutched his hand and shot quick prayers heavenward. We were taught how to care for her, given heart failure signs to watch for, and handed emergency contact numbers. Another opportunity to "do it afraid".

The next spring, I decided to enter The Word Guild's God Uses Ink Novice Contest. After I wrote my submission, I shared it with family and friends and asked for constructive criticism. It was the first time I had ever shared my writing with anyone other than immediate family or writing instructors. Many people told me they thought my piece was great. A few brave souls gave me suggestions to improve my writing. Many re-writes later, I submitted Gifts from a Loving God. Several weeks later, I was thrilled to find out I won first place in my age category. The prize was a free Write!Canada conference registration. My husband told me I had to attend. In June 2009, I said goodbye to my husband and children and flew to Ontario. At the conference I had the opportunity to learn different options for book publishing, interact with professional authors, network with publishers and editors, and pray about next steps in my writing. One of the suggestions was to start working on my author "platform", using Twitter.

 Fast forward to today. I am still enjoying learning and serving my community as a trustee for Northern Lights School Division No. 69. Our family now consists of seven - our youngest daughter's adoption was finalized in 2009. I continue to tweet (@wwjdr). I have discovered Twitter is a wonderful way to network, find information, and have immediate contact and feedback with others. Through a Twitter friend, I received an invitation to be part of a panel at the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta conference. The other members of the panel are the Minister of Education for Alberta and the Alberta Teachers' Association President. My gut response was, "Why me? Who am I?" But, now I am seeing it as another opportunity to "do it afraid".

How about you? What are you choosing to "do it afraid"?

Ruth L. Snyder
Check out Ruth's blog on education matters at www.trusteesnyder.blogspot.com.
Follow Ruth on Twitter @wwjdr