December 30, 2016

God Hears by Susan Barclay

This month we've been challenged to think about the word 'gift' and what it means to us this Christmas. 

Most of us are probably busy buying last-minute presents for friends and family if we haven't completed our shopping already. We have a custom of holy-day gift-giving in remembrance of the Magi's visit to Jesus with their treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And since we've been doing this since time immemorial, it's almost impossible to stop. We're afraid of disappointing, of failing to live up to expectations. Which means the real meaning of season - Jesus, God come to earth, Emmanuel - can get lost in its trappings.

Guilty as charged.

As I write this, it's exactly a week before the big day. The last six weeks have been especially busy and challenging. Yesterday (December 17) my son, who had moved out at the beginning of October, moved home again. That right there is an answer to prayer (and the best gift). But we've been getting a basement room ready for him, to give him more space and privacy. The rest of the basement is a mess, accommodating the furniture we've had to remove in order to rip up the carpets, install a sub-floor, put down vinyl planking and paint the walls. We're not finished yet and he's currently sleeping in the family room, surrounded on all sides. Usually the Christmas tree takes residence there, but this year there's "no room in the inn." 

Not only is the basement in disarray and our tree still in storage, but we have no indoor decorations up (except the advent calendar), no baking done, a few more stocking gifts to buy, a Christmas potluck to host, a cocktail party to attend and Christmas dinner to prep and host for 9. 

Deep breath. Remember, these things are not what Christmas is all about. It's okay not to have a magazine-perfect holiday. December will come and go; it will be what it will be. It will be okay. Jesus was laid in a manger, not a bassinet.

As I think about the word 'gift,' the word 'prayer' also comes to mind. As I've become more intentional in my prayer life through 2016, more passionate about the power of prayer, God has given several answers. My prayers are like gifts to Him (He keeps them in gold bowls according to Revelations 5:8) and His responses are a gift to me. Through this 'gift exchange' I've drawn closer to Him and come to love Him more than ever. And I can say that, while I would never invite trials or challenges (who wants them, really?), it's been worth it to have this deeper relationship.

Our son still needs prayer. Like many young people who've grown up in Christian families and churches, after making a childhood profession and being baptized as a teen he's at the point where he needs to make his faith his own. God has him on a journey to discover who He really is. We don't know how long that will take or what that will look like, but we do know that God is good and is giving him a unique story. In the meantime we trust, knowing we have a good Father who gives His children the best gifts (Luke 11:9-13). As we head into 2017, may you find this to be true. 

December 29, 2016

Words Are A Precious Gift by Bob Jones




The writing life is about words – written and received.

Words are a precious gift.

Shared in writing, words are a gift to our readers. Everything we write is a vulnerable expression of our musings, experiences and hopes. Thoughtful, creative, intentional words are written with the hopes that they will deliver benefit to readers.

Words given to us as writers are another story. They are gifts offered from friends and critics (who are sometimes one and the same).

For me, words of feedback, constructive criticism and especially affirmation are greater gifts than anything I can give.

Personally, words are more important than they may be to other writers. The truth is one word of affirmation can carry me a long way through tough times. Especially if the word comes from someone I know and respect. 

Sometimes, I’ve been known to forward compliments I receive to my wife, Jocelyn just so she’ll know that the time taken in writing has been somewhat of a valued effort.

According to Gary Chapman my “love language” is “words of affirmation”. For me, compliments are very meaningful and aren’t just flattery. When readers share that they learned something, or changed their thinking or bettered their behavior from what I wrote (or even simply read what I wrote) I take their words to heart.

Furthermore, negative or careless comments cut deeply. I’ve been developing a thicker skin over time. I’m not at the turtle shell stage yet but getting there.

Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to remember that when God gave, He gave His Word. Everything in creation came into existence through God speaking, except for people. Adam was the first expression of God’s creative touch. In Jesus we have both His Word and His touch. Jesus is the vulnerable expression of God’s love.

My gift to you this Christmas is to encourage you to write on in 2017! To put your words and yourself into your written creations.

Merry Christmas!
 
Bob W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.

December 28, 2016

Who Gives the Best Gifts? - Bruce Atchison

To us Christians, the answer to this question is obvious. But why is it that our Lord gives us the best gifts?

God loves us like an excellent father. Jesus tells us in Luke 11:11 (KJV), "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?" We aren't always the best at parenting but our heavenly Father knows what would be best for us.

But did you know that making a living is also God's gift to us? Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:19 (KJV), "Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God." Thanksgiving Day has passed but we must be thankful every day for such wonderful things which he provides.

But more than physical gifts, we receive spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. And what good are these? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:12 (KJV) that, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church."

Of course the best gift of all is salvation. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 (KJV), "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" And what a wonderful gift it is for we who trust in the finished atonement of Christ.


as Paul also reminds us in Romans 6:23 (KJV), For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Additionally, Jesus was our gift. Mark 10:45 (KJV) testifies, "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." For this reason, we worship him and celebrate his birth, death, and resurrection.

There are so many wonderful verses that I could add regarding the excellent gifts our heavenly Father provides us but this blog post would become a novel. Instead, I'll save them for my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? Sadly, many people assume they'll be in paradise when they die but they'll be shocked at their real destination.

December 27, 2016

Don't Miss Out on These Great Opportunities

As an InScribe member, there are so many great opportunities coming your way in the new year! InScribe will be publishing a Christmas Anthology set to launch at the 2017 conference and now is the time to get those submissions in! Sally Meadows, our new InScribe press coordinator, has been working hard to get things aligned and she has written a blog post with all the details on how to submit. Check it out here:
http://sallymeadows.com/blog/blog/tips-for-writing-your-christmas-anthology-contribution


On this last 'promotional' post of the year, I thought I would repost an article I wrote for the professional blog that seems to fit here since it talks about the many other ways you can get involved. Enjoy!

It's Just Fear Talking

There are many common ‘writerly’ fears, but nothing worth doing comes easily, or so it seems, so it makes sense that this also applies to the writing life. To quote writer Jeff Goins, “Do it afraid.” Good advice. Some of the best learning comes outside our comfort zones.

At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, there are plenty of ways to step into the discomfort zone right here within our organization. For instance, InScribe offers a variety of contests throughout the year, with judges ready, willing, and able to tear your darling entry to shreds.

Just kidding, of course! That last bit was FEAR talking. In reality, our judges are caring individuals who are unbiased, experienced, and truly have your best interests at heart. You’re a winner even if you don’t ‘win’ because they always give constructive feedback. If you’ve been afraid to enter a contest, why not do it this year?

Another opportunity that often causes anxiety is submitting a piece to one of our publications. Did you know that any member can submit to Fellowscript? You don’t need to wait to be solicited. Just follow the guidelines, take a deep breath, and hit ‘send’. The worst that could happen would be that the editor would laugh in your face and then email the rest of the executive so that everyone would know how preposterous you were to even think you could get something published.

No! Of course that’s not going to happen! Darn that FEAR. He keeps trying to get in your head. Instead, your piece might actually get accepted and they’ll even pay you for it.  You may have to make some changes, but the editorial staff is made up of nice people. They’ll guide you through the process, and even if your piece doesn’t make it into that issue, they’ll probably offer some encouragement and suggestions for future submissions. 

How about attending a writers’ conference? I’m surprised to hear how many people are fearful of attending their first conference because somehow they don’t feel worthy to hob-knob with ‘real’ writers. I have news. We’ve all been there. Of course, new attendees will be grilled about their publishing credits in front of the entire assembly and made to feel inadequate if they aren’t up to a certain standard.

Oh dear… FEAR has really crossed the line this time. While there may be certain individuals who operate this way at some conferences, this has not been my experience at an InScribe conference. Susan King, editor from The Upper Room, described the recent conference as ‘a party for the soul’. Conference is warm inviting, inclusive, and fun – just the kind of atmosphere to knock FEAR onto his butt.  

There are so many other ways you can get FEAR to whisper in your ear, but by now, you’re getting wise to the sound of his voice. Join a writers’ group. Ask a ‘silly’ question on the listserv. Submit a piece to the IWO blog. Ask for a blue pencil critique. FEAR will try to respond, but you know better. Just laugh in his face and do it anyway – afraid. 

*This post originally appeared on InScribe's professional blog on October 28, 2016.

December 26, 2016

Christmas Gifts From Wise Men by Marnie Pohlmann

I opened gifts yesterday. Did you?
And I gave gifts, too. Did you give gifts?
I enjoyed time with my eternal family at a Christmas Eve candlelight service, and at a Christmas Day worship service. I prepared and shared a meal with my loved ones. Did your preparation for Christmas make the day as special as you hoped?

And today is Boxing Day. All we have prepared for is done. Are you hanging on to yesterday, still treasuring this celebration before daily life begins again?

The good news is, Christmas continues!
Scripture reveals the story is not finished. The birth of Jesus, which we celebrate on Christmas day, is recorded in the Bible, where we can read “the rest of the story.”

One part of the Christmas story that happens after the birth of the baby-king is written in Matthew, Chapter 2, which gives account of wise men who traveled to present gifts to the prophesied Messiah. There is not a lot of information about the Magi, or the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh that they brought, but traditions offer some thoughts.

The Magi
             were wise men,
             astrologers, prophets, and/or dream interpreters.
             Seekers of the King.

Gold
             was a gift of riches,
             a symbol of earthly kingship.
             Jesus as King.

Frankincense
             was a perfume,
             a symbol of deity.
             Jesus as God, Messiah.

Myrrh
             was an anointing oil,
             a symbol of death.
             Jesus as mortal man.

We hear a lot about what Christmas means in the world today. The birth of a Saviour, God with us, is often not considered, is not popular, is forgotten, or is completely unknown.
Dare I say…
Christmas is not about family coming together for meals.
Christmas is not about gift giving to loved ones, to those less fortunate than you, or to strangers.
Christmas is not about fighting winter’s dark with festive lights and parties.
(Gasp!)

And yet…

And yet, that is exactly what Christmas is about.

Today, so many years after the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi, we too can present gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus.

             Gold
             gifts and charity,
             given to the world God loves.
             God become man, through us.

             Frankincense
             sweet scent,
             gathered together as family.
             God’s people, praising Him.

             Myrrh
             anointing oil of death,
             light of Hope in dark places.
             God’s life, forever.

We can be like the wise men.

We can discover Truth and learn of God by studying His Word. The Magi studied ancient writings to discover what the star that appeared meant.
Are you searching Scripture to learn about the King?

We can be seekers, leaving the comforts of home, family, and career to follow where God leads. Abraham did so. The disciples did so. The wise men did so.
Will you go where God leads?

We can offer our gifts to God, even when God doesn’t look or act the way we think He does or He should. The wise men meant their gifts for royalty. They were looking for a king, yet when the learned explorers found a baby in a lowly manger rather than a king in a palace, they still presented their gifts and worshiped Him.
When the God you meet is not who you expect or want, will you still worship Him?

If your Christmas celebration did not include time for Jesus, remember that the story is not over. The greatest gift has been given, yet there is still time to search for, follow, and worship the Messiah.

Open your heart and life to the present (gift) of God’s present (right now) presence (with you) and in response, you can give to Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


Marnie writes from Taylor, BC. Check out her blog, Phosphorescent, at marniewriter.com

December 25, 2016

The Gift of a Father's Love by Vickie Stam

I have been told that I look just like my father. "You have his curly hair, his nose and his slight frame," they say. 

As often as I have heard these words, I never tire of hearing them. They are a loving reminder of a man who loves me. This man, along with my mother, helped me to become the person I am today.     

Whether it was my mother's dark brown eyes or my father's contagious smile, I have definitely inherited some of their physical features as well as some of their character traits. I can honestly say, "I am my father's daughter." I can hold down a chair for about as long as he can...not very long. Both of us like to keep moving.   

Picking my father up for our regular lunch dates is something that keeps both of us busy, at least for a little while. It has been a high light for both of us since my father suffered a stroke four years ago. 

His life changed in a single moment and I guess you could say that mine did as well. He doesn't drive anymore, but he can still walk to my car and he can get in and out of it on his own, something I wasn't sure would ever happen again. You see, he had to learn to walk again. Speaking didn't come easy for him back then either. It took two months of rehabilitation and whole lot of strength to learn the skills we had both taken for granted. But he did it! 

Now, whenever I sit across the table from him during our lunch dates I can't help but stare into his eyes. I'm reminded of all the times I saw the tears that swelled behind that sea of blue, tears that said, "I love you little girl," even though not a word slipped from his lips. I can almost feel my arms wrapping around him once again. 

I am so thankful that my father is still here with me. I tell him every time that I'm with him, just how much I love him and appreciate all the sacrifices he made for me. I tell him what a good father he is. And then I thank my heavenly father, Jesus for the wonderful gift my father is to me.  

Enjoy the love that surrounds you this Christmas.

Tell the people you love --- just how much you love them.

Most of all, be the light of Jesus to everyone you meet!

   Ephesians 5:1-2

          "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
                            NIV

         

 



          




              

December 24, 2016

Many Types of Gifts - by Tandy Balson





This time of year many people associate gifts with the brightly wrapped presents under the Christmas tree. While these are nice, they are not what spring to mind when I hear the word gifts.

Some gifts are delights that show up at random times of the year. These bring unexpected treasures or experiences to indulge in. Recently my husband responded to a tweet from a local newspaper and the next day received an email saying he’d won two tickets to a popular dinner theatre.  Several days later we enjoyed a delicious dinner and a performance of Miracle on 34th Street.  Our evening out was appreciated all the more because it was nothing we earned or deserved, just a gift freely given.

This reminded me of the gifts God gives me. There is no need to earn his love. I didn’t deserve the sacrifice Jesus made for me. The many blessings I receive from God are freely given. These gifts are much greater than anything material riches can provide. 

As writers we know God gives us the gifts of words. Many years ago my mother shared a New Year’s Prayer with me. The author is unknown so I can’t give credit to the one who penned them.  These words are a gift I now share with you as you prepare to enter 2017.

May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.

December 22, 2016

The Precious Gift of Today By Alan Anderson


"Show me, LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4


Our writing prompt asks, what comes to mind with the word “gift”? I think of the gift of today. I thank God for every day I live. I hope that doesn’t sound trite dear reader? There are all sorts of other gifts that come to my mind but I have settled on today. A day can include many things.


Today I spent time with some of my teachers. My teachers remind me of the daily treasure of breathing. Breathing is something I may take for granted unless my asthma shows its ugly face. Often my teachers struggle to breathe. Healthy days are behind them.


My teachers remind me our days are fleeting. Scripture lays that out for me as well. I am all too aware that things go sour in the world. Some of my teachers live in days of misery. I often come alongside people who are dying. They teach me to live for today even under the shadow of suffering.


The gift of today touched my heart. A woman my wife knows came to our home. Her son died due to a mistake of his doctors. She said she and her family would make the best they can of Christmas. Her grief gave me a gift of tears. I couldn’t help it. I thought of my own children and grandchildren. I want to hold my family close today.


Knowing my life is fleeting causes me to pause. I take time to thank God for His daily mercy. The gift of today, oh how sweet! Today I listened to leaves rustling in the trees. Today I beheld the bright presence of the sun. The mountains around me look gorgeous in their blankets of snow. They are living postcards. A gift of God’s beauty in the cold of a winter day!


I don’t know the number of my days. I do know that they are fleeting. I may be past my best by date. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I have lived long enough to know my life has a termination date. As God’s word says, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90: 12). My life here will one day end.


I am mindful of the beauty of each day. I didn’t always see this precious treasure. The wisdom of listening to my teachers impresses on me to embrace today. Today is a gift and I thank God for it!

Blog: ScarredJoy@wordpress.com

December 21, 2016

Hark the Harold Angels Sing ... by Jocelyn Faire

Prompt: What comes to mind with the word “gift”? Write what it means to you this Christmas.


Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

My still-on-the-planet daughter, has traveled twenty-three hours from North Africa with her family to be here. She is with me in the car after a major shopping trip to Costco. We have picked up items for my new home in Manitoba, for the wedding and for her three children. After five years of Alberta Chinooks, the prairie wind feels exceptionally cold and blustery. “I don't know why anyone would choose to live here,” she laughs as her breath hangs in the air while our car heads down the highway.

On the drive she asks me to share my thoughts and feelings on my upcoming wedding to happen December 17 in Winnipeg. We are both reminded of my last day in her N African home this past March. After my suitcase was zipped for my return trip to Calgary we plunked on our backs on the bed to pray ... Heads to the ceiling, arms splayed, she ended with Maybe God this could be the year. I gave a half hearted Amen. This prayer has been spoken before. With that in mind, I now fight back the tears—“I don't feel like I deserve to be this happy.” And that is what it is.

“Well you've nailed it,” she says.

I don't feel I deserve to be this happy. After a decade recovering the loss of two children and a husband, I have grown acquainted with grief. While I have laughed a lot, and felt as though my recovery has been incredible, often I feel more comfortable with sorrow than rejoicing. Most of the people I hang out with have either lost a child, or are single by divorce. And Harold has his own grief story. Both our stories have impacted our southern Manitoba community and now many people are saying “We are so happy for you. You deserve this.”

And we both ask--did we deserve the tragedy? There is something to slogging through life, to persevere. We have sung "Onward Christian Soldiers." And yet in John 10:10 Jesus says: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


I feel undeserving of this happiness, of this abundant gift of this soon to be husband.


After expressing this sentiment to my dear prayer friend, she sent me the following reading from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. The November 12 reading:

"I want you to enjoy to the full this time of ease and refreshment. I delight in providing it for you. Sometimes my children hesitate to receive My good gifts with open hands. Feelings of false guilt creep in, telling them they don't deserve to be so richly blessed. This is nonsense-thinking because no one deserves anything from Me. My kingdom is not about earning and deserving; it's about believing and receiving.
When a child of Mine balks at accepting My gifts, I am deeply grieved. When you receive My abundant blessings with a grateful heart, I rejoice. My pleasure in giving and your pleasure in receiving flow together in joyous harmony."

This Christmas, not only do I celebrate the gift of God's presence, I celebrate the gift of Harold, and a new twist to the Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Ecclesiastes reminds me that now is my time to dance and my time to cease from sorrowing ... Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift of His abundant life through Jesus Christ.

Rich blessings to each of you ... may you take time to ponder the gifts God has given you ... of Immanuel-God with us. He is with us each step of the way. I can truly say God has never left my side, and He will continue to walk with me now in this new adventure.

I am grateful, I am humbled by His generosity.

Richest blessings to each of you.
Let us be merry.



Jocelyn pre-posted; her wedding date was December 17, 2016. She will be traveling with Harold in January to mid March. She is author of "Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience". She blogs at: http://whoistalking.wordpress.com


 

December 20, 2016

That's What Christmas is All About, Charlie Brown - Joylene M Bailey





THE GIFT
by J.M.Bailey

God creating
Ages passing
Mankind struggling, warring, hoping
Prophets warning
Darkness sinking
Painful steps and slow


Father reaching
Gabriel bidding
Mary trembling, trying, trusting
Joseph reeling
Angel speaking
Mary, did you know

+ 

Livestock lulling
Dung heap reeking
Manger waiting, holding, cradling
Mary nuzzling
Joseph shielding
Royal beauty bright


Shepherds minding
Night sky bursting
Angels swelling, praising, lauding
Outcasts scouring
Baby drawing
To Thy perfect light


Heavens glowing
New star charming
Magi tracking, chasing, seeking
Herod killing
Mothers wailing
Forms are bending low

+ 
  
Baby growing
Manchild teaching
Jesus living, leading, loving
Students wond’ring
Masses crowding
Rest unto your souls

+ 

Saviour dying
Soldiers gaming
Mary weeping, wond’ring, watching
Father leaving
Satan roaring
Silent stars go by


Gospel spreading
Ages passing
Man rejecting, struggling, praying
Rulers vying
Angels battling
Still we see Thee lie

+ 

Shoppers jostling
Cashiers cringing
Devil scheming, cheating, lying
Santas jingling
Trickster duping
Making spirits bright

+ 

Father reaching
Jesus bidding
Spirit moving, sealing, guiding  
Angels fighting
Mankind’s hurting
Met in Thee tonight


+ + +



photo courtesy of pixabay






Joylene will be spending Christmas at home in Edmonton with her husband, 5 grown kids, 2 grand babies, and a cat named Calvin. Check out more of her writing at Scraps of Joy.

Merry Christmas everyone!