September 25, 2018

Getting Personal With God By Vickie Stam

Some authors leave a lasting impression. Judy Blume did just that with her book, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. The book was published in 1970. The story is centered on a young girl named, Margaret who faces a number of typical life challenges in the world of a sixth grader.

One of Margaret's queries leads her on a quest to find a single religion and in doing so, Margaret ends up talking with God on a personal level. She pours out her heart to Him; revealing her troubles and triumphs. She tells God ….. everything.

Wow! It's been forty plus years since I read this captivating narrative. The title alone, still conjures up a lot of memories. Although the book was a work of fiction, I can relate to Margaret's constant conversations with God.

Are you there? Margaret asks, God. That same question has fell from my lips more than once. About fifteen years ago I was not in a good place. My life was going through a major upheave, one that had me begging God to fix and now being the operative word. Waiting was just not going to work for me. But when God didn't do what I hoped He would, I felt my faith teetering. I remember wondering if God was even listening. "Where are you???" I asked, God.

Even so I continued to call out to Him and I implored Him within the pages of my journal. "Make yourself known to me. I need you to help me get through this dark place. It's so dark and lonely. Are you there, God? I feel so lost!" In the midst of my shattered faith I used my writing to stay connected to God.

Years later I am still conversing with God between the pages of a Bible Study Journal: Creative Christian Workbook that I just recently purchased. It's wonderful! The book provides me with a place to stay in harmony with Him. A place to talk to God about …. everything.

Among the pages there's a place for notes, reflections, prayers and praises. And these notes have ignited questions, questions that have prompted open discussions with the people in my life.

And right now I am using this new journal to help me navigate my way through the book, "Goliath Must Fall" by Louie Giglio. He reminds us to keep our eyes on the one and only giant-slayer - - Jesus. We are to fix our eyes on the size of our God, not the size of our giant, something that has been a challenge for me for a long time.

For me, faith and writing are conjoined, maybe not in the form of a published book but they certainly do co-exist.

Writers have a way of leaving a lasting impression on me.

Judy Blume used a fictional character named, Margaret to search for God. God used, David to take down a Giant named, Goliath. And I know that God has a plan for this unknown-author as well.


September 24, 2018

The Gift of Writing by Michelle M. Brown


“All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the work and details [to be done] according to this plan.” 1 Chronicles 28:19 AMP

As a new Christian, I more often than not found myself unable to calm my brain long enough to pray. Not only did I not know how to pray, believing I needed to bodily be in a particular position, with a completely calm mind as I went through my list of prayers for everyone and everything I could think of. I also believed the perfect prayer session would be neat, orderly and required eloquent language skills.

The reality was quite the opposite. I have a bad knee, and kneeling is painful. My brain is never calm or orderly and remembering all the people and things I wanted to pray for was impossible. I felt like a failure, unable to pray for others as they prayed for me. Neither able to communicate with Jesus, nor find the peace that I was told I would find in prayer.

On my 40th birthday, I was given a beautiful journal as a gift. I wasn't new to journaling, but in the past, as I wrote out my most profound thoughts and fears I often destroyed them for fear that someone in my life would read them and use the contents of the journal to hurt me. There was too much ammunition in those books for the abusive people I'd had in my life, but my life had changed. I was single, had good friends, and there was nobody to invade my privacy. I could once again unburden my thoughts on paper.

I embraced that beautiful new journal and poured all my pain and hope into it. Detailing my new-found faith, my struggle to find my place in the world and in God's Kingdom. I wrote with passion and in turn, found healing.

As the years progressed, I found I was writing less to myself and more as a letter to someone else. I was painting a picture of my story, speaking for myself and others and my hope for our lives. Posing questions and asking for guidance. I was talking to God.

I had not made a conscious decision to start a relationship with God on paper, but once I realized I had done it, I consciously made the decision to write down my prayers and maintain my conversations in this medium. One that allowed me to stop thinking long enough to start communicating.

The focus of writing gave release to beautiful words of hope, despair and my victories with Jesus. To a thankfulness of the life I was given and the daily miracles that I encountered: a private joke and the laughter I shared with my new husband; the tiny, injured bird I found in the snow that would go on to live; and an early morning sunrise which brought peace and the hope of a new day.

I discovered that writing calms my brain, orders my thoughts and gives birth to God's direction. In my own hand, I could find Him, speaking to me with love and a purpose for my life. I found solace and understanding for my failings.

Through writing, I found my relationship with God -- a deep love that is given and a greater love that is received.

Michelle M. Brown was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. She has a background in Marketing & Design. An avid hiker and adventure junkie she has embarked on a journey to conquer 50 adventurous activities in her 50th year.

September 22, 2018

Writing In Stillness by Alan Anderson




“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?”—1 Kings 19: 11 – 13 King James Version


Elijah had a rough time and was despairing and somewhat depressed with what had been going on around him. There had been a great wind strong enough to upset mountains. If that wasn’t bad enough an earthquake juggled things up pretty good. On top of these calamities came a fire. How terrifying this must have been to behold. God wasn’t in any of these phenomena. Where was He?


“and after the fire a still small voice.”
God was indeed present to Elijah. God’s presence here is like the calm after the storm. The “still small voice” draws our attention to an intimate communion with God.  For this to happen there is to be stillness. Stillness is not the same as silence. “Silence is the prerequisite for inner stillness, and only inner stillness enables us truly to listen to God, to hear His voice, and to commune with Him in the depths of our being...” (https://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/on-silence-and-stillness).


You see, God is not confined to drawing attention to Himself or His works in a booming manner. He does not have to be loud or overbearing. He doesn’t have to scream at us. He is gentle and His voice is “small”, a gentle whisper.


How does this “still small voice” apply to my writing? From my point of view, God’s still small voice is what I need in my writing. It is a stillness that calms my fears and builds my confidence. It is this stillness that allows me to speak healing words into the world through what I write. It is more than sitting quietly and thinking. Stillness is about truly listening for God’s voice deep within.


When I was a chaplain in healthcare I knew that if a person was in pain it was difficult to offer spiritual care to her or him. The pain had to be managed first. Once the person’s pain subsided I could now come alongside the person and listen to their story. My role was to be a healing presence so calmness and stillness were imperative.


I am aware that I am prone to earthquakes or strong winds and even fire that will disrupt my creativity. One of the storms to assail me has been spending more time learning about writing than writing itself. It is, however, the “fire” of my writing that is more disrupting. This fire is the fear in my writing life.


I am aware that the fire of fear burns up precious energy rather than using it for writing. It sears through my mind and heart leaving me at times in ashes. Perhaps I show a lack of faith when I ask myself questions. Who will read my writing? What if I have nothing worth saying or writing about? Such flames of fire must be stopped.


I have to go beyond the fears etc. and calm down, listen and hear that “still small voice.” He has not left me. I can write! Oh, that still small voice is gentle, as He keeps me from straying from the writing path set out before me.


My dear readers and writer friends can you think of anyone who needs stillness? Is there anyone in your life bombarded by the calamities of our culture? There is in my life. We speak for that still small voice, the One who speaks through our writing. How may our writing be a healing presence for our readers? How will you bring that stillness, that healing into someone’s life?








Scarredjoy.wordpress.com

September 21, 2018

Some Days I Feast, Some Days I go Hungry ... By Jocelyn Faire



Some days I Feast ... and some days I go hungry ...
Faith feeds writing ... as writing feeds faith ...

Tear stained prayers and laments occupy more pages of my journals than the dear diary this is what I did today kind. I've heard songwriters complain that most of their lyrics are morose; that many songs are penned in heartbreak. There is something universal to writing out one's pain in those dark days of the soul. Many times I have wondered/thought that my faith is stronger during times of difficulty, during times when I needed God for every breath I taken ... and wondered if faith fades when I rely on myself too much. The dark days are sometimes the blessings in disguise, the blessings I would not wish on anyone. For me, these times of writing give voice to the disturbing questions, helping me find clarity in the confusion, and forcing me to dig deeper, going beyond the churchy pat answers that just don't fit. Perhaps the reason my pen has not been as prolific lately, is because my life is going too well at the moment? But would God want me to remain in a heavy-hearted mode, to stay close to Him? Or does He want me to learn to rejoice? I pray that I may continue to walk close to God and be grateful for the beauty of this abundant season, for the beauty of His grace-filled days. And to keep me on my knees, I have more than enough prayer requests coming my way on behalf of other people.
In contemplating how faith and writing spur each other on ... these words spilled out in two short poems.

I write to right what has gone wrong,
to turn laments into a praise or song
I write to say Thanks, more often to beg please
I write hesitantly while on my knees,
I scribble blindly through the tears,
I write immobilized by overwhelming fears
Sometimes I write from a sense of duty,
Sometimes it's the sheer enjoyment and beauty,
And often, looking back I marvel to see
Divine intervention has brought clarity.
God's signature is all over the page.
So as I write along the way,
My hope is to taste sweet manna each day.
(I hope to be feasting till my final day.)


The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
But why do I still want?
Why have my longings continued?
I want to feel loved,
I want to feel accepted.
Help me be loving and accepting.
I want to travel, to explore your world
And I want to be settled at home.
Some days I want to be at home with you.
I want to stand firm in the winds of change
And Lord, the changes are happening all the time, I can't keep up.
I want to be a person of prayer, a woman of good deeds,
but time is occupied with immediate needs.
And sometimes my wants seem shallow, I'm embarrassed to say
Caught up with things that seem important at the time
I want my spirit to be at ease, 
I want to go with the flow, your flow.
Really God, what I want is ... You.

He leads me beside still waters,
He restores my soul.
Thank-you God
          (You're welcome)



Some days I feast and some days I go hungry. With Paul, I am learning to be content in all my days.

September 19, 2018

It's only a tiny Sunbeam by Eunice Matchett


It’s mid September and the walls in my house feel as if they’ve come alive and are closing in on me. I stare through my living room window at the snow clinging to a gigantic, sodden and rotting leaf pile beneath a tree. Planters that were filled with colorful blossoms two weeks ago are nothing but stage props for a mini horror movie. The sky is covered with layers of dark gray clouds. Dark gray clouds that threaten more snow. I walk away. Fall yard work this year might become spring clean up next year.

My restlessness makes it impossible to concentrate on anything, so I plop on my bed and reach for my book on the night table. As I do, brightness draws my attention to the window. A tiny sunbeam has poked through those moisture-laden clouds, promising the sun still exists. The ray’s tenacity starts me thinking.

It reminded me of all those times I’ve sat in front of my computer with my brain waves on a collision course with each other. I’d over-think every scene, delete more words than I typed. Watching a movie was so tempting, but I’m stubborn. I came in here to write and write I would. Minutes passed. I would eat a candy then drink some water, then eat more candy. Still, no useable thoughts would materialize. That movie became far more attractive, but my stubbornness is no sissy. It just needed some help. From above.

I would close my eyes and prayerfully allow my heart to reach beyond my hyper-active head, and God would meet me where I was. I didn’t always feel His presence immediately, sometimes it took what seems like forever. Just as that tiny sunbeam worked its way through banks and banks of clouds, my Heavenly Father made a path through my busy ramblings, allowing me to think again. Then, a minute thought, so small I have on occasion missed it,would push its way through all the activity in my head. As I thought on it, it grew, and slowly becomes the scene I needed to write.

September 18, 2018

The Known God - Gloria Guest


One of my favorite verses in the Bible is "For in him we live and move and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’ {Acts 17:28} The context of this verse is the apostle Paul’s speech to the people of Athens regarding their worship of many gods, including the ‘Unknown God.’ It is this unknown God that Paul seeks to introduce them to.

It is only by knowing the one true God that we can in all fullness experience abundant life and pass it on to others. “I came that you might have Life. And to have it abundantly.” {John 10:10} The word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from two Greek words, en and theos. Theos is the Greek word for God. 'enthusiasm' literally then means, ‘full of God’ or ‘God within.’ I find that profound. For me, this means that without God, I can’t be truly enthusiastic in anything! I can have a shadow of it perhaps, as we are all Gods creation, but I cannot have true enthusiasm, just as the people of Athens had no true understanding of the Unknown God, but instead worshipped and served empty, manmade gods of stone.

In my writing, I feel this verse keenly. It is in God that my writing lives and moves and it is in God that I can have true inspiration and enthusiasm to share the words that He gives me. Even in writing a non-christian based article, I can still seek for my writing to honor Him and believe that He ministers in any way that He sees fit through it.

We truly are God’s offspring. It is an amazing thought that a part of God’s ingenuity and creativity abides in us and our words.

We don’t have to know everything about writing as we often think we do, and sometimes those things can just end up being our searching out other gods and a means to not have to depend on and get to know how God wants to truly move uniquely through us. I don’t know where my writing journey will lead me in the future but I do know that God, who was once described by Paul as the Unknown God, wants to be known by me and is the one who leads me. That is more than enough for me.


September 17, 2018

Journaling: An Act of Worship by Lynn Dove







I began journaling when I was a young Mom with my first child.  I was coming out of a very dark time of post-natal depression and someone suggested that I take up journaling as part of the healing and recovery process.  I had kept a diary briefly as a teenager, so I assumed that to journal was just keeping a daily record of events that happened or was about to happen to me, and then comment on how I was “feeling” on any given day.  I started simply enough just stating how I spent my days.  “Today I had a visit from a friend; It snowed today; I went shopping; I made meatloaf for supper…”  It was very bland writing, very matter-of-fact, and had no introspective value whatsoever.  After a month of trying, I was ready to give up on journaling because it brought me no satisfaction or joy in doing it.  It was a chore, nothing more.

As a writer I am always thinking who my audience is when I write.  Who will read my writing?  I was always purposeful to write content that would appeal to a certain reader.  I realized I had a writing dilemma when I was journaling.  There was no audience.  I was the only reader.  Journaling is supposed to be personal.  It is private.  It is not necessarily meant to be read by anyone else except the writer.  It is supposed to be an exercise in introspection but I wasn’t being introspective.  It was merely a play-by-play of my days and I wanted it to be more than that.  I wanted to pour my heart out to someone.  I wanted to write to an audience, and that’s when I learned that journaling can be a spiritual discipline. 

I had never thought of journaling as a worshipful act before and as soon as I started to think about it in that way, it changed my whole perspective and attitude towards journaling.  I changed the way I wrote, the way I shared, and rather my being so self-centred in my approach, I focused on building my relationship with God through the process of writing in my journal.  In journaling my writing is for HIS eyes and He is my sole, or should I say “soul” audience!

Journaling has become a vibrant and essential part of my “quiet” time with the Lord.  There are some days I find myself just sharing my day and then writing prayers to God, or I saturate the pages with Scripture.  Many times I have found myself looking back on events in my life, by reading past entries in journals and realizing how God intervened, encouraged or directed my steps.  My journal highlights spiritual markers and milestones in my life.  There are also entries that show my discouragements and complaints, and many deep valleys that I have journeyed through.  There are times I have felt like the Psalmist in pouring out my heart to God, begging Him to intervene or intercede on my behalf.  I have never been disappointed in God’s response, and my journal entries show proof that God has listened and acted. 

My journal(s), I have over thirty that I have written in, show my family’s comings and goings, highs and lows as well as the more mundane daily happenings over the past thirty five years.  As I get older, I don’t remember dates and past events as well anymore, so I can look back in my journals and read details from past years.  One such time of “looking back” in a journal was so profound and showed how amazing God's activity was in our lives, I had to share it on my Journey Thoughts blog.  It’s the only time I’ve shared with a larger audience some specifics of what I have written in my journal. 

There are countless books and articles written on how to journal, and I certainly do not pretend to be an expert in journaling.  I have discovered that I may journal differently than someone else and that there is no right or wrong way to journal.  I appreciate those who have researched the benefits of journaling for mental health reasons as well as using it as a spiritual discipline.  For me, journaling has become a very personal, intimate act of worship.   
David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org : “Those Christians who flourish in journaling not only pursue prayer, and meditate on Scripture in general, but seek to apply the gospel with specificity to their fears and frustrations, their highs and lows, their joys and sorrows. When you open your journal harrowed, try to follow the path of the psalmists and close with hope…Your journal is a venue for freshly preaching the gospel to yourself, in your particular circumstances, without parroting the canned lines of truth you'll default to without pausing to think it over and write it out. Capture in your own words what you’re truly feeling, and then look for God’s words that meet your need.”  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-ways-to-flourish-in-journaling



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 

 

 

 

September 16, 2018

Becoming a Creative Christian by Nina Faye Morey



If you’re going to be used by somebody,
let it be JESUS.

For me, faith and writing are inextricably entwined. I have become a creative Christian. My creativity has acted as a catalyst for expanding and enriching my spiritual life. Creating something with my words has led me to delve deeper into God’s Word, allowing the Creator of everything (Colossians 1:16) to guide me and teach me His truth (Psalm 25:5). When I’m actively engaged in the writing process, I undertake more in-depth Bible study than when I am passively absorbing the words of others through devotional readings, Christian literature, Christian television programs, church liturgies, and so on. When I’m writing, I find myself constantly turning to my study Bibles, Bible concordances (print and online), and favourite Christian websites to research what the Word of God has to say about my subject and to find supporting Scripture verses. Whether or not I ask for His guidance, God always leads me to the sources that will help me infuse spiritual truths into my writing.

My Christian faith is what fuels my writing. I feel called to use my creativity to develop a deeper spiritual connection between my readers and Jesus. I try to light the way for my readers to follow Him and to see His will for their lives. My passion for writing is inflamed by my faith in the Word. Both my faith and my writing burn brighter because of the ever growing bond that exists between my creative life and my spiritual life.

My writing helps me and, hopefully, my readers develop a greater appreciation and understanding of how our spiritual and secular worlds coexist and intersect. I explore biblical themes, such as forgiveness, faithfulness, and hope, and inject them into a variety of genres. I integrate spiritual faith into a number of secular subjects, including health, education, and environmentalism.

Being a Christian writer in today’s materialistic and multicultural world is never easy. Many current writers’ markets are not interested in publishing books or novels that directly address Christian faith or theological themes. This creates a special dilemma for Christian authors who are aiming to write popular, commercial fiction. They walk a tightrope—trying to appeal to a general audience without alienating their Christian readers. They’re ever wary of the danger of sounding too “preachy” for the worldly. C. S. Lewis warned writers against relying explicitly on religious language to get their Christian message across: “We needn’t all write patently moral or theological work. Indeed, work whose Christianity is latent may do quite as much good and may reach some whom the more obvious religious work would scare away.”¹

A Christian writer may come to fear that theirs is but one feeble voice crying out in a vast inhospitable wilderness (Isaiah 40:3). Our belief in ourselves—our talent and our faith—can easily become tattered and frayed in the current secular climate of this world. But if we are faithful to our God, who created this world with His words (Psalm 33:9) and who was the Word (John 1:1), He will bless both us and our writing.

As writers, we are constantly learning and growing. Let God be your editor. Allow Him to make you both a better Christian and a better writer. He will help you rewrite both your life and your stories. He will guide you out of your comfort zone, enabling you to risk exposing your true faith and feelings. This approach will not only help you learn things about yourself and others, but it will also help others learn things about you and about themselves. Only when you are being true—to God, to yourself, and to your readers—can Jesus use you.



Endnote:
¹Lewis, C. S. Letter to Cynthia Donnelly (August 14, 1954).

Photos: Pixabay

September 15, 2018

The Gradual Symbiosis of Writing and Faith - Tracy Krauss

Symbiosis.
"relationship in which each party is dependent upon and receives reinforcement..."

For me faith and writing cannot be separated. The call of God upon my life to tell stories that point to HIM is deeply rooted. However, this wasn't always the case.

When I first started writing as a young mom back in the 80s, I didn't make the connection. The stories I wrote as I pounded at my old typewriter, were fluffy romances with no pretence at having a Christian message. It was all about the personal satisfaction I got from writing and nothing more. Then, about eight years into my manuscript (yes, that first book took me sixteen years to write!) I came to a startling realization. I might be embarrassed if anyone were to read what I had written. It was a bit of a crossroads for me. 

The catalyst for my self reflection came from an unlikely source. I was inspired by the singing group DC Talk. My husband and I used to run the Youth Group at our church and DC Talk was still the hottest ticket back in the 90s. What impressed me was their unwavering commitment to stand up and be counted for Jesus. They were current, famous, respected in their field - yet they did not compromise when it came to the message. There was no doubt who they were singing about in their lyrics. 

I had to stop and ask myself the question, "What will people do if they find that I'm a Jesus freak?" I recognized the voice of fear in that question - a whisperer that was certainly not from God - and determined to proclaim my 'freakdom' through my writing. If they could do it, so could I. It was a decision that not only changed the way I wrote, but it changed me from the inside out. 


Picture by ID 3547624 © Feng Yu | Dreamstime.com

Tracy Krauss writes from her home in northern BC. After more than thirty years of pounding at the keys, she still hasn't gotten everything out of her head. Visit her website to read about her many published books and plays.

September 13, 2018

Faith Writing Mentor by Wendy L. Macdonald



One of my high school English teachers introduced me to my favourite faith writing mentor. She doesn’t know she did because it was an inadvertent introduction. You see, my English teacher awarded me with a bookstore gift certificate because I was a studious student who loved words. Reading them. Writing them.
    
So I was delighted to cash in my certificate as I walked across the wood floors of the local bookshop that was located in an old brick building downtown.

Although the first book I read of this beloved author was a novel, I later went on to read her books about faith. Her writing gave me glimpses of her journals as she shared from the heart. This author’s words helped me become more intimate in my conversations with the Lord. She introduced me to the blessing of praying about big and small details in my life and in the lives of those I love.

Faith permeated her heart, her journals, her books, and her life.

This author became my mentor as I wrote at my desk under an ocean view window in the beach house we rented. For my newlywed husband and I had said yes to an adventure that pulled us away from our hometown and planted us in the middle of a northern coastal village.

While missing my friends back home, faith writing became the passion that comforted and filled me as I read books and wrote in my journal. Because I was a new writer and a new Christian, much of what I wrote wasn’t worth quoting. But even faith writers have to write a bunch of rubbish before anything worth sharing glitters.

And I can’t help but believe my decades of filling up journals will one day birth a gift in me that can be shared with other believers.

In case you haven’t guessed which author I’m referring to, here’s a giveaway hint: she wrote Christy.

Have you read any of Catherine Marshall’s nonfiction books? I’m nosey-to-know. Which writer has been a mentor to you?

P.S. I wonder if my high school teacher prayed for me to choose an inspirational book; because, years later, I discovered she was a Christian. Maybe it wasn’t an inadvertent introduction after all.  

Faith Blessings ~ Wendy Mac 

Wendy L. Macdonald is an inspirational blogger and podcaster who loves to photograph nature on Vancouver Island. Her byline is: “My faith is not shallow because I’ve been rescued from the deep.” Her main website is wendylmacdonald.com where she enjoys interacting with readers.  

September 11, 2018

Opportunities and Challenges - Carol Harrison

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

Life and writing are full of challenges that can overshadow everything else and make us miss opportunities God is nudging us to embrace.

As I thought about this month's prompt of the interaction between faith and writing, I must admit that other life activities and challenges kept me longing for the proverbial light bulb moment of inspiration so I could sit at the keyboard and compose words worth reading. I searched through memories, verses and photos for inspiration or maybe even a tool for procrastination. I remembered this photo which spoke to me to the tenacity of seedlings growing in less than ideal circumstances.

I have often wondered how a pansy, my favourite flower, can grow in an area covered by stones and yet one summer two pansies greeted me each morning in our small grassless backyard. Each time I looked at their bright colours I felt a smile crease my face and imagined them thumbing their noses at the adverse growing conditions.

On our recent train trip across Canada I marveled at the trees and shrubs growing out of the rocks in the Canadian Shield and clinging to the steep cliffs of the Rockies. How did they grow in such harsh conditions. How did their roots find the exact crevice in the rocks to search for nutrients and stability?

This picture, the pansies in the rocks and the trees growing where nothing should survive all remind me of possibilities beyond the challenges. They also serve as reminders of growing my faith, with God's help, by sending roots into the Word of God and spending time listening to His direction, His voice and then listening to those nudges he gives, even when I do not understand His purpose for me, my life or my writing.

I thought back to a conversation I had a few months ago. Adrienne, one of the founders of a group called Consciously Woman, interviewed me as a possible weekly contributor to their blog. She said, "I looked at your web page and its all about christian faith. This community has women with varied beliefs. Do you think you can even write something that is not preachy or is more general in nature?"

I must admit my first internal reaction to her words, not said in anger, included wanting to end the conversation and not bother about the rest of the interview. But I paused and trusted God to give me words to say. We finished the time with my agreeing to be one of her writers because I realized as we chatted that not everything I write or have had published is Bible verse quoting, devotional style, geared to one audience material. Yet no matter what I write, my faith colours what I say for it is an integral part of who I am.

My faith is a work in progress with ebbs and flows of strength. Even when I struggle with challenges and the question why pops into my mind, I beg for growth in that area of my life. My faith should not be put on like an accessory when the mood strikes. It is an integral part of who I am and should be reflected in every aspect of my life, through my attitude, my actions and my words whether written or verbal.

My writing too is a work in progress. I need to keep learning from others further along the journey, practice what I have already learned and listen to God's still small voice for directions in this area of my life. Some writing remains hidden from the eyes of all but God and myself. My journal contains reflections,  memories and yes sometimes questions about faith and life. God has directed at least one short story to be shared with people at certain times and I did not understand the reason. I had written it as part of a healing process. I obeyed and God used it to touch the life of someone else. In return my faith grew and strengthened.



Not everything I write is devotional style with Bible verses quoted and expounded upon or other Christian based faith writing. But the words I choose, the attitude portrayed within the story reflect who I am and whose I am. Faith helps me survive the challenges and opens my ears to hear the opportunities God nudges me to accept. I like how this poster sums up my life and my writing. May it inspire you as you take on the challenges and opportunities of life and writing.




As a speaker, published author and storyteller, Carol Harrison is passionate about mentoring people of all ages and abilities to help them find their voice and reach their fullest potential. She shares from her heart, telling stories from real life experiences and God’s Word to encourage people and help them find a glimmer of hope no matter what the circumstances. She believes we need to continuously grow in our walk with God and lives out her storytelling passion by speaking at women’s events and retreats, Bible Camps as well as school assemblies and church events. Carol is a wife, mother of four adult children and grandmother to twelve. She makes her home is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


September 10, 2018

The Writing/Faith Connection by Sharon Espeseth

In the Image of Our Creator

In the beginning was the Word

"Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, according to our likeness." If any of us should forget we are made in God's image, we can read Genesis 1:26a*.

As for the gift of writing in particular, consider this: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

Over the years, God called many to be writers of his Word. He chose people from all walks of life--shepherds, prophets, poets, kings, fishermen, a tentmaker, a doctor, a tax collector. . . Given the calling and the direction of God, they became writers. God is still calling writers to write for him.

If you doubt that you've got what it takes, Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way will help
convince you that you do.

I ask myself, Why do I write? 

1. To create clarity. 

I don't have to look far in my journals to find myself sorting out a problem, concern, or situation. I state the situation, do my whining and worrying, try to figure things out, and then, hopefully, turn my concerns over to the Lord. Looking back in my journals, I see that I could save time by talking to God sooner.

Morning Pages often become prayers
Beginning last June, I tried Cameron's Morning Pages, where you write down what's going on in your head when you first wake up. I was on a roll until I hit a period of sleep disruption. After a poor night's sleep, I couldn't bounce out of bed in time to get those quiet, solo moments for writing.

What happens when I don't write these things down? As you may guess, I carry them with me through the day. Writing reduces worry and grows my faith. When writing regularly, I am reminded to "Cast all (my) anxiety on him, for he cares for (me)." (1 Peter 5:7) As I write, my thoughts turn from worry to words of prayer.

2. To understand my gifts. 

If I ignore my gift of writing, I will not learn more about it. If I'm not practicing my faith, that too grows weaker. Did you know that the Holy Spirit can help us understand our gift of writing? "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:12) To get the full context of this verse, read 1 Corinthians 2:10b-16.

Although Paul was a prolific writer himself, he doesn't list writing as one of the charismatic gifts. I believe it would fall under "teaching."  I find it interesting that Paul kept his day job of tent making. He also wrote in prison. (Remember: "Bring the scrolls, especially the parchments.") He wrote letters to the churches that have a strong bearing on what it means to be a Christ-follower and a member of the Church.

3. To share my faith.

"One generations shall laud your (God's) works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts." (Psalm 145:4) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "You are the light of the world. . . "No one
after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house." Then Christ admonishes us to let our lights shine before others--in our lives and in our writing. The two activities are complimentary and necessary.

4. To praise and thank God.

This verse I'm quoting in KJV, because it's hard to write it without singing it. "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth (and my pen) will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations." (Psalm 89:1)


Faith-Writing Connection: When I spend time writing, reading God's word, reading other good books, taking time to walk, listen to music, sing, socialize with friends, treat myself well in general, I feel more alive. When I get the work/life balance going better, creativity seems more available to me. That is, I believe, when my writing about faith comes out better too.


* All Bible verses, except this last one, are quoted  from the New Revised Standard Version.

September 08, 2018

Overcoming Perfection Paralysis by Karma Pratt


The writing life. Le sigh. It seems so romantic when viewed from a distance. Notions of idyllic settings from which to draw inspiration, dedicated time without interruptions, the peace of God's presence, and the unending flow of all things creative and writerly. Personally, I imagine an ocean view, a desk with zero clutter and time... glorious time.

When it comes to writing, there are many practical elements to take into consideration and the idyllic seems non-existent except, perhaps, within the realm of day dreams. I find that perceptions versus reality can impact my writing in a negative fashion if left unchecked. So, with that in mind, here are a few thoughts on the ways that faith transcends fear and has the potential to create the ideal atmosphere for writing.

Perfection Paralysis

Have you ever suffered from perfection paralysis? That sinking feeling that, if you don't get everything just right then there will be no opportunity to write? If you're like me, this level of perception vs. reality can lead down a path of procrastination at best, and full on paralysis at worst. 

In the past when my to-do list began to overwhelm me, my go-to coping mechanism was to just shut down. I couldn't get past the idea that my to-do list was my purpose. If I wasn't ticking the boxes in a timely fashion, I wasn't achieving my purpose or reaching my goals. If I couldn't "get it right" then I wouldn't do it at all for fear of getting it wrong. 

Oh, boy. Talk about a path of destruction. This type of cyclical thinking can only end in a tornado of tears. Thankfully, God continues to show me a better way daily. 

Passion, Purpose, Peace

There's a method to ending the madness of perfection paralysis. 

I recently started listening to a podcast called Encounter. It's a Christian guided meditation that focuses on daily connection to God through His Word. A recent podcast I listened to is called Discover Your Peaceful Purpose

"Ah, how lovely," I thought. "Finally I will learn the secret to mastering my to-do list." 🙂 

Turns out, my peaceful purpose as a writer has much less to do with to-do's and far more to do with to-be's. As in be thankful, be conscious of God's grace in my life, and be ready and willing to follow His call. 

Quite simply, if I turn my focus back to God, the desire to "get it right" falls by the wayside, replaced with the desire to take the next right step to honour God. The to-do list loses its power when I turn to face the One who promises true peace. The pressure releases and I am free to write because I am passionate about following God's call on my life, not because I have finally attained perfection. 

Faith-Filled Writing Life

My faith continues to inform my writing and God keeps helping me take steps to the next level. 

I am stepping out in faith this fall by attending a writer's retreat in Hydra, Greece

This God-sized dream is being made possible because I heeded the call in my heart and asked God to help me iron out the details. I am putting in the work and He is showing me the way. 

I do not know what to expect when I get to Greece, but I know that God will meet me there, and I pray expectantly that He will continue to reveal Himself to me in new ways. 

Come to think of it, this trip may just give me a taste of that idyllic, ocean view. At least for a short time I will retreat from the everyday and enter into a focused period of writing and meeting with God. 

I am thankful for the opportunities to let go of my own notions of what's right to write, and I look forward to seeing how God continues to move in this season. May you also be blessed with freedom from perfection paralysis in your writing and your faith journey. 

***


Karma writes from the golden house in Northeastern BC. You can connect with her online at redraincoatcreations.com