May 29, 2024

Questions Writers Ask Themselves by Lorrie Orr

 


    Waaaay back in elementary school I learned about the five Ws and one H as necessary elements for structuring a piece of writing. Other uses for these questions include project management, investigation, and problem-solving. I find them useful for evaluating my own writing. These questions can be focused on me personally, or on the work I am currently doing. 

WHO? 
    Who am I writing for? Who is my audience?
    When I first began my current project, a memoir, it was for my family, my children. However, others have asked if it will be available to a general audience. Expanding my audience from my children who know the setting to friends who do not means that I have changed some aspects of my story. 
    Also, who am I? When I look back, I rely on letters and journals to recall events and emotions. And I see how I have grown over the years. The slow transformation of God's grace through time is a part of who I am. How do I communicate that?
    
WHAT?
    What is my purpose in writing? Firstly, I write to bring glory to God. Beyond that, I want to tell the story of God's faithfulness throughout the years. 

    What makes me the person to write this? What can I write that no one else can? My story is not the typical missionary story. I struggled mightily with remaining in Ecuador for 21 years and longed so often to return to Canada. My story is one of obedience to God that is greater than my own desires, and of God's redemption of my struggle. 

WHERE?
    Where do I write best? We have a breakfast table for two overlooking the garden. I sit on one side and Tim faces me. After breakfast, I take over his spot to write for a couple of hours as I find that view more expansive. Simply sitting in the other chair signals to me that it's time to get to work. I have a studio upstairs, but for now, this is where I write. 
    Where is my story set? What are the smells, sounds, and sights that convey the setting? Once, when arriving at my parents' home, my mother suggested that we launder all of our clothing. It carried with it the musty dampness of the jungle. 

WHY? 
    So many whys! Why do I write? God has given me the desire to write, so I write. Why not? 

    Another why could be - Why am I structuring my story this way? Why not try this? 

HOW?
    How much research must I do?
    How do I choose a POV?
    How will I carry on when the writing bogs down?
    How do I connect my emotions to my story?

    The question possibilities are endless. Jesus asked pointed questions of the people in his life. In Luke 18:41 Jesus asked a blind man, "What do you want me to do for you?" I imagine Jesus asking me that question and it causes me to evaluate what I really want. To God be the glory. 


Lorrie Orr asks questions from Vancouver Island where she lives with her husband. Her five grandchildren ask plenty of questions that she cannot answer. 

May 28, 2024

Quiet with my soul by Mary Folkerts


 

I cannot be quiet

with my soul 

when resentment is there

when anger bubbles 

too close to the surface 

when hurts are harboured 

like decaying skeletons

who wants to sit quiet 

with that? 


I cannot be quiet with 

my soul 

when jealousy and comparison 

play their little games 

with my mind 

when contentment 

is absent and my prayers

read like shopping lists.

When all I have pondered 

in my heart 

are the things I have not

how can I come 

and quiet myself

before a God who has given 

His all 

and I, with this discontented

heart?


I cannot be quiet with 

my soul 

when the stillness is too loud

reminding me of what 

I’ve left undone,

the things I need to mend

the gentle persistent 

calling back I’ve tried

to ignore. 


But in the quiet is where 

peace is found. 

It’s where the compassionate 

Physician brings healing.

Illuminating,

searching and restoring 

my contrary heart. 

He doesn’t demand I come 

in a manner worthy 

of Him,

but promises I will not

leave unchanged 

having been 

in His presence. 

I wonder if the times we least want to be quiet and alone with our souls and God are the times we most need it?  


Mary Folkerts is mom to four kids and wife to a farmer, living on the southern prairies of Alberta, where the skies are large and the sunsets stunning. She is a Proverbs 31 ministries COMPEL Writers Training member and is involved in church ministries and music. Mary’s personal blog aims to encourage and inspire women and advocate for those with Down Syndrome, as their youngest child introduced them to this extraordinary new world. For more inspiration, check out Joy in the small things https://maryfolkerts.com/  or connect on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/maryfolkerts/ 


 

May 27, 2024

Q is for Quilt by Lorilee Guenter

 


I have a patchwork quilt made by my grandma. Squares of various blues, pieces leftover from other projects or from old clothes cut down, were stitched together into something new. I've seen art quilts, the pieces carefully chosen to create a beautiful image. Lately, I've found myself fascinated by the "crazy quilt." These quilts use small scraps of varying sizes and shapes stitched together. Fragments. These sometimes tiny pieces are often stitched by hand into a larger, interesting piece.

Like quilts, some writing is functional. Other writing offers vivid images that jump off the page. Our writing takes scraps and pieces of life and stitches them together. I have a file of snippets that I cut from other writing. I have quotes, overheard dialogue, interesting words with their definitions collected in random files. Each of these scraps has the potential to become the start of a new piece of writing. Some pieces will remain in the "basket of remnants." I take these out, ponder them, and put them back, until I find the right project for them. Other pieces find a home easily.

A quilter stitches fabric together with thread. A writer stitches ideas together with words. God stitches our lives together in community. Each one of us is placed with care. Unlike fabric, or words, we sometimes try to go our own way. We complain that we are in the basket of remnants. God told His prophets that, no matter how far His people strayed, He would keep a remnant who continued to worship. I want to be part of the masterpiece God is creating. My stubbornness, gets in the way. I am learning slowly that no matter where I am, whether waiting for His timing as part of the remnant, or being pieced together with others, I am not alone. I am a valuable part of His creation.

Each day I pick up my pen, I stitch together an offering of words. I hope and pray the pieces of my writing, my observations, and my life, bring glory to God, our creator and Lord.


May 24, 2024

An Eternity of It? ~ by Michelle Strutzenberger

I am eagerly awaiting the day we’ve been promised when Jesus’ righteousness will reign supreme and “quietness and confidence will fill the land forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Even as I anticipate that time, I must admit, that part of me is surprised that the promised eternal reward is quietness.

I mean, what about singing? Parties? Whooping it up because Jesus is king?

Or does quietness in this context mean only the ceasing of certain noises?
Noise that grates?
That stirs fear?
That arouses anger?
That signals useless activity?

Will that eternal quietness be the kind in which peace can flow, creativity can flourish, and joy is alive?

Will we look around and see writers and artists, sculptors and music-makers producing as never before as the endless quiet allows for a kind of generative activity that empty noise often quells in this life?

Maybe we will still hear sounds, but will it be only those that soothe and settle, or lift up and awaken?
The rustle of the breeze in the cool trees, shush of long grasses, sprinkle of bird music, children laughing, people singing?
The warmth of peace in our own hearts?
The sigh of the whole Earth as it finally, finally redeemed (Romans 8:19-23)?

A few InScribe blogs have addressed the theme of quietness recently. Some may say it’s a coincidence. I wonder if it’s God working through each of us as writers and readers to remind us of this vital truth – quietness in Him matters – a lot. So much so, we can look forward to an eternity of it. So much so, that for now, here on this Earth, we need to keep hearing about it.

I encourage you to go back and read Carol Harrison’s, “Q is for Quiet Reflection,” Steph Beth Nickel’s “Illusive Quietness,” and Alan Anderson’s, “Q is for Quietude and Quietness.” Steph offers some encouraging thoughts on ways to help achieve physical, spiritual, and emotional quietness (you may be surprised by some of them.) Carol shares a compelling story about her experience with a moment of quiet reflection and how it drew her closer to the Lord. Alan writes beautifully on quietude as a friend.

As for my thoughts on making space for quiet in my life here I will just say one thing. It can help to have a “quietness buddy,” a person who shares the same view of the value of quietness that you do. Now, it is my daughter. She invites me to some of her places out in nature and encourages me to listen. I’ll do the same for her. When I was a teenager, it was my twin who was my quietness buddy. We used to challenge each other to remain silent for certain periods of time, mostly because we had been studying Scriptures that spoke of the value of silence (even while we understood that there is a time for speaking as well!).

Of course
, the quietness that God calls us to do is about so much more than the ceasing of noise, as I already mentioned earlier. As quietness buddies, we might make two lists: Sounds that Grate, and Sounds that Lift Up. Then we can start a treasure hunt for the latter, a small way to start living in eternity now.

Michelle and her family enjoy hiking mountains and trails together. She is currently writing a series under her maiden Mennonite name, Michelle Teigrob. The series is called, What Growing Up in a Mennonite Family of 10 Taught Me About Survival. To receive the bi-weekly tips, visit this link and subscribe.

May 23, 2024

A Question of Love ~ Valerie Ronald


 

“Why do you argue when all I want to do is bless you?”

The question dropped into my mind fully formed, almost audible. After years of struggling against a flood of numerous personal crises, the tide had turned, bringing resolution and happier prospects. The let-up of relentless negative pressure felt strange, causing me to doubt the possibility of better days to come. So I argued with God. Can this truly be your will? Am I to marry this man and start a whole new life or is it just my own desires taking over? Then He asked me the question above, which changed everything. I quit arguing and answered yes to His overflowing blessings.

The questions of God have a way of making those He queries look at their situation in a different way. God doesn’t pose questions to find out the answers. He is omniscient, all-knowing, the One who looks into the heart and sees the end from the beginning. His questions are always succinct, probing and worded to get us to examine ourselves and our present thought process.

The first question asked by God in His Word is still relevant to us now. Our reply to this question determines our present journey and our eventual destiny. Adam, a man previously free and unashamed before God, disobeys His command then goes into hiding. But God does not abandon Adam in his sin. He comes near, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9 NIV) God knows exactly where Adam is, physically and spiritually. He asks this question because Adam needs to see himself where he is. God’s question makes him realize he is hiding in shame ˗˗ avoiding God for fear of punishment ˗˗ making excuses. Thus man’s first conscious awareness of guilt is exposed in the revealing light of God’s query.

If He asked you the same question, where are you?, how would you answer God? The answers could be numerous but there are only two that really count. If you answer, “I am far away from You, not even sure You exist,” then remember how God walked in the garden to draw near to a man whose sin distanced him from perfect love, and know He provides a way through the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, to bring you close. If you answer, “I am here, Lord, close to your side as your beloved child, but You know how easily I wander away,” then remember He will never leave you or forsake you. No matter how fickle your heart is or how easily your eyes stray from His face, He never loses sight of one He calls His own.

Perhaps God is querying you about your writing. Do you enjoy getting lost in your own fictional world? Are you writing for recognition, to see your name on a book cover or a blog post? Or are you truly doing this out of love for others and a desire to see them grow in their walk with God?

Think about another significant question God asked, which turned the trajectory of Moses’ life in a new direction. Previous to his encounter with God in the burning bush (Exodus 3), Moses lived in isolation, tending sheep in the desert. Now God was calling him to lead the captive Israelites out of Egypt. But first He asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses held a long wooden staff, his most essential tool for herding and protecting his sheep. This staff becomes an instrument used by God to achieve His purposes through Moses.

Not only is God asking, where are you?, He also queries us specifically as writers, “what is that in your hand?” What we hold in our hand is our gifting, ability, aptitude and desire to write. Your writing craft is the tool God wants you to use to speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15)

God asks questions to help us see ourselves in light of where we are in relation to Him. Self-examination can be painful but when done in the light of God’s redeeming love, it reveals areas of our life needing a touch from Him. We don’t have to find the answers alone, for He walks with us through the process, providing guidance in His Word and by His Spirit. God already has an answer for His own question. He just wants you to search and find it for yourself.

 

Valerie Ronald writes from an old roll top desk in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, with her tortoiseshell cat for a muse. A graduate of Langara College School of Journalism, she writes devotionals, fiction and inspirational prose. Her purpose in writing is to encourage others to grow in their spiritual walk.