July 17, 2019

Beauty from Ashes by Lynn Dove

If you have been following my blog posts on Journey Thoughts in recent weeks, you will read that I am once again battling cancer.  Uterine cancer to be specific, and I had my first round of chemo on June 25th, with five more cycles to go to be administered every 21 days.  There may be follow-up radiation as well, so I am in the throes of the battle once again.  I battled breast cancer in 2001 so I know all about what I am facing and the toll it will take on my body. 

First to go will be my hair.  1 Corinthians 11:15 talks about a women’s long hair being her crowning glory, her pride and joy, and her hair given to her for a covering.  Proverbs 16:31 calls gray hair a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.  I remember losing my hair in 2001.  For many women going through chemotherapy, myself included, it was devastating to lose what was considered crucial to my self-esteem, my femininity and outward beauty.  I covered my bald head with a wig and head coverings but it wasn’t the same as my natural “crown of splendor”.  I have ordered new head coverings and my daughters picked out a sassy new wig for me but I must be a lot less vain than I was nineteen years ago, because I’m not nearly as stressed out about losing my hair this time around.  In fact, I’ve learned that all women who battle cancer should wear their crowns boldly and fearlessly, and learn to embrace our beautiful bald heads that are after all well-earned battle scars that will eventually heal in time. 

The verse I have embraced with regards to my hair loss is Luke 12:7, “Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  God is with me regardless of whether or not I have a full head of hair.  He looks at the heart, and the true beauty that is found there.

Chemotherapy wreaks havoc on the body.  It’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced chemo.  It’s a weird feeling having chemicals purposefully pumped into your body that can cause a host of unpleasant side effects.  Chemo is also known to have long term and sometimes detrimental consequences to your health for years after.  Yet, it is the crucial part of the arsenal for this battle, and with every treatment I just pray cancer cells are sought out and destroyed.  I will gladly go through this season, in order to once again declare myself to be cancer-free!

As I look at myself in the mirror over these next few months, I may find myself despairing over my appearance, but I need to constantly remind myself to look at myself through God’s eyes and not my own.  I am valuable, God breathed into me the breath of life (Genesis 2:7).  I am created in His image (Genesis 1:27).  I was knit together in my mother’s womb and I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139: 13-14).  I am a brand new creation for I have died to sin and all my unrighteousness has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 1:7,9).   I am saved by grace (Ephesians2:8).  I am being transformed into the image of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).  I have a glorious future (Romans 8:18).  (From desiring God – What God Thinks About You by John Rinehart)

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  

July 16, 2019

Creating Beautiful Literary Art by Nina Faye Morey

We are made in the image of God, our Creator. So it’s part of human nature to want to create beautiful works, whether through art, architecture, music, or literature. As a Christian writer, I long to follow in my Creator’s footsteps. I yearn not only to create something beautiful for the delight of others, but also as a means to awaken their spirits to the goodness and glory of God and His creation.

Give to the LORD the glory due to his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
~ Psalm 29:2 AKJV

Our Lord is described as “the Word”: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus told stories (parables) to illustrate His teachings, and several biblical writers created beautiful poetic books, such as the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. Therefore, as a follower of the Lord, I feel a desire to serve Him by learning how to artfully employ words in order to proclaim the gospel.

I believe my desire to write is a divine calling from God. I view works of literary art not just as human creations, but God creating through their authors. The Holy Spirit and the beauty of God’s Word inspire me in my creative endeavours to express God’s love for the world. I wish to use my creative gift to praise God, and I hope others will experience and praise Him through my creations. I want to dramatically change readers’ hearts and transform them into worshippers of God, either by awakening a desire in their heart to get to know Him or reawakening their long-lost faith.

One of my goals is to tell God’s glorious message in a way that won’t make my writing sound preachy. That tone turns off readers, turns their hearts away from God, and it definitely doesn’t create beautiful literary art. I strive to create images or word pictures that will convey the truth of God’s Word without making it seem incomprehensible or objectionable to the uninitiated. John the Baptist, King David, Jesus, and many other great messengers of God used word pictures to preach the truth of the gospel. God generously gives me the freedom to use my creative skills to pass along the knowledge I’ve received for the benefit of others (Exodus 35:34-35).

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power
and divine nature, have been clearly perceived,
ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.
~ Romans 1:20 ESV

Just as I catch glimpses of God in the beauty of the natural world He created, I also can see His grandeur in the beautiful works of art created by the human hand. Such artistry inspires me to use figurative language, like metaphors, to create beautiful literary art that conveys the meaning and truth of the gospel message. Orson Scott Card, an American novelist whose faith influences his writing, has taught several creative writing courses and written two books on this topic. He says, “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”¹

The great theologian, author, and hymnodist, Martin Luther, understood well the value of creating beautiful literary art to reveal the Word of God: “Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, as I see that by these studies as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily”²

Words have the power to transform hearts and minds (Romans 12:2). The world needs more beautiful writing—poetry and prose, drama and songs—that reveals the truth.

Whose writing do you consider beautiful? How will you create beautiful literary art?

¹Orson Scott Card Quotes. BrainyQuote.com, BrainyMedia Inc, 2019. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/orson_scott_card_108637, accessed July 5, 2019.

²Martin Luther, Letter to Eoban Hess, 29 March 1523. Werke, Weimer edition, Luthers Briefwechsel, 111, 50. Cited in Donald T. Williams, “Christian Poetics, Past and Present,” in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing ed. Leland Ryken, Shaw Books, 2002, p. 8.

July 15, 2019

Truth in Beauty and the Beauty of Truth - Tracy Krauss

 I love the arts: music, drama, dance, sculpture, painting and other visual forms, and of course, literature and poetry. Every one of these showcases the creative instinct within humankind, which in turn is a mere reflection of our Great Creator God.

Historically, the marriage of ART and the church is a long one. Unfortunately, Satan has tried to sever this sacred bond, twisting various artistic forms for his own purposes. But he is a mimick whose best attempts fall flat of the true artistry that is fueled by God's Holy Spirit. That is why it is so important for artists - including writers - to seek God in all their endeavours, both 'religious' and secular.

Yes, I believe God can and is using His people in ways that do not fit into the typical 'ministry' box. This is especially true in a post-Christian world whose Millenial and Z generations are feeling more and more disenchanted and disengaged with 'church'. It is why all writers - and artists - must be in prayer and stay close to God's word, even if they are not producing work that is innately Christian or whose purpose is a secular market. Good art can still have the imprint of God upon it. It can - and should - be infused with His life and breath.

Does this mean all art must be 'pretty'? I don't think so. The Bible itself is our best example. Not every passage is sunshine and roses. In fact, some books are quite harsh and even disturbing, but the truth of God's character still comes through. The truth - and therefore the beauty - of the message remains the same whether the scene is pleasant or not. Not all art is beautiful, but art that gets the message across is very powerful. It's why we must be discerning about what we see and hear and experience. Sometimes 'beauty' is deceptive, while less pleasant imagery, if done for the right purposes, brings a sense of clarity and even revelation about the world and our place in it.

Perhaps beauty, then, is a misnomer. I think it can be best equated with truth - even when using metaphors. Fantasy stories like C.S. Lewis's Narnia Series are not true, but they do hold truth, and that is what sets such work apart. Is truth elevated, despite danger, human flaws, and even violence? That for me is the marker. I suppose it's why I enjoy many dystopian movies and books - often a rather dark genre. In the end, if truth triumphs, beauty comes from the ashes. The same goes for music. I genuinely enjoy bands like 'Demon Hunter' and 'Thousand Foot Krutch', which are not your typical granny bands. Similarly, some of the most powerful art I've seen is not pretty, but still, it has affected me long after I've left the gallery.

Not everyone will agree and that's okay. I don't expect everyone to have the same taste in music, art, or movies. God created each one of us with unique talents and insights. His infinite variety extends to each one of us. The fact remains, that He is the author of creativity, and as such, we would do well to focus on His attributes when making and viewing art. For therein lies the beauty - and the truth.

Tracy Krauss has been a member of InScribe since 2010 and is serving as ICWF's current president. She pursues all of her creative interests, including writing, from her home in northeastern BC. Visit her website: tracykrauss.com  -fiction on the edge without crossing the line - 

July 14, 2019

Creativity: a Gift from God by Ruth L. Snyder

This month on this blog we are focusing on beauty. I'm grateful for the incredible beauty God created in our world—everything from the amazing diversity among animals and human beings to breathtaking views in nature like sunsets. Beauty demonstrates God's creativity. Mankind was created in God's image, and we have inherited many traits from our Heavenly Father, including creativity.

"Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness." (Oxford Dictionary)"
George Land developed a creativity test for NASA to use when selecting engineering and science candidates. It worked so well, he decided to test children with the same questions. He followed 1,600 individuals, testing their creativity at age 5, age 10, age 15, and then as adults. 98% of the children passed the test at age 5, only 30% at age 10, 12% at 15, and only 2% as adults. Through this test, he concluded that we learn non-creative behaviour.

 Writing is a creative process—putting words and phrases together to create a story or explain a concept. When we discipline ourselves to sit and write on a consistent basis, our creativity increases. So, what does creating beauty mean for me and my writing?

  • Creating beauty means selecting my words with care, picking the exact nuance to share what I'm thinking or experiencing.
  • Creating beauty takes skill, practice, and patience. A first draft is a good start. However, I need to hone that draft until each word is included for a reason. Writing is hard work! (Have you read Max Lucado's advice on writing and editing?)
  • Creating beauty brings me joy. When God created the world, he looked at his creation and said it was good (Genesis 1). I believe we share some of God's joy when we are able to create something beautiful.
  • Creating beauty honours God. I want my writing to point people to Jesus. In order to do this, I need to humbly acknowledge that God is the one who gives me ideas and enables me to make a beautiful piece of prose or poetry.
  • Creating beauty reduces my stress and keeps me healthy. When I spend time crafting something beautiful, I lose track of time. My focus is on creating. I don't have the ability to focus on squabbles or finances or anything else that weighs me down. Instead I can focus on putting together something beautiful, that makes me feel at peace.
I am grateful for the opportunity to create beauty with my writing. Often, I pair my writing with pictures I have taken (like I have in this blog post). Taking pictures gets me out of my chair and moving around, looking for just the right scene, taken from the angle that best captures the beauty. Even an old stump can be beautiful! Just like writing enables me to share beauty, sharing my pictures enables others to enjoy the beauty I have seen.

When I was thinking about a brand for my writing and coaching business, all my brand ideas had to do with nature or the beauty that God created. I played around with several ideas. My two favourites were an african safari theme and a rose theme. As you can see, the roses won out. (I'm saving the african safari theme for a time when I can focus more on my photography!)

What about you? How do you create and/or share beauty with others?

July 13, 2019

Beauty Boasts a Builder by Wendy L. Macdonald

There’s a beautiful gift God gives me whenever I choose to follow His lead.

 It started in the 1980’s when I was a newlywed and a new believer in Christ. I’ve often wondered how many gifts I’ve missed through disobedience to His nudges; but for today, I’m going to focus on the times I got it right.
It usually goes something like this:

“Wendy, would you like to get away for the afternoon, evening, day, weekend etc.?”

My husband often asks me this question. The Holy Spirit adds a gentle nudge to my spirit so I’m less likely to say “No thanks.”

When I say “Yes”, it’s usually after I’ve battled my tendency to trust routines rather than rest in the Lord’s leading.

My conscience usually wins. I set aside whatever I’ve planned to do, and I go on an adventure with my husband.

These adventures have led me to enjoy the beauty of creation in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

They are glorious times when beauty begged me to write about it in my journal, blog, and/or podcast.

I even guest posted about one adventure. It was regarding a long-weekend camping trip I came close to skipping out on. During that camp out, I had my first encounter with wild porpoises. 

Sometimes my adventures with my husband have been simple day trips that gifted me with beautiful nature pictures to share on my Facebook page. The latest one was a trip down island to Coombs where we enjoyed Butterfly World. And if you know anything about me, you know I didn’t rush through the exhibit. I took tons of pictures. I took so many shots, that the next time I was out and about, I didn’t bother to bring my camera because my trigger finger needed a rest.

Sometimes my adventures with my husband are not so simple. One day he asked me to go on a boat ride with him that took us over some potentially dangerous waters. 

Again, my conscious told me to trust God rather than submit to fear.

 On that trip we witnessed so much bald eagle beauty that I shared it on my blog, YouTube, and podcast links. 

Beauty boasts a Builder. That’s why I believe it’s important for inspirational writers to tap into the way creation calls our attention to the Creator. No matter how marvellous a writer someone may become, no one’s words can outshine the glory of God’s artwork found in nature. 

 Each sunset, sunrise, soaring eagle etc. speaks a billion words of His beauty. 

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20 NIV

Each display of our Creator’s glory reminds us to say yes to adventures He desires to include in our life story.

I’m nosey-to-know if you’ve recently witnessed natural beauty because you chose to go on an impromptu adventure?  Did you write about it?

Beautiful Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

P.S. If you’re nosey-to-see more butterfly pictures I took at Butterfly World (I hope you are.), please follow this link to my recent post about that spontaneous adventure: Butterflies and Encouragement for Your Faith