June 30, 2015

On Knowing God's Pleasure by Susan Barclay

When I first considered this month's theme, I struggled. When did I feel God's pleasure when I write? I wondered - did I feel His pleasure at all?

I finally concluded that while I may not be aware of His pleasure, God is pleased when I write to encourage others, when I write to share the gospel of Christ, and when I write about difficult, even controversial, subjects, in a way that reflects His love, mercy and grace. He is pleased when I don't sacrifice my faith on the altar of showcasing my work.

Well, that wasn't going to be enough for an entire blog post, was it? :) Therefore...

I recently read the Mark Batterson/Richard Foth book, A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime. There's a lot of food for thought and impetus for personal transformation within the book's pages. I think God took great pleasure as He watched Mark and Dick put this together, and I want to know that He takes that same pleasure in my writing.

A few quotes from Mark, and my response:
Whatever you don't turn into praise turns into pride. When I write, I shouldn't do so for my own glorification, but God's. He will never share His glory with another, and is worthy of all my praise. I need to put the spotlight on Him, not on me and my own brilliance, which, if any, is His gift to me and not anything I have independently. If I do my part, I will know His pleasure.
I want to go after dreams that are destined to fail without divine intervention. I am small and He is big. What is impossible for me is within His ability to perform. When I go after dreams that depend on His power, whether that's to write a bestseller or to change lives through the words that flow from my pen, I will know His pleasure.
It's not until you say to God "whatever, whenever, wherever" that you begin living out the adventure God has planned for you. It may be difficult to say "whatever, whenever, wherever" when you have no idea what the outcome will look like - it's called faith for a reason, people! - it is easy to say this when you understand that God is trustworthy and that His plans for you indeed are good (Jeremiah 29:11). When I leave the nature and outcome of my writing to Him, I will know His pleasure. [Note to self: try saying "whatever, whenever, wherever" when facing a blank page/screen]
And finally, a quote from Martin Luther, which was also in the book: 
Preach  as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow. Change the word 'preach' to 'write.' How would I write differently with this mindset? I think there would be a greater urgency and a greater faithfulness both in the doing and in the content. And I would better know His pleasure.
I know His pleasure when I write for Inscribe :)

For more of my writing, please visit www.susan-barclay.ca or www.susanbarclay.wordpress.com

June 28, 2015

I Am, Therefore I Write - Bruce Atchison

"What do you do for a living?" That question fills me with dread because I'm on disability. People I know seem to be succeeding at every turn of their lives. My life, on the other hand, was nothing but blunders and wrong turns.

After all the trials and errors, I've found that writing is the only thing I do with any proficiency. At the CNIB smoke stands and cafeterias, I worked too slowly. The only reason I was a security guard was that the company was desperate for guards. The only reason I was a government clerk was because of the quota to hire disabled people as well as women and native people.

Of course becoming a writer wasn't easy for me. My vision is so poor that my nose almost touches the paper when I write. Spelling was a huge problem too. The English language has many exceptions to the rules. I managed to collide with every one of them.

The house church elders made my life even more miserable by claiming I didn't have enough faith to be healed. Time after time, the congregation laid hands on me and prayed fervently but to no avail. The minister even claimed that I lusted for good vision so God denied it to me. I often wished I was dead so I wouldn't have to be humiliated for having limited sight.

Though I had written a few articles on an amateur basis, a job counsellor suggested that I try going professional. Since I had recently been laid off from the government, it seemed like a good idea. I took a magazine writing course from the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension and began pitching ideas. My first article sold after a year of hard work. This inspired me to keep writing and sending out query letters.

Eleven years ago, I took a course on autobiography writing online. Three memoirs later, I now feel confident to tackle fiction short stories.

I love writing. Putting together an article or story fills me with excitement. Being able to create characters and settings is akin to God creating the world but on a much smaller scale. When I feel satisfied with my edits, I can say, "It is very good."

June 27, 2015

Run Like Your Pants are on Fire by Melanie Fischer

For some reason, when I read this month’s theme from the movie Chariots of fire, I envisioned a man running with his pants on fire. This, however, doesn't make much sense; if your pants were on fire you probably would not run—you would stop, drop and roll.

Not only did this month’s topic spark this odd image, but it sparked the message for this post.

What I am trying to get at is this: we need to go like we have a fire under us. Our life is like a race. Not in a competitive or rushed manner, but in the way that we need to keep going until we get to the finish line. Of course the Lord only knows the day that we will cross that line, but in the meantime we are to keep going and run a good race!

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7 NIV 

It is amazing to feel God’s pleasure in our writing, but the fact is that does not always happen. I tend to feel His pleasure more in “having written” than in the writing itself. Showing up and doing the work, even when it is not satisfying, is an act of worship and is glorifying to God.

Of course the race is different for all of us. Some writing races (probably few) look like this…

But for many, our races look a bit more like this…

The writing race isn’t always fun, it isn’t always easy, it isn’t always pleasurable; however, let’s wipe the mud off of each other’s faces, put band-aids on our boo-boos and cheer each other on.

The tendency may be to stop, drop and roll…but unless your pants really are on fire, we need to keep running this race.

If you are discouraged and need to feel God’s pleasure, I say step up to the starting line then start running. The Lord WILL be with you the entire time because He promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you. We may not feel His pleasure the whole way through, but He will be waiting at His gate for us as we cross that finish line. He will peer into His book of life, smile upon our names, and say “well done good and faithful servant.”

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." Acts 20:24 NIV

Photo source: PhotoPin

June 26, 2015

God is God and I am Not by Marnie Pohlmann

"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.”  

This introduction to God in Genesis 1:1 speaks volumes about who God is. We see how very big God is – he is before time and he is outside of space, even space we have not yet discovered! What strikes me most, though, is this first description of God’s character.

God is creative.

God spoke our world into being.  Can you imagine how much fun God had making our world?
His panoramic vistas take our breath away.
The breeze blows invigorating scents from a myriad of flowers to captivate our attention.
The instincts of The Cat that Walked by Himself (Rudyard Kipling) or the antics of monkeys give us hours of enjoyment.  
God used words to create all we enjoy. When God declared, “It is good,” I believe he was expressing not only his pleasure at what he created but also his pleasure in creating. 

Scripture has many passages that tell us about God’s character, and what characteristics we can develop to be more Christ-like. God says, “Be holy as I am holy.” When I read those lists, I have to admit, the closer I feel to God the farther away I realize I truly am. Developing the character of Christ is difficult! 

However, when I write, I feel at least one godly characteristic is alive in me – the creative character of God, and I feel his pleasure in the creating. Even when what I write does not seem to be of any value, or needs more editing than the energy I want to give, I still find contentment in my efforts. Time and space limit my words, but when I leave my desk from a period of writing, I leave with a sense of accomplishment, because I feel connected to God when I write.

For some of us, the call to write is strong even though we may fight that call and leave our writing in pursuit of other activities. When we are obedient to that call we feel God’s approval. Yet approval may not be the same as pleasure. God’s pleasure in us is not based on any action we take, but is fully encompassed in who He is. 

I am reminded of the Casting Crowns song, “Who Am I?” that states in the chorus,
“Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done;
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are.”

God takes pleasure in me not because of what I do or do not do, but just because I am. He created me, from my innermost being, and he sees as beautiful even the foibles that make me so unique. His creation of me is “very good,” as he stated when he created mankind. Yes, God knows me with all my faults, yet he still really does take pleasure in me, and enjoys spending time with me.

When I write, I feel God’s pleasure. 
When I don’t write, I also feel God’s pleasure. 
I am able to feel God’s pleasure because God is God and I am not.

God takes pleasure in you, too!

Photo credits:  
watch, flowers - pixel.com 
writing paper - kaboompics.com

Song:  Who Am I - https://www.castingcrowns.com/music/lyrics/who-am-i 

Book:  The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling - http://www.amazon.ca

June 25, 2015

What a Pleasure! By Vickie Stam

After having read a piece that I wrote, a friend of mine said, "I recognize your voice in this story." At the time I wasn't certain if the remark was meant as something good or something bad. Eventually, I learned my voice is indeed a good thing. It's a part of who I am. I can only say...the words come from my heart. They dance with joy or wince with sorrow.

Sometimes the words inside of me feel like butterflies, as if they've somehow formed soft silky wings that begin to gently massage the walls of my heart. Their persistent stirring only beckons me to reach for a pen and paper no matter what time of day it is. I can hardly wait for each letter to take flight, even when the dark of night blankets the sky and the world outside my window is fast asleep; I feel the words fluttering inside of me and I'm unable to wait until morning to pick up my pen.

As my hand sweeps across the white paper filling what was once nothing but an empty void, a smile accompanies each stroke. Pleasant thoughts escape me. Afterwards, I sit back and gaze at my paper cloaked with ink. The colours of blue, black and even red seem to dance. My world comes alive on the pages before me. My words form stories which allow me to revisit the places I've been. They keep a record of memories made with my family and friends. I can't imagine not writing.

Just like the monarch butterfly with its distinctive pattern and beautiful colours of black, orange and white, each scribble I make is distinctive. The way I form each letter, dot each (i) and cross each (t) are all reflections of me. I've spent more than twenty years penning my thoughts. The patterns are fixed in me.

And yes there are times when my words feel heavy, more like stones anchored inside my heart; less willing to be moved or even stirred. In times like that, I must admit, it's more difficult to smile. Even so, my desire is to write. The thud is almost audible as each word lands on top the pages. But in the end.... what a relief! Their weight no longer pulls me down. All that felt so terribly heart-breaking to me is set free.

There's an indescribable pleasure that comes from writing. An amazing release!

I would encourage anyone to pick up a pen. Write down your hopes and dreams, your joys and sorrows. Write down your worries, memories from your past to the present. Share your stories or keep them to yourself. And through it all, remember to God is beside you the entire time helping find your voice.                    

June 24, 2015

Who Am I Writing to Please? - by Tandy Balson

I have known from the beginning that many of the words I write don’t originate from me.  God guides my thoughts and forms the words that flow from my fingertips onto the page.

When I struggle with what to write it is usually because I’m trying to do it on my own.  The writer’s block is actually a self imposed barrier which makes it difficult for me to pay attention to the heavenly guidance being offered.

There have been times I’ve felt the inspiration to write on a certain topic and then been amazed at where it has led.  Since this wasn’t my plan, it must have been the one God intended.  When this happens I feel his pleasure that I was attuned to the message he wanted me to share.

I believe he gives me insight into everyday life experiences that are often taken for granted in our busy lives.  The sole purpose is for me to pass them on.  When I am obedient, it pleases him.

I understand that not all of the words I write will reach others or point them back to God.  Although this is my intention, I have no control over the final outcome.  For this reason, I need to write for an audience of one.  

Everything I write needs to be an offering to God.  When I take my meager gift and offer it back to God he is able to multiply it.  I pray that my words will be used to bring him glory but usually there is no actual confirmation that this has happened.  This is where faith and trust come in.

Then there are those incredible moments when I’m given the gift of hearing how the words have made a difference.

One of those times happened recently.  A woman approached me with a story to share.  She had been using my book as a daily reading.  (That alone blessed me!)  Her father had recently passed away and she had just read the final words he had written in his journal.  The next morning she opened my book to see those same words as the title of reading for that day.  The words that followed spoke to her so clearly that she chose to read this story at her father’s funeral.

I had tears rolling down my cheeks as she relayed this to me.  It was overwhelming to know that words I had written had impacted someone so deeply. I felt I had just received a warm embrace from God as he told me how pleased he was that I was obeying him with the writing I was doing.  

I thank God for the words he gives me and pray that my writing will always be pleasing to and glorify him.

Tandy is the author of Inspirations From the Everyday and Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake.  She blogs at www.timewithtandy.com

June 23, 2015

The Remedy by Lynn J Simpson

The sky was overcast and the wind was cool on my sandaled feet. I closed the hatch of my car, my camera bag and hiking boots locked now inside. It wasn't a beach day, but I was going anyways, to a lake I had never visited but one a friend had mentioned to me just the day before.

An adventure even though the GPS said it was only an hour drives from my suburban home.

A time out, not from my work or family or friends.

A time out from my own mind, a mind that is often spinning into the past and then imagining a future. Even, I must admit, having conversations. You know-those conversations you wish you had or maybe even hope to have with a particular someone if you ever get a chance? Hopes and expectations to resolve the conflict that you are the only one really having?

I was entrenched in the battle of my lifetime. The battle for my mind.

But the beauty of these times, these times where I really wonder if I am going crazy, is the Remedy. The remedy of becoming present in His presence. It is often at these times I feel His nudge to let go, surrender, and see.  Be present in His beauty.

An hour later I find myself on my belly, wild grass tickling my bare hands that grasp my camera. Dandelions frame my vision. Click. I rotate the lens. Click. Refocus. Click. And I see.

I see His perfection in the wildness of tangled grasses, feeling the solid ground under me. I see His perfection in the uneven dandelions, the colour schemes of purples, pinks, blues, and green. Perfection in the messiness of the scattered pine needles, gravel, and moss. I clear away a few pebbles that cover a wild mushroom.

And I wonder. I wish he would have..... And I hear, 'stay with Me, Lynn.' I shake my head slightly to clear. Stay with Me.

I look up from my lens into the wild grasses. And click.

June 22, 2015

What Is Beautiful To You? Alan Anderson

This is a simple little post but I trust it is worthwhile to give us cause to reflect a bit.

A lot goes on in life that may perplex or cause concern.  Some things may trouble our hearts so much that is seems things will never change or get better.  In spite of the many things in our world and in life that remind us of the ugliness of sinful human nature there is still beauty to behold.

Whatever became of beauty? Well, nothing!  Beauty is all around us and is really never far away. Where I live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia there is beauty in abundance.  For instance, I can look from my porch and see beautiful mountains covered by cedar trees and on a regular basis eagles fly overhead.  Now and again I can hear the eagles as it were calling to each other.  They provide some of the music of nature that God has set in motion for our pleasure.

Someone said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!" What beauty do you behold? What is beautiful to you? What moves you so much that beautiful is all you can say about it?  What takes your breath away? What or who in your world, your life, is so breathtakingly beautiful that tears are brought to your eyes? What in your life causes you to be speechless due to the depth of its beauty? Perhaps you can take some time and ponder this. Perhaps you may pause just for a few minutes and glory in what is beautiful.  Breath, ponder and just "be" as you bask in beauty.

Writing is beautiful don’t you think?  When I read posts of our InScribe group I see beauty!  I see all sorts of writing coming from beautiful minds God has gifted.  Some of the writing is poignant and stirs the heart while some is funny and causes one to giggle or at least grin from ear to ear.  At times I’ve read something that has caused me to pause and reflect on my life.  Some writing is fiction and some non-fiction.  It is all beautiful and makes me grateful to be part of a group like this.  

It is also beautiful to know God loves us!  That may seem such a simple thing to say yet how profound it is also.  How beautiful it is to know and yes to feel the love of God.  I pray your life and the days you are given remind you of something beautiful!

June 20, 2015

Guilty Pleasures ... by Jocelyn Faire

Pleasure was to be viewed with suspicion in the hard-working, religious community of
my childhood. It was not high on the to do list. Although my family did not fit into the church community, when I became a Christian, it came with a list of Thou Shalt Nots. Thou shalt not have pleasure, well not too much. But one could find guilt-free pleasure in hard work and church activity.
Pleasure as noted in my online dictionary is defined as: enjoyment and entertainment, contrasted with things done out of necessity. Most of daily life is done out of necessity.

Pleasure –A more recently acquired taste.
I have two women I connect with on a deep spiritual level, and for the past four years we have begun the tradition of The Pink Mountain Retreat, to enjoy life, to encourage each other, and to drink in God's beauty. In one of the earlier times as we were eating and laughing, Rita said, she envisioned God smiling down on us, taking pleasure in the three of us enjoying our time. I must admit, my mind questioned her idea. Would God really take pleasure in us having a good/rich time?
I am beginning to believe so. John Eldredge in his book, Beautiful Outlaw, retells the story of Jesus' meeting the disciples on the beach after he has risen. It is Jesus' familiarity with his friends, the way he casually approaches them, and then asks about the fishing (again) and suggests as he had once before – Why not try the other side? – implying an insider joke. As if he delighted in their company.

When do I feel God's delight? In good company, where the spirit connects.
And in the presence of Beauty.
I have listed myself as a seeker of beauty. When I am in the presence of beauty, I feel the Father's pleasure. The skies, the oceans, the flowers, the mountains speak comfort and caring into my soul. Beauty is God's universal gift to us, it is found everywhere.

John O'Donohue in his book Beauty, The Invisible Embrace has said that: “Beauty touches and renews our hope when it takes us out of the grid of ordinary time and brings us to another place, a place where history ceases and the weight of memory relents, a place ever ancient and ever new ... No one is ever immune to beauty. Regardless of background, burdens or limitations, when we find ourselves in a place of great beauty, clarity, recognition and excitement awaken in us. ... there is an eternal beckoning of the heart that touches what is still innocent in us.”
God is at the heart of the Big Picture Beauty.
The soul needs beauty as much as it needs love.

What advice would I give to someone who is discouraged and needs to feel God’s pleasure?
To seek out beauty.
Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.
Take the time to waste time in the presence of beauty. (Guilt free!)

In thinking about the Father's Day, and beauty this song springs to mind:
This is my Father's world,
 and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me ringsthe music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

Jocelyn is author of the book Who is Talking out of My Head?  
She blogs about hope in the hard places at:  http://whoistalking.wordpress.com