July 31, 2015

Carving Out (Summer) Time With God - Guest post by Karma Pratt

Summer time. Long, sun-filled days. Weekends spent barbecuing with friends, outings to the park and the pool,  lazy days relaxing in the shade. Gardens to be watered and grass to be cut. Lots on the go and yet, somehow, it feels more relaxed than my family's schedule would indicate.

In the midst of all that is summer, I find myself somewhat distracted by God's grace-filled creation. I think I am paying Him tribute by appreciating all that His glory has to offer, and, on some level, I am. I give a thanks offering with every joyful trip to the water park, every smile witnessed in the full light of the Son.

But in enjoying the experience of summer, I find myself falling out of sync with the purpose God has placed on my heart: "Write the words I give you." The command is specific and straightforward. Should be fairly easy to follow, right? And yet, in between barbecues and late night, open air outings, I discover that I am attempting to carve out time for God instead of making him the center of my summer.

The result? I have learned that it's impossible to find time to fit everything in when I don't put God first.

Much like tithing the first fruits, when I prioritize God's call on my life, everything else falls into place. We have more than enough. More than enough time, more than enough fun, more than enough to do all which must be done, and still time left over for that which is simply seasonal (and exciting). As a writer, I must make the effort to obey God first, even in the midst of summer sunshine and fun times.

A line from scripture rattles around in my head: My grace is sufficient for you. He speaks truth. It's my job to remember God's truth and live it everyday.

The full verse goes like this: 

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

My weakness (one of them, anyway) is summer. I take delight in the small happenings, the warm evenings, the bright sunlight, the friendships deepened over conversations, campfires and marshmallows. There's nothing inherently wrong in enjoying these moments... at least, not until they begin to take my focus away from God's call on my life. In this season, He's been showing me all the ways that I get distracted and lose focus, and has been guiding me back to the important tasks. At the end of the day, my job is to follow God, serve with a joyful heart and cultivate a generous spirit. All of this must be reflected in my writing as well. 

When I find my walk meandering away from my primary purpose, distracted by the smell of sun soaked skin and fresh watermelon, that's when I must take a step back and determine what to prioritize first. Once I do God's work, and "write the words", the rest takes care of itself. God's grace spills over into a fun-filled, sun-filled season of love, laughter and excitement. Ah, summer. 

Karma Pratt is a faith-driven mom of twins, a communicator, a writer, and an encourager from way back. She loves words, art, creativity, God, and people, although not necessarily in that order. A recovering food addict and binge eater, she writes in an attempt to express how her life has changed as a result of the profound healing of Jesus. She gives thanks for daily doses of grace that fill her to overflowing. You can find her online at redraincoatcreations.com 
You can follow Karma on TwitterFacebook  and LinkedIn.

July 30, 2015

The Value of Taking a Break by Susan Barclay

At times it’s been a hot summer, but when you have air conditioning, you can never really use the excuse that it’s “too hot to write.” Still, as MarniePohlmann expressed a few days ago, there’s a season for everything, and sometimes it’s appropriate to take a break – even from something as important as writing. 

In fact, this has been a somewhat challenging year for me. As I contemplate the prospect of writing the annual Christmas letter, I toy with the terms ‘annus horribilis” and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I won’t get into the details, but apart from a few personal experience pieces and their submission, I have not succeeded in accomplishing the writing projects I had in mind. In the eyes of someone like Stephen King, who believes in writing every day regardless, perhaps I’m a bad writer or no kind of writer at all. I choose to believe something different, though: I am a writer taking a break from writing to live a very real life, one that gets a little messy, one that requires my attention.

I’m reminded of a quote from Tom Hodgkinson that says, “Being lazy does not mean that you do not create. In fact, lying around doing nothing is an important, nay crucial, part of the creative process. It is meaningless bustle that actually gets in the way of productivity.” While I wouldn’t say I’m “being lazy” or “lying around doing nothing,” I do believe that what I am going through is, or will be, part of my creative process and future literary fertility. But if I were relaxing or otherwise unoccupied, I would remember that there is value in being “bored.” Recent studies show that boredom leads to more creativity and encourages the pursuit of new goals. Hurray for science, right?

And like Gretchen Rubin, who “always had the uncomfortable feeling that if [she] wasn't sitting in front of a computer typing, [she] was wasting [her] time,” take “a wider view of what [is]"productive." Time spent with … family and friends [is] never wasted.” At the end of the day, we’re not going to wish we’d spent more of our time working; investing in people is what lasts and has eternal value. So, go ahead, take that break. I’ll know I’m in good company with you.

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

July 29, 2015

The Birth of a Book - Ruth L. Snyder

This anthology sprang to life in the spring of 2014 at an executive meeting where someone voiced the thought, “What if . . .?” A motion transformed the dream into a plan. A small band of volunteers (Kimberley Payne, Stephanie Nickel, Sandi Somers and I) agreed to work together on the project, with the goal of having the book ready to launch at Fall Conference 2015. Our team grew to include Ellen Hooge, Beverley Nippard, and Carolyn Wilker. During conference 2014, the official call for submissions went out. One by one submissions trickled in until the deadline.

We decided to use 99designs for the cover to get better exposure for our organization. This resulted in an amazing selection of covers, which we narrowed down to one.
Making selections for the anthology was a challenge. A team of four prayerfully read and marked the submissions, then had a candid discussion. Pieces were chosen based on content, quality, and how well they fit the applicable theme. Some pieces, which were well written, did not fit with the rest of the submissions, so were rejected. Editing, layout, obtaining ISBNs, writing front and back matter, asking for endorsements, formatting, and more editing followed. Hundreds of volunteer hours were donated for the glory of God. 

The anthology features 28 Canadian authors who come from all walks of life and write in various genres for a range of audiences. Through fiction, poetry, and non-fiction such as devotionals, essays, and articles, they generously share their own discoveries, success stories, and hard-won lessons to encourage and support other Christian writers.

The e-book version of 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is now available on Kindle. The paperback version will be released during our InScribe Fall Conference in September. Share the news with your family and friends and come celebrate with us in Edmonton by registering for conference today!

“I love seven things about this book: It is practical. It is affordable. It is encouraging. It is worth highlighting, underlining and dog-earing. Plus it made me forget about my toothache. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran writer, you’ll discover 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers to be jammed with instantly actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Dig in.”
Phil Callaway (www.philcallaway.com) is the best-selling author of more than 25 books, a popular speaker, the host of Laugh Again Radio, and a grandpa.
7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is an absolute gem! I love that it covers all the basics a writer needs to know, making them simple and practical. I also love that the book has many authors, giving us ideas and suggestions from their own writing journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone seriously considering writing as a vocation or even an avocation, particularly those writers who see their work as a ministry—which it certainly is!”
Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com) is an award-winning author of more than 50 books. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al.
7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is loaded with actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Whether you are a multi-published author or a beginning writer, this book will benefit you.”
Shelley Hitz, author coach and best-selling author
“This book is a beautiful blend of faithfulness and craft. It will help you answer the practical questions of what it means to be a writer while honoring what you believe. I wish I’d read this when I got started.”
Jeff Goins, Best-selling author, The Art of Work
“There are hundreds of how-to-write books on the market, but none that I know of touches BOTH of the vital aspects of writing as a Christian better than this anthology from InScribe. The practical AND the spiritual are woven into a whole by a remarkably creative group of writers who are in the trenches as we speak. I intend to snack on this fare again and again.”
Nancy Rue, best-selling Christian author and creator of Shadow to Shelf, a mentoring program for writers.
For more details, check out the media page at http://inscribe.org/media-page-7-essential-habits-of-christian-writers/

July 27, 2015

The Four Seasons of the Writer’s Life by Melanie Fischer

There are generally four seasons in the writer’s life.


This is a time when the writer falls into a slump. It is when the ideas are dryer than a pile of leaves on the front lawn in late September.


This is when you pull out the dusting cloth. It is when you do some spring cleaning on your works which have sat for a season, then you spring back into action!


This is when the pen and the ink lines up. When the mind and fingers flow. When the words and the messages meld. When the writing slides along with greater ease than a greased sleigh on a toboggan hill. This is the season when you are on a winning streak. This is Win-ter! Unfortunately, win-ter in the writer’s life doesn’t usually last near as long as our Canadian winters. If we get too comfortable in this season, our win-ter tends to melt away like a snowman under a heat lamp.

Some-er time

This brings us into the fourth season of the writer’s life: Some-er time. We like to shorten it to “Some-time.” This is when it is very easy to say “I will write some-time.” During this season we may be distracted by an enticing lawn chair in the back yard, giggling children in the front yard, and all of the other things that happen anywhere but at our desk. And that “some-time” usually isn’t any time soon. Now of course there are legitimate times when we are to put down our pen and pick up our fishing pole. But not always. You could be in a season of distraction. You may need more than sunglasses to keep the glare of distraction out of your eyes. You need “Son-glasses.” Yes, the son of God. Look through Him, and only Him in times of being tempted away from the works which you have been called to. 

This is the season when I experience God as the gardener. This is when He tends to the seeds which produces the fruit of the spirit “self-control.” This is the season when the Lord exercises my discipline and teaches me the rewards of showing up, even when I would rather be elsewhere. This is where the toughest yet the most rewarding writing often comes from.

When we understand and believe that “self-control” doesn’t come from self, but from the Holy Spirit within us, then even the sunniest days will not call us away for the works which the Lord has entrusted us with.

This is the season when we have the greatest opportunity to grow; the season when we can learn how to turn “Some-time” into “Some-thing.”

Melanie Blog's at www.HungryForPurpose.com/blog

All photo's from Flickr photo sharing

July 26, 2015

'Tis the Season by Marnie Pohlmann

I long to be a writer enjoying the hazy days of summer like I did as a child; sitting with a scribbler in the shade of the cherry tree listening to the buzz of bees on clover, or exploring the rocky creek with bare feet to see where danger could lurk.

I want to be a writer tapping on a laptop while sipping iced tea on the deck.

I wish to take these sunny days to plot not just the perfect crime, but get to know the hero who proves the crime is not so perfect.

I dream of waxing eloquent with flowery verse that has ever-deepening layers of meaning.

I yearn to write an expository article sure to change how the church and the world, or maybe just myself, responds to current events.

However, this summer I am not sitting in the heat to write,
     or gathering story ideas while adventuring on the back of our motorcycle,
          or composing poetry while digging painted toes into warm beach sand,
               or treasuring memories of blowing bubbles with my grandson.

While I pray to feel the sunshine warming the world outside the air-conditioned staleness of my workplace, fluorescent lighting reflects the jaundice of my pale arms reaching for the keyboard. Brick walls painted yellow to give the impression of space are once again closing in. The past winter was long, driving to and from work in the dark to spend more years of my life in this basement cell. Spring gave a false promise of freedom, but I now, once again, feel chained to the desk, imprisoned in thick cinder block walls with no cell service and limited Internet. Summer finds me languishing, staring at a sky-blue computer screen that mocks, as though it truly was a window to the outside world.

Yet I believe God when He says,

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

I do not find one season any busier than another season. I quite easily fill my time with both constructive and wasteful deeds no matter the weather. I find the change of seasons, though, to be most taxing. Winter routines have relaxed, but summer needs at work, church, and home crowd in to fill days and evenings. Until the past season is finished, the preparation for the coming season is complete, and the rhythm of the current season is found, I often feel overwhelmed.

This year during the change of seasons, I add a transition in writing. I’ve been writing for years, yet have only just begun to enter a Season of Writing. I have not yet established foundational disciplines for writing in the midst of these transitioning seasons. I am grateful for this month’s contributions from other writers, which share great ideas I may incorporate into my days.

I find my writing is based not so much on a season of weather,
     as on a season of whether:
  • whether I write when I am depressed and when I am joyful.  
  • whether I write fancies of imagination, forming and fading like the clouds as my pen-strokes breeze a story onto paper and write facts that may not be exciting but simply state truth. 
  • whether I write when the writing is playful and when the words are difficult.  
  • whether I write in times of boredom and when I have over-extended my energy.  
Whether I make the time to write and take the time to write. 

This summer, I am learning how God provides for me the time to write. It is said John Grisham was a lawyer who wrote his best-selling novels in the few moments between legal cases. The Apostle Paul wrote while imprisoned. Surely, I too can learn to write in the times and places God gives me in this season – whether a quiet basement office, in the midst of extroverts at home and church, or on warm summer insomniac nights.

Praise God for His faithfulness in giving us a time for every activity!

How is the “whether” in your Season of Writing?

photos © Marnie Pohlmann

July 25, 2015

Pop Goes The Summer by Vickie Stam

   "When they sprout leaves, you can see for    yourselves and know that summer is near."

                  Luke 21:30

Every summer I can't wait to expose my feet! I like to feel the sand between my toes and the cool water from the lake wash over them. I like to let my feet bask in the sun and you can be sure my toe nails will be sporting a bright colour nail polish; one that almost pops into the next county. I'm ready for my winter shoes to trade places with my favourite flip-flips. As soon as I slip them on, they feel so good! And yes, it's true.... I'm as "happy as a lark." Summer is here!

But not everyone feels the way I do. In fact, I have friends who clearly think I'm nuts. They don't appreciate the summer. "It's like an oven out there!" "I'm sweltering in this heat." "We need a good storm to break the humidity." Blah, blah, blah.

Good grief, can't they see the beauty of summer. It goes by so quickly! Don't they look forward to hauling out the lawn chairs, the table, the lounger or whatever it takes to get their deck looking ship-shape for summer. Don't they enjoy the sound of birds singing, the colours that pop when all the flowers are in full bloom or cutting the grass? Well maybe not cutting the grass.       

Yes, I know it's the hottest of Canada's four seasons. Still, I embrace it, especially the longer days. I love the early morning sunrise and late sunsets, the walks on the beach, the occasional day trips, playing a game or two of lawn bowling, spending time a the lake, camp fires and having friends pop over for a BBQ. My list could go on but I'll do my friends a favour and stop. I just can't understand what's not to like about it.

And now I guess your wondering where I find the time to write when I love summer so much and can't wait to fill it with so many wonderful things to do. 

For me, summer writing mainly happens between the pages of my journal. 

The writing classes I enjoy taking are on hiatus as are the bible study groups in my church. Schools and Universities wind down for the summer and people book holidays. 

Summer really is my favourite time of the year.

"Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers."
                                    ----Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine




July 24, 2015

Summer Distractions by Tandy Balson

Life in the summer is full of distractions.  They are wonderful, like going to the playground with my grandchildren or learning to kayak.  

I find when I’m doing something away from my desk the inspirations for writing flow freely.    Even something as simple as a walk through the woods brings thoughts flitting through my mind like butterflies through the wild flowers.

We were spending a few days in a campground near a lake and I had ideas for stories coming at me constantly.  It was exciting and I looked forward to sitting in the sunshine and writing them down.  That’s when the distractions took over.  

The dragonfly that landed close to me captured all of my attention.  My pen was poised over the paper but the words that had flooded my mind only moments before seemed to float away on the breeze.  

Then I heard the joyful sound of children laughing and playing.  I looked up to see what was bringing such happiness.  Soon I was engrossed in playing with my grandchildren and the writing was abandoned.

Later when all was quiet I sat down ready to put my thoughts on paper.  My husband was cooking dinner and I had no responsibilities at that moment.  The timing should have been perfect to express my creativity.  Alas, it was not to be.  The sizzle and mouth-watering aromas coming from the barbeque had me thinking of my stomach instead of the words that had been in my mind only moments before.

I soon realized that I only needed to jot down a few thoughts in a journal.  They would be the prompts waiting for me to expand upon at a later time. 

Once I was back in my quiet writing area the distractions were gone and my earlier thoughts resurfaced. I was more prolific than ever before.

I am learning that I need to relax and go with the flow.  Being rigid with my writing schedule does not work for me when there are adventures that can only be experienced in this short summer season. 
This is the time to soak up the sun as I sit in my lounge chair and enjoy reading engaging books by several of our talented InScribe  authors.  The writing will be there for me when I come back inside.  For now, I’m going to enjoy the summer.


July 23, 2015

Summer Stories by Lynn J Simpson

A few weeks ago at a local lake I watched a half a dozen ladies standing strong on paddle boards, their laughter and light chatter traveling across calm waters to me. I drew my knees up to my chest, as late sunlight reflections danced across the dark waters that lapped against the dock where I rested.

And I wanted to be on those waters too, with those ladies. How hard could it be? Balancing on still waters on a paddle board?

Growing up in Ontario, and blessed with a best-friend forever (BFF) who had a pool, I spent hours upon hours daily in the water; swimming, diving, playing pool tag, and having breath holding competitions under water. When not in her pool, my BFF and I would be off finding another water adventure in the creeks of the local parks, or in the cottage lakes of relatives.

Our summers, always full of water adventures.

And often after the adventure, tired out from our escapades, we would find ourselves on her living room couch; her with a story book in hand, and me with pencil and a spiral note book, printing the adventure story of the day.

Recently I spent a week in British Columbia at my high-school friend's cottage on the lake. It was in celebration of our 50th birthdays. It would have been my BFF's 50th birthday too.

She passed away April 12th after 4 years of battling cancer.

One day, after returning from a boat ride where we had sat in a cove watching cliff jumpers, my high school girlfriend and I walked down to the beach carrying a kayak, and following us walked her husband carrying a paddle board.  With us were my late BFF's two grown daughters and her husband, along with the two daughters of my high school girlfriend.

I eyed the paddle board.

Why not? I thought. Time for a water adventure.

After a quick demonstration by my girlfriend's husband, I hopped into the water, balanced myself on my knees on the board, paddle in hand.  I felt the wind pick up behind my back. Began paddling, the waters underneath me seeming to become darker as clouds drifted in above me.

Wow, I am going pretty fast, I thought.

But I kind of want to turn around.

The lake water rippled beside me as I paddled but I couldn't turn. I just kept drifting faster away from the shore, away from the direction I wanted to go. The wind pushed harder against my back. The water appeared even darker. Raindrops tapped my hands. My hat blew off into the increasing waves.

Wow, those look like white cap waves, I thought.

I turned to look behind me, seeing my girlfriend's husband running down the beach toward me.

I think I am in trouble, I thought, for him to be waving at me like that.

Moments later I was in the water, holding on to the paddle board with one arm, my toes gripping my sandals as I kicked against the lake waves, the shore ahead of me. Eventually I hit shallow enough waters to stand, my girlfriend's husband meeting me in the water.

And to my surprise, he jumped on the board.

I'll get your hat, he shouted to me, paddling into the white cap waves.

Later, all of us cozy on the cabin couch, my hat drying on a towel rack, we laughed about our afternoon escapade. My spiral notebook on my lap and pencil in hand, I began printing the adventure of the day.

My BFF would have loved this moment too, of another summer story.

Decided to try the kayak out the following day! 

Blog-Connecting Stories

July 22, 2015

My Battle With Summer by Alan Anderson

Did the title of this blog grab your attention?  Are you a sun worshipper and have already resented the thoughts the title brings to your mind?  If so, you may have to stop reading now because this post may not be pretty!  Turn away now before it’s too late and you read the musings of one who has a battle with summer!  The term “battle” may call to one’s mind a serious contentious disagreement between two or more parties!  Yup, you guessed it, I have a battle with another party by the name of summer!

I live in what is known as the Lower Mainland in British Columbia.  Other parts of our country have given us a reputation for having a lot of rain.  I ask you, what’s the big deal about rain?  Oh, the sweet memories I have of rain even summer rain!  Oh, how I love walking through a puddle I didn’t notice in time and feeling its contents soaking through my shoes and socks!  Rain at this point in time is but a memory.

In the past at least two months this summer our area and other parts of the country have endured heat waves that don’t know when to stop!  Stop I tell you, cease and desist right now!  Oh the misery of over 30 degrees Celsius day in and day out!  In my area it is not unusual this summer for us to be inflicted with 35 Celsius or even higher.  Isn’t that just obscene?

As I write this post I am becoming aware that some readers may think, “Man, this guy is a real whiner!  He must be a total thrill to be around at a beach party!"  Well my friends, if you are indeed thinking such thoughts here is my reply.  I don’t go to beach parties!!  They are usually held during hot, sweaty weather like this summer and there’s sand that gets into your bathing suit and hamburgers!  There’s the smell of coconut butter that people lather themselves in!  Not me I tell you!  I’m in the shade writing about my battle with summer sipping a beer and eating veggie chips!  Please don’t think I indulge in alcohol very often only now and then!  Okay, now that I ‘ve gotten that off my chest I will continue!

Even with what I have stated to this point I am reminded of something fundamental to my faith.  I thank God that He created the seasons including summer!  Now and then I show how I may take things for granted like the beauty of His creation.  I see how summer heat can lead to forest fires that in turn lead to destruction and panic!  I hear of the threat of drought and how this threatens our water supply.

When we panic or perhaps I should say, when I panic, I may take things for granted.  Perhaps God even sends such things as summer heat to the degree many aren’t familiar with to remind us that even the winds and summer heat obey Him!  Nature has also been given limits that perhaps only God understands!  I sure don’t!  I therefore pray that my battle with summer soon ends and that things cool down.  I doubt I will ever welcome summer heat but perhaps God in His mercy will allow me to see the beauty around me in spite of it!

If you dear friends enjoy summer heat I pray you have been thrilled this summer!  Now, bring on the rain!

Personal Blog:  ScarredJoy@wordpress.com