January 31, 2016

Stretching for Atrophied Writing Muscles - Pamela Mytroen

I've been on a mission to get some of our former contributors to do guest posts this year. In many ways, it's like these contributors never left. Here is a 'guest' post by Pamela Mytroen. Enjoy! 

Have to admit, I'm a wimp. I shy away from reading or writing non-fiction because it forces me to take a close-up look at my life and I don't always like what I see. Ever wear those little make-up glasses and see all the wrinkles on your face as you are applying eye-shadow? Yeah, I stay away from those too. Who needs to be reminded of your own mortality? Writing is like that for me. It exposes the scary stuff in my life. 

But I have to write truth. I must address what I see happening in society. I can't walk away from the blind people at the edge of the cliff. God and I have had a few conversations about this "calling", and I remind Him often that I am not equipped to point out the downward trends of our broken world - it depresses me. I am not brave enough to take on the powers of darkness - it scares me silly. And I am not strong enough to be transparent about my current heartbreaks - they crush me. Yet I cannot get away from the constant niggle in my noggin that I must write about these issues. It follows me everywhere and meets me before I get there - this notion that I will regret these years if I don't fight the fight, and that my little sprinkling of salt needs to be shaken out out of me. It just might create a thirst for Living Water. 

Forgive me, but it just hurts so much to write and now my writing muscles have atrophied because writing is so much more than a clatter of words on a keyboard - it is all about surrender. It is putting on the glasses, facing my downfalls, my 'wrinkles', and allowing God to have His way. I still feel intimidated by my own fear and shortcomings but God is gently working on me. It appears that He has not given up on me and now He's telling me to start stretching. 

This is my goal, therefore, for 2016: I will stretch as far as the first two letters, S and T. 

I will Show up and I will Trust. That is a stretch for a seized pen. I plan to Show up to my long-neglected blog at least once every week, and I Trust that God will meet me there. I am not prepared to fight any great fights or wield any amazing words or expose the disappointing details of my life, but I will show up and Trust that God will enable me to spell out life, and light, and shake me up just enough to sprinkle a little salt on the page. 

And if I see the wrinkles or shake with fear, at least I will be in a community of Truth-Seekers and Salt-Shakers. Maybe they will help me keep that posture of Surrender as I begin Stretching once again. 

Check out my blog at pamelamytroen.com and see if I am showing up!

Pam Mytroen

If Pam could spend all day in her kitchen baking pies, brownies, and making turkey dinner for friends, she would. But Murray Pura once told her to write first and then bake—advice that she is trying to stick with these days, except, of course, when her grandchildren stop in for milk and cookies.

January 30, 2016

Twelve Weeks by Susan Barclay

I have a couple of large writing goals for this year. One is to blog more regularly (daily, in fact), the other to finish my novel. Even more importantly, I really want to grow and mature in my faith. To accomplish these goals, I’m taking the 12-week approach to life.  

What is the 12-week approach, you ask? It comes from the book The 12 Week Year: get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. Instead of thinking of a 12 month year as the time frame for accomplishment, think of the year as lasting only 12 weeks. Chances are you’ll be driven to accomplish more because you will no longer have that sense of having lots of time.  

The first step is to choose 3-4 goals to work on. Then identify your objectives and how you’re going to achieve them. At the end of each week assess your progress and map out your plan for the week to come. Schedule your activities.

So, for my goal of finishing the novel, I’ve determined to revise one chapter every weekday until I’m up to the point at which I left off. I have about 32 chapters written, so this goal will take me approximately six weeks. I’m not sure how many chapters remain beyond that (up until now I haven’t been an outliner), but writing a new chapter will take longer than revising one that’s already written. For now I’ll plan on writing one new chapter a week in the last six weeks of my 12-week year. I’ll schedule my writing for Monday, Tuesday and Friday mornings, Wednesday evenings and Thursday afternoons.

Plans are great; it’s the execution that’s more difficult. Still, I am committed. And when I am done my novel, you will hear me singing this:

For my website, please visit www.susanbarclay.wordpress.com

January 29, 2016

Risking It In 2016 - The Velveteen Pastor by Bob Jones

We are blessed to have guest blogger and new Inscribe member Bob Jones writing for the blog today. 

A few months ago I posted a Facebook comment at the height of the same-sex marriage issue in the USA. I wrote about Franklin Graham and Tony Campolo, leaders I’ve worked with and hold in high respect. These brothers in the faith lined up on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage legislation. Here were two evangelical leaders holding polar opposite views and defending them from Scripture.

It was a Saturday morning in June 2015 when I naively posted on Facebook how I loved the kingdom of God because it was big enough to include both Campolo and Graham and their perspectives. After posting, my wife and I went for our usual 6km run. Usually, very few people pay attention to my posts. We returned home an hour later to find my Facebook page had blown up. People were approving my comment and others were attacking those who approved it. The engagement between people got heated to the extent that I hid the post from view from my Timeline.

Hide no more, I will.

I‘ve been playing it safe with my writing. Controversy and conflict are not my friends so I don’t go looking to stir up contention. That approach no longer serves me well.

My writing goals for 2016 are:

1. To risk cracking open the window of my soul to become more vulnerable in my writing. My wife says I need to get in touch with my feelings to help my writing touch people.

2. To write about important issues, controversial or not - at the risk of being misunderstood - for the sake of helping people live by Biblical Christian values and attitudes.

I’m writing a book for ministers by the title “The Velveteen Pastor: The Journey of Becoming Real in Ministry.”  

The inspiration for the title comes from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, a children's story about a toy rabbit whose fur becomes worn from use, but who longs to become real. Here is a short excerpt:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” 

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” 

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I’ve got a lot in common with the Velveteen Rabbit – little hair, loose in the joints, failing vision and after four decades of ministry, becoming real.

I expect the ramifications of achieving my goals in 2016 will fill some of the pages in my book.

I hope my writing will be great.

It may grate on some readers.

It will be real.


Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.

January 28, 2016

"Me! I Disconnect from You" - Bruce Atchison

What's this title from a Gary Numan song doing here? One of my New Year's resolutions is to "disconnect" from my Internet-equipped PC when I'm doing serious writing. I'll still use it for e-mail and research but its easy access to the Internet is hampering my productivity.

Why such an extreme measure? First of all, it's too easy for me to goof off while using my main computer. The posts from the lists I belong to are so alluring. After all, they're more fun to read than sitting in front of a blank word processor screen and pondering what to write next.

Likewise, social media sites tempt me away from productive work. Even writing sites get me exploring rabbit-trail links instead of doing solid research.

Then there's all the maintenance I need to do with antivirus, spyware, and malware programs. Those activities, added to defragmenting and cleaning up junk files steal so much of my day. I'll leave those activities for the evening.Some folks might think I'm being extreme when I use a PC which isn't connected to the Internet. In fact, I find that my productivity increases with the use of older machines which don't nag me every few minutes to update this or that program. I can just hunker down in my front office, formerly a bedroom, and write.

By the way, I wrote my first three memoirs and scores of freelance articles on a DOS computer using WordPerfect 5.1. In spite of it's antiquity, the PC and program produced excellent results for me. I also made good use of the Lord's provision of older computers instead of junking them.

Whatever your writing goals are, I hope you take this advice to heart. Disconnecting from the Web for a time can be a great boost to your productivity. It also helps repurpose older computers or laptops.

January 27, 2016

Surrender by Loretta Bouillon

I’ve made a personal decision. I have surrendered my writing to God. The past couple of years I’ve set goals, tried to establish schedules, entered contests, submitted pieces here and there and sporadically worked  on my novel.  I’ve had some of my writing published and it’s been exciting, enlightening, challenging, satisfying and stretching all rolled up into one big experience.

While reflecting on this past year of trials and change, I realized that I added to my own stress by trying to do everything. Even though my intent was to write for God, to write His words, according to His timing and for His glory, I easily slipped into my own agenda. Writing became a stress added to an already stressful year and the joy of writing slowly faded. And….it was exhausting. Surrender--there is so much freedom in it isn’t there? Why is it so difficult for me to do?

So here’s my new revelation: I am going to relax. Here's an honest admission: I don’t feel called to write for a career. It’s not my livelihood (although that would be really nice J) and it’s not a race. I realize that we are all at different places in our writing journeys but this is the place I’m at, and I’m okay with it.

So here I am, God. I will write to commune with you. I will write to hear you better. I will write to bless others when you ask me to. I offer up my words, my pen and my laptop. I thank you for the gift of writing.


"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7

January 26, 2016

Missing Pieces by Marnie Pohlmann

Recently at our home, we had fun making a simple puzzle. We gathered pieces with similar colours and design, turning them this way and that to join them together. Most people begin a puzzle with the edge pieces, though I have a brother who refuses to use the “easy” path of such boundaries. We also look at the box to know how the image will look when complete. As our puzzle came together, we realized there were trees and fence on both sides of the image, so pieces not fitting on my portion actually belonged in my sister's section. With Mom’s help, we figured it out and high-fived as we placed the final pieces.

Our success became dismay, though, as we realized one piece was missing. In the middle of blue sky, table showed through where a bird should be. While the picture was still beautiful, and we enjoyed the laughing and visiting together while making it, the puzzle was not quite complete.

Much like building the puzzle, each of us has a calling to do work God has prepared beforehand for us (Ephesians 2:10). We all have pieces to add to God’s picture. “Doing the work” sounds like we need to make goals and set priorities. This is good and proper, right?

At a Global Leadership Summit a few years ago, Bill Hybels taught about the 6x6, a tool he uses to move ministry forward. I found this idea practical, especially for writing. After spending time in prayer, I wrote down six specific actions for a church responsibility I felt I could complete in the next six weeks.

Over the six weeks, I saw how effectively this focused my use of time, and realized I had six things I could also do for my writers’ group. And schooling, family, other volunteer groups, work, my own writing... Soon, rather than a 6x6 plan of action, I had a 36x36 set of juggling balls, with no possibility of moving anything forward.

All these pieces are a part of my puzzle, but it is not a simple puzzle. It is a mosaic of smaller pictures coming together to form a larger design. This is not a matter of taking on pieces not mine to fit. This is a matter of needing to understand God has shaped my pieces to fit into His picture. Perhaps they belong on the other side of the table, or need another piece in place first. Sometimes I miss a piece altogether.

I often feel this way about my walk with God; something is not quite right... something is missing. The frame is strong, secure in the saving grace of Christ. Family and friends encourage me to seek God’s view of circumstances, and we have a lot of fun on the journey. Pieces of my daily walk, like reading Scripture, prayer, worship, giving, and gathering with other believers, all connect me with God and the eternal family. The Spirit has healed what I considered broken pieces of my life and shown me how Christ has redeemed each one to fit perfectly into the larger image of God’s grace.

Still, each January I take my life and the coming year to God, because I can see something is still missing. I ask for a plan of action. God has given me a characteristic of Christ, a fruit of the Spirit, or direction on how to live in community as an imperfect child of the King. I learn about character and disciplines I require to develop in God’s desire for me to grow more Christ-like as part of His bride. Thankfully, Christ still covers me with His blood and allows me to continue growing whether through failure or success. In fact, God guarantees a lifetime of growth.

This year, like the puzzle, I hear God telling me not to worry about the missing piece. Even though I have certainly not arrived at holiness and there are still many pieces to connect, God is at work. I can trust that in His time and His way, the puzzle will come together.

This is no time of rest, though. Rather, God challenges me to become comfortable with who I am - the person He created and is growing me to be. Not what circumstances have formed me to be, not what others expect me to be, and certainly not what I think I should be. The challenge is to accept, love, and act like the person God sees when He looks at me through the blood of Christ.

In writing, we may call this finding my voice. So, as I pick up this piece or that, as I turn them around or try writing them in various genres to see if they fit in this corner or on that side, as I trade pieces with others on the journey, I will consider God’s big picture, but will not worry about how much table is showing through.

The scattered pieces will come together more effectively as I live, write, and work in the areas God has prepared for me, in the way God has created me to fit. When faced with choices this year, my question will not be, what would Jesus do? My question this year is, what would Jesus have Marnie do?

January 25, 2016

One Day at a Time By Vickie Stam

1 Corinthians 13:4
          "Love is patient, love is kind."

I recently returned from a trip to Florida, a place my husband and I will be visiting much more often over the winter. You see, we retired from raising pigs this past November and our goal is to spend more time in Florida, away from the ice and snow.

We haven't given up the farm. Cropping will keep us busy during the spring and fall from now on. Farming is in my husband's blood. Still, we have commitments this winter in Ontario so we have decided to make the trek back and forth via car instead of our usual mode of transportation by plane. We used to visit Florida for only a week at a time, counting on family to look after things on the farm while we were away. Our lives have changed quite a bit since then. We now have the freedom to stay longer than a week. It's wonderful!

But with these changes I have to admit my writing has sort of made a detour. I can't say that I had any particular goals in mind for this year until a very good friend who I will call, "B" suggested that I write about this new "style" of living.  

While in Florida, I took some time out to settle down in front of my computer and pluck out an e-mail to "B" and let her know that our new found freedom had at times left us infringing on each others space and how after one week we seemed to be tripping over one another in the house. Some more changes need to happen. We need to find things to do now that our focus has shifted. 

Even though we had worked together on the farm for a number of years, being in the house together felt quite different. It was not at all like being in our place of work. There were no deadlines to meet, no pigs to feed, sort and weigh and nothing to ship to market. There were no rooms to pressure wash, no barn clothes to wash and fold. And to my relief....no more early mornings. So what do we do now? That was the burning question. 

In all of this, I never once told myself that I would have more time to write. My mind was quite full just trying to figure out what our time together might look like and then my friend, "B" suggested I write. "Journal!" She said. But even that was the farthest thing from my mind.   

"Write everything down that you shared with me in your e-mail. The things that made you laugh and the things that didn't. Don't leave anything out. It will prove rather interesting for you a few years down the road. " She said.

She's right. Writing them down sounded like a great idea. A start to a new beginning. And I'm sure in a few years when I do look back and read about some of our challenging moments, I will laugh all over again. It might even provide me with a some helpful tips to offer someone else who is facing those same hurdles with their own new freedom.  

We know that God has a plan for those days when we're not quite sure what to do with ourselves and I'm certain he played a part in this little nudge from my good friend who encouraged me to write about our new life style; the one we've decided to take one day at a time.  


January 24, 2016

Quotes to Motivate Me - Tandy Balson

I read a quote from Jack Canfield that sums up my writing goals for this year.  He said, “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

Failure is a scary prospect for me.  I need to remind myself that everything that has the risk of failure also carries the possibility of success.

That being said, my goal for this year is to write and submit articles for publication.  I haven’t been able to say that out loud.  Does putting it in print count?  My first step is to believe in myself.  Here’s another quote that speaks to this point. “Self confidence is the most attractive quality a person can have; how can anyone see how awesome you are if you can’t see it yourself?” – Unknown

To expand my sphere of influence I’d like to have more publishing credits.  This won’t happen unless I write something of quality and submit it to the proper publications.  Finding the right fit for my words can be a daunting task.  Am I up to it?  This quote should help me, “When you say “It’s hard”, it actually means “I’m not strong enough to fight for it”. Stop saying it’s hard. Think positive!” – Unknown

In order to be a better writer I need to attend conferences and workshops.  There are online trainings that I’ve started but never completed.  I told myself working on them took time away from writing.  Looking back, maybe I didn’t believe in myself enough to keep going. This quote should help motivate me to move forward, “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. Vince Lombardi

As motivating as these quotes may be, I know a better place to look for the strength and confidence I need. That is why I rely on the promise found in 2 Corinthians 12:9;   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. 

I believe that God has called me to write. In order to do this I’m relying on his promise found in Psalm 32:8; The Lord says, “I will instruct you.  I will teach you the way that you should go.  I will advise you as my eyes watch over you.”  

No matter where my writing journey may take me this year, I trust that God’s plan is better than any I may have.  I have decided not to limit him with my expectations.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3