May 31, 2016

My Corner of the Vineyard - Janet Sketchley

God has led me into a two-pronged writing approach: fiction and non-fiction. 

For eight years now, I’ve been posting devotionals every Wednesday on my blog. There are weeks God doesn’t nudge me about what to write until I’m close to my deadline, but I’ve learned that this is His ministry and that He will supply what’s needed. The only time I’ve repeated a post was one of those times when I really needed to hear that message again, myself.

There’s the truth of the matter: what He gives me is what I need to receive. The act of listening so I’ll have something to share keeps me open to hear. The message may be for me, but often it will resonate with someone else as well. Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone who’s been touched by a post or who has forwarded it to bless a friend. You sort of expect that, or at least hope for it, in writing devotionals. 

God has also given me fiction, which is my true writing love. I think there’s a lot more life-changing Christian non-fiction than there is fiction, but different things in a novel or short story can touch individual readers. As writers, we never know what’s going to speak into a person’s particular situation. 

I often pray my fiction will be useful to the Lord, and every so often I’ll hear how He’s used it. One book took a reader back to past pain, but she said God brought her more healing that she hadn’t known she’d needed. Another reader, who struggled with fear, confided, “I prayed the prayer with Carol” (where the character was working through her own fears).

Moments like these humble me and challenge me to do my very best work. They motivate me to pray over the development and writing of each novel, and to pray for the readers when it’s finished, for how God may use some portion of it to make a difference.

Fiction and non-fiction, my target readers are Christians. Some writers focus on reaching those who still need to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but my heart has always led toward writing for the building up of believers. I’d be thrilled if my words helped a soul find salvation, but I’m just as thrilled when God uses something I’ve written to encourage or grow a soul that’s already in His Kingdom.

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Janet Sketchley is the author of the Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense series. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. You can find Janet’s devotionals, reviews, and fiction online at Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter:

May 30, 2016

Writing to Bless Others by Susan Barclay

This month’s prompt asks what outreach or ministry opportunities has God given us through our writing. How have our words provided nourishment, encouragement or redemption to someone else?

For several years I facilitated my church’s Creative Writing Team. Along with a few others gifted in writing, we produced a ‘Family Faith Book’ which parents could use with their children. Each week we would offer a key verse, a character builder, and activities to do with preschoolers as well as together as a family. We provided a page for children where they could do colouring, work through a maze, answer some riddles, do some puzzles or word searches. While we didn’t get much feedback for our efforts apart from the encouragement of the children’s minister and volunteer coordinator, I like to think that our words promoted the spiritual growth of children and their parents. Those of us who were part of the team definitely benefited from the work, experiencing our own nourishment as we studied God’s Word and created our weekly take-home pages. Only God knows how His Word met the hearts and needs of others in our church community.

These days Inscribe and my personal blog are the launching pads for writing that I hope encourages and nourishes readers. I appreciate the positive comments I receive when my words touch someone. Sometimes I don’t think much of these words myself – “I could have done better” – but God uses what I say to bless someone else and enables me to hear about it. That is such a wonderful feeling and awareness, to know that what I may think is weak carries God’s power, His hope and His grace. It humbles me and urges me forward.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. Ephesians 3:20, TLB

May 29, 2016

Sowing Seeds For Eternity Bob Jones

Every year in the spring I go to Canadian Tire and purchase perfectly good grass seed. Then I throw the seed away. Not wastefully, but hopefully. I throw it away in my yard with the hope that the seed will “take” and new grass will grow. Agricultural engineers call this process “seeding or “sowing”. I call it “more grass to mow”. Every summer I watch expectantly for evidence that my efforts were successful.

Words are a lot like seeds. Writing is a lot like sowing. Its simply thrilling when writers observe evidence that their words have resulted in encouragement, nourishment or even redemption in those who read their works. The response may come in the form of a blog or Facebook comment, a book review or an old fashioned letter.

I’ve written blogs about depression, mental illness and suicide. Its personal for me – my young cousin took her life after a heartbreaking divorce brought on a deep depression.
The church can feel like an unsafe place for people with mental illness and I’ve taken it on myself to communicate grace-filled acceptance, understanding, support and hope.

The responses have told me I’m on the right track:

“I love this! After taking four years away from church, I finally realized that I needed to start again and found North Pointe. It was through talking to the psychologist I see that I realized this, and seeing this after only two weeks of being back was perfect timing! Knowing that I’m now attending a church who gets that depression isn’t something wrong with someone and their relationship with God is an amazing feeling! Thank you for this post!”

“I’m so thankful that you address this openly. I’m so thankful our church isn’t living in the dark about the reality of depression. Love “… physical illness with spiritual symptoms” so true. Having suffered with depression myself it’s uplifting to not feel shamed by it.”

“May I commend you for such an excellent article on a subject that many in the Body of Christ put a “Christian” facade over. The article provides a thorough understanding of what so many need to know.  As someone who had severe depression for decades (even 17 years as a born again Christian), it’s good to see God lifting the stigma of depression. I, like so many, did not meet one Christian who understood what I was going through.
Fortunately, today (18 years later) God has provided Victory Over Depression – primarily through seeing CHRIST IN ME. I see myself the way God does. My new life is Jesus in me and I choose to focus daily Jesus living in me (Galatians 2:20.)
Life is now such a fantastic joy to grow in this relationship. It is Jesus in me living His life through me.”

My first published book was “Ornament” – the story of a young singer/songwriter and of three boys, facing inoperable cancer and the faith, hope and joy she exuded for the world to see. 

Readers commented:

“This book really touched me. It reminds us to put life into perspective and be grateful for every moment. The strength and grace of Kristen Fersovitch is truly an inspiration. I will treasure this book and pull it out every time I need a reminder of how one person can make a real difference.”

“The story of Kristen and her family is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. Kristen's unwavering faith and joy inspired thousands of people as she battled cancer and lived her life to the fullest. Kristen is a superstar, warrior, and hero. She shows us that God uses all circumstances, good or bad for His glory. Do yourself a big favor and get this amazing book.”

One of my family members gave a copy of “Ornament” to an avowed agnostic. She had been a person of faith until her mother died a sudden and tragic death. I was visiting in her area and when she was told she could meet the author of the book she jumped at the opportunity. She had me autograph her copy and in our conversation about the book I directed her to page six - a prayer of faith. She prayed the prayer.

Marcia Laycock, Inscribe writer says, “As writers of faith we are planting a vineyard with our words…a vineyard that will reach into eternity.” 

You can only reap what you sow. I encourage you to sow your seeds. Your harvest may simply be an earthly “thank you” in the form of feedback or it may be a heavenly “thank you” from one who was redeemed because of your words.

May 28, 2016

What Profit will a Prophet Receive? - Bruce Atchison

 I must admit that this month's writing prompt makes me feel embarrassed. I can't think of ANY meaningful way in which I've ministered to the body of Christ. No flood of testimonials have ever piled up in my e-mail IN box about how my How I Was Razed memoir or blogging revolutionized somebody's life. Neither have I received an abundance of article publication offers from Christian magazines.

There are days when it seems like I'm just filling in time rather than accomplishing something for the Lord. I feel guilty for being ineffective and I'm ashamed of my failures.

Even so, I take comfort in Old Testament prophets who weren't heeded. They didn't fail because nobody listened to them. God even told them they wouldn't be taken seriously. Zechariah 1:4 (KJV) says, "Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, 'Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings:' but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD."

I also take comfort in the fact that God will reward us for good works which we didn't even know we did. Matthew 25:37 (KJV) reads, "Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, 'Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?'" This shows that we have no idea of the ultimate end of what we've done to and for the Lord.

In those frequent moments of discouragement, I remind myself that what I do now can be greatly used by God for his glory, even if it seems like a futile effort now. My hope and prayers are that my latest book and my blog will be edifying and a great comfort to my fellow believers in the long run.

May 27, 2016

Inscribe is so much more!

We have set aside the 27th of each month as a promotional day on the blog. It seemed like a great time to recap some of the many advantages of becoming an Inscribe member.

Did you know that Inscribe supports affiliate writing groups all across Canada? It's true. If you're looking for a writing group in your area or if you want to start one, all you need to do is check out the information on writing groups on our website. We'll send you a start up package full of ideas and information to get you started - or to inspire an already existing group.

Did you know that there are more than 200 members in our organization from across this great country and that you can connect with any of them via the 'listserv' (that group email thingy) or in our facebook group? Join the conversation!

If you're reading this blog, you already know that we offer encouragement and insight about writing and faith on this blog and that you can become a contributor. It's a great way to practice writing on a scheduled basis and get to know one another. But did you know that we also have a professional blog on writing on our website as well? That's two opportunities to read, learn and grow - and even contribute as an author.

Speaking of ways to contribute and gain writing experience, our quarterly magazine Fellowscript is an awesome way to gain some writing creds. Check out the submission guidelines in the front of the magazine or go online to our website. I look forward to getting my magazine each time it comes out and I always read it cover to cover.

Inscribe also offers several contests with cash prizes and a really cool writing opportunity called 'Word Challenges' moderated by Glynis Belec. Watch for her emails on the listserv if you like writing to a theme and also like having some fun!

I haven't even mentioned the series of wonderful 'WorDshops' held this spring around the country and what about our fall conference? This year it's going to be a full two day event with speakers and writers Rik and Linda Hall as well as tons of other exciting and informative workshops. And did I mention the special V.i.P. DAY on the Thursday before? It's a chance for authors to get a leg up on building a platform.

All of these perks and more can be found on our website. (Which is under reconstruction at the moment by the way.) There are just so many benefits to this wonderful organization, and beyond the ones i listed, and perhaps most important, is the sense of friendship and comraderie that develops when you get to know people of like mind.

Here's to Inscribe! Tell your friends!

May 26, 2016

Good Medicine with Side Effects by Marnie Pohlmann

Warning: this may be too much information for some... 
I apologize for posting this so late in the day. I’m five weeks post bilateral mastectomy and do not yet have back my rhythm of life. But, better late than not!

I have not been sharing my writing for very long, so while I see God providing opportunities, for the most part the pruning and planting of this particular vineyard has yet to produce much fruit. I very much feel God is still establishing my ministry in life. I trust He will redeem my experiences and learning to build His kingdom. Yet the process of growth is valuable in itself, so let me share a metaphor for my writing in this season...

Have you ever taken a medication to treat a symptom only to have a side effect of the medication present a more disturbing symptom? This can be an endless cycle of chasing answers while not treating the root cause.

I am presently on a strong antibiotic. While it is successfully treating the infection at my surgical site, there are some uncomfortable side effects.  One side effect is diarrhea. So while I feel better and I am regaining my appetite, the nutrients are flowing right through, so I am not benefiting from the food as much as I could.

However, not all side effects are negative. Because I have this particular side effect of the medication, I am shedding retained water and possibly even some fat. In other words, I am losing weight!

Weight gain has been a side effect of another medication I have been on, so for three years I have been losing the struggle to maintain a healthy body weight. Now, having shed some pounds through surgery and side-effects, perhaps I can regain the energy to exercise before the weight settles in again. One thing leads to another and a new cycle begins, with new life patterns.

I think my writing is like medication. Writing helps me redeem pain, and nourishes my soul. But writing has side effects.

One of the side effects from writing can be negative self-talk. “I only won that contest because not many entered.” “Their encouraging comments are just because they are being kind to the new kid.” These kinds of thoughts cause the nutrients of feedback to flow right past. We easily accept the negative, yet quickly discount the positive. This false humility can be identified by taking the comments to God and asking for His view. Listening to feedback can be helpful only when we truthfully accept both the positive and negative.

Another possible side effect of writing is that eventually the words are shared. One never knows where the writing may end up. This opens one to the possibility of criticism, not only of your words, but of yourself. Putting yourself out there is scary, yet is the only way to share healing with others. Talk about the pain. Share the experiences. Encourage one another. God asks us not to heal and minister in isolation, but in community.

Some side effects from writing may not be negative. Perhaps, as the writing nourished my own soul while I wrote, it will also nourish others as they read. Maybe someone will be encouraged and able to deal with or shed their pain because I laid my own pain bare.

As I continue on with writing for my own healing, I will trust the side effects of my writing diarrhea will be positive, not negative, and will be used by God to build His kingdom in some way. As I learn the craft, share the words, and strive to glorify God, perhaps new exercise routines will be established to bring greater health to myself and to others.

Writing is good medicine that can help heal all ailments.

Marnie writes from Northern BC. Check out her blog, Phosphorescent.

May 25, 2016

Encouraging Others By Vickie Stam

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother  -- which is the first commandment with a promise -- that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." 
                                       Ephesians 6:1-2

Just about two years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to write something on the topic of "relationships" and then read it in front of a group of about forty women. I was thrilled, honored really. No one had ever asked me to write something for such an event and then share it. I thought this would be an easy task given the fact that I knew these women. They were none other than my church family; women I was surely comfortable with.

But the more I thought about this topic, the more I wondered what I would say. I am divorced and remarried and so I asked myself if this is what I should talk about. But --- would everyone be accepting of this even though they already knew this about me? Hmm, suddenly I felt a little nervous. But, knowing that it's never been a secret, I pressed on. I sat down in front of my computer and plucked at the keys. But, only a few paragraphs in I couldn't help but think about the many turning points in my life from childhood to adulthood and something struck a cord with me. I decided to write about depression and the affects it has on everyone, not only the person who is suffering from it but also those around them. This is an illness that takes its toll on relationships.

This would surely expose a secret my family lived with all the while I was growing up. It was something we were forbidden to talk about. As a child, I knew something was wrong in our home but I didn't really understand what it was.

My mother's illness was something most people didn't already know about. Writing about it helped release those feelings that were tucked inside my heart. Standing in front of those women that day was not as easy as I thought it would be. I was putting myself out there. I was careful when I was writing. I made sure the words reflected my situation and not that of others. Everything I shared was from my own experience. This was my journey. Even so, I wondered if there would be anyone in the room who had gone through a similar situation. I prayed that my words might encourage someone else. Let them know they are not alone.

All eyes were on me when I stepped up to the microphone. I held tight to my papers and read slowly and clearly, making sure my eyes did not drift from the page. Making eye contact with my friends would certainly open the flood gate. If the tears started, I'm not sure I could have stopped them. I began by describing my family in a single narrative, "dysfunctional."

Here is an excerpt from the story I read:

"It seemed so complicated. Yet when I sit down at night to watch television I'm reminded of what made it that way. Commercials illustrate its devastating affects. Brilliant actors portray characters feeling empty, sad and hopeless. Even comedians earn a living by making people laugh about something that has the potential to break a person."

"The year was 1963. I've been told my mother changed that year. She was no longer her ordinary self. Despite being married with two children and a loving husband, the news she received was too overwhelming. I can only imagine the expression on her face that screamed, this can't be happening."

"Inside her womb God was forming my fingers and toes and a beating heart. He chose to bring me into this world even if my mother wasn't prepared. Every tear that fell, I never felt a thing. Sadly, she began to withdraw to a dark place; somewhere my father couldn't go."

A few pages later I was finished. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. God had certainly used me to open the door for others to share some of their own experiences around depression. I was not alone.

My mother's depression left its mark on my family; a mark that we will never forget. During my adult years I learned that depression affects everyone differently. I learned that it wasn't her fault. It's an illness; something with no simple cure.   

Since her passing in 2009, my sisters and I have talked at great length about the mark we carry; the one that seems to never leave us. Still, we harbor no bitterness -- only love. I know that God walked with my family through those dark times and today I miss her more than words could ever express. I loved her back then and I love her still. 

May 24, 2016

An Unexpected Opportunity to Serve by Tandy Balson

The devastation caused by the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta is heartbreaking.  Lacking the resources to send a monetary donation, I wondered what I could do.  Was there was a way my writing could be used to support this cause?

When I prayed about this an answer came quickly.  God impressed upon me that I should donate five dollars from the sale of each of my books to the relief fund.  I thought perhaps I’d misunderstood and tried negotiating the amount. He made it clear to me that nothing else was acceptable.

A few days prior to this I’d sent out a press release to our local papers to let them know my book, Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake was a finalist in The Word Awards.  A call for an interview came shortly after I promised God I’d donate the amount he requested.  I told the reporter that for the next month I would be donating funds from the sale of my book to Fort McMurray relief efforts.  Now it was official.

My book is available at a local gift store and I called the owner to let her know of my plan.  She offered to match my donation for any books sold in her store.  Now the contribution to the relief fund would be ten dollars from each book sale. God was already multiplying my gift.

An hour later I checked my email to find an inquiry from a local women’s group.  They hoped to schedule me for later this month to speak about my writing journey. The coordinator and I had met once, more than two years ago, and my business card had just reappeared on her desk. I don’t believe in coincidence so knew God was behind this.  

I asked if I could bring books to sell and told her of my plan to donate to Fort McMurray relief. She not only encouraged this but offered to donate partial proceeds from the ticket sales to the same cause. Like the loaves and fishes, my little gift was to multiply even more.

Within hours of my prayer, God had set his plan in motion.  All it required from me was obedience.  I don’t know what the results will be, but he does. I am blessed to know my book has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives those who may never read a word I write.

May 23, 2016

Connected and Inspired by Lynn J Simpson

“Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops at all.” 

Almost 7 years ago now I was involved in a women's business development group.  One of our exercises was to create a personal mission statement.  The first step was to remember our favourite activity as a child and write a paragraph on how we felt when we were in that space, as little girls.  The second step was meditating on what made us feel complete as a woman and write how we felt when we we completed that activity. The third step was to fill in the following statement with words that showed up most in the writings completed during the exercise.

I, Lynn, create ____________ through _________.

Mine became I, Lynn, create connections through stories
Neat huh? 
That is how, about 2 years later, I decided my blog URL would be Connecting Stories. 

Creating connections is important to me but, being somewhat on the introverted, shy side, I'm not always sure on how to create community. Being a single parent for many years, I do have a soft spot for woman who are struggling to make ends meet and who want to create a better life for themselves. But how do I help them? 

I believe with all my heart stories connect us. A story can make one feel less alone, more connected with one's world.  This is the reason I write.  This is the reason I blog. I know they are steps to a bigger vision to create connections in my community and then extend to all communities. The vision is still unclear to me. For now, I can just keep doing, and hope, and pray especially during my darkest days when I wonder 'what is the point?'

In March 2014 at a personal development course I was led to develop a purpose statement. This statement would be something you are already doing in life and may not even be aware, the facilitators told me. After much hard, heart work my statement became Inspiring Hope, which is now the title of my new website and other social media platforms. 

Creating connections.

Inspiring hope.

That is why I write. And as I glance through the comments I have received from blog posts at both places over the last five years, I see how others have connected and been inspired. 

And I feel my soul sing with gratitude, connected and inspired. 

Lynn blogs at Inspiring Hope

May 22, 2016

Writing: A Humbling Gift by Alan Anderson

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

My apologies dear friends as to the brevity of this post.  Life is complex right now!  I really need to work on including pictures on my posts as well.

I have more than respect for those who devote their lives and time to writing.  I love them!  Appreciation does not quite describe how I feel about those who read my blog posts here and elsewhere.  I love my readers!  This post is dedicated to those who love the life of words.

Readers of regular posts I offer on a Facebook group constantly encourage me to continue my writing.  A couple of years ago this point was brought home to me in an amazing and surprising way.  One reader replied to my posts by saying my writing had given her the energy and encouragement “to go on”.  She had suffered the death of a grandchild during the previous year and her grief had almost crushed her.  Another reader wrote my posts had given her the strength to face another day.

People like these readers caution me that I cannot take the gift of writing for granted.  As writers we can actually impact the lives of our readers.  That fact is humbling!  Humbleness is a mark of a Christian writer.  True humbleness is not found within ourselves.  It is God's work in us!

Like our tongues our writing has the potential to bless or curse people.  Some things I have read on the internet or social media indeed may be a blessing to readers.  On the other hand, when we consider such unhealthy practices as “cyber bullying” or gossip, we see the power of writing to curse or permanently damage the lives of readers.

Groups like our beloved InScribe inspire those who love words to share them with the world.  We may not be worldly rich or a household name.  We however can make the world a better place to be.  We can send out our words as missionaries to impact the lives of other people with the Spirit that has changed us.  Our words can be a gift to our world of readers!


May 21, 2016

Fill Me … Spill Me … by Jocelyn Faire

Would it be possible for us to meet for lunch?” Her voice quavered as she fought back tears. She had come to the book reception because she knew the other author, but she came to speak to me.
Yes,” I said, recognizing the desperation.
We met that week, and have met regularly since then. When I spoke of feeling as though I was living outside of my body in the journey of grief, she felt a connection. She was walking a living grief. Her son had been diagnosed at age nine with a severe mental illness, the youngest in the province. The changes began when he was only eight. Initially, when she took him to the doctor, the doctor asked her what she thought; she feared he had brain cancer or a mental illness. She expressed that brain cancer might have been the better diagnosis. Now she felt as though she was viewing her life from outside of herself, it was the only way she coped. My words were a lifeline tossed.

The gifts of grief ... can there be such a thing as gifts of grief?
When the time's ripe, I answer you. When victory's due, I help you. I form you and use you to reconnect the people to me. Isaiah 49:8 The Message
I have had opportunities that would never have been possible in my previous life. My prayer has been that God bring the people into my life that I should cross paths with. And He has continuously answered that. After publishing my book, grieving individuals have spoken to me and thanked me for writing so openly about the grief experience.
In July 2013, I received a message via my author Facebook account:
Hi Jocelyn,
My name is Judy H and I live in Adelaide, South Australia. I just read a post on Facebook put on by Fresh Start about your book. I went to the site about your book and the circumstances of our lives are so similar that I felt I needed to write to you. I will try to get a copy of your book (I read the bits that were on the site).

I work for Fresh Start in Adelaide as Outcare Worker (SA). This in itself is ironic. I am a Christian. In April 2007 my son Josh and his wife Raya were killed in a car accident on Highway 17 (I think it was) near Dreyden (not sure how to spell it) Ontario. Raya was Canadian and Josh Australian. They had been living in Calgary and were moving to Quebec, but died half way across. All their furniture was in a truck in Toronto. We flew to Calgary to attend their funerals and to bring back Josh's possessions.

I really identify with some of your journey that I have read so far. My most helpful books were "A Grace Disguised" by Jerry Sitser and "When God doesn't make sense" by James Dobson.

The similarities that we have propel me to write this message to you. Just wondering if you would be interested in corresponding over facebook at all.
Meanwhile, I will try to get your book.
Sincerely ...
Judy H ...
This letter started an international friendship ... we have met both in Canada and in Australia. God has opened many doors along the grief journey for many chance encounters, ones that would not have been possible in my former life.

I would appreciate your prayers for June 3, and 4. I have been asked to run a grief workshop. I have been given free reign over the topics and the format. This is an incredible opportunity, and I have prayed for the right words to be spoken through me.
Last year for my birthday, a very dear friend gave me the painting seen at the top of the blog. The simple painting has a powerful message. We are vessels, to be filled and then spilled out into the opportunities given us.
Fill me, Spill me ...

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head – Grief as an out of Body Experience

She blogs about Hope in the hard places at: