August 21, 2019

Living With and Rejoicing in Hope .... Jocelyn Faire

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 
These three beautiful phrases provide a safe nest for a hurting heart. This verse invites rather than commands, as though Paul is letting us know in the kindest way that God is for us. This is His wise encouragement on how best to get through the tough times. 
How can I even begin to express to people what Hope has done for me? Three years ago, I led a grief seminar where a woman said to me, “You use the word hope a lot, what do you mean by it?”This was an open seminar and even though the host was Christian she advised me that most of the attendees were not. Each of the group members had significant recent loss. I was thrown off a bit with the question and recognized that hope is a term we believers toss around thinking others have a similar definition for it. I explained that for me hope had a spiritual component to it, hope was what allowed me to believe that there was still an expectation of having something to look forward to. And for myself, I knew that who or what we put our hope in is what really matters. Hope in God gives me confidence that whatever I go through, I will not go through it alone. That is worth rejoicing over. That is what gives me an inner smile; because I do not grieve as those who have no hope. Life is very tough when you have lost hope. Hope grows in the shadows, and shadows are dispensed by the son-light. 
Hope is a gift to be shared. Recently on a return visit to Alberta and the condo I lived in for five years, I met Elysse. We had lived in the same building for five years. I knew her as the owner of the trendy consignment store I loved to shop. She knew me as a client and a friendly neighbour. I said hello to her as she sat in the lobby waiting for someone at the door. She made some reference to not having seen me ... a bit more chit chat followed ... then she said: “since my daughter died” ... at which point I stood up and asked “Can I give you a hug? I know what it is like to lose a daughter.” Conversation and support followed. She asked questions of me, I spoke from the heart, I held her hand, I told her I knew how hard it was ... she spilled out more and more. Several people walked by us in the lobby, some in curious stare, others ignoring us. I sat close to her, frequently rubbed her shoulder. This was a holy moment, God and I knew it. My heart breaks when I hear a mother open up with her loss of a young adult child/any age child, and I want that mother to know that she is not alone in this struggle. She has others who have gone through this. The outcome is not mine to know, she just needs the message of love, encouragement and caring support for her hurting heart. 
Patience in tribulation. Tribulation means different things, but it always is a painful and difficult time. Chaim Potok says: One learns of the pain of others by suffering one's own pain, my father would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one's own soul. And it is important to know of pain. I cannot claim to have patience in tribulation, I just know that the pain of grief is like a shadow that hangs around even on a sunny day.
Although I know I will never feel as if I am constant enough in prayer, I do believe that prayer is the key we have been given to unlock heaven's door for inner sanity and peace. 
With the help of the spirit, these three phrases invite me to experience the strength to live with hope in the everyday ordinary aspects of a life filled with reasons to rejoice. May my words, written or spoken reflect this. 

August 20, 2019

Regardless of My Efforts – Denise M. Ford

As a Christian writer, I recover words to present them in an inspiring way. However, digging to unearth the words during these past two years of post-concussion recovery has been strenuous regardless of my efforts.

I keep focusing on God, searching for words to write through His guidance.  Still recovering words for others, finding it humbling to face a difficult concussion recovery.

“I assure you, your brain’s capacity to think and function still remains.  But you will experience fatigue more quickly as your processing ability requires more energy and focus,” my counselor says.

Those words meant to reassure me that I am not crazy, but that I am going to operate differently regardless of my efforts.

Months later, I drove farther distances as my double vision disappeared due to vision therapy exercises.  My physical confidence increased as I regained a firmer, more steady balance. I could dance with the grandkids in the kitchen and run after them on the playground.  I had achieved a great physical recovery, but my mental processing had not changed.

Currently, my thoughts and ideas still surface when I resume my writing, but I am limited by how long I can endure thinking. I make plans to write and then I realize I need to rearrange my schedule to accommodate how my brain is functioning, or rather fatiguing.

At the end of July, I decided to attend a three-day writer’s conference through on-line streaming. The content would be available for several months, so I didn’t feel pressured by time constraints.  However, I wanted to try to attend in real time to prove to myself that I could concentrate through consecutive sessions.

At first, I felt defeated and overwhelmed.  My husband pointed out that I had managed to listen and watch two complete sessions before I felt tired and overdone.  “You took notes as you were taking in information, that’s amazing!”

I thought back to when I had attended this conference in person several years ago, interacting in crowded rooms, enjoying conversations between sessions, attending the exciting worship time, meeting fellow writers for lively and inspiring lunches and dinners.  I cringed as I thought about enduring that over a few days.  I knew that livestreaming those first sessions had been a gift for me.  

Fix your eyes on God and smile, I reminded myself.

My brain may be completely intact, but my processing ability simply drags slowly behind me when I want it to perform.  I want to enjoy intense conversations again with fellow writers, I want to grapple with words and recover them in unique ways to inspire others.  I want to follow through with a writing plan and not be sidelined by brain fatigue.

I am not crazy, but I still need to accept that I am going to operate differently regardless of my efforts.

Regardless of my efforts.
Life in tandem with God.
Regardless of my efforts He offers grace and mercy.
Regardless of my efforts He reveals what I cannot see or hardly even envision.
Regardless of my efforts He reassures me and clears the mists of fatigue.
Regardless of my efforts I can rejoice in the sporadic blessings of my writing endeavours.

Progressing through this post-concussion recovery could overtake every moment of my day, as I try to be better than the brain blur that descends into the corners of my mind’s clarity. It creeps and covers my thoughts, my ideas, my words.  Unseen and unsubstantiated by anyone, it causes unexpected and annoying hindrances. Fixing my eyes on God and recovering words that He provides often requires too much of me.  Oh, dear God, please return the smile to my face!

Recently I heard a woman speaking about her particular post-concussion journey.  “How would you describe your current situation?” asked the interviewer.  “I am not 100% who I was, but I am 100% who I need to be.”

The other week I am blessed with a day when I am pushing my grandchildren on the swings in our backyard. I begin reciting a favorite children’s poem adding on funny verses meant for the three of us.  “Oh, Nana you’re so silly,” my granddaughter shouts to the sky as she pumps her legs into the air, chiming in with her ideas.  My grandson kicks his feet to emphasize the gurgling giggles erupting from his delight. 

This, this is all I need.  Still pulling out words to be a crazy and joyful Nana!  Hallelujah!

Regardless of my efforts, I still see my God even when I am down in the dumps. I am smiling as I watch how He wipes out my brain blur and, in these moments, I am 100% who I need to be!

August 18, 2019

Like A River - Gloria Guest

Writing has often not been easy for me. I’ve felt blocked and held back more often than not but not wanting to completely dry up like a dry old river bed, I carry on in small ways. The topic for this months blog got me thinking more about what writing actually means to me in spite of the obstacles though. It reminded me of a blog I’d actually written about motherhood a few years back and got the idea of comparing it to a river. I thought, what better way to help my words to flow and break free than to write about a river….in comparison to something near and dear to my heart, something that has definitely challenged me but brought me much more joy than I could have ever imagined; changing me even while allowing me to discover myself….But for this blog I decided to adapt it to being a writer with its many changes and challenges as many of the same feelings fit. How amazing and revealing is that?? My writing is like a life force deep within me that teams with creativity and promise. flowing forward with expectant hope. 

Like a River

Writing can been compared to many things, such as a budding flower or a mountain to climb, but for myself, thinking back over my over my writing years, I see my experience as being more like a river.

My middle name of Lynn, means cascade or waterfall so perhaps that is why I have always felt an affinity to water, rivers and water falls. But I’m sure it’s also due to the fact that I spent my formative years in Fergus, Ontario where the beautiful Grand River runs through the town first named Little Falls because of its scenic water falls downtown. [1] From there it travels through the quaint town of Elora where I spent my Junior High School years and spills into the Elora Gorge with its 22 metre high cliffs and where many a school truant spent their afternoons diving from the high rocks and swimming in the gorge’s deep blue waters.

My high school years were then spent in Athabasca, Alberta  where the fast-moving Athabasca River originating from the Columbia Glacier rushes through the town. Flowing along ice fields and through gorges, its banks home to many wildlife habitat [2], one can almost envision the fur traders that once traveled by canoe up and down its dangerous current.

To me, rivers are life-giving, steadfast, fascinating in their ebb and flow and determination to move forward no matter the obstacles in its path. Ever changing, the river flows from a source often larger than itself ; sometimes rushing, diverging and then converging again; other times cascading gently over small rocks and through gully’s to eventually turn off into a babbling brook running through the woods or even become the tiniest of rivulets breaking through a crevice. But always, whether it’s a mighty force or a small stream it flows onwards towards a definite course; winding gently around obstacles or grinding them down with its powerful current; the river simply never stops until it reaches its destination; a channel, lake or sea.

As a writer, I too have garnered my determination and adaptability from a source larger than myself, with God being my greatest source and the underlying current that has kept me moving steadily forward. However there have been other sources given to me by God to help me along the way; diverging streams that have joined eventually with my own, adding their energy and life-giving strength to my own, teaching me, guiding me with a wisdom that can only come from their own experience of being authors and writers. 

I think of my high school English teacher who determinedly dogged me in the hallways until I entered a writing contest which I eventually won. That one experience was the seed that stuck with me and eventually compelled me to further my interest in writing.

My opportunity to be a news reporter seemed to come out of the blue (twice) and fulfilled a wish that I had had years earlier to have that experience. It was also life-changing and very confidence building as I had so much exposure to many people from all walks of life. It also gave me a glimpse into the editing world and the understanding of making each word count.
A recent source of encouragement came from Canadian historical author Ted Barris [3] whose work shop I attended at the 2019 Festival of Words. He has many years of experience in the publishing world and so when he encouraged us over how much experience we actually do have if we’ve even been published once, it was something to take note of. I left feeling like someone who does indeed have the ability to get more of my work published.

Fergus Falls
There can be many other sources larger than ourselves that we come to rely on for a season; anyone who comes alongside us as writers and flows and bends with us through the curves of the river of life can be part of that underlying force that carries us on through those rough spots, teaching us how to persevere and either adapt and flow around a particular obstacle or grit our teeth and find a way through it. Eventually we will come out the other side, wiser, stronger, perhaps not as we had envisioned, but always moving forward, through the rocks and boulevards, steady, streaming, onwards towards our destination where we join with generations of others who love the written word, just like ourselves. From there, with God as our constant source, we can flow into other streams and rivers; joining and supporting them along their path as writers……like a river.

[1] – Fergus, Ontario

[2] http://www.grandriver – GRCA – Park – Elora Gorge

[3] Ted Barris is a Canadian writer, journalist, professor and broadcaster His non-fiction works focus on Canada's military heritage. Barris has authored 17 books. Wikipedia.
Adapted from Like A River (an essay on motherhood by Gloria Lynn Guest – May 13 2014 – Gloria writes from her community of Caron, Sk.

August 17, 2019

Keeping it Real - Lynn Dove

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  Hebrews 5:7-9

Jesus asked his friends to stand watch with Him, at the Garden of Gethsemane.  While He cried out to His Father to save Him from death, and during this heartfelt prayer He sweat droplets of blood,  His friends slept.  Jesus asked if there was some other way for God’s Plan to be realized other than the Cross.  God the Father said, “No.”  Jesus accepted that, and willingly walked to the Cross.  How precious, how magnificent!  “…He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” 

Today is my birthday!  Happy Birthday to me! 

If you have been reading my previous posts, you will know that I’m currently going through chemotherapy and have now finished the third of six treatments.  As I celebrate my birthday today, I am already gearing up for the fourth go-round in a little over a week.  It has not been an easy time of it.  I developed a blood clot in my left leg after the second round and I have battled on-going and extremely painful neuropathy in all my joints caused by the chemo since the first round.  I have cried out to God so many times before, during, and after my treatments to just miraculously heal me so I wouldn’t have to endure another round, but God has seen fit to “perfect” me.  He is using this time of struggle, to strengthen my character for His purposes, and so I persevere through this health challenge and fully trust in Him throughout the process.

One of the ways I cope with my current situation is by writing about my personal journey on my blog, Journey Thoughts and right here on IWO.  It is not only therapeutic for me to write about what I’m going through, I have found that so many of my readers are joining me on this journey either by praying for me or they too, are in the middle of great struggle and so they find encouragement in following my blog posts. 

I hadn’t originally thought I would write so openly about my battle with cancer, but I felt a real prompting of the Holy Spirit to not only write about it but “keep it real”.  Readers want authenticity.  I write about the many aspects of this journey with a life-threatening disease.  There have been many days, especially the weekends following a treatment, where I am at my lowest, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  It’s hard to put on a brave front.  I weep, I gnash my teeth, and I pray for the pain to stop.  My poor husband takes the brunt of those outbursts during those very dark days, and he is the one who ministers to me practically as well as keeps me focused on the One Who loves me even when I wonder if that’s true.  Yes, in that chemo fog, I question why God would allow this to happen to me.  I forget He is Good, and Perfect, and Sovereign.  On those miserable days, I only feel pain and I feel sorry for myself.  Thankfully, I have some incredible prayer warriors who petition on my behalf, and when I struggle to pray, they take up the prayer gauntlet for me. 

When I write about my “down” days, some well-meaning readers and friends have responded, “That’s perfectly understandable.  You’re entitled to feel miserable.” 

Am I?

Doesn’t that speak of lack of faith?  Does it say that I don’t trust God?  Absolutely not!  David, Jeremiah, Job, and other great men and women of the Bible cried out to God when they found themselves in circumstances beyond their control.  That’s what I am facing right now, something totally out of my control, and something I know I won’t get through without Him.  I KNOW God is bigger than my circumstances.  He can take my cries of despair, along with my praises, and I KNOW He works all things out for good.  Our IWO verse to ponder this month, Romans 12:12, I have always found to be so challenging and powerful, but even more so during my current time of “affliction”. 

I appreciate all your prayers, IWO writers and readers, as I face three more rounds of chemo in the months ahead.  I will keep writing, and pray that I will continue in keeping it real!

Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at   

August 16, 2019

Are You Frenzied or Focused? by Nina Faye Morey

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12, ESV)

Often when I sit down to write, my mind is swirling with so many “to do’s” that I find it hard to maintain my focus. I have a general idea of the topic I want to write about, but I can’t get a handle on the central message I want to convey. Or I may think I’m writing about one thing, but wind up going down so many rabbit trails that pretty soon I’m totally lost. In either case, I find it hard to focus on what’s important.

On these occasions, the story of Mary and Martha comes to mind (Luke 10:38-42). Martha had invited Jesus into their home, but she had no time to focus on His message because she was too distracted by all the work that needed to be done. She soon becomes angry that she’s been left alone to prepare their meal. Was it right that Mary should be so entranced by Jesus’s every word that she left Martha all alone to slave away in the kitchen? Was it fair that the Lord didn’t seem at all concerned that Martha’s sister had deserted her when she most needed her help with serving?

This perceived injustice so emboldened Martha that she confronted Jesus and accused Him of not caring enough about her or her dilemma. She even went so far as to demand that He order Mary to help her. But which sister’s actions truly showed the greatest care and concern for their Master?

Who do you identify with most, Martha or Mary? Like Martha, have you often felt that life isn’t treating you fairly? Do you, too, become so distracted by all the busyness that you fail to pay attention to the One who should be your primary focus in life?

Too often, we tend to base our worth on how busy we are and on how much we are needed. We brag to our friends, family members, and anyone else who will listen about how much we need to do and how little time we have to do it. We’re more frenzied than focused. We’re like Martha. Our priorities are out of order. Jesus tells her:

Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things,
But few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better,
And it will not be taken away from her.
(Luke 10:41-42, NIV)

As Christian writers, we need to stop and ask ourselves if we’ve become so busy trying to serve God through our writing that we fail to hear His voice? Are we so focused on the busyness of our work that we forget to pray for His guidance? Are we so lost in the weeds of our words, that we lose sight of our primary message and purpose?

Jesus explained to Martha that “Mary has chosen what is better.” Martha’s main focus was on their material needs while Mary’s primary focus was on their spiritual needs. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus declares in John 6:63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”

Like Mary, we must choose the best. The Lord should be our number one priority. Pray for His guidance so you don’t wander down rabbit trails that lead nowhere: “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you the path to take” (Proverbs 3:6, NLT). If we maintain our focus on Jesus and His words, we will succeed: “Share your plans with the LORD, and you will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3, CEV).

August 15, 2019

Beauty From Ashes - Tracy Krauss

Isaiah 61: 1 - 4
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations. (ESV)

I was going to use only a portion of the above scripture, but I just couldn't seem to slice any of it away. Liberty for captives; comfort for those who mourn; rebuilding of devastated ruins... This month's theme contains such powerful truth - that out of the ashes, God can make something beautiful. 

The Biblical metaphors are abundant: Gold can only be refined by fire. A seed must die in order to grow into a new plant. Only through death are we ushered into heaven. It's a well known principle and one of the greatest paradoxes we can imagine. God uses darkness to emphasize the light. 

I believe that everyone has a story to tell that relates to this theme.... about a time when God met them in the midst of their trials and used pain and suffering to bring about an even greater blessing. Sometimes it is through health related trials. (I have experienced this more than once, twice with blindness and once after heart surgery) Or it might be because of a wayward child. (Also been there... very frightening times, I assure you.) How about the death of a loved one? (The untimely death of my 18 year old cousin left an unforgettable imprint, as did that of my brother-in-law shortly after I was married.) Financial difficulties can be an immense trial. (Have I ever mentioned the time we had absolutely nothing to eat for months besides deer meat and faba beans?) I am grateful that I never suffered abuse as a child, but I did go through my share of heartache when my parents divorced.

No one is exempt. Each one of us has our own burdens to bear, but I can honestly say that in retrospect I have grown spiritually and emotionally through each one. While not necessarily grateful for the trial itself, I am thankful for the resulting growth. Each has given me tangible evidence of God's amazing love and care. This has spilled over into my writing life, as well. The pain of years of rejection gave me fortitude to persevere, taught me about owning my own voice as an author, and helped me embrace the call to write that God has placed on my life - despite the hardships.

Tracy Krauss is the current President of InScribe. As a multi-published author and playwright, she has met with many writing trials as well as personal ones, but continues to press on despite the occasional and fleeting whim to throw in the towel. 
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