February 28, 2023

Be Brave! -- by Mary Folkerts


I may be a farm girl, but I despise mice! Maybe it's their quick and sneaky ways, but the little creatures hold a power over me that is not at all proportional to their size!

It was a warm fall day on the farm, and a niece from the city had come to help us collect tarp coverings from bee shelters in the field. The pollinators had done their summer's work, and the harvest was in progress.

Things were going well until the realization struck that mice had taken up residence in the tarps we were pulling in. Thus, you could find me yelling from a distance for niece Trudi to "be brave!" as I left her to do the initial investigation for the vermin on her own.

We have chuckled many times over my cowardly call for bravery on her part! But isn't that the truth of it in so many aspects of life? We want others to be brave enough to do things we feel incapable of doing. We love books where authors are honest; we cry tears at their words because we empathize with their pain. It makes me realize that anyone who writes to encourage their readers can't just call from their corner of safety for others to pen what they are too afraid to put into words. Writing takes bravery, as our best words are often written from vulnerability and pain.

Writing takes bravery; as our best words are
often written from vulnerability and pain.

Paul reminds us of this when we read, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV.

I don’t know where the notion came from that Christians won’t have trouble in their lives, as this verse clearly states that we will. But it also says that we will receive comfort from the God of all comfort when we experience difficult times. There are many dips and curves, valleys and deserts as we navigate life. Still, because we have felt the gentle hand of the Saviour comforting and giving us courage and strength, we can also share God’s comfort with others going through similar valleys.

Sharing personal pain exposes our weaknesses but highlights the power of what God can accomplish despite ourselves. It takes bravery to be honest, but in our authentic words, others can find hope and comfort as we share the comfort we received from our heavenly Father.

God wants to use your story as a testament to His love and restorative power. With His help, you can find the strength to be brave!


Mary Folkerts is mom to four kids and wife to a farmer, living on the southern prairies of Alberta, where the skies are large and the sunsets stunning. She is a Proverbs 31 ministries COMPEL Writers Training member and is involved in church ministries and music. Mary’s personal blog aims to encourage and inspire women and advocate for those with Down Syndrome, as their youngest child introduced them to this extraordinary new world. For more inspiration, check out Joy in the small things https://maryfolkerts.com/  or follow on Instagram www.instagram.com/maryfolkerts  


February 23, 2023

What is a Bellwether? ~ Valerie Ronald

 

Bellwether ˗˗ the word bounces around in my mind. As the title of a book by a favorite author, I recall looking up the meaning of this unfamiliar word. I discovered that long ago it was common practice for shepherds to hang a bell around the neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep. This animal was called the bellwether, a word formed by a combination of the Middle English words belle, meaning "bell" and wether, a noun that refers to a male sheep that has been neutered. The sound of the bell worn by the lead sheep would indicate to a shepherd where the flock had roamed. Bellwether eventually became the term for one who leads a group as a forerunner or actively establishes a trend that is taken up by others.  

As Christian writers, we can look to Jesus Christ as our bellwether, not only for personal spiritual leadership, but also as One who goes before us in our calling to write. How does the leadership of Jesus influence us as writers?  

His Father God created words as the agents to speak the world into existence. Genesis 1, the creation chapter of the Bible, repeats the words,“God said” ten times, establishing the power of God’s spoken word. He chose to communicate His plan of redemption through the written words of Scripture, recorded by men through the inspiration of His Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself is called the Word, the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. (John 1) Our very faith is sustained by His words, for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17 NASB)  

Because Christianity is a word-centred faith conveyed through the written language of the Scriptures, we can look to its central figure, Jesus Christ, for leadership in how we practice our craft. Jesus’ basic motivation was love for His followers. Everything He said and did flowed from His great heart of love for those He created. When we write with the purpose of conveying God’s love to others, no matter the genre or style, direct or nuanced, we follow Jesus as our ultimate example. In John 13:1-17, Jesus turns the established concept of leadership on its head by washing the feet of His disciples, a lowly task done only by servants. Here He is shown to be the prototype of servant leadership.   

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-14 NIV)  

Christ has spoken, so we speak. He has written, so we write ˗˗ not that we could ever transcend the words of God, but seek to explain them, convey their truth and celebrate them, so others are drawn to Christ. We write to serve Christ.  

“What we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5)

The word bellwether refers to a trendsetter, someone who shows how a situation will develop or change in the future. Because Jesus has gone before us, we can look to Him, the author and finisher of our faith. (Heb. 12:2) We don’t have to create from scratch, rather we work to find fresh ways to express ancient truths, telling in new ways the old, old story of Jesus and His love. 



More of Valerie's work can be read on her blog:

https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com/




February 22, 2023

The Beauty of Words by Lorrie Orr

 


Words are marvelous things. Little bits of sounds and letters combined in infinite ways to convey emotions, intentions, actions, and thoughts about myriads of topics. Like most writers, I am a gatherer of words. Words of other writers make their way into journals and scraps of paper that I someday intend to collate into "Lorrie's Favourite Quotations", including chapters on prayers, the four seasons, food, and so on. It will be eclectic. 

Eclectic. Now there's a fine word. All those hard c sounds make it fun to say. The L adds a bit of tongue twisting. And its meaning: "deriving ideas, style or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources" just adds to the fun. 

In addition to collecting groups of words, I like making lists of single words in my journal or my head, just because. For example: how many colour words can I write down at one sitting? Then there are words that I find beautiful - beautiful to say, beautiful to look at, or beautiful in meaning or memory. Here's a short list of five of my most best-loved words. 

1. Exquisite: extremely beautiful, and typically, delicate
I've loved this word ever since I first read it as a child, in a book describing the young Marie Antoinette. It appealed to me then and has never been replaced. Then I discovered its equivalents in French and Spanish and they just reinforced my liking for this word that combines so many lovely sounds. 

2. Apricity: the warmth of the sun in winter
Now this is an old word that is not found in many dictionaries. Blogger underlines it in red as if to say in a loud voice, "There's a mistake here. Fix it." Well, Mr. Blogger, apricity is a grand word and anyone who lives in Canada and has felt that faint warmth on a still chilly day can appreciate it. 

3. Lichen: a simple, slow-growing plant that typically forms a low crusty, leaflike, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees
Who could fail to like the word lichen with its homonym liken? And lichen themselves are determined and friendly things, the result of a partnership...well, we won't get into science here, but I love seeing them grow on bare rocks.

4. Cusp: a point of transition between two different states
Short and to the point, the crispness of cusp conveys change and anticipation - something new is about to happen. Cusp teeters between now and then, before and after, a thin sliver of time.

5. Hissy fit: an outburst of anger, often in a childlike manner
Okay, so this is two words. I'm taking poetic license. I first heard this word from friends from the southern USA and adopted it immediately. "Don't throw a hissy fit," I would say to my children when they were about to erupt. There's a bit of humour in saying the word that defused the situation surprisingly often. 

Oh, I can't stop. Here's one more - the bonus word.

6. Limpid: marked by transparency, clear and simple in style, absolutely serene and untroubled
I first ran across this word in a piece of piano music "From the Limpid Stream" by Frederich Burgmuller. I liked the way the notes trickled throughout the piece like a brook babbling over stones, but I had to look up the word limpid and then I didn't really think it looked and sounded like its meaning. I still don't, but I like it. 

Do you collect words? What are some of your favourites?



Lorrie Orr writes from Vancouver Island where she enjoys boating and hiking with her husband. Gardening, sewing, reading, and spending time with her five grandchildren fill her days with happiness and contentment. She is newly retired from teaching high school Spanish. 


February 21, 2023

Balance - by Tracy Krauss

Balance. 

Whether I'm referring to my writing life - or any other aspect of life, for that matter - balance is the key to maintaining productivity, sanity, and joy. 

We've all heard catchphrases like "self-care" and keeping a "work-life balance". These are essential. We all need downtime. Of course, there are seasons when one has to burn the midnight oil, like when a deadline is looming or a book launch is approaching. But if you let crisis mode become habitual, you'll pay - creatively and even physically. 

I can tell when my life is tipping too much in one direction. I get easily agitated - spinning, as my husband would say. During these times I am less productive (even though I am spending more time on projects) because my mental capacity is diminished. On the other hand, I've found that too much inactivity can have a similar effect. I can't stay in "holiday" mode forever. Soon I start feeling lethargic. Drained. I have no energy or motivation. I need the challenge of a new project. It's one of the reasons I value NaNoWriMo so much. It keeps me fresh. However, I could never sustain that level of writing intensity all year long. 

I've also noticed the necessity of maintaining a balance between writing and all the other things an author is supposed to do. Emails, newsletters, social media, blog posts, podcasts, website maintenance, cross-promotion... The list is almost endless. Some of these tasks I categorize as "marketing" while others are more business-related, BUT everything has its place. Today's author must be aware of the many moving parts and not get sucked into spending too much time on one thing to the detriment of others. (Social media is often the culprit.) 


Like a complex machine, we must strike a balance between marketing, promotion, and business activities (all must be in balance with one another) and the actual writing side of things. But let me break this down even further. Technically, writing this blog post is still writing, but it serves a dual purpose in that it is also a marketing platform of sorts since I'm creating content that I can share online. You can see where the waters begin to get muddy and one really has to think about time allocation...

But I digress. Getting back to the writing side of the equation, I also like to differentiate between writing NEW material and polishing OLD material. I need to balance my writing time between rewriting and editing previously written work for publication and writing new material. I know writers who get so buried in their own perfectionism that they never write anything new. Yes, we want to present our best work to the world, but at some point, we have to release it. Enough is enough. 

I spend a lot of my time editing and rewriting longer work (novels), but the need to keep writing something new is one reason why I continue to write for this blog and for FellowScript magazine. (And InScribe's professional blog, and my own blog... LOL!) Rewriting is fun! It is necessary! It is important! But we must balance our editing and polishing with writing new material to keep our minds and writing voices fresh. 

All of these writing-related activities must then fit into the greater balance of life. There is work, family, church, household chores, devotional life... You get it. It's why balance is so important. 



Tracy Krauss
writes (and all those other things!) from her home in Tumbler Ridge, BC. Visit her website at: https://tracykrauss.com



February 20, 2023

B-r-ok-en, not Beaten by Alan Anderson

 





“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

—2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

 


 

“B” is for “Broken,” as I give attention to our writing prompt for February.

 


I am Broken

 

My years as a pastor and healthcare chaplain allowed me many opportunities to learn about people. My greatest learning curve came from the people I came alongside who grappled with terminal illness. There were also those who drifted into their own world because of the grip of dementia. Through them, I learned I am broken.

 

In my last year as a chaplain, a long-term care resident I met made an indelible mark on my soul. She could no longer take care of herself at home and had no family members to care for her close by. The care facility I worked in became her best option. Dementia had now become part of her life.

 

The first visit I had with this woman remains one of my cherished memories. She invited me into her room as if we had known each other for years. In my typical fashion, I glanced over her room and noticed poems framed and pinned to the walls. I asked her about the poems. With the enthusiasm similar to a younger child, she informed me she wrote them.

 

As our conversation continued, she asked me if I liked to write. When I told her I was also a writer, she giggled again. She informed me she could no longer write as she once did. Her next statement is one I remember to this day. She said, “I would like to write more, but the words are all jumbled in my head. My brain is broken. I can’t get the words out.”





Broken Words

 

There are times the words we write may be broken. They fall and almost collapse on to the page in need of guidance and love. Broken words come from a broken writer. Broken by personal sin or damage caused by other people. A writer’s words may also reflect the woundedness of a broken world. We may waste away because of our grief over the lost condition of the world.

 

The lady I mentioned earlier seemed to have accepted her brokenness. She acknowledged her condition with a smile. While we talked, she held my hand at one point. Perhaps this was a way of her connecting with me. She looked into my eyes, smiled, held my hand, and told me about her writing like a mother talking about her children. Praise God for such innocent expressions in a broken world.

 

Broken, not Beaten.

 

As Christians, we can show the world to be broken does not mean we are beaten. We can still bring hope and healing to our readers through what we write. This means we do not lose heart; we do not quit. Our brokenness is not wasted. We can all be healers.

 

Be A Healer

By Alan Anderson,

 

Be a healer,

Turn coarse words into healing balm.

Looks beyond narrative meant to cripple.

Show the way to peace, true peace,

beyond understanding,

Soaked in love.

 

Shoulders of healers,

Are where those with weary heads rest.

Outstretched arms provide an oasis for hugs,

Closeness allows hearts to beat together.

 

Walk into the world to live what love is,

Hold the hands of those who stumble,

Those who fall in the darkness,

For we are all broken.

 

Dear writer friends,

How do you incorporate your own brokenness into your poetry or prose?

 

 

Alan lives in Deroche, B.C. with his wife, Terry, and their poodle, Charlie. He contributed stories to Good Grief People by Angel Hope Publishing, 2017; Story by Story: The Power of a Writer, Unstoppable Writers Publishing, 2018; Easter Stories & More by InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, 2021. He is currently working on a book expressing the grief of grieving grandparents entitled “Hidden Poetic Voices: A Reflective Work of Grief, Faith, and Poetry.” Alan periodically writes articles for FellowScript Magazine. He has written posts for our InScribe blog since 2015. Blog: https://scarredjoy.ca.



February 16, 2023

B is for Because by Lorilee Guenter


As I contemplated what to write this month, I considered and rejected many words such as book, beautiful or becoming. These words and others are good words that apply not only to writing but to our lives. However, I struggled to pull together coherent thoughts relating to them and found myself asking why.

A few decades ago, in the early 1990s, I walked into drafting class and saw one word on the chalkboard: Why. When we answered the question we could leave. There are two simple answers to the question: "Why not?" or "Because". My questions of why and that incident led to my word for this month. B is for because.

I write because I have stories to tell. The Bible is full of stories that show God’s character. As I read them, I am encouraged and, at times, rebuked. Always, I am drawn to God. God has given me stories to tell as well. When I write, I am sharing the stories He has given me and the lessons He has taught me.

Snippets of conversation, words read, and things seen can all spark a story, a poem, or an essay. I write because some of those ideas are so persistent. They even get in the way of other tasks like sleep if I don’t pick up my pen. Because I write, I also notice things around me that I might otherwise overlook. I write because it reminds me to be present in the time and space I occupy. This doesn’t necessarily limit me to writing about here and now. I am finding more and more that, if I rush through my days or conversely waste my time on distractions, I miss living the life God has given me.

I write because God placed us in a beautiful world. It is a gift to us and a responsibility that He charged us with at creation. In my writing, I can remind others of the beauty of God's creation and the amazing detail He included. 

Even though though that creation has been broken because of our pride and rebellion, He didn’t give up on us. For some of us God gives us words and asks us to share them so others can see the beauty He created. He asks us to share our words so others can know His patient love, His mercy and His grace. 

I write because God is good. He made me who I am. He walks with me through the pain. He shelters me in the storm. God gave me words and asked me to use them. Sometimes the words are for me as I wrestle to understand what is happening around me. Other times the words are for others. If I don’t write, I am not being a good steward of this gift God has given me.

I create because God created and made us in His image. He uses our flawed creations, our inadequate words and our lives to show His character to bring glory and praise Him. My art and my writing are part of my offering to Him. They are the imperfect works of a student of the craft. My Master is a patient teacher. Because He loves me, He adds polish to my life and my work as He writes my story.



February 15, 2023

B is for Bibliophiles and Bookworms by Carol Harrison

B is for Bibliophiles and Bookworms


Is there a difference between these two types of people? According to the Cambridge dictionary, a bibliophile is a person who loves to collect books. Bibliophiles love books for their looks, the feel of the book cover and pages, the smell of paper, as well as the history of the book. They may collect first editions, simply to own them and display them on their bookshelves, Covers become an important choosing factor as does the age of the book with the content remaining secondary to the avid collector of books.

A bookworm loves books primarily for the content. They devour the stories and collect the ones they enjoy the most. Their shelves will be filled with favourite content as opposed to what the book looks like.

I love books and the stories they contain. Learning to read opened a whole new world for me as a child. But we couldn’t afford to buy more than a few little story books, some of which I still own. The one large, hard cover book in our home was a book of Bible stories with coloured pictures in it. I spent hours just looking at the pictures before I learned to read. I waited for my mom to read the stories at bedtime every night.  It’s never read anymore. There are no young children here at bedtime to share it with and yet it tugs out memories and continues to occupy a space on my bookshelf.

The local library, the bibliotech, became a favourite hangout. I checked out as many books as I could each week and would rather hide away and read than do my chores or even go out and play some days. The stories within the books transported me to other times and places. By the time I was in fourth grade, I added non-fiction books to my list of books to sign out of the library or read at school. Researching topics for class projects and assignments allowed me to learn so many things. My parents splurged and bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias. Oh how I enjoyed the look of these cream and white books sitting on the bookshelf next to the red covered Bible story book. They added the set of Childcraft books with their cream and red colored covers as well as the two volume dictionary. Each year they purchased the year book with the updates of important events that happened during that year. I thought these beautifully bound books looked amazing. I felt so rich with all this knowledge at my fingertips instead of having to do research in the library. But I also enjoyed reading them. I was a book loving bookworm with a huge curiosity to propel me into researching a variety of topics.

Those encyclopedias are long gone but I hung on to them for more years than I probably should have. Parting with the antiquated form of information gathering meant letting go of books which had cost my parents a lot of money, and still looked great sitting on a bookcase but I didn’t have the space for a huge library in my home, filled with books to read, books to look good, and also books to help me study and learn.




Downsizing to an apartment a number of years ago meant paring down the books we owned which proved difficult. Yet we found homes for what we couldn’t take with us. Now I borrow books, read e books more often, and stack books instead of having them sitting in library order on the one bookshelf that remains. But I can still read to my heart’s content.

In writing this, I reflect on these two words and the definitions of each. Which one am I? In all honesty, I think I am a bit of both. If I had a huge house, it would be a dream to have a library room with floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with a variety of books with beautiful old spines and more modern stories that captivated my attention. Non fiction books to study would have a section of their own. The room would need several comfortable chairs to curl up in while I lost myself in a captivating tale. A desk to match the d├ęcor of this library room would also be a necessity to allow for a place to study and write. I dream of visiting a place that has a library room like this where I could hang out, browse the shelves, read, and even have a writing retreat.

Yet the pull of story remains strong, no matter what format it shows up in. E books allow my eyes to see the words more clearly as cataracts grow and have many books in a small amount of space. Borrowing from the library allows me to read more books than I have room or budget to own. Yet I still collect books by authors I know, reading their words with even more anticipation because I know the author.  

But one book remains the greatest of all time. The Bible occupies a place of importance in my life. God, the Author, longs for me to know him better. It is a never ending opportunity to learn and grow in my spiritual life, allowing him to help me discover the gifts and abilities He has given me.


Psalm 19: 7-10 reminds me of the importance of God’s word.
“The law of the lord is perfect reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant giving light to the eyes.
9. The fear of the Lord is pure enduring forever; the ordinances of the lord are pure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb
10. By them is your servant warned, in keeping them there is great reward.”

In Psalm 119: 18 I read, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” and in verse 105 it says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

I realized, as I wrote this post, that I have tendencies and dreams of a bibliophile who collects books just to have them. But in reality, I am a bookworm, devouring stories almost every day. Yet deep inside, I crave to know more and more about the Bible and the One whose story it contains. This is the greatest story of all.

How about you? Are you a bibliophile or bookworm?

  

Carol Harrison loves to read, write, study, and dream about a library room from her home in Saskatoon. Her love of stories continues stronger than ever and she has a passion for sharing the greatest story of all time - the story of Jesus.

February 14, 2023

Bold and Brave by Sharon Heagy



“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. 

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, 

for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

 

Bold and brave. Two words which are essential for the character of any writer but are particularly important for the writer who has been called by God. Two words which have a different meaning for me now than when I first began to write.

            To a younger me those words would evoke visions of knights in shining armour on heroic quests. Dragon slayers who rescued distressed damsels and had not a morsel of fear, courage overflowing out of their pores as if their bodies couldn’t contain such an elixir. Those words would call to mind women like Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Laura Secord and Rosa Parks and men like Martin Luther King Junior, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Nelson Mandela.  Much closer to home there were personal heroes who I admired.  Teachers, parents and others in authority who were viewed as wise elders and were put on virtual pedestals. These folks were identified by the roles they filled in the time before we grow up and realize they are actual people. 

            As a young writer, before I came into a relationship with God, I wrote a weekly column for a local newspaper. When I read that copy today, I realize it is bad. Very bad. They published whatever I wrote unedited. As a young mom, excuse #1, my work was consistently unpolished and written at the last minute. Was it bold or presumptuous? Was I lazy and brazen to think my words were worthy to be read?  Unfortunate truth to face.

            Then there came a ‘suddenly’ in my life. God and I found each other (okay, He allowed me to find Him) and my views changed one hundred and eighty degrees. Zchlooop! All at once the words I wrote mattered as I wrote for my holy audience of One. There was less writing done for myself or by myself. When I did attempt to write without prayer or without a sincere invitation for His guidance, it never turned out well. Still doesn’t. The work needs to be done, I have a responsibility, but the boldness and the bravery are not my own, they come from Him, and His is the absolute apex of courage. A courage that calms my nervous heart and knocking knees. 

            The first time I submitted a post for this blog I was full of fear and trepidation. With one click I was putting stuff out there to be read by a group of people whom I admire greatly. People whose talents know no bounds. God given gifted ones. My stomach did flips and I was so nervous that my hand hovered over that ‘publish’ button for quite some time. He gave me the courage to try. I am still trying and hopefully I am growing in the process and will be able to encourage others to be bold and brave in the Lord and to embrace the gifts He has given them. 

            Multiple references in scripture tell us to take heart. They confirm we are not alone. We, like knights of old, can be clad in armour. His armour. Holy Armour. Supernatural Armour. The armour of Ephesians 6. We can have wisdom, His wisdom, available for the asking.

Take heart, fellow writer and follow His guidance. He’s got your back. He’ll give you the words and He will give you the courage to press send to wherever He wants to use your work. Be bold, be brave, not in yourself but in Him.