February 28, 2024

"Not my circus! Not my monkeys!" by Mary Folkerts


My friend used this phrase the other day, which echoes our often-held sentiments. "Not my circus, not my monkeys!"


In other words, "Not my problem. Don't bother me with the details!"

Sometimes, that's a good attitude to have when a situation doesn't concern me and my involvement won't improve it. 

But not always.

I wonder if we sometimes use this thinking as an excuse not to become involved in difficult circumstances. The problem may seem too large, and my efforts too small to make a difference. What can my "drop in the bucket" help do to change anything? It's easy to want to live a quiet life, mind my own monkeys and not make any waves in the water, but if God calls us to "seek justice and to love mercy," it might mean getting involved and speaking up for those who can't. 

I'm not suggesting we all become political and begin some "fight for justice" campaign, but we all see little injustices within our circles of influence that we can speak out against. We all experience areas of struggle that, if we are vulnerable about, could potentially help someone else in their struggle. Our vulnerability might help someone learn how to wrangle their own monkeys! 

One thing is clear. We can't live our lives unaffected by those around us. Preoccupation with our own struggles, concerns, and problems shrinks our world inward, but when we open our hearts to others' needs, we find blessings beyond measure. 

As writers, we have the opportunity to call attention to situations even if they don't directly affect us. Advocating for those who don't have a voice means it's sometimes necessary to get involved in circuses, not our own. Our small words can have a powerfully positive impact on someone else's life.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah 6:8 (ESV).

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 connect on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/maryfolkerts/ 

February 25, 2024

N is for the Next Moment ~ by Michelle Strutzenberger

The instantaneous death of my twin sister in a car accident years ago seared my mind with an awareness of how quickly life can be over.

In my days of fresh grief, this awareness led to me make unhealthy choices as I struggled to learn how to live without the one person I’d spent mostly every waking moment with since we were born.

Over the years, I have come to a place where my alertness to life’s brevity ignites a flaming desire in me to do whatever I can to make the most of my remaining time on this earth.

Redeeming the Time

I remind myself often of the verses Ephesians 5:15-16: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (NKJV).”

Other translations of the Bible present the phrase “redeeming the time” as “making the most of every opportunity” (NIV, NLT) or “making the best use of time” (ESV). These phrases can help with understanding, but redeeming has a unique nuance that I love.

To redeem means to “buy back,” to “get back,” to “free from what distresses or harms.”

How can I live in such a way as to free the time I have left on this earth from what distresses or harms? How can I do this for myself? And how can I do it for others?

Freeing the Next Moment from Distress

Now, as great of a question as this is, it can be rather overwhelming, especially if one is in a state of emotional anguish, whether from grief or some other trouble.

It has helped me to bring the question back to just focusing on the next moment. How can I free my next moment from what distresses or harms? Is there someone I need to text and apologize to? Do I need to stop by and say hello to a neighbour? To whom might I write a letter or email of comfort or encouragement?

Just a Few Written Words

These small actions may also include creative writing. A Lectio 365 devotional shared the story of a verse in a hymn written by an African teacher Enoch Sontonga, who died suddenly at the age of 32. This verse, the first lines of which are, “God bless Africa; May her strength rise high up,” went on to be included in anthems of several countries across the African continent, at least for a time, and today it is embedded in South Africa’s national anthem. “Do I underestimate what God might create out of the ordinary things I do?” the Lectio writer, Carla Harding, reflects.

Asking for Help

But even when reining it back to the next small moment, we may still feel a sense of overwhelm about how to make the most of our time. Even if we’re talking about small actions and choices, we might be stressed about where exactly to focus our energy. There are so many needs and options! Over time and experience, I have learned that the very best way to go about handling this question is to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Today, I constantly seek His help in knowing who to reach out to, where to give, how to encourage, what to write, again, how to redeem my time – today, now, in the next moment.

I have found so much more peace and so much less stress when I do both of these things – focus on just the next moment and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me as I take another small step towards eternity.

Michelle and her family enjoy hiking mountains and trails together. She is currently sharing a series called, What Growing Up in a Mennonite Family of 10 Taught Me About Survival. To read the series, visit this link.

February 23, 2024

Noticing Nuances ~ Valerie Ronald


I keep this poem in my writing files to remind me to look for the nuances, subtle shades and depths in the commonplace with potential to blossom into inspiration.

Valentine for Ernest Mann       by Naomi Shihah Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.

Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”

And expect it to be handed back to you

on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.

Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,

write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.

So I’ll tell you a secret instead:

poems hide.    In the bottoms of our shoes,

they are sleeping.    They are the shadows

drifting across our ceilings the moment

before we wake up.    What we have to do

is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife

two skunks for a valentine.

He couldn’t understand why she was crying.

“I thought they had such beautiful eyes,”

And he was serious.    He was a serious man

who lived in a serious way.    Nothing was ugly

just because the world said so. He really

those skunks.   So, he re-invented them

as valentines and they became beautiful.

At least, to him.    And the poems that had been


in the eyes of skunks for centuries

crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us

we find poems.    Check your garage, the odd


in your drawer, the person you almost like, but

not quite.

And let me know.

I think this poem is telling us something we all know as writers. Our readers may think writing ideas come from the fascinating and adventurous lives of writers but few of us lead such lives. The truth is, we as writers have a certain way of looking at the world around and within us, seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary ˗˗ a story behind the mundane. As the poem says, what we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them. By looking for subtle nuances in small, everyday circumstances and scenarios we find ideas to fill volumes.

What this poem doesn’t tell us is that as writers who are Christians, we have a Divine Inspirer. God is the Master Creator. Everything in this vast universe came from His infinite mind and hand. Being made in His image, we have a small share in that creativity. We have unlimited resources for writing ideas everywhere we look, but how we look is inspired by our heavenly Father.

I will give you hidden treasures and wealth tucked away in secret places; I will reveal them to you. Then you will know that I am the Eternal, the God of Israel, who calls you by name. (Isa. 45:3 The Voice)  

I have found that going to the Revealer, asking Him to make known what He would have me write, eventually results in what I call a shining moment ˗˗ that moment when I see something in a new way, when the seed of an idea blooms suddenly in my mind and I can’t wait to develop it in writing. He never fails me.

Writing is a shy craft. Ideas flit through our heads at the oddest moments, in the strangest places, waking us from a sound sleep in the middle of the night, requiring a notebook close by for us to capture random inspirations for possible writing projects. That surge of adrenaline when an idea hits is God speaking, telling us, “Here! I am revealing to you the wealth tucked away in secret places! Be aware of the nuances here, with subtle shades of meaning and depth. Write it down and use it well, My child.”

Keep looking for the poems hiding in the eyes of skunks, waiting to curl up at your feet. 


Valerie Ronald writes from an old roll top desk in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, with her tortoiseshell cat for a muse. A graduate of Langara College School of Journalism, she writes devotionals, fiction and inspirational prose. Her purpose in writing is to encourage others to grow in their spiritual walk.


February 22, 2024

Nature Writing by Lorrie Orr


I would argue that every story written contains something of the natural world. It is within the setting of nature that we live our lives. Nature affects much of humankind's actions throughout millennia. The houses we build, the clothes we wear, the food we eat - all are a product of and a response to the created world - nature. 

Nature writing is a sub-genre of creative non-fiction that seems to be growing in popularity. It is not scientific writing, although elements of scientific observation are a useful tool. It is also not completely poetic and personal, rather it bridges these two types of writing to, as one writer puts it "take our world and make it sing." 

Including elements of nature in our writing allows readers to enter into the world we are laying out for them and make connections to our work, and to the world they live in. How many have gotten up to put on a sweater or make a cup of tea when reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder? I know that I have. 

John Muir, an early Nature writer, wrote that nature gives "a glimpse of the mind of God." In the natural world we see abundance, diversity, constancy, and hope - all aspects of God's character. The earth spins on its axis, the seasons change, and flowers bloom because of God's constancy, even in our broken world. He is faithful.

Biblical nature metaphors abound - from "the storehouses of the snow" in Job to God portrayed as an eagle that "hovers over its young" in Deuteronomy. In life, metaphors of rivers often indicate the passing of time, and we use tidal language of ebb and flow for life's seasons. 

Every writer, not just a Nature Writer, benefits from including elements of creation in her work. We can draw inspiration out of our surroundings to highlight emotional responses from our readers. A murder taking place on a dark and stormy night is perhaps trite; a murder taking place on a sun-filled afternoon in the garden provides striking contrast.

Writing about nature requires us to be observant and, as Mary Oliver says, to "pay attention." I find that in my personal journals I often begin writing by describing what's going on outside my window. There's a balance between overly flowery language and mere facts. It's good practice for me. 

A few of my favourite writers who use elements of nature writing include Mary Oliver, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Annie Dillard, Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), Gladys Taber, Raynor Winn, and Celia Thaxter. 

Lorrie Orr writes from Vancouver Island where she and her husband love exploring the beautiful and astounding world God created. 


February 21, 2024

Newsletters and Networking - by Tracy Krauss

Newsletters and Networking. These are two very practical aspects of the writing life. Upfront, I’m going to be linking to further reading on these topics since I can’t possibly cover everything here, so take some time to do some digging if you’re at all interested. 

If you are a published author – or plan to become one – a newsletter is an essential tool. It’s “Marketing 101”. Even in these days of social media hypertension, an email newsletter is considered by marketing experts as the single most important piece of an author’s platform. It allows you to speak directly to your audience without the hindrance of censorship, algorithms, or any number of other roadblocks that can occur on social media. I won’t go into all the details here since I’ve written some posts on the professional blog on the topic. (Links at the bottom.) These expound on the importance of an email newsletter and also provide tips on starting and maintaining one. 

I recently wrote a post on my personal blog called "Anatomy of a Newsletter" about my own newsletter journey. I started mine in 2013 and I’m still going strong more than ten years later. 

Networking is another essential aspect of the writing life, but unlike a newsletter, networking with other authors is something we should all be doing, whether we hope to be published or whether we simply write for purely personal reasons. Everyone needs encouragement; a group of individuals that “gets” our need to scribble words.  Finding like-minded individuals—one’s tribe—opens doors of friendship and support, but can also be an entry into further education and skill building. Being part of a writing community, whether it be large or small, is important for our health as writers. No one is an island. Although writing is a solitary activity, it should not be isolating. 

Organizations like InScribe, The Word Guild, ACFW etc. are an essential part of the mix. (I belong to all three of those mentioned as well as the Playwright’s Guild of Canada.) However, sometimes we need a smaller, more intimate group—a place where we can feel safe and heard. This is where community writing groups come in. (InScribe partners with many writing groups across the country. Contact Sharon Hamilton for details.) Your group might be less organized, or you might be part of a small virtual group online. 

Whichever way you do it, find people you trust and engage with them! 

Below are a couple of articles from the Professional blog on the topic, as well as the newsletter articles mentioned above. I encourage you to do some further reading. 

Building Your Writing Community

Developing Team Support

Email Newsletters 1

Email Newsletters 2

Tracy Krauss
writes from her home in northern BC. She is currently serving as InScribe's Regional Rep for BC/North and Acquisitions Editor for FellowScript magazine Visit her website for more: tracykrauss.com  fiction on the edge without crossing the line. 

February 20, 2024

Night Nudges by Alan Anderson



By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

 (Psalm 24:8)


What is a Night Nudge?

Right about now, you might wonder or even scratch your head and ask, what is a night nudge? Let me say first, you asked a deep and thought-provoking question. Second, I am most pleased to answer your question.

 Here goes.

You slip into your lovely, comfy bed and drift off to sleep. Evening moves on like a quiet, slow river with the sound of silence serenading you. A perfect, gentle end to a day overwhelmed by tasks.


Suddenly you wake up. “What?” “Huh?” The mist of sleep makes way to a storm of jumbled thoughts in your mind. Once the thoughts settle down, one remains. This thought is golden. Before one more second goes by, you dive at your light switch to enable you to see as you grab your notebook. You learned long ago of the value of keeping a notebook by your bedside. With great haste, you write this golden thought in your notebook before it flees from your now awake brain.


A night nudge is like a gentle push to encourage a writer not to lose or neglect an opportunity to put meaningful words into the world. From my perspective, I find a night nudge more of a friend, therefore not one to run from or ignore. I do, however, write it down without haste.


More about night nudges


Night nudges can feed our sense of wonder as writers. We can wonder what sets this night nudge apart from others. Is this how God develops one’s creativity even while we sleep? If so, then the ability to write is truly a gift. This is all part of the fun and awe of night nudges.


There are times a night nudge might wake us with a gentle touch and lays someone on our hearts. Perhaps, for whatever reason, God’s still small voice is nudging us. This is a nudge never to ignore. One where in the quiet bliss of the night we can pray for someone loved and cared for.


Dear writers, let us never take the silence and solitude of the night for granted. God may stir our creative gift to bring forth words too precious to miss. Rest indeed but be open to the gentle inspiration of a night nudge.



Alan lives in Deroche, B.C. with his wife, Terry, and their poodle, Charlie. Alan’s byline is “Touched by grief and held by hope.” He has been working on a work of love for three years called, “Hidden Poetic Voices: A Reflective Work of Grief, Faith, and Poetry.” This is a work of poetry and prose highlighting the grief of grandparents. Alan periodically writes articles for FellowScript Magazine and the online magazine for Compassionate Friends. He has written posts for our InScribe blog since 2015. His website, https://scarredjoy.ca, is under construction.

February 16, 2024

N is for Name by Lorilee Guenter

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

When I was in university, my student number was my identifier. It is impersonal. In smaller classes we had the chance to interact through discussion and learned each other's names. The professors learned our name. We became seen. I've read that by naming a character, we signal to the reader that this person will be seen again. They are worth paying attention to. They are not just part of the crowd. Sometimes, I like to hide in the crowd. Crowds become lonely places if no one knows your name, if no one sees you. Our Good Shepherd calls us by name [John 10]. By knowing our name, He shows He values us. We are someone worth paying attention to.

Just as words have power, names have power. We receive names over time in a variety of ways. My parents named me Lorilee at birth. Over time, those who get to know me call me Lori. I've had nicknames, some that I liked, some that I am glad disappeared. My girls call me Mom. God calls me daughter. These are relational names. 

Sometimes, labels related to our character or actions become part of our identity, part of our name. When our internal dialogue moves from "I failed," to "I am a failure," we have added a label, a name to who we are. The label now colours actions and reactions. There are many ways we acquire these labels. Sometimes, we accept labels that are inaccurate such as the example I just used. Other times we hesitate to accept labels. We resist them, even when they are positive and true. Think about why it is often easier to say "I write" instead of "I am a writer." For some it is much easier to believe "I am unloved" than "I am valued." 

In writing, I give my characters names. I put them in situations where they face fears, failures and flaws. I make them wrestle with who they believe they are as they interact with other characters. In life, we wrestle with who we are as we face the joys and the trials of living. Through the story, my characters grow and change. I am part of God's story. As I grow into my identity in Christ, I let go of the old names and labels. I recognise the names he gives me: beloved, beautiful, chosen.

What names do you call yourself? Are they the same ones our Father calls us?

February 15, 2024

N is for Handwritten Notes by Carol Harrison


N is for Handwritten Notes

In an age of instant communication with texts and emails, phone calls and video chats, have we pushed aside the art of sending a handwritten note? Why should we bother with something that takes more time to write, send, and be received?

Digital communication is great when a quick message and answer are needed, to set up appointments, or check information with a friend or colleague. Texts need to be shorter. Emails can offer more words on any given subject and any communication can be great. However, these digital communications lack warmth and the personal touch. Handwriting a note personalizes it with your words and your handwriting (which we may or may not like)

As a young girl, hand written thank you notes were a big thing and a must when you received a gift. It would be impolite to not acknowledge the thoughtfulness of the giver. How often do I do more than a verbal thank you these days? The answer is simple – I don’t. Yet I appreciate when someone gives or sends me a written thank you for something I’ve given or when I have spoken at an organization. I save these as encouragements and a way to remember the event.

Handwritten notes show a thoughtfulness beyond what can be found in a text or email. They can be kept and read over and over again. I keep a file of notes and cards with handwritten messages I have received. When I need a pick me up, I pull them out and read a few of them.

Why write notes? Handwritten notes can encourage, thank, offer sympathy or simply brighten someone’s day. How much more fun to receive happy mail of a card or note than simply bills or junk mail. Recently, I received postcards from two different granddaughters. Totally unexpected. Totally enjoyed. I set them out on display, read the messages multiple times and appreciated their thoughtfulness.

My six-year-old grandson wondered why there was never mail in the mailbox for him. So a few of us in the family sent him notes, postcards, and cards with short messages printed in them. He loved to see his name on the envelope and displayed the pieces proudly. It made his day when a new piece showed up in the mail. I think all of us have a little bit of that kid in us when it comes to receiving notes.

My husband’s great-grandmother and her sister who stayed in England wrote letters back and forth for sixty years until they saw each other again. The great grandmother saved each letter and reread them. Then her descendants had the opportunity to read these missives and get a personal glimpse into by gone times and the lives of their relatives. I’ve even had opportunity to read a few of them sent from Southern England during WW1 and WW2. What a treasure for the family to have. What a wealth of research for a writer who finds them.

Yes N is for handwritten notes that can be simple or noteworthy, elegant or plain but if they are heartfelt they will impact the recipient over and over again. When was the last time we sent a note? When did we receive one and how did it make us feel? 

Carol Harrison does better at receiving these handwritten notes and cards than in taking the time to send them but hopes to change that. She loves to read family history and tell stories in written and oral formats from her home in Saskatoon. 

February 14, 2024

Nothing by Sharon Heagy


Satellite train over our farm

            Nothing. I am going to regale my writing community with nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bupkis. So many words to describe nothing. Huh, isn’t that something.

            Many a Mom and Dad know all about nothing. It is the answer to every question. What did you do at school today? Nothing. What are you kids doing in there?! Nothing. Yes, I know so and so did that to you but what did you do? Nothing.

            Sometimes when we need a day to decompress and unwind we say we are going to do ‘nothing.’ But isn’t resting doing something?

            There is a place in space called the Boötes Void which it is more commonly known as the Great Nothing. It is a spherical region of space found in the vicinity of the constellation Boötes and contains very few galaxies. But since it contains some, is it really nothing?

            Early Greek philosophers and modern Physicists have debated and explored the concept of nothingness with most agreeing that it is impossible for nothing to exist. Before the creation of the universe and the world as we know it, there was God. He has always existed. Has there ever been nothing?

            For the writer the word nothing is exceptional in its versatility. It can be used as a pronoun, noun, plural noun, adjective and adverb. Wow! Nothing really packs a punch.

            But for the writer called by God it becomes a goal that comes with emptying. It is what we are to become and what we are to have. Nothing in ourselves so that He might flow through us. His words flowing through our minds, down our arms, through our hands to the paper.

            When we strive without Him we are like the four fishing disciples who fished all night and caught nothing. But when we surrender our writing nets to Him they become full to overflowing. Divine inspiration floods our being and there is a stirring that cannot be denied or satisfied until it becomes written word. 

            John the Baptist is quoted in John 3 as saying, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven……. He must become greater; I must become less.” What wisdom for us as writers of faith. This means the words we write are sacred as we are receiving them from heaven. When I read that passage as I researched for this post, it took my breath away and filled me with humble and heartfelt thanksgiving. Indeed, He must become greater, we must become less. 

            The chorus to the song Nobody by Casting Crowns has these words:


“I’m just a nobody

Trying to tell everybody

All about somebody who saved my soul

Ever since you rescued me

You gave my heart a song to sing.

I’m living for the world to see

Nobody but Jesus.”


            Maybe we could tweak those last couple of lines a bit and sing “I’m writing for the world to see nobody but Jesus.” 

            It’s a process and a journey but day by day He’ll get us there as we get out of our way and into His way. 

            Hope your day is blessed and thanks for sharing a few minutes with me.