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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers posted on Tuesdays. I skipped last week because of Christmas. I hope yours was wonderful.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This is the time of year when everyone is making resolutions crossing the gamut from diet to improving one’s mind. Every resolution starts out with 100% commitment, but only 12% of resolutions come to fruition.

I do not normally make New Year’s resolutions and this year will be no different. I prefer goals instead of resolutions. Goals are more attainable. Resolutions seem more amorphous. It is all semantics.

As Ecclesiastes 3 points out, all things have a season. Each turning year marks a new season in our lives. Whether you make a resolution this year or not you can choose to walk into 2014 and make it a different, better season.

Spend more time listening to God. Choose to love others. Choose to forgive. Choose to listen rather than speak. Choose to dance.

Choose a better season.

For you: If you make a New Year’s resolution, make it small with measurable goals. For example, I want to do one kind thing for someone else each week or I want to pray for another person every day or I will choose to be thankful for a different blessing each day.

For your characters: If your character made a New Year’s resolution, what would it be and why? What does this desire say about them and their priorities? What will they do if they fail? What will they do if they succeed?

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This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers posted on Tuesdays.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14

Some things in our life do not make sense until time has passed. Some events, even though significant, do not fully reveal their meaning until much later.

God’s only Son was born and He sent angels to a cold field full of sheep and lowly shepherds. He could have sent the host of angels to the palaces in the region to declare his intentions: This child will change the world. He will rule, but not as people expect. He will rule with service and love, not with power and wealth.

But God did not send his declaration to the important people. He sent his declaration to the people who needed to hear it and who were open to the message.

Shepherds seem an unlikely audience until you consider that Jesus became The Shepherd. He gathers his flock to Himself. He claims them and protects them from a world of wolves. When we know the whole story, the humble audience makes much more sense.

For You:

Is there an incident in your past which only made sense after time had past? Did that time in your life prepare you for something you are doing now?

For your characters:

Choose an incident from your character’s past. Do they fully understand the meaning and impact this event has on their current situation? Can you help them through this growth during the course of your plot?

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Do Not Be Silent

(This is the third in a series of devotionals for writers which was originally created for a writer’s retreat I hosted.)

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor me. – Psalm 50:14-15

When we call on God in our trouble, God rescues us and redeems our trials. He rescues us in the way that only He can. When we have gone through the fire, we come out refined and then another work begins, the work of telling our tale.

Our thankfulness is a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. Telling others of all the ways God has moved in our lives is a sacrifice which honors Him and the work He has done in us and it shows others what His love looks like in the life of a believer.

One of the blessings of our trials is the way we use what we have learned for God in service to Him and others. Do not be silent. Be glad and proclaim the wonders He has wrought in your life.

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all They wonders. I will be glad and exult in Thee; I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High. -Psalm 9:1-2.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.–Hebrews 13:15-16

For You:
For what are you thankful? Think beyond the normal list and dig deep. Do you share this thankfulness with others? Why or why not?

For your characters:
For what are your characters thankful? What does this reveal about their hearts? Does their list change as their story progresses?

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Trouble Redeemed

(This is the second in a series of devotionals for writers which was originally created for a writer’s retreat I hosted.)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12

As believers we are not assured an easy life, free of troubles. We live in a fallen world and we will face trouble, but how we face them and what we learn from God as we walk through the storms in our life make the difference. When we persevere under trial and draw near to God amidst the storm, He refines us into a better version of ourselves. Just as He redeemed us through Christ, He continues to redeem our trials so we can grow to be more like the Son who saved us.

When we allow the Lord to refine us, He blesses us in ways we never would have imagined. In the middle of his pain, Job could only see the disaster his life has become. He had no notion that God would turn his sorrow into joy and wealth.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord increased all that Job had twofold… And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning… – Job 42:10, 12

When we focus on our own troubles and lose sight of the Lord, we forget that our path is not about what is happening now but the destination and reward before us, the crown of life which we receive at the end of our journey to Him.

For you:
How has the Lord redeemed a trial in your life? What were the unexpected blessings of your trial? If you are currently facing trouble, do you need to refocus on Him?

For your characters: 
How do the conflicts in your WIP refine and redeem your characters? How does each character’s personality affect how they struggle and grow through the conflict? What do they learn about themselves at the end of their journey? What do they learn about God?

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This is the first in a series of devotionals for writers which was originally created for a writer’s retreat I hosted.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
-Psalm 107:1-9

Each of us has been given a story filled with wanderings, hunger, trouble, and despair. It is also a story of redemption and triumph. It is a story we are asked to share with the world for His glory, to bring hope and love to others.

Our stories are unique to us. God has given no one else our lives, our talents, or our hearts. He gathered us from where we wandered and brought us to His arms so that we may know our story has a purpose. It is a purpose which rests in the knowledge that He loves us and has called us to love Him and others by sharing our stories and our lives.

Sometimes we may feel that our story is inadequate or not as compelling as someone else’s testimony, but we are the only ones with our lives and experiences. We have this one life, one story for God and it has value because He has given it to us. “Let the redeemed of of the Lord tell their story.”

For You:

  • What are the pieces of your own walk with God that are essential to your story with Him?
  • What parts of your journey are hard to share? Why?
  • How often do you feel led to share your story with others? Do you ever ignore the Holy Spirit’s nudge to share? Why?
  • Is it easier to tell fictional stories than your own? Explain.

For Your Characters:

  • Does your character feel their story is important to others? Why or why not?
  • Do they feel comfortable sharing themselves with others? Why or why not?
  • Most of us have a turning point in our past where we made a different decision, took a different path, or made a change so big nothing was ever the same. What thing in your character’s past changed the way their future unfolded? Would they say this event was a positive or negative change?

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Being a writer means getting familiar with rejection. Most rejections are form rejections editors and agents send out by the dozens of hundreds. If you are lucky, you will get a personal email with individual regrets. The personal email is, I have found, even more painful to receive than the impersonal one because it means they like your story a lot, but they did not like like it. If you are very lucky, you will receive a revise and resubmit or an offer to direct submit next time.

I am not what you might label a patient person. If I had to choose my two worst traits, the ones which have caused me the most damage, it would be my lack of patience and my overabundance of pride. God will be working on these thorns for the rest of my life. I can honestly say I improve marginally as the months and years go by but the learning process stinks.

I have, without a doubt, chosen a profession in which patience and humility are required.

I have been querying publishers, the fancy publishing word for sending my manuscript or parts of it out with a letter, for almost a year. During that time, I have continued to write and learn about the publishing industry. It has been a year in which I have doubted, dreamed, and hoped.

When I needed it most, God blessed me with encouragement in the form of a woman I met in my women’s Bible study on Tuesdays.

Pam is an older lady, wise in her years, who always has a smile for people. She is one of our greeters and helps get everything set up on Tuesday mornings. I do not know her very well, we have never been in a small group together, but she is always kind and friendly.

One morning this past January, Pam pulled me aside after leader’s prayer and encouraged me to keep writing and to believe in myself. She asked if I had ever heard of Debbie Macomber. I said of course I had. Pam continued to tell me Macomber’s story, how she struggled for years to be published before finally getting a break and how she is a Christian who chooses purposefully to write mainstream fiction. Pam’s kind words made me smile and hope.

I went home after Bible study and looked up Debbie Macomber’s blog on which she was posting about her word for the year. It is a word she uses to center her life and walk with Christ each year. What a beautiful idea.

Later that day, I received my first rejection letter, a form letter, from my first choice publisher. Rejection, as I said in the beginning, is the norm in publishing, not an offer call. Though I had been expecting to see it in my inbox, it still made me doubt this path I had willingly chosen. My doubt spiraled downward into a pit.

Then, I remembered how, only a few hours earlier, God had placed Pam in my path to encourage me on this day, at this time, so I would know and not doubt. From then on, when I wavered in my conviction, I remembered God had been good to me on the very day I received my first rejection from the publisher and editor I admired so much.

It was not my last rejection letter. I have received many others. They were disappointing but none stung the way that first one did, until now.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an email in my inbox from an editor asking if my manuscript was still available. I did a snoopy dance and told her it was. We had a nice email exchange and she said she would get back to me. I was hopeful again, but cautious. The publisher was on the top of my list and would be perfect for my blended genre novel.

I waited two weeks. We were in the car on the way home when I read the email. The answer was not the one I had wished for. The editor was kind and offered a direct submission for my next work, which is wonderful and gratifying, but it did not make the rejection hurt less. Being liked, but not like liked is awful and I felt awful, sad, and frustrated. I was grateful to the editor who spend her time reading and responding to me personally, but I was hurt regardless.

I was silent most of the way home. I climbed out of the car, dejected and tearful. Ries went to the mailbox with Gideon and I heard him say I had a package. I could not remember ordering anything, but it was likely I had just forgotten about it. He handed me an Amazon box. In the return address label space was the name Pam.

Inside the box was the book Once Upon a Time by Debbie Macomber. In it, Macomber talks about the writing process and how God tells a story though each of us. It was just released on May 28th, Pam ordered a copy and sent it to me, and I received it the same hour I read the rejection from the editor.

Twice, when I needed encouragement and a reminder the most, God sent it to me through Pam’s kindness, a rainbow on a dreary day. Twice, when I doubted the most, He told me to be patient, to wait, to be humble, and to continue on. The beauty of Pam’s encouragement was the rainbow I needed that day and a blessing from God.

I am looking forward to seeing Pam so I can give her a huge hug and tell her how she has blessed my life, again. I have many more lessons to learn, lessons of perseverance and patience, but I know I never learn them alone.

“I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.” – Genesis 9:13

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