Friday, March 29, 2013

Going or Staying?

Jesus commands us to go,
It should be the exception if we stay.
It's no wonder we're moving so slow,
When God's children refuse to obey,
Feeling so called to stay.
 
I was reminded of this song by Keith Green last weekend and it's got me thinking all week. Jesus, after completing his mission on the cross and just before ascending to heaven, left us with some instructions. "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." [Mark 16:15 NIV]
 
Somehow, I think as writers, and certainly the more introverted types of us, we can use our written words as our 'going.' We send our words out into the world, bathed in prayer, and believe they will make an impact on people. And sure, all of that is valid.
 
But I am thinking that it could become an excuse not to go out and mix with people face to face, at all. We can hide behind our computers and say 'I'm doing my bit,' and maybe we are, but is it enough?
 
 
 
God is a God of relationship. He calls us to love our neighbour, to look after the needy, and to share His love. Can we, realistically, do that from our computer screens? Communiction is after all, a lot more than words. But for a shy introvert, relating to others can take a massive effort, it goes against what we naturally lean toward.
 
I'm not here to tell you that you should be all travelling to the mission fields, or that you're not good enough.  What I am offering is a gentle challenge, to myself as well, to search ourselves and get out there in the community and build relationships with people who don't know the Lord, not just rely on our printed words.
 
Wishing you a blessed Easter. XXOO



Amanda Deed resides in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne where she fills her time with work, raising a family, church activities and writing historical romance novels. Her new novel, Henry's Run, is due for release on the 1st of April, 2013. For more information, see:
http://www.amandadeed.com.au/
http://amanderings.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

That Sad Old 'RE' Word




I’d been through 6 weeks of it and managed very well, even if I say so myself. Six weeks spent mostly in bed, unable to do much except RE-lax, RE-ad and be RE-stored. I see you’ve been smart enough to notice there were three words starting with the letters ‘RE” in the previous sentence! You are very observant. I would even guess that you are a Writer. Am I right?

RE-laxing was great! RE-ading was wonderful! Being RE-stored was brilliant! I was deeply content. But then ….came one little hitch. Another ‘RE’ word came into my line of vision. That ‘RE’ word was not as RE-freshing or RE-storative as the other ‘RE’ words. Any guesses as to what it was? It’s one most of us writers are well versed in, having experienced it time and time again.

Yes, the word is RE-jection. Ah! Does it ring any bells?

After the Euphoria of my wonderfully RE-laxing 6 weeks came a week of RE-jection. My book, my baby, my life… was tossed out like a precious, beautifully wrapped gift that was thrown away even before it was opened. My latest book, one I’d worked very hard on for months on end – burning the midnight oil – hoping it would win a competition – didn’t make it after all. I had been sure that God had use of it out there in the big wide world. But – no – there was one winner and that winner wasn’t me!

REJECTION! In my book, RE-jection often equals DEJECTION! It makes me place my tail between my legs and slink away into a corner to brood deeply and to shed a few tears. I confess that I’ve had a number of rejections as a writer. Every single time it hurt. Ouch! Each time it felt like the end of the world – well not quite the end of the world…. .but you know what I am talking about, don’t you?

Over the past few weeks, I have been looking at that ‘RE’ word a bit more closely. And I found something interesting. Viewed through God’s eyes it looks a bit different. It is not painted in dark black letters anymore. Instead, it’s like a prism - displaying to my heart a myriad beautiful colours. Because of course, everything through God lenses are much much much brighter. And so much more beautiful.

Firstly, the RE-jection of my books is not about me. It feels it is. But isn’t. It is about my writing. And I can do something about that. I can strive to improve. Secondly, if God is leading me on – this RE-jection I face is part of His plan for me. If being in God’s will is the most important thing in my life, (and I believe it is) then – even a RE-jection can be viewed differently. Not a sad occurrence after all. But one that together with all else, works things out for my good.

Thirdly, every RE-jection teaches me something new. It helps me RE-focus. My latest RE-jection helped me RE-think my plans for 2013. I am now excited about the change of plans and the direction this year’s sun-dial is pointing.

Finally and most importantly – any guesses as to who faced the biggest rejection of all? Yes, of course! Jesus Himself. As we celebrate the most important event in the Christian calendar this week, we cannot help but be amazed at His sacrifice for us. He came to His own and His own received Him not. He came to share God’s love and what did we do? We hung Him on a cross.

If his RE-jection and death ended in an amazing RE-surrection, bringing RE-newal and RE-storation of all things – perhaps there is a lesson you and I can learn? Perhaps RE-jection is not such a sad little word at all?

Perhaps it will bring me hope, humility and the best way forward?

Here’s wishing all of us writers only the good kinds of ‘RE’ words. Words like RE-newal, RE-storation, RE-building, RE-st and RE-laxation! Words like the RE-jections that He plans for our lives – so we might be truly RE-juvenated! We could perhaps Re-word that RE-jection so both our Writing and our Lives RE-bound to the glory of our RE-deemer!



Anusha delights in many things – life, the love of Jesus, people, the beauty of God’s Creation. She writes mostly for pleasure. Her first book 'Enjoying the Journey' is a book of 75 God thoughts and lessons learnt through every day life. She has decided never to grow old in spite of a body that is already defying her intentions! She enjoys the finer things of life including friendship and chocolate!

Singing, walking, connecting with people and sharing God’s love are her some of her deepest passions. Like her writing, she is a work in progress! Please drop in to say Hello to her at her website Dancing in the Rain at http://anusha-atukorala.webnode.com/


Monday, March 25, 2013

Do Creative People Always Have To Say 'no'?

I recently read this interesting article, which was posted by one of our authors on FB, entitled ‘Creative People Say No’. https://medium.com/thoughts-on-creativity/bad7c34842a2.

It’s a challenging one and got me thinking. In it the author quotes various creative people who insist that saying ‘no’ is the cornerstone of their work, including Management writer Peter Drucker, who says : “…productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”
The article also included ideas which I resonate with to some degree, like ‘Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.’

The thread of this article is that as creators we must become very good at saying ‘no’ to those things which distract us from our creation. “Saying ‘no’ has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. ‘No’ guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know.”

The author of the article concludes “ Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party…  How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph?... The answer is always the same: ‘yes’ makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, families to love and day jobs to do. No makes us aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely and an arsenal of other insults. But ‘no’ is the button that keeps us on.’

For years as a psychologist I’ve taught people about boundaries, and often have to return to my own words about the need to say ‘no’ to things that take time and resources away from the most important things in my life. Whether as Christians, parents, friends, or authors, it’s often a hard lesson to learn, and many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by other people’s agendas, to the detriment or our own calling, creative process, or energy. I don’t pretend to have this issue completely in balance in my life. But in the discussion of whether we support others in their creative work, I feel we need to be very careful not to go overboard on saying 'no'.
Of course we need to protect time that we can give to our writing, editing, planning of stories and then to promotion of our work. But I believe we must also remember that without the support of others; editors, publishers, promoters, and other writers who give great encouragement as well as their own precious time, none of us would succeed.
The creation of a work of art, be it writing, or any other project, may be the inspiration and vision of the writer, and no writer would dispute the enormous number of hours we need for our writing, the agony and ecstasy of digging deeper and deeper into ourselves for creative ways to present our stories, the ominous task of editing over and over again, the painstaking planning and execution of promotion.
However, surely most writers would acknowledge the absolute necessity of the support of others in the completion of our art. What if others always said ‘no’ to our requests to read our work, to give feedback, to consider publishing, to review, to promote through their own networks? I cannot overestimate the help and support I have received from other writers, readers, promoters, not to mention my publisher.  I feel that being part of a writing community, supporting each other and achieving something together for the world of publishing, reading and writing, is very worthwhile. I believe this is a vision we share together, a calling we have from God to share ideas, stories and challenges to a reading public, and I can see that together we can achieve so much more than any of us can achieve alone.
So in this case, in spite of any teaching I’ve given on boundaries – and I certainly believe we must be good at setting boundaries in our lives – I think we must be very careful that we acknowledge the value of saying ‘yes’ to helping the work of other people.
Carol Preston

With thanks to all those who have said ‘yes’ to helping me create, publish and promote my Turning The Tide series of historical novels.
www.carolpreston.com.au
www.amazon.com/author/carolpreston

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Only One Rose

It was only one rose. 
But it was red. 
Eyes downcast she accepted it.
'Thanks Dad.'

He realised he'd been holding his breath.
He'd taken a risk.
But what could he lose? 
Things couldn't get any worse.

She hadn't allowed the smallest touch for years
Spoken words of love had been spurned
The shell of pain around her life 
Seemed impenetrable.

'I'll get a glass.' 

Only one rose every day
But it built a splash of red
That vibrated through the room

He couldn't hold her close
Nor kiss her tears and fears away
She was too bruised.

But where words or touch couldn't reach
Symbolism spoke volumes

It was only one rose
But it was red.

Jo and Steve Wanmer discovered the power of unconditional love while walking through family crisis. Jo tells the story in the award winning novel 
'Though the Bud be Bruised'. When all seems lost God promises a flower.


Friday, March 15, 2013

A Divine Appointment


This is a story about one of those wonderful ‘divine appointments’ which are great testimonies that show how much God cares, and how an ordinary Christian can be used by Him to witness to and bring comfort to someone.
            In the Riverland, South Australia, (gorgeous place!), I hired a caravan to live in, with my dogs by a river, until I obtained more permanent accommodation. I found a little bungalow on someone’s property and returned the caravan to the hire place. After awhile, I was unable to find the box with all my memorabilia and my precious photo albums. I panicked and figured I must have left it in the caravan. I remembered then, that it had been packed away under the front seat.
            I really wondered whether I would ever see my precious treasures again as I asked the caravan hire manager if he knew where the caravan was, as it wasn’t in the yard. He gave me directions to a clearing in the middle of the bush where the current renter was living in the caravan.
            I managed to find it and was welcomed by the man and given a cup of coffee. To my relief, there all my stuff was, under the seat still! As I chatted to the man, he shared with me about his grieving. He had lost his wife six months ago and was devastated and didn’t believe that he would ever get over his loss. I was able to comfort him and told him about the comfort Jesus has always given me and I told him about the bad situations I’d had and how I’d come through them with the help of God’s tender love.
            He wasn’t a Christian, but knew a little bit about God’s love. He was crying and I prayed with him. We talked for a long time about the power of God and His love and I left a happier man than the one I’d first met, and he promised that he would seek consolation from God every day!
            This filled me with such joy that God had been able to use me. So often, I had sought comfort through sharing with others about my sorrow and leaning on them, as well as looking to the Lord for comfort and peace. Now, at last, I had been able to give back, and God used me to make a difference in someone else’s life. I do love these powerful and reassuring ‘divine appointments’, don’t you?

Madeleine Calcutt
http://www.madeleinecalcutt.wordpress.com




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don't be Chicken.


Years ago I asked my five-year-old which had come first, the chicken or the egg? He had taken some time to answer me, his face reflecting the intensity of this thoughts. Eventually he exclaimed with great assurance that it was surely the egg that had come first. I was amused by how seriously he had taken the question, and I asked him why he was so certain. He answered without hesitation that it must have been the egg, as the chicken would have been far too busy crossing the road.

It struck me this week that perhaps I was becoming that chicken – far too consumed with menial tasks that I was completely missing the bigger picture.

It is so easy to allow things, people, situations (for me – a children’s birthday party), even technology (think Facebook), to distract you from your writing. Not to say that relationships and commitments in life are not important– but if you find yourself like me recently, where days, and then weeks go past and your work in progress hasn't really progressed, then it’s time to investigate the reason why, and prioritise the necessary tasks from the distractions. Without this self-evaluation, it can be easy to waste time.

My challenge? - not to morph into the chicken that never gets across the road, but instead, to be the egg, hatching into a lifetime of ‘firsts’.

Rose Dee is the author of the three book 'Resolution Series' and co-author of 'The Greenfield Legacy' 
Visit Rose at: http://rosedee.com/

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Party Pooper of the English Language



If you could do anything, what would it be? Hmm, interesting. Now, I want to you answer that question again, but this time your answer cannot be from your "Column A," the "safe" column; that's right, I want you to look at your "Column B," the "I really would love to do or be that, but . . . " column. 

"I'd like to be a chef . . . but, I don't have the time."

"I'd like to be a vet . . . but, I don't have the grades."

"I'd like to be a Pastor . . . but, I don't know enough about the Bible."

"I'd like to be a doctor . . . but, I'm too old to go back to study."

"I'd like to be a . . . B U T . . . "

"BUT." Such a small word, but oh so powerful. I reckon that if 'but' was a person she'd be the "party pooper," the wet blanket of everything good, fun, enjoyable or delightful. Oh she'd be a great friend to start with, listening as you nervously shared your dreams and passions, encouraging you with each nod of the head, each "that sounds great," and then BAM, with one fell swoop she'd bring you crashing down to earth; deflated, discouraged, disillusioned.

BUT. . . 

This year I have stepped way, way out of my comfort zone and dared to follow a passion from my Column B. I am currently doing 2 subjects from the Certificate II in Visual Arts - Graphic Design. In one of the subjects, whilst a "noob" ("newbie," according to my 8 year old son), I'm not completely clueless, so the stretching is not too drastic. In the class Design Foundations, however, it’s a whole other story - I mean, I actually have to draw. FOR REAL! Actual pens on paper and cutting and gluing and . . . let's just say I have lost count of how many times I have said to my lecturers and fellow students, "I can't even draw!"  Just this morning I bashfully sat at the Studio 1 desk, praying that the lecturers would just not notice me, would just walk on by and not see my incompetence.

They didn't. No, they came and they stood right next to me, looking for the work that I was so desperate to hide. As they looked, my 'buts' started up, "Did I mention that I can't actually draw; I mean, I thought this was computer design, not actual drawing design, and . . . " Big sigh. 

I waited for their verdict; and you know what? They didn't buy into my excuses or lack of self belief. They didn't laugh and mock me in front of the other, (oh so talented), students. On the contrary, they were encouraging, they smiled; they even said that my work was good - GOOD?!

I can barely find the words to describe the delight my heart felt at that moment. Through the strength and power of Jesus I had faced my 'buts,' and at the name of Jesus they bolted!

What dreams do you have hidden in the Column B of your life? Is there a gift or talent that bubbles away in your spirit that you would just love to try; a “God thing,” a super-natural desire for something that, in your own strength, you perhaps could not pull off, but in God’s strength . . . well who knows what you might be able to accomplish.

Go on; ask God to give you the strength and courage to stand up to your ‘buts’ this year. And when you do, please pop back over here and be sure to share your story with us; I know I’d love to hear all about it.

Blessings,

Helen

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened …



 
 

Within 24 hours of the Pope announcing his resignation, people were joking that he would now be called Ex-Benedict!  Now that’s funny.  Well, I thought it was funny, but would some Catholics find it disrespectful?  I also smiled when reading Adrian Plass’s parody of the Toronto Blessing in which a congregation had to decide whether the Taiwanese Tickle was a move of God.  Hilarious!  Well, I thought it was, but would some Charismatics be insulted?  At least I’m being balanced by offending two religious groups at once!

Much of our Australian humour is based on sarcasm, satire, and poking fun at people, but what are the ground rules for the Christian humorist?  I’m assuming most Christians would not endorse humour that is vulgar, cruel, or steeped in Benny-Hill-style sexual innuendo.  But where is the line between harmlessly making fun of someone and hurting them?  When is satire a helpful way to confront people and when is it just plain mean?  By now you’ve probably realised that this post is going to ask more questions than it answers, but I have an ulterior motive.  I’m trying to work this out so that I do the right thing when I write humorous pieces.  So here is my initial attempt at some guidelines.

·         Avoid stereotyping groups of people (e.g., different ethnic or religious groups, mothers-in-law, blondes).  Though if Rebel Wilson tells you the blonde was staring at the orange juice because it said “concentrate”, that’s okay.
 
·         Use the “do unto others” test and ask yourself whether you would like it if someone told a similar joke about you or your loved ones.
 
·         Consider the purpose of your humour.  Is it purely to entertain and make people laugh?  Are you satirising something to confront people about an important issue?  Are you using humour to lighten a serious topic?  All are valid, but understanding your motives may help you to decide whether certain jokes or anecdotes are appropriate in a given situation.  Humour should never be used to “get back” at another person.  Some topics may also be off limits depending on the audience.  It was never going to be a good idea for The Chaser team to make fun of a charity that helps kids with cancer or for this year’s Academy Awards host to joke about dating violence. 
 
·         Be willing to make fun of your own foibles and struggles rather than just poking fun at others.  Christian writers like Barbara Johnson and Karen Scalf Linamen do that so well.  We identify with their quirks and problems and are more likely to listen to their underlying serious message.  Before passing away from cancer in 2007, Barbara Johnson was known for bringing humour into the darkest of places, including the deaths of two of her sons and her own battle with cancer.  Karen Scalf Linamen uses humour to teach valuable lessons for practical Christian living (most of which involve healthy doses of chocolate).
 
·         Don’t be too precious.  No matter how careful we are, there’ll always be someone who’s ready to take offense.  Adrian Plass would call them the “Spot it and stop it” people.  If we pander to them, we’ll be left with the bland “Christmas Cracker” type jokes that cause groans rather than smiles and I think God has a better sense of humour than that.

These thoughts are very much a work in progress.  Do you agree with these guidelines?  Would you add others?  Where is the line?  Meanwhile, back to my latest project.  A blonde, Irish nun walks into a bar …

 
Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 80 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction). She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same. (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragement").


Monday, March 4, 2013

How do we receive?

I enjoy analogies and word pictures of spiritual truths but sometimes I find they lack a practical application. For instance I’ve heard speakers talk about the giving and receiving of a material gift as an illustration of the fact that God gives gifts, but we must receive them. With a natural gift we would rip off the wrapping paper, open the box and enjoy the gift. How do we spiritually “rip off” the wrapping paper, open up what God has for us and draw upon our God given gifts and talents? How do we become good recipients of all God has for us?

Firstly we believe that God has gifted us. Even the gift of salvation requires that we believe that God has made salvation available. If we don’t believe God gives gifts we won’t be motivated to discover what our gifts are. 1 Corinthians 12 assures us that we have all been gifted but not in the same way. It is up to us to discover exactly how God has gifted us. Some people seem to automatically know this, but for others it is a process of experimenting. Even if you know your giftedness is an area like writing it still may take time to work out what God wants you to write – short stories, non-fiction, blog articles, academic papers etc.

Secondly, we take hold of what God has given us (Philippians 3:12) and integrate it into our lives. Salvation, gifts, ministry have all been made available to us but we have to show some initiative. We begin to talk, pray and act in agreement with the way God has gifted us. We are to be motivated, faithful, teachable and available as we look for ways to use our giftedness.

Thirdly Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). Our gifts don’t come fully developed. Usually they require practice, honing and maturing. As we do this we notice that through our gifts others are edified and encouraged.

We become good recipients of God’s gifts when we believe that God has gifted us; when we discover exactly how we are gifted; as we seek out opportunities to use our giftedness; and when we exercise our gifts with the purpose of edifying and encouraging others.

*****


Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at: http://abooklook.blogspot.com.au