My Writing Life

Books.tied

I do not call myself an author because I’ve not published a book. That’s the distinction I make. I am a writer; that’s what I do. So what’s it all about – the why and the how?

The reason should come first. I’ve been motivated to write a mission statement. That sounds like a business term, and yet that’s what my writing is, a career, even though somewhat faulty. I write because I enjoy the struggle of writing. It’s not easy for me; the words don’t flow. But I write anyway. I want to write – to put my thoughts on paper (whether that’s in a journal or on the computer). Pages fill up with my thoughts. And then I share; I don’t write to be published. Yet it’s not enough to write for myself. I want others to know what I’m thinking, what moves me, what demands my attention. Editing is also a joy, getting it right – the proper grammar and the best words for relating and reacting. Writing demands re-writes; making sure it’s my best work.

Does that cover why I write? Not hardly. Pleasing God with my writing is important, whether that’s for my private journal or in a published devotional, article, or book. My writing must be acceptable to God, to honor Him and give Him due praise. God must shine through my writing.

How do I write? My day begins with reading God’s Word and writing reflections in a journal. Sometimes what I select is seasonal, like now during Lent, I’m reading the Gospels. I started with John because the major portion of his book is about Jesus’ last days. I even edit my journals, looking back over the day’s entry to make corrections. I keep white-out handy.

I have several writing projects going at the same time and choose one to work on most days of the week. I post a to-do list on my calendar: it may be starting an assignment for a devotional, adding to an incomplete article, or working on those two books in process. It’s not a strict discipline as to what I write, only that I do write. I don’t wait until I’m “inspired.” It’s a simple strategy, for writers write. Making time is now not a problem because I have the time. The problem is sticking to what’s a priority and eliminating distraction.

Writing includes the learning process, so I read about writing and also take courses. Taking notes (that’s also writing) is my way of collecting and connecting what I learn. An author and an agency are my favorite teachers: Jerry Jenkins and Steve Laube Agency’s Christian Writers Institute. Writers Conferences also help to contact publishers, agents, and other writers.

Looking over this piece there are a lot of “I’s” and yet it’s a personal work. Most sentences start with the subject, and that subject is me. So I went back and edited. As to how I put words together to complete a project, that depends on the purpose of the work. Devotionals are quite different from a magazine article. So is this blog. Thanks for reading what I write.

What do you see?

Peek-eyes.Ostrich

What we see:

  • Yields attitudes and actions
  • Understands it may or may not be true
  • What is not + What is + What can be

What does a University or Church see?

  • Past – “Hold the fort” mentality

Tradition – Pleases our forbearers

Orthodox, but not opportune

  • Present – “Status Quo” mentality

Don’t rock the boat – Pleases our constituency

Secure, but not satisfying

  • Future – “Visionary” mentality

Serves our age best by always becoming

Risky, but not rancid

We need the past – the value of tradition (as long as it serves).

We need the present – the value of continuity (as long as it works).

We need the future – the value of anticipation (as long as it’s true).

Bill Coker’s outline notes for a message (1991). You fill in the application.

Listen

We’ve watched Netflix’s first season of ‟Anne with an E” and we’ve been enthralled with the characters. One observation I’ve had: people don’t listen. Someone will be talking and another will interrupt, and with strong objection. The first party will not get to finish what’s on her mind. Then later the second party finds out that the information that was trying to be offered could have troubling consequences if not heeded. The one engaged in conversation, seemingly to change another’s mind, but too often did not complete their exchange of ideas.

Then Sunday evening we had a sort-of annual meeting at our church. I grabbed the printed report off the table and there on the cover was the title or theme: ‟Listen.” I tried to figure out how this was associated with the meeting or report. Throughout the meeting, we listened to the pastor and laypersons give reports and testimonies about their involvement in the church. We left with the mandate: ‟Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19b, ESV). We can tell them. Will they listen?

God has had and continues to have problems with His people not listening. The account of the kings of Judah lists a see-saw of either doing what was right or evil in the eyes of the Lord. Some of the kings led the people astray because they did not obey the Lord. One king, Manasseh, started out as doing evil, for he paid no attention (didn’t listen) when the Lord spoke. After being taken as prisoner by the king of Assyria, Manasseh humbled himself and asked God for mercy. ‟The Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea” (2 Chronicles 33:13). Here we have the assurance that God listens to His people.Girl praying                   When I think of prayer and the exchange between me and the Lord, I approach God with my words of thanks and petition. But if I want to hear what God has to say, I listen by reading His Word, the Bible. That, to me, is the two-way street of prayer. I know God listens to me as I pray, but I also listen to Him as I read the account He has left of His people. Be still, listen and learn.

Contact Information

‟In case someone needs to get in touch with you.” That’s all Harvey said, but my eyes moistened as I connected with events of February first of the same year. This one sentence brought up a remembrance, although not uppermost in my mind.

In February we had vacationed with friends in Florida. Desperate to reach us and frustrated with our answering machine, our youngest son phoned his sister and asked, ‟Where’s Mom and Dad?” Securing the phone number from her, he called us early that Sunday morning. The wife of our middle son had died during the night. We had little time for it to sink in, for we needed to change our flight schedule, return home to Indiana, and then drive to Lexington, Kentucky, where my husband would conduct the funeral service for our daughter-in-law, dead at age thirty-four, cause unknown.

‟You never know,” Harvey concluded our brief lesson on keeping the ship-to-shore radio tuned up to high volume. My thoughts snapped back to the present. We were again on vacation for a few days and again enjoying the generosity of friends.

Harvey, manager of the floating grocery at the Patoka Lake Marina, didn’t have to emphasize the importance of availability. This time we had given our location and phone contacts to all four children, just in case.

black rotary telephone on white surface

L’chaim — “To Life”

If you have ever watched Fiddler on the Roof, you remember the scene where Tevya goes with Lazar Wolf to celebrate the proposed engagement of his eldest daughter. Their toast is L’chaim, ‟to life.” In recent weeks I’ve wanted to join the chorus to celebrate life, but my emotions have included bewilderment, sadness, and even anger.

Bewilderment: because of the illogical thinking on the part of legislators who have considered and voted for the Reproductive Health Act in New York and similar acts in other states. Anger: because of people applauding such statements as ‟the most aggressive women’s equality platform in the nation” (Gov. Andrew Cuomo). How can sane, logical thought be equated with such travesty? Sadness: because of the future prospects this ‟health act” will foster.

Not only does this legislature provide legal abortions up until the due date of a baby’s birth, but it removes all protection of a fetus (no homicide charges), and those performing the abortion do not have to be physicians. With this new law, abortion is considered ‟health care.” Inconceivable!father-forgive.jpg

Dr. Omar Hamada, OB/GYN who has delivered 2500 babies, said in an interview on Fox News: ‟There is not a single fetal or maternal condition that requires a third-trimester abortion. Not one. Delivery, yes. Abortion, no.” This new state law could be labeled as convenience or recreational.

Just a few facts about the extent of abortion in America: More than 58.5 million unborn human persons have lost their lives to abortion since 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion. 2900 babies die every day from abortion; that’s one human being who dies every 30 seconds. African-Americans account for thirty percent (30 %) of all abortions in the United States.

When asking where is our sense of what’s right and moral, we have to rely on what we know. Only one question needs to be asked: What is it? We know that abortion kills something. What? Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. Perhaps this travesty will awaken more people to the truth of abortion. We are not protecting women’s rights; for ‟it” is not her body. She is only giving the natural place for her baby to develop.

In making pro-life presentations, I have often closed with a Scripture passage that concerned the conquest of the Promised Land. The Lord said, ‟I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:29-30).

God has enabled the pro-life cause to be fruitful only because He is in charge of the conquest. It has been 46 years since the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade that legalized abortion. Even with these new set-backs, we have witnessed one victory after another, little by little. We are going to possess the land because God is the sovereign Author of Life. ‟To Life!”

What James teaches me about writing

typewriter.lamp

I sit down at the keyboard with words at my fingertips, yet they don’t appear in any appealing order on the page. Even though I truly enjoy the struggle of writing, the process often seems too hard to handle. Wanting to write I too often feel trapped in how to do it. It’s a personal entrapment with seemingly no release. How do I break the cycle of large desire and little progress?

Surprisingly I find help from James, the half-brother of Jesus and who later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). His epistle gives me the process of being set free to write.

First, I make up my mind. “Submit yourselves, then, to God” (James 4:7). It’s a commitment of setting my will to do what I desire – deciding what to accept and what to resist. Making the decision to write, I set my mind in that direction.

This mental discipline is how I understand that the problem can be resolved. Indecision is the great enemy in any pursuit. The choice is mine to make, for nothing is more disruptive in life than indecision. As on a battlefield, breaking through the lines is necessary in order to pursue victory. The fight is actually a submission to the commander’s strategy in order to win the battle.

Second, I make my move. I do the hard work of writing. “Come near,” beckons James (4:8a). I write. It’s like dating. Once one decides to date, that person must engage another person in the dating process. The problem is in the will, but after submitting to the desire, something has to be done. Often while I’m at other tasks my mind engages my current writing assignment. I think of appropriate phrases for a devotional or how to couple an article in bookends, returning the closing to the beginning. Unless I sit and write, the work will not be accomplished. It will stay in my head and perhaps get lost.

As with my spiritual life, I submit and draw near to God. Everything in life is subordinate to God and His will. I break bad habits and choose the good ones: doing what is right because it’s right; not doing what’s wrong because it is wrong. I move toward the good and resist what is not. It’s not in my own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. I draw near and resist what is not good for me. I wash my hands of bad actions and purify my heart of wrongful attitudes so as not to be double-minded (James 4:8).

I apply that to the writing process. What hinders my writing? It’s no secret. I know the answer. So I resist that obstacle and submit to those practices that do enhance the process. I put aside the time; I make time available. I turn off distractions — social media, telephone calls, even thoughts of what’s next on my agenda for the day. Jerry Jenkins advises that even the internal editing process must be halted until later. I choose the best over the good and make my move to write.

Finally, I break the cycle of indecision. My writing progress is enhanced by a concrete disposition. It’s like exchanging vows in marriage: my husband and I chose to commit to each other and we keep that contract sacred. We are disposed to be with each other. So it is with my writing. I am disposed to write. It doesn’t define me as a person, but writing is my work, my chosen and desired vocation. Often the process makes me move against the flow while other things beg for my attention. I decide daily what I do, how much I write (whether that’s counting words or pages) or what amount of time I give to it.

Because God’s Word is a creative activity, I purpose to live in the hope that what I write is worthwhile, that it will enrich someone else’s life and give purpose to my life. My writing is my ministry. I live and write in the truth that God has shown me in His Word: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 8:10). Now my words flow, because God’s Word dwells in me and ignites my writing.

[First published in The Christian Communicator, Nov/Dec 2018 issue, then as a member blog post for the Heartland Christian Writers Group website, Jan 2019.]

Life-long Friends

Recently my grandson Stephen left the house saying, ‟I’m going to hang out with some friends.” Since he’s lived in Indianapolis since conception, he’s known many of his friends his whole life.

I’ve had the advantage of moving a lot, but that means a disadvantage of not having life-long friends. In my childhood and teen years our family rented houses; and when the owner put the house up for sale, we moved. In big cities such as New Orleans and Mobile, that meant new schools and neighbors. After I married Bill I never saw my school friends again. His first pastorate was in North Biloxi, MS, and then when he started seminary we lived in Kentucky. We claimed friends in our churches, but we moved frequently because of change of appointment.

We’ve bounced from Kentucky to Indiana, back to Kentucky and then to Indiana again. This afforded friends in the academics and in churches. We stay connected with many friends, if not frequently, at least with cards and letters at Christmas, and also on Facebook. I have moved away from friends all my life, yet I still claim some friends as life-long. Some students Bill taught at D’Iberville High School in Mississippi still connect. We have attended several of their reunions, and they even sent a group greeting card for our 60th anniversary.

We’re grateful for those friends who make it a priority to keep in touch, who email and come visit. Some of our friends have moved away from us to other parts of the U.S. or around the world, and we’ve visited a few in Florida and other countries. Then some friends have moved further on — to Heaven. We miss them, and one day we will see them there.

summitt beth & me.faith conf

My new best friend in Indy is Beth, and we connect because of a Christian writers group that meets at her church. So God continues to make friendships real and meaningful.