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Faith rockDo you put off doing things because you don’t believe you can do them? Do you have half-written manuscripts waiting to be finished? What about ideas that you’ve tucked away – somewhere?

Yes, procrastination is a very real foe, but I am convinced the real reason we procrastinate is because we don’t believe we can do something. And actually, that’s true! We need God’s enabling to do the work He calls us to do. The key is knowing what He is calling us to do. The Living Bible paraphrase of Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”

It comes down to faith – to believing in the One who calls us and choosing to say “yes, Lord, here am I.”

I wantDream%20With%20Me_album%20cover to encourage you to read aloud the “Writer’s Statement of Faith” below. You may need to read it aloud several times a day. I know I do! I also want to encourage you to watch this video of pre-teen Jackie Evancho singing “To Believe.” Yes, Father, help us to believe that we really can make a difference and bring peace – Your peace – to our troubled world.

A Writer’s Statement of Faith

I have strength for all things in Christ Who Empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength in me, [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. Phil. 4:13 AMP

Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies, so that God will be glorified. 1 Pet. 4:11 TLB

[Not in my own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in me – energizing and creating in me the power and desire – both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Phil. 2:13 AMP

My strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power at work within me. Eph. 6:10 TLB

In Him in every respect I am enriched, in full power and readiness of speech (to speak of my faith), and complete knowledge and illumination (to give me full insight into its meaning). 1 Cor. 1:5 AMP

Now I have every grace and blessing; every spiritual gift and power for doing His will are mine during this time of waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 1:7 TLB

I actually do have within me a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:16 TLB

I can be a mirror that brightly reflects the glory of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18 TLB

I will commit everything I do to the Lord. I will trust Him to help me do it and He will. Ps. 37:5 TLB

I will lean on, trust and be confident in the Lord with all my heart and mind, and choose not to rely on my own insight or understanding. Prov. 3:5 AMP

I will commit my work to the Lord, then it will succeed. Prov. 16:3 TLB

Sharing Christ is my work, and I can do it only because Christ’s mighty energy is at work within me. Col. 1:29 TLB

I will be strong and courageous and get to work. I will not be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with me; He will not forsake me. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly. 1 Chron. 28:20 TLB

I need to keep on patiently doing God’s will if I want Him to do for me all He promised. Heb. 10:36 TLB

I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in me will continue until the day of Jesus Christ – right up to the time of His return – developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in me. Phil. 1:6 AMP

His mighty power at work within me is able to do far more than I would every dare to ask or even dream of – infinitely beyond my highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes. Eph. 3:20 TLB

From Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers. For more excerpts, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Barb Haley Apr 2016Guest Blogger
Barbara Haley
Registrar & Appointment Coordinator
Colorado & Greater Philly
Christian Writers Conference

 

I was ten years old when I asked God to show me if He was real. The next day my sixteen-year-old sister was killed in an automobile accident. God was real. I shouldn’t have asked.

Of course, I didn’t tell anyone. Instead, I stuffed the guilt and the excruciating pain when my parents said things to me like, “You may look like her, but you’ll never be as good as her.” Or, “Comb your hair a different way; I can’t stand to look at you.”

Thirty-five years later, I finally opened up to a therapist. He sent me home to write a letter to my big sister from the point of view of a ten-year-old child.

After just a few sentences, my heart connected with the hurting little girl inside, and she began to voice her pain. Begging forgiveness from her precious older sister for causing her death. Suggesting that everyone would have been better off if only she could have died in her sister’s place that day. And finally, admitting how very much she hated God for what He’d done.

My next letter was to that sweet child—explaining to her that she didn’t cause her sister’s death and that God was not angry with her for her honest feelings and reactions. I released that child to be exactly that. A broken and confused child who desperately needed to know she was loved by God and family.

That writing changed my life and instilled in me a desire to learn how to use my life experiences to minister to others through the written word.

But I needed to learn how to write tight. To eliminate wordiness. To organize my thoughts. To connect emotionally with the reader. To stick to one point of view. To create a setting that captures the reader’s imagination and transfers them from their everyday life to an exciting new story world.

Writing conferences. This is where I’m learning the craft. Where I connect with other writers to encourage and be encouraged. Where I receive one-on-one feedback with paid critiques. And where God speaks clearly to my heart through inspiring worship and keynote speakers, informative workshops and continuing sessions, life-changing editor appointments, and most of all—the day to day rapport with fellow writers while sharing meals, waiting in line at the book table, or joining together for intimate prayer and Bible study.

Sure, you can buy books about the craft of writing. My shelves are loaded with them. But only when I began to consistently attend conferences did I really improve as a writer. I needed the immediate feedback and the hands-on practice provided in small groups led by experienced teachers. I grew in leaps and bounds as I jotted down strategies mentioned by other writers and began implementing them in my own writing. And, as I stood amazed, listening to big-name authors share their overwhelmingly deep love for God and His people, I realized just how sacred the ministry of writing is.

Let me encourage you to come and grow in your ministry as a writer at the May 11-14 Colorado or August 3-6 Greater Philly Christian Writers’ Conference. The friendships you’ll form will develop into a network of love and support in all areas of your life, and your writing friends will truly become your family. I promise.

______________

Thanks, Barbie, for sharing your heart and for serving as the registrar and appointments coordinator as well as the book table manager at both conferences.  You are a blessing!

eagle (2)Many Christians believe this is a pivotal year for the United States of America, and it is not just because it is an election year.

As Franklin Graham proclaimed in his Decision America Tour, America has a sickness and that sickness is sin. Has idolized reason led to despair? Has despair evolved into apathy, and has apathy produced hopelessness? Have foundations for lawlessness been laid? Do we live in a culture where illegal acts go unpunished and evildoers prosper? Is institutionalized sin – personal and national – the new normal even for believers?

During the May 11-14, 2016, Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference (CCWC) held at the YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park Center, seven faculty members will collaborate to present a 5-3/4 hour continuing session on “Addressing the Issues.” Their objective is to prepare Christians to write biblical solutions to the many problems surrounding us. It is not enough to complain about issues; it is time to present His answer with clarity, conviction, and courage. Topics they will cover include:

  • America at the Crossroads – Advance the American Dream or the Kingdom of God?
  • Stand for Truth – Even with Often-Controversial Subjects
  • Answering Christianity’s Critics – Face Antagonism & Win Respect
  • Grace, Race & Forgiveness – Remedies are First Spiritual: Prayer, Forgiveness, Love, Hope & Mercy
  • Know What You Believe – Write Based on Well-Grounded Faith
  • Write His Question – So people will know Jesus as the Answer
  • How Then Should We Live? – Part 1, What Can I Do?
    Part 2, Trust in God Alone

Go to http://colorado.writehisanswer.com/continuingsessions2016 for information on the presenters and times. There is no charge for any of the above sessions or the conference closing session and keynote, “Live and Write Dangerously,” Saturday, May 14, 4:00 – 5:30pm.

Other continuing sessions will provide encouragement and practical help for wannabe writers (there are some in every congregation) and those who are already published.

Allen Arnold, founding fiction publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, will teach “From Overwhelmed to Creative Breakthrough.” Other continuing sessions at this year’s CCWC include:

  • Indie Publishing Boot Camp
  • Write a Winning Book Proposal
  • Christian Speculative Fiction
  • Reaching Youth through Fiction
  • Thriving in Today’s Publishing World
  • First Chapter Boot Camp (nonfiction)

CCWC also offers 8 inspiring keynotes, 18 early bird workshops on Wednesday and 42 workshops Thursday through Saturday; panels; one-on-one appointments with the faculty of 57 authors, editors, and literary agents; and the popular Teens Write program Saturday, May 14, from 9:30am – 3:45pm.

Pastors, seniors 65 and over, full-time students, and alumni receive a 10% discount. Teens are welcome to attend the entire conference at a 60% discount. Partial scholarships and time payments are still available as is lodging on the YMCA Estes Park Center campus.

For those unable to come CDs can be ordered through CCWC’s website after the conference – http://colorado.writehisanswer.com.

 

Grumbling face croppedHave you ever been ready to give up? Have you tried everything you know but feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall? What do you do when the accuser tells you that your best isn’t good enough – that it never has been and never will be?

Perhaps it’s a manuscript you’ve been working on for years. You’ve rewritten it not just once or twice but many times. Still you’ve been unsuccessful in finding anyone interested in publishing it. And it makes no sense because you know it’s something God has called you to write. You’ve studied the craft. You’ve gone to critique groups and conferences trying to find that missing something. And now . . . now you’re not sure you can keep on keeping on.

Possible And Impossible Keys Show Optimism And Positivity

That was my experience with my first book that some of you know was rejected by 42 publishers over a six year period . If I had given up (and believe me, there were many times I wanted to), it and the six books that followed would never have been published. I would not have founded the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference in 1983 or said yes in 1997 to directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

Yes, there have been many times when I’ve doubted and when, as my writing mentor Lee Roddy said years ago, I’ve “listened to the wrong voices.” The tapes from my childhood start to play again. “You’re not smart enough. No matter how hard you try, you’re going to fail.”

Many days I’ve sat in my office and wept. Frustrated and discouraged I’ve told the Lord, “I can’t.” And I know that’s true. Without His help I can’t get on top of the countless details that go with directing two conferences or anythiung else for that matter.

But what can I do, can you do, when He doesn’t seem to be listening? Has He abandoned us? Or is He using the problem(s) we’re facing to strengthen our faith muscles so that when the stakes are even bigger we won’t get discouraged and give up?

I’m learning that there are lots of lessons I thought I’d learned (that I’ve even written about in my book, Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers) that I need to relearn!


RunKeep your eyes on the Lord, on how far you’ve come, and on the prize.
It’s easy to allow problems and challenges to consume us and to blind us to the Lord’s presence, to how far we’ve come, and to the prize. “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us” (Philippians 3:14 TLB) Paul wrote from prison in Rome. He had reason to be greatly frustrated and discouraged by the loss of his freedom. He could have questioned the Lord and concluded that his ministry was over. Instead he focused on the needs of the churches and wrote letters that continue to encourage Christ-followers almost 2,000 years later.


Cut the tapes from your past.
Although Paul never forgot the person he was before he encountered the Lord on the Damascus Road, he did not wallow in the past or dwell on what others thought or said about him. Instead he embraced the truth of Zephaniah 3:17: “He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you” (TLB). Paul was able to preach and write about the message of salvation because he had experienced firsthand God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.


Faith rockDon’t grieve the Lord by your lack of faith.
Although sometimes it does seem that He’s not listening, we need to trust that He will equip us with all we need for doing his will (see Hebrews 13:20). It’s not easy to wait on the Lord and to have Hebrews 11:1 faith in what we can’t yet see, but “God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn; he will never go back on his promises” (Romans 11:29 TLB).


Do your best and trust God for the rest.
The fear of failure can paralyze us if we let it, and that’s exactly what our adversary wants. I grieve for the books that have not been published and the ministries that have been abandoned because of the evil one’s accusations that our best will never be good enough.

I’m reminded of the “pictures” my then almost four-year-old granddaughter drew in Sunday school. I had absolutely no idea what she drew, and she couldn’t tell me because she had apraxia and was unable to speak more than a few words. But, of course, I told her that her pictures are beautiful. She did her best and that’s all that matters.

And that’s all the Lord expects. When we give our best to Him, He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).


Father, help us to believe You and not the accuser. Thank You for loving us and for being 
bigger than our perceived failures. Thank You for encouraging us not to give up. We will eep on expecting you to help us. We will praise you more and more. We will walk in the strength of the Lord our God (Psalm 71:14, 16 TLB).

Debbie Hardy for GPGuest Post
CCWC & GPCWC
Faculty Member
Debbie Hardy

Many people with the urge to write a book have no idea what’s involved. They’ve probably told amusing stories at parties and had someone say they should write them down.

It’s not easy, but it is possible.

  1. Write what you’re passionate about.

Writing and publishing a book can take years, and if you’re not passionate about the subject, you’ll tire of it long before the process is completed.

  1. Join a writers’ group.

These are writers who assist each other to improve their manuscripts and encourage one another to keep writing. Listening to suggestions and editing your manuscript can make it better and easier to read.

  1. Puke your book out.

I know this sounds gross, but puking your book out is exactly what you need to do. When you physically “toss your cookies,” you keep puking until everything is out, and then you clean it up. Same thing with writing. Get it all out from inside you, and then clean it up.

  1. Rewrite and have your manuscript critiqued again.

You want readers to love your work, so give it to critical folks for their reaction before even thinking about publishing. And don’t become defensive when they tell you what they’d like to see changed. These are readers, just like those you hope will buy your book and tell others about it.

  1. Marketing is up to you, not the publisher.

Learn all you can about how to market your book and yourself. Even if all your friends and family members buy a copy, you’ll need to sell more. Keep learning and marketing.

How to Write a Book AND Get It Published contains 45 more steps in the writing and publishing process, many of which you hadn’t thought of! Check it out on Amazon.com.


Colorado Christian Writers Conference
, May 11-14 – Debbie is teaching “Pitching to Agents, Publishers, and TV/Radio Producers” and “Say It with Humor.”

 

Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, August 3-6 – Debbie is teaching “Add Humor to Your Writing.”

sheila_seifert

Wanted: Fiction Writers for Kids

Guest post by Sheila Seifert
Parenting Editor
Focus on the Family magazine

 

Have you heard the bad news? The children’s book market is down. Publishers aren’t buying kids’ fiction, and those who do almost don’t pay anything for it. [Insert heavy sighs and depressed teenage groans.]

 

Of course, I’ve heard these common complaints for decades, yes, 20 years. Those erroneous rumors didn’t stop me from co-authoring seven children’s books, with the newest being released this May: Bible Kidventures: Stories of Danger and Courage. But if you reckon those rumors are real, there are only two routes to take: Give up your dream or carry on with what God has called you to do — write.

 

All my children’s books sell as fiction, but five in this family are, in fact, creative nonfiction — stories that are factually true, in my case Bible stories, and written using literary techniques. Creative nonfiction, like a misunderstood child, is able to reveal truth about an experience. The best creative nonfiction starts with what really happened — in the Bible, science, history or even your own life. Then literary techniques are applied to it as a much-needed canvas-cover over stark tent poles.

 

Consider the presentation of David and Goliath in this free download. The way it is set up, not just the story, moves it into the arena of creative nonfiction. The genre itself includes not only personal essays, but also writings about food, travel and individuals. These articles and books range from the blog-like style of Ann Voscamp’s 1000 Gifts to personal reflections, memoirs and chronicles. Yet how the story is presented makes the nonfiction manuscript even more accessible to readers.

 

There is no limit to what you can write for children using nonfiction topics and fiction techniques. And the market for it continues to grow. Teachers need creative nonfiction in the classroom — in science, math, social studies and English classes. Sunday school teachers need it. Book clubs are looking for it. And parents like books that help their kids learn as they read. Children, teachers and parents make this market a burgeoning base of revenue.

 

So what makes good creative nonfiction for kids? Good research, the balance between knowing what you can fictionalize and what you can’t, and choosing the right fiction techniques for your story. If you’d like to learn more about this trending category of writing, consider coming to my Wednesday workshop at the 2016 Colorado Christian Writers Conference called “Writing Creative Nonfiction for Kids.” You won’t regret it.

 

And if you don’t believe me, here’s what Jessica Strawser wrote in an article on the Writers’ Digest Blog: “All nonfiction should be creative nonfiction.” I couldn’t agree more, especially when it’s written for kids.

Driven or Led?

Be careful to do what the Lord your God
has commanded you;
do not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Deuteronomy 5:32, NIV

The wonderful world of pretend. As a youngster growing up in a not-so-happy family, I visited it frequently. I’d compete against myself in the “Olympic” event of batting a beach ball in the air, determined to beat my previous record and improve my “form.” A two-by-four became my “high wire” circus act with Mom’s clothes  pole my balancing pole. My bicycle made it possible for me to escape to the forest preserve half a mile from home. There I spent many hours in my make-believe world. There my father did not slap me across my face and lock me in my room.

When I married and moved away from home, I no longer needed my pretend world. I did, however, desperately need to prove to my family and myself that I was somebody. Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, refers to this need as self-actualization. It’s not all a bad thing. In fact, it can be one way God works for good the abuse and rejection we may have known as children. It can also, however, cause us to live life as someone who is driven rather than led.

How do we find the balance and maintain it? In a profession that is so competitive, where our very best is more likely to meet with rejection than acceptance, how do we keep on keeping on?

What is the difference between being led by his Spirit rather than driven by our need for recognition and success?

“I surrender all,” I publicly proclaimed when I was baptized as an adult. After a brief testimony, I read aloud the words of J. W. Van DeVenter’s powerful hymn with that title:

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

It was a life-changing experience, and one that I need to keep coming back to as I struggle with the business/ministry tension of being in full-time Christian work. It’s so easy to take my eyes off the Lord. I begin to worry (I’m so good at it!) about paying the bills and making a mark in the world of Christian publishing. Instead of being led and empowered by God’s Spirit, all too frequently I drive myself to make things happen in my own strength. I run ahead of the Lord and lose the joy he wants me to experience each and every day.

“Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him, and he will respond to us as surely as the coming of dawn or the rain of early spring,” Hosea said (Hos. 6:3 TLB).

Twenty-eight centuries later, there’s no better counsel I can give myself or you. Knowing the Lord needs to be our focus, our passion, our heart’s greatest desire. It’s only out of the overflow of our relationship with him that we have anything worthwhile to say or write. And it’s only as we learn what it means to surrender all that we discover the joy of being led instead of driven.

J. W. Van DeVenter wrote “I Surrender All” out of his own struggle to say yes to God’s call to become an evangelist. “For five years he wavered between this challenge and his ambition to become a recognized artist,” Billy Graham wrote about this man who influenced his early preaching (Crusader Hymns and Hymn Stories edited by Cliff Barrows, Chicago: Hope Publishing, 1967, p. 117). It seems to me his impact on Billy Graham is reason enough to give serious consideration to the words of this hymn.

“All to him I freely give.” The driven writer claims ownership of the words he writes and his career, rather than acknow- ledging the Lordship of Christ. Instead of being “content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11, NIV)—published or unpublished, well known or obscure—he covets success. It happens so subtly. Without accountability partners who are not afraid to speak truth into our lives, we may not even realize we are in danger of forsaking our first love (Rev. 2:4).

“Humbly at His feet I bow.” The driven writer draws her identity from how many manuscripts she sells, how high her published books rank on the best-seller list, royalty statements, and reviews. No wonder she is up one day and down the next and always striving, always driving to produce manuscripts that will win accolades. Shamelessly, she promotes herself and looks for ways to push herself into the spotlight.

Am I saying that striving to become the best possible writer is wrong? That it’s wrong to push ourselves to work when it would be easier to procrastinate? That it’s wrong to promote our books and speaking ministries? Of course not, for it is God himself who puts within us the drive to serve him and be the best we can be so Jesus Christ will be glorified. But we need to regularly examine our hearts. Do we desire to point others to Christ or ourselves? And do we realize that without him we are nothing? The apostle Paul asks, “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why act as though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?” (1 Cor. 4:7 TLB).

“Make me, Savior, wholly Thine.” This line reminds me hat he is the potter and I am the clay. “Does the pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with him who forms it, saying, ‘Stop,you’re doing it wrong!’” (Isa. 45:9). If God chooses for me to be a best-selling, A-list author, praise his name. If only a B-list author or wannabe, then praise his name anyway. He is Lord, and he knows the plans he has for me (Jer. 29:11). My part is simply to be faithful.

I know I’m driven when I try to force God’s hand and tell him what to do. But when I choose to be led by God, I don’t need to look to the left or to the right to see what others are doing. I don’t need to try to keep pace with them. Instead, I’m at peace doing what he has commanded me to do. And he gives me the assurance that all that happens to me is working for my good if I love him and am fitting into his plans (Rom. 8:28).

“Lord, I give myself to Thee.” This line speaks to me of my need to be wholeheartedly committed to the Lord and to his plan for my life and writing. To be honest, I’m not always there. I need “to put aside [my] own desires so that [I] will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have his way with [me]” (2 Pet. 1:6 TLB). Praise God, he also promises: “The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). Isn’t that what Van DeVenter had in mind in his last line: “Let Thy blessing fall on me”? It may not be what we would have proposed to the Lord. No, it will be far better—but only as we surrender all and choose to be led rather than driven.

Responding to God’s Call to Write

Sometimes our drivenness comes from fear that we will not measure up to what God expects of us. Like the apostle Paul, we may try to earn our salvation. Read about his experience in Philippians 3:4-14. Then take time to examine your own heart. Ask the Lord to show you whether you are driven or led. Then, if you are ready, sing or read the words of “I Surrender All” as a prayer.

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