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Spring

crocusToday is the third day we’ve had temperatures in the 70s. I’m so excited to discover flowers blooming in my garden and so tempted to begin uncovering the blanket of leaves surrounding them.

But March can be bitter cold and snowy even if the weatherman predicts it will be mild. It seems pointless to check the long-range forecast since weather is something no one can control and there’s no guarantee the forecast will be accurate. Besides, I’d rather believe we’re going to have an early spring.

I confess – I’m impatient. I have a hard time waiting and not just for spring. Forgive me, Father, when I fail to trust Your perfect timing. Help me to joyfully submit to Your work in my life for surely You are . . .

The Master Gardener

He planted the seed in the ground.
Ever so slowly it changed –
actually it died –
that it might be born into something new.

It began to push through the soil.
First one, then another leaf appeared.
From a spindly little seedling
it kept growing – and changing –
until it became a sturdy, bushy plant.
Buds formed and then beautiful flowers unfolded.

In our Christian walk,
we too must first die to ourselves,
surrendering our wills to that of our Maker.
The newness of His life within us
begins to germinate and take root.
We begin to push through problems and obstacles.
As we continue to draw up nourishment from Him –
to become strong and vigorous in His truth –
fruit that we could never produce by ourselves
begins to first bud, and then bloom.
And it is all the work of the Master Gardener.

What to Choose?!

question-exclam-ptWhen I began writing for publication over 40 years ago, opportunities to learn the craft were limited and there was only one writers’ conference on the East Coast. I’ll always be grateful for my pastor who sent me to the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference. That conference changed my life and launched me on an Ephesians 3:20 journey.

I believe going to one or more writers’ conferences every year  is critically important for those who have not yet published (or even submitted a manuscript for publication) as well as those who are publishing regularly. The opportunity to grow your writing and marketing skills, to learn from and meet with established authors, and to pitch your ideas to agents and editors can change your life even as it has mine.

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That’s why I’ve kept on keeping on directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for 21 years and the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference for 34 years. (The July 26-29 Philly conference is in the planning stages.) It’s meant I have far less time for my own writing, but I have no doubt I make a much greater Kingdom impact through directing the two conferences and teaching at my writing seminars. I have to admit, however, that if Father had told me at the first conference I attended that one day I’d be directing not one but two conferences, I would have told Him I wasn’t qualified and I would have run the other way!

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As I flip through the 16-page brochure for the May 17-20 Colorado Christian Writers Conference, I am amazed at what Father has enabled me to put together. It is certainly beyond what I could have ever imagined or dreamed over 40 years ago.

But what to choose? In addition to 42 workshops (you get to choose six or apply for a clinic), 15 early bird workshops, keynotes, panels, and one-on-one appointments (full-time conferees get FOUR 15-minute appointments), here’s a quick peek at our eight continuing sessions. Choosing just one isn’t easy!

Compassion rocks fixed
The Chase  
with D.J. Williams – Create a roadmap to chase your cause-driven novel in this interactive workshop that dives into the structure that moves novelists and screenwriters to write stories that make a difference in the world.

cspa


You Can Indie Publish and Market Your Book
with Sarah Bolme (director of CSPA, the  Christian Small Publishers Assn.) – Gain the knowledge and tools  you need to publish and market your book affordably.

kids-writing
Writing Powerful Narrative Nonfiction
with Sherri Langton – You’ll learn how story communicates biblical truth, where to find ideas, and how to be sure an idea is marketable.

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The Courage to Write 
with Judy Couchman – Build a solid foundation for your writing ministry by learning from an author who felt just as scared as you when she started. Now she has traditionally published 44 works.

indie-pub
Develop & Market Your Nonfiction Book
with Mike Loomis –  Explore a market-driven approach to creating a nonfiction book, from premise to press release.

tin-can
Reaching Women through Writing & More
with Linda Evans Shepherd – From the podium, to written word, to Web publications, and to Internet video, Linda will help you formulate a plan to build your ministry to meet the needs of today’s women.

Think Big2
Writing that Changes Lives
with Bill Watkins – Learn how writing that connects, challenges, provokes, inspires, casts vision, provides hope, and refuses to back away from telling the truth can change lives and eventually cultures.

iphone
Market Your Message without Selling Your Soul
with Eryn Lynum – Learn how to create a healthy, growing platform and marketing plan along with the importance of remembering the “why” of your writing so you don’t become lost in the marketing.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.
Ephesians 3:20 (TLB)

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I’ve often written about the three Deadly Ds.

Disappointment

Doubt

Discouragement

Anyone seeking to serve the Lord through the ministry of writing, or any ministry, is likely to encounter these Deadly Ds.

But there is a 4th “D” that can transform the three Deadly Ds into something positive.

Dependence

Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on me.
Isaiah 26:4 MSG

As long as we’re trying to make something happen in our own strength, we’re likely not only to encounter the Deadly Ds but to miss the ever-deepening dependent relationship the Lord wants us to have with Him.

Jesus put it this way:

Live in me, and I will live in you.
A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself.
It has to stay attached to the vine.
In the same way, you cannot produce fruit
unless you live in me.
John 15:4 GW

The 4th D is what keeps me going and, I trust, growing through the now 21 years of directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and 34 years of directing the Philly conference. The past week has been challenging to say the least, but finally the brochure is off press and the bios of all 56 faculty members are now online.

It’s dependence on God that is what Pastor Andrew Brunson, wrongly imprisoned in Turkey, is clinging to. See his words that CCWC faculty member, Catherine Lawton, shared in her blog. (Click here.) Please pray for him.

It’s dependence on God that is enabling my friend, Kelly Fordyce Martindale, to compile a book of stories to encourage and offer hope to readers who, like her, have lost a child or a young person near to them or have supported someone who has. Click here for more information. Stories of 1,000-3,000  words are due by March 10, but please let Kelly know by February 21 if you intend to submit a story.

Father, help us to look to You when we’re facing the Deadly Ds and to choose to depend on You.

Depend on GOD and keep at it
because in the LORD GOD you have a sure thing.
Isaiah 26:4 MSG

lee-roddy-and-me-headshot

I met Lee Roddy in 1980 at the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference. I don’t remember if it was my first or second writers’ conference. What I do remember is how overwhelmed (okay, scared) I felt. What made me think I had what it would take to write a book, much less to get it published? I felt ashamed that I was only a high school graduate. Yet there was that sense of call I couldn’t shake.

Lee’s Sunday night keynote felt like it was aimed directly at me. I had not signed up to take his continuing class because I wasn’t writing fiction and didn’t even read fiction. But without a doubt I know God sat me down in Lee’s class. What I learned coupled with Lee’s encouragement to put a commitment in writing to finish my book in a year so that “eternity would be different” changed my life.

Lee kept in touch with me the next year (I did finish my book in a year to the day) and in the five years that followed as I struggled to find a publisher. He always knew how to mix encouragement with the admonishment not to give up. Largely because of Lee I didn’t give up and the rest, as they say, is history.

Father, thank You for the gift of Lee’s friendship through the years. I’m so grateful to be one of his “kids.” You gave me an incredible writing papa.

Rather than telling you about Lee, let me share some of what he wrote in his foreword to Write His Answer: 

I met Marlene at a 1980 writers’ conference where I was speaking and teaching. Marlene, like many, felt God’s call on her life to write for him.

At that time, I wrote a notation in Marlene’s Bible about one of my own motivational passages, Habakkuk 2:2 and 3. There God says to “write the vision.” In the margin of Marlene’s Bible, alongside those verses, I wrote, “This was God’s promise to me as an
author. Maybe yours, too?”

Marlene was sure God had called her to write a book, so she set down her vision. That’s not uncommon. Many writers, filled with inspiration, start off strong. Then they get discouraged and quit. When they do, God’s vision for them is lost. How sad!

If it’s God’s will to write, then it’s logical that publication should eventually follow. After all, an unfinished manuscript cannot change lives. Even a finished one cannot minister in a drawer or  filing cabinet. Only in published form can a book go where you and I will never go, to people we will never meet. Only in published form can a book make a difference in eternity.

So why do many writers, feeling called to write, fall short? I believe it’s because they neglect to note the way God says he will bring the vision to pass. That involves his time element, not the writer’s. Read the Lord’s clear words: “But these things I [God] plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” (Hab. 2:3).

I don’t know of a single successful author in the inspirational field who hasn’t experienced doubts and discouragement. The unsuccessful are the ones who quit.

I’m praying you will not quit! Trust Father’s timing, and allow Him to use your disappointments, doubts, and discouragement to draw you closer to Him.

And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. – Galatians 6:9 TLB

Lissa Halls Johnson said in her February 7, 2017 Facebook post:There are many writers who owe part of their successful writing career to a man named Lee Roddy, author of 60+ books. For many years he traveled to schools and the writers conference circuit teaching the art of writing fiction to eager students of all ages. He encouraged writers in his adult classes to consider signing a document of commitment to complete their book. He took that commitment very seriously and did not want anyone signing if they were not willing to put everything they had to fulfill that commitment.” Click here to read the rest of her tribute to Lee.

Lee lived the commitment he challenged others to make. From his August 28, 2016 Facebook post: “I celebrated my 95th birthday two days after being released from the hospital where I had been for two more weeks before that. . . . Out of the recent hours of long lonliness I felt led to finish two novels now in progress, plus other projects. Retirement is not in sight.”

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As many of you know, the first book I wrote was “returned” (that’s a kinder word than “rejected”) 42 times over a five-year period. Finally, at the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference the 43rd editor expressed interest. A little over two months later, I signed a contract.

But what if I had not persevered? What if I had concluded that God  obviously must not have called me to write? What if I had given up?

 

  • Eight other books would never have been written or published.
  • I would have never known the joy of serving on the faculty of over 70 Christian writers conferences or giving my one- and two-day Write His Answer Seminars over 50 times across the United States.
  • The Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference that I founded would not be in its 34th year of ministry.
  • I would not have had the opportunity to begin directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference 21 years ago.

I will always be grateful to my pastor who urged me to go to the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference. He answered my objection that we couldn’t afford it by paying my way. Friends stepped in to  take care of my two children. And the rest, as they say, “is history.”

But this is not about me; it’s about our amazing God who promises:

His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. ~ Ephesians 3:20 TLB

It’s about how He enables me to do what I could never do in my own strength. It’s about how He continues to transform my self-doubts and fear that I won’t measure up (after all, I’m only a high school graduate) into a dependence on Him.

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

So, what about you? If doors appear to be closed, or worse still you feel they have been slammed in your face, will you give Him your discouragement? Will you choose to trust Him? Will you listen to His still, small voice rather than the loud accusations of the evil one that you’re not good enough, smart enough, gifted enough . . . ?

Will you keep on keeping on in His strength for His glory?

Conference Updates

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Registration is open for what I know will be another life-changing conference as Father God meets us on the mountain. http://Colorado.writehisanswer.com

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More than half the faculty is in place. All the keynotes and continuing sessions have been assigned. I’m working to open registration April 1. To get an idea of the structure of the conference go to http://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com, but please keep in mind that it still has 2016 information.

New WHA cover
“This book had a profound effect on my life. I have shared it with many folks. Thank you for putting pen to paper and teaching me how to listen for His voice. Bless you!”
                                             Nan Trammell Jones
For 25 years Write His Answer has encouraged writers.  An autographed copy is available for only $10 plus shipping. Click here for excerpts and to order. It is also available as an eBook through Amazon.com.

Not Good Enough

puppy-cropped“Not good enough.” I heard those words frequently when I was growing up. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I was not good enough.

I remember my mother telling me, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” Not true. Words can and do hurt and, sadly, I carried many of them into my adult life. Perhaps you, too?

I was almost 40 when I finally learned the difference between the condemnation of the evil one and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.  For the power of the life-giving Spirit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 TLB

What joy to know that God loves me, really loves me, even when I mess up.

Still, even today, the old “not good enough” tape can begin to play if I’m not vigilant.

And there’s some truth in the lie. I know I’m not good enough, not smart enough, and yes, not patient enough especially when it comes to mastering technology. But then, do any of us ever master what is constantly changing?

Yesterday and today I spent over three hours each day on the phone with the printer and in Quark trying to fix the line-up of pages 8 and 9 of the brochure for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Yes, as one friend urged, I could have paid the printer’s art department to do it. But then I’d have to pay them to do the same for the Philly brochure. The only way to finally solve the loss of time and money that happens twice a year when it’s brochure time is for me to fix the file myself in Quark so I have a template for future brochures.

I confess – I’ve not been patient the past two days. (See my “Pray for Patience?” post.) I’ve grown increasing impatient, and not just with myself but also with the six different techs I talked with.

After six time-consuming revisions, I’ve finally gotten the columns on pages 8-9 to line up as closely as I’m able. They’re still a hairline off, but I’m refusing to accept the “not good enough” lie. Why? Because wisdom (I believe) says it’s more important to move on to the rest of what needs to be done rather than be controlled by an ego that tells me I must be perfect.

My point in all this? I know there are many of you who will never submit the manuscript you’re working so hard on because you’re listening to the lie that it’s “not good enough.” Friends, let’s all learn to do our best and leave the rest to the Lord. It’s a far healthier and happier place than allowing ourselves to be in bondage to a perfectionist spirit that will always insist that we’re “not good enough.”

Thank You, Father, for Your grace, mercy, and love.

Pray for Patience?

“I don’t pray for patience!”

I’ve said it. You probably have too. It’s the testing we know accompanies an answer to that prayer that we long to avoid. I mean, be honest. Do you enjoy being tested?

The past week I’ve certainly been tested as I’ve worked on the 16-page brochure for the May 17-20 Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Quark, my desktop publishing program, chose to be especially quarky. Text boxes refused to accept text, deciding instead that they were  image boxes. The program crashed more times than I can count. That’s really not surprising considering that the auto backup that was supposed to save just the two latest copies ended up saving 169 (yes, one hundred and sixty-nine) versions of the brochure.

Then, after the copy was written and entered, the real “fun” began with formatting and spacing issues. Especially challenging was the workshop grid that had to be split into two pages (through 8 boxes of text) even though it will be printed on a fold.

split-pages

Yes, computers and the not user-friendly programs I need to use (that often make me feel stupid) could have been the cause for a great amount of hair loss this past week especially since I was on deadline.

And yet, I heard myself praying for patience – and for peace.

Father answered! Yes, my patience continued to be tested, but His peace got me to the finish line.

The brochure is at the printer and is online (click here). And amazingly I have enough work done on the website to open secure online registration at 12:01 am (EST) February 1. Thank You, Father!

Whether it’s planning a conference and designing a brochure, beginning (and finishing) a book, or facing the often intense challenges and heartaches of day-to-day living, our patience (and faith) will be tested. But let’s choose to rejoice for He is able to use our struggles to make us strong in Him.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. – Romans 5:3-4 TLB

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

I’ve not forgotten that I also direct the July 26-29 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. All the keynotes and continuing sessions are in place along with about 33 faculty. Soon, I trust, I’ll be able to start the 16-page brochure process all over again for Philly. Yes, I’m gonna need lots and lots of patience and peace and prayer!