Why every writer needs to find his community

In my last post, I shared thoughts about what community means to me. Today I want to take that a step farther and talk about why every writer needs a community.

writers at a writing workshop

Writing is a solitary activity, one we do in any number of places, but always alone. Writers need to shut out the rest of the world in order to think and put words together in a way that makes sense and communicates clearly. The work of writing is rewarding, but often arduous and frustrating. Writers need to force themselves to sit and write, learning to ignore the many distractions around them. Writing is complex. There are many words to choose from, but writers need to find the right one to convey just the right nuance. Research takes hours. Characters take on a life of their own and put twists into the plot the author wasn’t expecting. Most writers squeeze their craft in while working at a full-time career or raising a family. Writers put their heart and soul into their work. It’s an art. And in the life of an artist, critics abound. Often the worst critic is the writer himself.

What does community provide for a writer?

  1. People who speak the same language – Those who don’t write, don’t understand how writers need to write. They don’t understand why we talk to our characters. They don’t get why we spend hours on our craft, often late at night or very early in the morning when most people are sleeping. A writing group provides a place to tell it like it is and find understanding.
  2. Encouragement and support – Writing has been compared to giving birth. We labor for months, sometimes years, over a project. We revise and rewrite and then sometimes we are brave enough to submit. Some writers have enough rejection slips to paper their walls. When our work is rejected, it’s hard to separate our work from ourselves and we can also feel rejected. When our work is published, we want the whole world to celebrate with us, but the reality is that many sell less than 500 copies of their books. A writing group provides a venue to vent frustrations and cheer each other on. In Christian writing groups we are also able to pray for each other and share encouraging verses that uplift others.
  3. Objective feedback – It’s almost impossible to edit our own work properly. Often when we read our own work, we read what we intended to write instead of what’s in front of us in black and white. Reading out loud helps, but it’s even more helpful to have a critique group who will give you objective feedback. Writing groups may provide critiques. Although it’s nice to have people tell us we write well, we also need people who will tell us when we need to go back to the proverbial drawing board or give suggestions on how to make our writing really come alive. We can pay editors to do this work, but getting a variety of opinions is also very useful.

One group of writers I belong to is InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. This group offers an annual fall conference as well as many ways to connect using the internet. I live in a rural area where there is no writing group that meets in person. InScribe has filled a huge gap for me. If you’re a Canadian writer who is a Christian, I invite you to come join us.


How do you define community?

community: picture of four children holding hands and playing in the sunI’m looking forward to starting on another online Bible study with Proverbs 31 Ministries beginning next week. We’ll be using Limitless Life by Derwin L. Gray as the launch pad for our discussions. In preparation for this study we were encouraged to blog about what community means to us.

Here’s how Dictionary.com defines community:

community

[kuhmyoo-ni-tee] Show IPA

noun, plural com·mu·ni·ties.

1.a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2.a locality inhabited by such a group.
3.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the  ): the business community; the community of scholars.
4.a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
5.Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
Here’s how I define community:
  1. Community means support – a community is made of a group of individuals with different abilities. When you live in the community you have access to a variety of skills which you yourself don’t posses.
  2. Community brings challenges – living in community takes work. Sometimes it would be “easier” to live on our own. When you live in community you need to communicate clearly, be willing to share, and sometimes even be willing to be wronged.
  3. Community means accountability – When you grow up in a small town, you can’t “get away” with too much. If you’re not doing what’s right, someone is going to call you on it or phone your parents about it. When we live in community, we hold each other accountable, because we all want what’s best for the community.
  4. Community thrives on shared purpose – There has to be a reason for people to do the hard work of living in community. Shared purpose or a common goal provides that reason. When everybody in the community agrees on a common goal, each person is able to contribute to the betterment of the community.

What does community mean to you?

 


Blog Tour for the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour LogoIn preparation for the official launch of the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas paperback on Thursday, May 29th, many of the 12 authors are participating in a blog tour. I invite you to come along as we get to know other authors who participated in the collection. Here is the blog tour schedule, along with links to the authors’ blogs:

Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas Blog Tour

May 19 – Ruth L. Snyder at http://ruthlsnyder.com/

May 20 – Anne Baxter Campbell at http://pewperspective.blogspot.com/

May 21 – Marcia Lee Laycock at www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca

May 22 – Mishael Witty at http://bluebrownbooks.com/

May 23 – Christine Lindsay at www.christinelindsay.com/

May 24 – Sheila Seiler Lagrand at http://sheilalagrand.com/

May 26 – Jessica Ferguson at http://jessyferguson.blogspot.com

May 27 – Kathy Bruins at  http://www.kathybruins.com/writing-speaking-and-other-interests/

May 28 – Peg Phifer at http://www.whispersinpurple.com

May 29 – Jeanette Hanscome at http://jeanettehanscome.com/

What Does Christmas mean to you?

What do you think of when you hear the word “Christmas”? Snow? Turkey? Family get-togethers? Gifts? Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? Decorations? Sleigh Rides? Church? Caroling?

Sometimes we don’t stop and think about what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in a different country, on a different continent. In Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, my main character, Cecile, is spending her first Christmas in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. There is no snow. In fact, the temperature is hovering in the high 30 degree range (Celsius). She is hot, and sweaty and dealing with bugs and poverty and corruption. There is no air conditioning. There is no turkey, or family to get together with, or decorations. Obviously, without snow, there are no sleigh rides, and many of the Christmas songs she grew up singing don’t fit. Well, maybe I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas does. Although the people she serves have strong beliefs, most of them don’t believe in Jesus Christ because they’ve never had the opportunity to hear about His birth, life and death. They have no Bibles. In fact, many of them don’t know how to read.

Here in North America, it’s easy to lose sight of the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Often we get caught up in the commercialism of pretty wrapping paper, exquisite decorations, expensive gifts, and lavish meals. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. However, we need to remember who and why we’re celebrating. Jesus Christ, the God-man was born in a humble cattle shed and laid in a manger. He left the splendor of Heaven and laid aside His rights to take on the form of a servant. He walked this earth, ministered to people, and lived a sinless life. Then, He chose to walk the road to Calvary where He willingly gave His life as the Lamb of God. He took my place and yours on the cross. He accepted our punishment so that we can have a personal relationship with God. Then He rose again. Some day He’s coming back to earth to gather all who believe in and follow Him so that we can spend eternity together in Heaven.

It’s my hope that Cecile’s Christmas Miracle will show you what it’s like to celebrate Christmas in a different country. It’s also my hope that you will remember people you know who are overseas, whether in the military, as missionaries, or for work. Make time to send them a care package, or schedule a Skype visit with them. Better yet, go visit them and take a “walk in their shoes”. The first Christmas was about giving. Will you follow in Jesus’ footsteps and give what you can to make the lives of others better?

Enter a comment below for your chance to win a free paperback copy of the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas. I will be making the draw on Thursday, May 29th and will announce the winner on my Facebook Author Page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRuthL.Snyder. NOTE: You must be 18 years or older to participate in the draw.


On the Battlefield: Ready or not

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.”  J. Sidlow Baxter

As a child playing Hide and Seek, I remember closing my eyes, counting, and then yelling out, “Here I come, ready or not!” We as Christians are in a spiritual battle, ready or not.

“Spiritual warfare is very real. There is a furious, fierce, and ferocious battle raging in the realm of the spirit between the forces of God and the forces of evil. Warfare happens every day, all the time. Whether you believe it or not, you are in a battlefield. You are in warfare.” Pedro Okoro from Crushing the Devil: Your Guide to Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6:10-20 says:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (New King James Version, Bible Gateway.com)

In September I accepted the challenge of leading InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) by becoming the president.  Edward Bulwer-Lytton said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Words are powerful and can be used for good or evil. The members of ICWF all seek to honour God with their words. God is using those words to change people’s lives. Although I knew in theory that I would be subjected to spiritual attacks because of my leadership position, I wasn’t totally prepared. In this past year I have experienced struggles in areas where I never struggled before, or at least not to the same extent. Other members of the executive have also shared battles they are facing.

Yesterday I commented, “We’re in the lion’s den.” Thankfully, we serve the same God that Daniel served. We’re not in this battle alone! God has provided weapons for us to use, but we need to choose to use them – not once, but every day. Too often I rush into the fray in my own strength. Too often I see other people as the “enemy” instead of remembering that my battle is against spiritual forces. Too often I fail to wait on God; I fail to pray for His strength, guidance, and protection. I find it amazing that God chooses to use weak, frail, imperfect people like me to accomplish His will.

Heavenly Father, teach me to pray. Help me to wait on you and your perfect timing in my life and ministry. Thank you for the protection, armor and weapons you provide. Help me to take them up, to step out and do battle. Help me to be faithful in the things you’ve given me to do. Thank you that the battle is not mine, but yours. Thank you that the victory is up to you. Help me to be obedient in doing what you give me to do and to trust you for the results. In Jesus Name, Amen.


Awards, Writing, and Motivation

first place ribbon held by manLast Friday I cheered as my two youngest children participated in their annual AWANA Grand Prix. Each child chose a design for a novelty car, crafted it, and then participated in the races. At the end of the evening trophies were handed out to the three fastest vehicles and the top three choices for design. My youngest daughter was devastated that she didn’t receive a trophy. (Her car was one of four that had to run off for third place.) She leaned against me and sobbed.

Last week I received an e-mail announcing the finalists for the 2014 Word Awards. I submitted an entry, but didn’t make it onto the list. One of my friends who submitted an entry published in the same collection as mine did get her name on the list. When I first read the names of the finalists, feelings of discouragement, envy, frustration, and defeat hit me. I wanted my name on the list! I could understand why my daughter reacted the way she did.

Instead of focusing on my feelings, I decided to focus on congratulating those I know who made the list. I reread the list and was pleased to find the names of many InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship members. I sent out congratulations by email and posted congratulations on Facebook. As I focused on celebrating with others, my sense of loss diminished.

I also thought about my writing and what motivates me. In her recent blog post, Susan Barclay said:

I want my work to please an audience of One; the One who predisposed me to write. If I succeed in doing that, I’ll be satisfied.

I agree. Pleasing God is what motivates me to write. If I’ve been obedient and He is pleased, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. The results are in His hands. They are His responsibility.


Fitness journey check-in, recipe, and tips

Salad with no dressing 290 calories

Some of you have asked how my fitness and healthy living journey is going. I’m encouraged by the progress I’m making. (If you’re not interested, you can skip down to the recipe.)

  • I’m seeing my endurance increase. It’s no longer a challenge to walk at 3 miles an hour. Most days I’m walking at a speed of 3.5 mph with sprints up to 4.5 mph. The incline on my treadmill is usually between 6% to 10%.
  • I’ve lost 24 pounds. My goal is to lose a pound a week, for a total of 52 pounds this year. This is week 18 of my journey, so I’m ahead of my target.
  • I’m losing inches. My clothes are getting loose. Soon I’ll be able to go shopping for a different size 🙂
  • I’m eating healthier. Yesterday I made a salad for my lunch and shared the picture on Facebook. People were asking for the recipe, so here it is:

290 Calorie Salad

1 cup Romaine lettuce, cut or shredded

1 medium tomato, diced

1/2 large yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 hard-boiled egg, sliced

48g (3 slices) Maple Leaf Deli Express Ham, sliced

41 g (3 slices) Maple Leaf Deli Express Chicken, sliced

2 Tbsp (10 g) Kraft Grated Cheddar Cheese

I enjoyed my salad without any dressing because of all the flavours of the vegetables, egg, and meat.

Caloric and nutrition information provided by MyFitnessPal

The MyFitnessPal app (pictured above) has been extremely helpful in making me aware of serving sizes and helping me track my eating and exercising. There are some days I still have to choose to drink water or eat an apple to help myself feel full, but most of the time I feel very satisfied and have ample energy.

One surprise discovery I’ve made is that I need to allow myself a “cheat day” every week. I lost 10 pounds quite quickly and then for weeks nothing changed even though I was exercising consistently and eating well. One week I had a day where I was out for a special event and I knew I ate way more than I usually did. The next week when I checked my weight, I had lost several pounds. One post I read said that we should eat up to 1,000 extra calories on our cheat day, because it “resets” our body. If we always cut back on calories, our body tends to go into “starvation mode” and we don’t lose any weight. By having a cheat day once a week and then going right back to exercising and reducing the number of calories, our body is assured everything is okay and the pounds come off.

Do you have any recipes or tips to share? I look forward to hearing from you.


3 simple steps to combat the flesh and feed the spirit

Which one should I feed?
Which one should I feed?

In our Proverbs 31 online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That, we are learning many practical things about growing closer to God. For the blog hop this week, we could choose one of four topics. I’m choosing to share how we can combat the flesh and feed the spirit. If you haven’t heard the parable of the two dogs, I would encourage you to read it here.

We just finished celebrating Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection at Easter time. Why did Jesus endure betrayal, false accusations, excruciating physical pain, and unspeakable spiritual suffering? He did it so that you and I could accept His gift of salvation and be set free from the power of sin. If you’ve never taken this step of faith, and want more information, please read The Four Spiritual Laws.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Once we accept forgiveness for our sins and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we need to continually follow three steps. At first glance, they are simple. However, that doesn’t mean the steps happen without conscious effort on our part.

1. Choose to say yes to God. Wendy says:

“The more we say yes to spending time with God in His Word, the more we will recognize His voice. The more we recognize His voice, the more we will live in expectation of seeing Him at work. The more we see God at work, the more we will experience Him in our midst. And the more we experience Him, the more we will be able to trust Him in all things. It all starts with saying yes to God’s invitation to meet with Him.”

There are many things that can and will distract us from putting God first in our lives. We can be distracted by family responsibilities, our job, church activities, etc. Did you notice that these are all “good” things? Often we allow good things to crowd out the best. In Matthew 6, we are told we don’t need to worry about what we wear or what we’ll eat or anything else. Instead:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (vs. 33)

I find that I have to choose to spend time with God first thing in the morning or it doesn’t happen, because I get caught up in the daily activities of life. I would encourage you to find a consistent time when you’re alert to meet with God.

2. Saturate yourself in God’s Word

The Bible has been described as God’s love-letter to mankind. If we don’t read it, study it, and memorize it, we won’t be able to discover who God really is or what He wants us to do. Our memory verse for week two of the study was:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (NIV)

Wendy shares:

“The key to establishing our faith is spending time in God’s Word. We can’t accomplish it by attending worship once a week, by periodically participating in Bible studies, or by watching a televangelist on Sunday mornings. We must commit to reading and studying God’s word for ourselves.

“God’s Word is our contact with Him. It’s how we hear His voice, discover His direction, receive His correction, and obtain His hope.”

I have found all of these approaches helpful at different stages of my life:

  • Read a verse and study it in depth. Check out Heather Bleier’s suggestions on verse mapping.
  • Use a devotional such as Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest, or The Upper Room.
  • Study a book of the Bible, such as John, looking for key words or the names used for Jesus
  • Read through the Bible in a year. Our Daily Bread has a plan included with the daily devotional. There are many other plans people have put together. Find one that works for you.

3. Pray

Sylvia Gunter defines prayer as, “radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Wendy reminds us that:

“Prayer is a gift.

Prayer is a privilege.

Prayer is two-way communication with God.

Prayer is a love relationship with the God who created us.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can ‘approach (God’s) throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).”

Whole books have been written on the topic of prayer. At it’s simplest I would say that prayer is talking with God. I have found that if I start my day by focusing on God, it’s much easier to talk with Him throughout the day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. (Rick Warren says, “Everything you do can be ‘spending time with God’ if he is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of his presence.” In my last post I shared a call to prayer along with many quotes on prayer. Ask God to teach you how to pray more effectively and see what happens.

Three simple choices. Will you take the first step and choose to meet with God today?


A Call to Prayer for InScribe

Pen as ICWF Prayer Prompt
When you see a pen, pray for InScribe!

This morning I was planning to write a post sharing some practical tips on getting writing done. However, God redirected me.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through a Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. This week we are focusing on prayer. At the beginning of chapter three, Wendy quotes Sylvia Gunter:

“Prayer is radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Later on in the chapter, Wendy says:

Show Me God

Wendy also shares some tips from Lisa Allen on bringing watchfulness to our prayer lives:

“When you have a person for whom God calls you to pray, be creative. Think of something that reminds you of the person. Invite God to open your eyes to see that trigger and use it to remind you to pray . . . If you assign triggers to special people in your life, think of how many times throughout the day you will pray!”

In my last post I shared some thoughts from fellow executive members of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship regarding the need for prayer. I believe God is calling me to action. The prayer trigger I’ve chosen for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) is a pen. Every time I see a pen, I’m choosing to pray that God will work in and through members of our organization:

  • Wisdom and strength for executive members
  • His Imprint Conference April 26, 2014
  • Fall Conference September 26 & 27, 2014
  • God’s empowering for members as they write
  • Monthly word challenges
  • God will use our words to reach His target audience

Here are some quotes on prayer:

“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.”  John Wesley

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray.” S.D. Gordon

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” Sidlow Baxter

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …” E.M. Bounds

“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying. Paul E. Billheimer

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Corrie ten Boom

“0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper – and sleep too – than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber.” Andrew A. Bonar

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” E.M. Bounds

“The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'” J. Hudson Taylor

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.” William Cowper

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” Brother Lawrence

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”  Samuel Chadwick

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  Andrew Murray

Will you join me in praying for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship?