Expectations and Cecile’s Christmas Miracle

Book Cover for Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Kathi MaciasWe all have expectations, whether we realize it or not. Here in North America we expect, even demand, comfort, food and water whenever we want them, freedom to choose where we go and what we do, money to spend on our whims, and the list goes on. In many other countries, people do not have the same expectations. In fact, in some countries people expect to die, expect to do what others tell them to do, and expect very little in the way of human comforts.

With access to information on the internet, we understand more about what life is like in other countries. We hear about airplanes going missing and not being found. We advocate for girls kidnapped from school in places like Nigeria. However, the adage that we don’t really understand someone until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes, is still true.

My main character, Cecile, from my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, has expectations too. She, like many of us, doesn’t realize what some of her expectations are until they aren’t met. She knows she volunteered to serve people in a third world country, but she doesn’t expect the ignorance of basic hygiene. She knows she’ll be away from her parents and other family members, but she doesn’t expect the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, especially when she’s surrounded by many people. She knows the culture and language will be different, but she doesn’t grasp how different it will be spending her first Christmas in the heat and dust of the Kalahari Desert. One of the reasons I wrote this story was to show people in North America how different life is overseas and to remind all of us to think of others while we are celebrating Christmas with our lavish feasts and expensive gifts.

Paperback cover for Kathi Macias' 12 Days of Christmas which includes Cecile's Christmas Miracle by Ruth L. Snyder

Cecile’s Christmas Miracle has been available in e-book format since early December 2013. (You can purchase the e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.) This month my novella is being released in paperback, along with 11 other Christmas stories in the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas. (You may purchase your copy on Amazon or by contacting me at sun dot beam3 at Yahoo dot com.)

To celebrate the release, several of us who have stories in the 12 Days of Christmas collection are participating in a blog tour. At the end of the tour there will be a draw for some free copies of the paperback collection. I’ll be posting details of the tour and the draw later this week. Stay tuned!


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.


Writing so that . . .

I’m currently participating in an online Bible study from Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are studying Scripture using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. She explains:

“. . . our lives should not be self-centered and static; rather, they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the kingdom of God.”

“The authors of Scripture . . . intentionally chose to use these two words to connect a truth of Scripture to a practical application of that truth. They used them to bring truth alive and make it relevant and applicable to our everyday lives.”

This month we’ve been encouraged to think about what we want our writing to make happen inside our readers. This is one of those questions where there is no right or wrong answer. Each of us as writers is unique with particular giftings from God.

  • Some are “prophets” – called to point out and correct error
  • Some are “teachers” – called to help others understand God’s truth
  • Some are “helpers” – called to come alongside others
  • Some are called to hospitality – called to make others feel comfortable

And the list goes on (See I Corinthians 12).

As I thought about my writing and how I want it to affect my readers, I realized that no matter what type of writing I’m doing, whether memoir, fiction, devotional, creative non-fiction, etc., I want my writing to evoke emotion. Readers become engaged when their emotions are involved.

I also want my writing to effect change in the reader. This change could be as simple as giving the reader a good chuckle or as complicated as shifting the reader’s world view. When I write, I want to be intentional, not haphazard. Mary DeMuth sums it up well:

“I’m on this world to write words that change people.”

I am writing, so that my readers are engaged and moved to change. These are lofty goals, but I remind myself that I’m employed by the King of Kings and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I dare not aim for anything less than the best.

What do you want your writing to do?

 

NOTE: This was first posted on the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship blog www.inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com


Plot: What makes readers turn the page?

Flower Pens
Centerpiece at His Imprint Conference created by Jenna’s steapin’ Party

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be involved in the His Imprint Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. One of the sessions I attended was about plot. Tammy Wiens did a great job of helping us think about what makes readers turn the page. Here are some of the thoughts that were shared:

  1. Conflict – There has to be conflict, or there’s no story. Conflict hooks the reader; they want to know how the conflict is resolved. Tammy reminded us that over 300,000 books were released last year. She challenged us to know our competition, be better, stand out, and be unique from the very first word.
  2. Characters – Your characters dictate your plot. Stories need well-developed characters, so make sure you do a thorough character sketch before you start. Tammy shared about a “scary guy” who lived in the town she grew up in. He was the person all the kids told each other to stay away from, but at the same time dared each other to knock on his door. One day Tammy’s mother took her to meet the “scary guy” and she discovered that he was a talented gardener who had grafted different fruit trees together. She challenged us to make sure our characters are well-rounded.
  3. Dialogue – Use dialogue tags to break up the monotony of “he said, she said”. For instance: “Stop!” Jack reached across the table. Remember that every speaker requires a new paragraph. Be careful to keep your point of view consistent and make sure the dialogue matches the character.
  4. Setting – Starting a novel with a long setting description is a waste of everyone’s time. Setting should be woven into the story.
  5. Ebb and Flow – Having ebb and flow in your plot is what makes your story keep moving. There will be “rapids” in the stream as well as quiet, gently flowing water. Our plots should be the same way. The reader needs to rest every once in a while, so balance tension with release.
  6. Editing – Tammy encouraged us to find someone from a different walk of life than ourselves to edit our books. She shared an example of her story which appears in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. Tammy used the words “grid road”, which are well understood in Saskatchewan. However, the editor was from Ontario and had no idea what that meant. A whole paragraph describing the gravel grid roads was added to help readers who weren’t from Saskatchewan understand what Tammy was talking about.

Are there other points about plot that you’ve found helpful? Please share in the comments below.


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?


Chocolate Soldiers or Soldiers of the Cross?

SONY DSCThis week Christians are celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events that happened thousands of years ago still have an incredible impact on our world. Jesus died so that every person who repents of his or her sin and asks for salvation is able to receive it. Jesus conquered the power of sin and death on the cross and He invites us to live for Him.

What does it mean to live for Jesus? Some people who call themselves Christians attend church on Sunday and live the rest of the week as they please. Others sacrifice health, convenience, time, and family to serve God. (Check out Jack Popjes’ post, Why is it so Hard?)

Lately I’ve been reminded that we are in a spiritual battle, which although mostly unseen, is very real. The Apostle Paul spoke very plainly about this battle in Ephesians 6:10-19:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” (NIV from The Bible Gateway)

We can choose to ignore the battle, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Satan is not a funny little caricature with a pitchfork; He is a fallen angel intent on destroying God’s creation and leading as many people as possible away from truth and salvation. The Bible calls him a deceiver, the Father of Lies (John 8:44), and warns that often He comes disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14,15). The only way we’ll be able to stand against his attacks is by putting on God’s armor and going to war.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/jiTrsTReiXg]

C.T. Studd reprimanded people for being “Chocolate Soldiers”. Here’s part of what he said:

To the Chocolate Christian the very thought of war brings a violent attack of ague, while the call to battle always finds him with the palsy. “I really cannot move,” he says. “I only wish I could, but I can sing, and here are some of my favorite lines:

“I must be carried to the skies
On a flowery bed of ease,
Let others fight to win the prize,
Or sail thro’ bloody seas.

Mark time, Christian heroes,
Never go to war;
Stop and mind the babies
Playing on the floor.

Wash and dress and feed them
Forty times a week.
Till they’re roly poly—
Puddings so to speak.

Chorus:
Round and round the nursery
Let us ambulate,
Sugar and spice and all that’s nice
Must be on our slate.”

C. T. Studd’s complete article can be found here or you can download it as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.

God calls each of us to fulfill unique places in His army. Some people are called to intense battles against Satan and his henchmen (demons). Others are called to minister in remote areas and translate Scripture into peoples’ heart languages or mother tongues. Yet others support God’s work by skillfully and honestly running a business and donating money to missionaries or people in need. Still others of us are called to honor God in our vocation, living godly lives and impacting people where we are. All of us can enter into the battle through prayer.

At present, God has called me to be a wife, mother, music teacher, writer, and President of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. A couple weeks ago Bobbi Junior, one of our executive members, wrote a post challenging us to pray for authors. She followed that up by urging us to become Word Warriors. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Sheila Webster, another executive member. She stated:

“I feel the first thing we need is a team of at least three people that will commit to pray each day for the conferences that are upcoming.  I feel this isn’t a nicety but a necessity to have three people designated and dedicated to this task.

We are at a crucial point in the history of writing and Christianity where there is a window of opportunity to impact on a large scale the world for Christ with our words.

All leaders in higher Christian Education in Canada are pointing out to us that a larger scale persecution of Christians in Canada will be happening starting in the recent past and will escalate.”

 

Will you join me? Are you willing to count the cost and step forward as a soldier of the cross? Also, if you’re interested in supporting the work of writers who are Christians through prayer, send me an e-mail at sun dot beam3 at yahoo dot com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 


7 Keys to Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat

#ReaderWriterChat on Twitter Mondays from 12-1:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time

Twitter chats are online, public conversations that take place on Twitter at designated times around a unique hashtag like #ReaderWriterChat. The #ReaderWriterChat will be starting, Monday, April 7th and taking place every Monday at 12 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Twitter chats are a great way to learn, engage with your followers, grow your community, and network.

How do you host a successful Twitter Chat?

1. Choose a unique hashtag. There are many Twitter chats already taking place. You can check out Twitter Chats for Writers, 15 Essential Twitter Chats for Social Media Marketers or any other topic you’re interested in. If you want to host a new chat, use the search function on Twitter to make sure there are no other chats using the hashtag you are thinking of using.

2. Invite people to participate. The whole idea of a Twitter chat is to have many people participating in the conversation. Make sure you let people know about the event by posting the hashtag, day and time of the chat on the social media sites you’re on, especially Twitter. Creating a graphic like the one at the top of this post may help people pay more attention to your invitation.

3. Use TweetChat to host your chat. (You can also use it to listen in to any chat you want.) All you have to do is go to the TweetChat site, choose the hashtag you want to follow, and press “Go”. TweetChat will filter out all the other tweets and allow you to monitor the specific chat you’re hosting. While you’re using TweetChat, each tweet you add will automatically have your chat hashtag added and the page will update periodically unless you manually pause it.

4. Sign in to the twitter chat at least 15 minutes before the start time. This gives you time to work through any technical difficulties you may encounter and enables you to start the chat on time.

5. Ask questions focused on the needs of your audience. Besides having a general topic, each week’s chat usually has a specific focus. Your questions should engage your community and get them sharing information and responding to each other. Figure out how often you’re going to post questions (e.g. every 5 minutes) and then make sure you have enough questions to take you through at least 50 minutes of the chat. You’ll probably fill some time at the beginning with introductions and end the chat by providing information about the specific focus of the next chat.

6. Favorite tweets during the chat. After you post a question, look for answers that are interesting and engaging. Go ahead and respond to them or retweet them, but make sure you also favorite the ones you want to capture. That way you can easily search, capture, and share them on your blog or another platform later. Then after the chat is over, use a platform like Storify to pull the tweets into a transcript you can share. There is a WordPress plugin for Storify that allows you to embed it into a blog post.

7. Use Hashtracking, which allows you to determine the effectiveness of your chat hashtag. Hashtracking allows you to track the reach, how many impressions were made, the number of people contributing, the number of tweets, and other hashtags that were used during your chat. You can use this information when you plan your next Twitter chat, making better use of what was effective and changing what didn’t work.

I hope you’ll join us for the #ReaderWriterChat on Mondays. If you have other tips for making a chat effective, or questions you’d like me to pose during the chats, let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a Twitter manual for writers. If you’d like to know when it’s available for purchase, please fill out the contact form below.

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What does it mean to be a Christian writer?

Yellow Question mark and red exclamation mark

During a recent interview I was asked: “Comment on what it means to be a ‘Christian writer’”

How would you answer this question?

Here’s my response:
A Christian writer is a person who communicates from a worldview centred on God as He is presented in the Bible. The key components of being a Christian writer, from my perspective, are excellence, integrity, and compassion.

  • No matter what topic or genre I write about, my writing should be of the highest quality. I should do my best to ensure my writing is accurate, well-researched, and free of errors (grammar and spelling).
  • As a Christian writer, my personal life should reflect what I communicate in print. I should consistently spend time reading the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit to highlight areas in my life that are not pleasing to God. Yes, I’m human and I will fail. However, I need to confess my sins, ask for forgiveness and continue to grow in my walk with God.
  • Christian writers should also “speak the truth in love.” Jesus said that people would know we are His disciples by our love.

Here are the principles I currently use as I write:

  1. Christians are the body of Christ. We each have unique gifts, functions, and callings (I Corinthians 12).  I need to know what God has called me to and be faithful to that calling.
  2. My goal should always be to write with excellence (using correct grammar, captivating descriptions, etc.) for God’s glory (Colossians 3:23). I am called to be God’s representative in how I live and write (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
  3. I must give an answer to God for all that I do and say, including what I write (Matthew 12:35-37; Colossians 3:23). I need to be obedient to God. It is not my responsibility to judge others (Matthew 7:1).

Christian writers are called to write for varied audiences in diverse genres. We live in a broken world and are involved in a spiritual battle which is mostly unseen, but very real. Some stories may simply be for enjoyment, but we may also be asked to write about difficult, messy subjects like child abuse, demon possession, corrupt leaders, and the sex trade. No matter what we write, our aim should always be to bring honour and glory to God.

It has come to my attention that some writers who are Christians do not associate themselves with the term “Christian writer”. There are several reasons for this.

  • Some writers (who are Christians) write stories or articles that are only printed in the mainstream. Some say that these written works would not be accepted in the mainstream if people knew the authors were Christians.
  • The question has been raised: Do you call yourself a Christian mechanic or Christian plumber or Christian librarian? If we don’t tag the word Christian onto other vocational choices, why do we tag it onto our writing?
  • Some writers (who are Christians) have faced severe criticism from other Christians because of the topics or genre they choose. These writers find it less divisive to just call themselves writers.

Did I miss anything? I look forward to your comments!