Psalm 46:10 – Be still

Every night we have a story time and prayer with our children before bed. For the past few years, we’ve been reading missionary biographies together, mostly from the Christian Heroes Then & Now series. Currently we are reading Brother Andrew: God’s Secret Agent by Janet & Geoff Benge. A description of a particular prayer meeting Brother Andrew attended caught my attention. Instead of sharing prayer requests and praying out loud together, this group was silent. Each person spent time “listening” instead. No one prayed out loud until they felt God impressing them to pray specifically about something or for someone.

Too often I find myself rushing through a list of requests. Instead, I want to learn to listen. This takes discipline in our noisy, fast-paced world. I need to be still. I think it’s going to take time for me to learn to be still and listen, but I’m excited about what God is going to show me.

What has God been teaching you lately?


Parenting: Getting through the tough days (Parenting Blog Hop Week 1)

Parenting Blog Hop

 

Question: What do you find most challenging about parenting? 

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

For me, the most challenging part of parenting is adjusting my expectations, training, and discipline to the uniqueness of each of my children.

I have five children ages seven to seventeen; Each child is different. One child craves hugs and responds better to life if the hug quotient is full. Another child doesn’t want hugs, but responds well when I take the time to sit and listen. One child has a sensitive spirit and rarely needs discipline. Another child constantly challenges authority.

It takes time to get to know my children. The way my children enjoy spending time with me is also different. My youngest just wants to be with me and often offers to help with whatever I’m doing. My next child loves to play games. Another son enjoys riding in a vehicle with me – the destination is unimportant. His brother still comes and sits beside me, or even on my lap, gives me hugs, and compliments me often. My eldest child prefers to communicate with text messages.

Some of my children also have special needs. This means that I can’t expect my fourteen year-old to act like most fourteen year-olds. Sometimes a younger sibling things I’m being unfair because I expect more from the younger one than the older one.

Parents have the challenging job of knowing our children and then teaching and training them accordingly. I’m thankful I don’t have to tackle parenting alone. My children have a hard-working Dad. We all have a Heavenly Father who stands ready to give us His wisdom if we will only ask:

“If any of you lackswisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV)

Question: What helps you get through the tough days?

Several things help me when I face challenging days as a parent:

  • Prayer – God is never too busy to hear my desperate pleas for help.
  • Reading God’s Word, the Bible – There are many encouraging passages I return to again and again. Some of my favourites are Psalm 37, Psalm 1, Isaiah 41, and Ephesians 6
  • Perspective – Talking to parents who’ve gone through similar situations and have survived is a great encouragement to me.
  • Sufficient Sleep – It’s always easier for me to handle challenges when I get my sleep!
  • Healthy Food – I try to choose more fruits and vegetables rather than products with refined sugar. However, chocolate is still part of my diet – in moderation. 🙂
  • Respite – Sometimes I need a break from my children to clear my thinking and renew my perspective. I find an occasional break is good for both me and my children.
  • Confession – When I make a mistake as a parent, I’ve found things turn around quickly when I’m willing to “‘fess up.”

What about you? What do you find most challenging as a parent? What helps you get through the tough days?


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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.


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.


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?


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.

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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.

 

 


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!