Please excuse our mess while we complete the process of moving over to https://prismscaregiving.blogspot.com/ . At Prisms we celebrate all that makes up the crazy colors of caring for others across the spectrum of life. We share joys, sorrows, news, resources, and hopes for the future. You’ll find us tackling serious issues and offering resources and encouragement for you for every season of life.
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth ~Psalms 22:1 (NASB)
It’s Sunday afternoon, and our son’s dog is dancing in the kitchen because two of her favorite people are rolling up to our door. It takes a bit for them to get out of the car and up the sidewalk. Jim Soyk Sr. hunches over his walker as he concentrates on keeping up with his feet. His wife Juanita directs him from behind while with a firm grasp. Two halves of a dynamic duo have just entered our house, and our world has come alive.
Jim grew up in abject poverty in Wisconsin, the second son of a drunken carpenter and his sweet wife. His father both abused and neglected the family, and Jim grew up long before his time. As a child, he worked to support his mom and sisters while his dad cavorted around the community bars. As a young man, he defended his mother from his father. In school, he learned to fight the bullies that mocked his ragged clothes.
His father taught him to be tough. His mother taught him to be gentle.
But the hunger and the hardships and the rags he wore would not define this boy as he grew to manhood. Although he had every reason in the world to be a thug, James Neil Soyk, Sr. grew to be a gentle giant. Early in life he displayed a keen intellect and a deep interest in electronics. He escaped the harsh life of Wisconsin by enlisting in the Navy and earning an engineer’s license. While in the Navy he met and married a beautiful Southern girl named Opal. Together they had two children, Pam and Jim Soyk, Jr.
After the Navy, Jim pursued a career in broadcasting, a choice that resulted in a nomadic lifestyle during the early years for the family. When they discovered the Lewis-Clark Valley, though, they felt that they had finally found “home.” Here Jim quickly became a public figure. His ease before audiences and quick wit earned him many appearances. He was a popular emcee at events and as a disc jockey for a local radio station. He was especially beloved as the character “Auntie Maude,” the cantankerous elderly “lady” that dispensed her wisdom to audiences in local venues.
Life would deal him more harsh blows.
He nearly died in a car accident in 1967. As the airwaves were alive with news of a six-day-war in Israel, Jim fought for his life in the hospital. He finally returned home, thin and pallid from his injuries and the hepatitis he contracted from the blood transfusions he received. With his customary humor, he told people he was the only person he knew who had a gall bladder removed by a Rambler.
Jim became a believer in the Lord Jesus in the mid-1970’s, radically changing the course of his life. He began to understand the Father he had never known, the one who had preserved him through his dad’s beatings, through the starving times, and through a devastating car accident. This knowledge would empower him to extend grace and forgiveness to his earthly father. It would also bring his entire family to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Then, in 1989, Opal suffered a series of strokes. Jim became her caregiver until it was physically impossible to keep her at home. In 1994, she joined her Lord.
Then along came “Janey.”
This lovely and vivacious lady suffered much loss of her own before meeting Jim. She was the eleventh child of thirteen in her family. Her father died when she was six years old, and the younger children were raised by her mother and her second oldest brother.
Her mother cleaned rooms, took in laundry, and sold her homemade tortillas to make ends meet. One of Juanita’s brothers worked at the nearby airport before he went to school to earn some money.
Tragedy struck her life once again during a rafting trip with friends on the Snake River. The raft unexpectedly got caught in an eddy, dumping Juanita and a friend into the water. Juanita nearly drowned but made it out. Her friend died.
Later, her first marriage ended in a painful divorce. Forced to start a new and unplanned life on her own, she earned her general equivalency diploma, her certificate as a nursing assistant, and an associate’s degree in medical terminology.
Separately, Jim and Juanita had learned to conquer adversity. Together, they would find new strength and a new calling.
They were married on Christmas Day in 1994, blending two lives and two families. They served in local politics, Jim as county commissioner and Juanita as election judge and head of the Republican ladies’ committee.
A New Calling
In 2002, they answered the call to open the doors of a church that had long been closed. The Leland Methodist Church had once housed a vibrant membership, but when Leland died as a town, the church had finally been forced to close its doors. It had been silent for about thirty years when Jim and Juanita took on the arduous task of cleaning it up and building a new congregation.
The church’s exterior siding was faded, and its exquisite stained glass windows sagged in places, but in September of 2002, one hundred people crowded its sanctuary to celebrate the opening of Leland Pioneer Community Church. Once again the sound of praise filled the air as the gentle giant stood in the pulpit and wept with joy.
For fifteen years, Jim and Juanita served their Leland neighbors, their families, and the surrounding communities with generosity, laughter, and plenty of Juanita’s special salsa. Their loyalty to those they love has been as inspiring as their determination. It was often a lonely journey as they soldiered on through personal heartache and physical ailments. They kept the church doors open through lean times and good times, and only stepped down when Jim’s health became too fragile to continue on.
The church has been sold, but the doors remain open, a testament to the witness the Soyks have left behind. Jim and Juanita have moved to Lewiston to be closer to family and healthcare. But much of their hearts remain in the communities they have loved.
Today, on September 26, Jim Soyk is eighty-five years old.
Today, I celebrate all that he and Juanita are to those whose lives have been touched by them. Jim is my precious dad, and Juanita is my beloved step-mother. Today, I wanted you to know what I know. I wanted you to know that their smiles have been hard-won, the praise they give to God springing from grateful hearts. Their journey has been hard, but God has given them a greater grace for each step. Though much adversity, they have always pressed on for the glory of God. I am so proud of them, and I love them so much.
Thanks, Dad, for always being there. Thanks for making it easy to love my heavenly Father because of the example you set. Thank-you for living with integrity so that your family could wear a good name.
Thank-you, Juanita, for loving us unconditionally and for accepting us as your family.
Happy birthday, Dad. Your faith has made you both unstoppable.
He lies in a hospital room, his little eyes mostly closed. Although he is nearly a year old, he seems so small. Like millions of others, I only know Charlie because his picture and story have been in the news recently.
The first thing that catches my eye in his pictures isn’t the tubes attached to the ventilator keeping him alive.
I’m used to ventilators. My son Kevin has been on one since a fall in 1997 paralyzed him from the neck down. He has since weaned off the ventilator during the days, and only goes back on to sleep at night. For our family, the ventilator is well-named: life support. We are grateful for life support because it has given Kevin a chance to live.
The first thing I notice about Charlie is his beautiful face. His long eyelashes brush his cheeks. His wisp of hair is carefully combed. Stuffed animals have been tucked around him. He is obviously well-loved.
Charlie Gard was born to Chris Gard and Connie Yates of London, England, on August 4, 2016. He began to decline shortly after birth, and eight weeks later his parents took him to the hospital. It was discovered that their son suffers from a rare and terminal disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome. He is one of only sixteen known cases of the disease worldwide. It has left him with brain damage and progressive weakness. He now requires life support.
Through aggressive research, Charlie’s parents have discovered an experimental drug that has not yet been used to fight MDS, but has helped some children with a related syndrome called TK2. This treatment is not available in the United Kingdom but is available in the United States. A fundraising effort has raised more than a million dollars for his treatments, care, and travel.
But there’s a hitch in their hope.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie lies, wants control over when and how he should die. The doctors there have decided to turn off Charlie’s ventilator. They have denied the family’s right to either transfer him to a hospital in the United States willing to treat him or to take him home to die.
In June of this year, the case was appealed to the authority known as, ironically, The European Court of Human Rights. The high court ruled against Charlie’s parents and in favor of the hospital’s case to remove Charlie from life support and prevent his parents from seeking experimental treatment for their son outside the United Kingdom.
His parents have fought hard to help Charlie keep fighting for life.
“If he’s still fighting, we’re still fighting,” says his father, Chris Gard.
These words ignite my heart, because Charlie Gard could have been my son. Kevin did not have the rare disease with which Charlie was born. But we have faced some of the same crucial life issues that surround this little boy since Kevin’s fall in July of 1997, during a teen mission’s trip to Canada.
When Kevin broke his neck in Lethbridge, Alberta, he was airlifted to a larger hospital in Calgary that was better equipped to treat spinal cord injuries. When we learned that he had been injured, we made the twelve-hour-drive through the night from Idaho to Calgary to join him there.
Upon our arrival, we learned the awful news that Kevin was paralyzed from the neck down and on life support. The doctors at the initial consultations gave us little hope for his survival and virtually no hope for his recovery. One doctor was adamant that Kevin could not live. When I realized he was talking about euthanizing Kevin, I rebelled with all my strength.
No one had asked our son if he wanted to live. We would not make him die.
Through a series of events I can only describe as a miracle, Kevin not only came home to live after seven weeks in hospitals and rehab, he gained back more than the doctors could have guessed. He has lived at home with his family for twenty years and accomplished much in that time. We are thankful for every day we have had with him.
Through Kevin’s injury and recovery, we have learned several important lessons:
Doctors can be wrong.
Had we listened to the medical advice we were given, Kevin would be dead. The doctor who gave us no hope and tried to force his viewpoint on us was wrong. Kevin did improve and has lived a useful life.
It is not up to others to decide which lives should be saved.
We’ve had the joy of seeing God intervene in Kevin’s case and restore much to him. But we would have fought just as hard for him had he never regained any feeling or function. Once society begins to set a standard for humans to fulfill to be allowed to live, we are no better than Nazis. Because organs and medical treatment are at a premium, life has become a commodity to be doled to the most deserving.
When medical personnel make decisions based on the profit margin and a person’s perceived worth to society, a nation has lost its soul.
The term “death with dignity” is subjective.
Who gets to decide what constitutes dying with dignity? As a matter of fact, what constitutes living with dignity? When my mother was disabled by a series of strokes, there came a time that she developed pneumonia. The doctor decided not to treat her because, in his words, “Her life is useless.” He was going to let her die crying in a bed because he had made a judgment call about her worth. How dignified was that?
We insisted that he treat her. She recovered from the pneumonia and died some time later, peacefully, at God’s timing and with her family present. Her death, when it happened without duress, was more dignified than being forced to die at the doctor’s convenience.
Parents should have the right to fight for their children.
In most cases, no one is going to care more for a child than his parents. It is their God-given duty to protect their child. A truly caring health care professional considers the well-being of the entire family. What could it hurt to allow them to love their little boy for as long as possible, and let God take him home?
If we don’t fight for the life of others, we will all become Charlie Gard.
Once life becomes worthless, once we have allocated to others the power to give and take the life of another human being, we are all at risk. Who knows when the standard will change again, and your life no longer rises to the new level of worthiness?
Today there are protests in the streets over the G-20 summit. In ten years no one will remember the G-20 summit. But who will fight for the Charlie Gards of the world?
Who will fight for the soul of the nations?
UPDATE: In the face of mounting international pressure, the Great Ormond Street Hospital has postponed removing Charlie’s life support for now. The hospital and parents will return to the European court to seek permission allowing Charlie and his parents to travel to the United States for his treatment.
The Vatican hospital, Bambino Jesus pediatric hospital in Rome, and the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center have offered to accept Charlie for treatment. New York Presbyterian Hospital has also offered to ship the experimental drug to the Great Ormond Street Hospital and provide advice on its administration if needed.
Both President Trump and Pope Francis have weighed in on the matter in Charlie’s favor.
I’m honored to have writer and counselor Susanne Maynes with us here at Every Life Matters. Susanne has worked at a pregnancy resource center for eight years. Her heart for God and her service to women in crisis uniquely equips her to speak with us today.
I enter the room quietly, take my seat across from the nervous teen, and gently ask how she is feeling. Her eyes pool.
“Not so good. I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Her story unfolds. Courtney (not her real name) hasn’t yet finished high school, let alone pursued her field of study and career of choice. Her dreams are at stake.
On top of that, her parents don’t approve of the boy. They will be disappointed and angry, she fears.
I’m facing a familiar scenario, one I’ve seen many times as a counselor at a pregnancy resource center. My job is to help this young woman understand her pregnancy options, offer her emotional and spiritual support, and help her take hold of hope for both herself and her baby.
Why do I do this? Because I’m fighting to save babies, right?…or am I?
It’s true that the lives rescued by the pro-life movement are the lives of tiny unborn babies; it’s true that once those babies are born, we rejoice at their delightful, innocent, brand-new presence in the world.
But all cuteness and giggles and coos aside, I’m not really fighting to save the lives of babies. I’m fighting to save the lives of people.
Those infant boys and girls will grow into toddlers, grammar school kids, teens. They’ll be adults one day. We’ll see them on the job, in the grocery store, at church.
And when we see them, we might ask ourselves, When did the sacred value of their life begin?
From the first “stitch” that God knit together in the womb.
Psalm 139:13, 16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
From his sovereign perspective, God sees every life from beginning to end.
At no point in the continuum is a person less than a person in his eyes.
I saw a comic a few years ago depicting two teen girls talking. The pregnant one tells her friend, “I think it’s a puppy!”
Therein lays the problem with thinking of the pro-life objective as “saving babies.” The issue isn’t just rescuing darling little infants from being sucked out of this world; the issue is fighting for the fulfillment of human destinies.
As Dr. Ravi Zacharias eloquently explained at a conference I attended, God’s answer to human dilemmas is always found in a person. The Israelites needed the right man to lead them out of slavery in Egypt – thank God Moses’ mother was courageous enough to save his life during a time of mandatory male infanticide.
Later, God’s people needed deliverance from various oppressors, and God raised up judges to rescue them.
Ultimately, God’s solution for the biggest human dilemma ever came through the person of his very own son.
Dr. Zacharias wonders how many times we have begged and pleaded for help from God – and become offended at his apparent unconcern — when in reality, he had already sent the answer, and we destroyed that answer in the womb.
This is why I sit across from troubled women to help them take hold of hope. This is why I pray, my heart breaking, while they wrestle with their decisions.
Not just to save babies. To save people. People who are the apple of God’s eye and his answer to our problems.
Courtney decided against abortion. Her little boy will be born in a few weeks.
Who knows what kind of an answer he will be?
Susanne Maynes is the Counseling Director at Life Choices Clinic, a pregnancy resource center where she has worked for eight years. She is a Board Certified Biblical Counselor with the Board of Christian and Pastoral Counselors. Susanne blogs weekly at www.susannemaynes.com to help sincere but discouraged Christians find healing, gain insight and take heart so they can live out their faith with courageous compassion.
This last weekend I was privileged to join other authors and editors at a local event in our area. We filled the coffee shop with authors and aspiring authors who came to “stir up” the gift of God in their lives.
I spoke to them about how the novels of Clive Cussler challenged me to re-think my own writing. You may have heard principles like these listed elsewhere. For me, it was a master novelist who brought them to life.
Below are my notes from the presentation. May you be “stirred up” to write for God with boldness!
I have a hard time reading books for leisure. I spend so many hours at my computer that I can’t turn off the internal editor in my head at the end of the day. I can’t get past poor plot lines or sloppy editing in a book. The little bit of reading I usually do is Christian, and I have often been discouraged by some of what is currently being churned out in the name of God.
My introduction to Clive Cussler was through his novel, The Silent Sea, a gift to my husband from a friend. I was immediately engaged by the story and the fact that it was clean.
I’m almost finished with another of his books, Mirage, and as I read this one, I took the time to analyze it. I was entertained by it and challenged to rethink my own writing. I have found seven principles that I believe make Cussler’s books bestsellers for the right reasons.
If you’re not familiar with Clive Cussler, here’s a little background information on him. He is a prolific writer, having authored or co-authored 60 action-adventure novels, two children’s books, and several non-fiction books. His books have been on The New York Times bestseller list more than 20 times.
Cussler began writing in the evenings and on weekends in 1967, and he published his first novel in 1973.
His first non-fiction work, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered it in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded a Doctor of Letters degree to Cussler in 1997, the first time in its 123-year history that the university bestowed such a degree.
Cussler is the founder of the National Underwater and Maritime Agency, or NUMA, a non-profit organization dedicated to American maritime and naval history. He and his team have discovered over 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites.
Two of his novels have been adapted for film. The most recent of these is Sahara, an action-comedy film released by Paramount Studios in 2005 and starring Matthew McConaughey.
His most recent novel, The Assassin, just came out on March 3rd of this
year. Clive Cussler is also a serious collector of classic automobiles. And he’s
83 years old.
Here are seven principles I learned from a secular novelist. Note how they vitally intersect to create a powerful message.
Live the Adventure Boldly
Proverbs 28:1 tells us “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” When God commanded Israel to enter the Promised Land, He told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous.” Joshua 1:7
Is our writing bold? Cussler sends his characters into improbable situations and court danger. His canvas is expansive.
He isn’t afraid to think outside the box. In Mirage, Cussler takes his hero from the Delaware breakwater to an old Soviet prison in Northern Siberia to California to the Aral Sea. One moment he is exploring an underwater shipwreck. The next he’s fighting for his life as a torpedo speeds toward the wreckage where he is trapped. In a later scene the good guys are cutting open the red hull of a luxury yacht that has capsized Poseidon-style. The promotion blurb for his newest book, The Assassin, which just came out last month, promises to transport the reader from the oil fields of Kansas to Washington D.C., to New York, to war-torn Baku oil-fields on the Caspian Sea, and back to America.
Literary agent Chip McGregor once told a group of us writers that in the Christian publishing world, it’s said that if you want to sell your book, “Put a bonnet on it,” a reference to the current popularity of Amish romance. I have no problem with Amish romance novels, if God has called the author to write them. But why should Christians limit ourselves to cheap devices for the sake of selling a book?
We, of all people, can be living the adventure. We have God’s entire universe at our disposal. The Bible has revealed to us wonders that we can scarcely fathom. Good and evil are played out at our very doorsteps. Demons oppose us. Angels minister to us. A being not of this world lives inside us and guides us.
I remember the time I wrote a short story for a creative writing class in high school. The teacher was very taken with the story, and I had my first taste of the thrill of actually using words to create a picture in the reader’s mind. It was the first time it occurred to me that “To write is to paint worlds with words.”
Read the page one of the Prologue to the first paragraph on page 3 of Mirage. Can’t you see this being the opening scene in an action movie? Notice that he doesn’t take much time setting up the scene and he doesn’t give long descriptions. But in just two pages he has given us a lot of information and engaged our imaginations. You know the name of the ship, the name of the captain, the fact that he is a veteran seaman, they just passed through a hurricane, and that it’s about nine o’clock at night. You can hear the water flowing against the ship and the feel cool metal plates under your feet. You can envision the captain in his ridiculous outfit and even breathe an inward “ewww” at his hairy chest and back. You stand on the bridge of the ship and are enveloped with the others in the mysterious blue light.
“Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.” ~Maya Angelou
Whether we’re writing fiction or non-fiction, fantasy, biographies, devotions, or children’s books, our challenge is to tap into the limitless creativity of God. It was God who thought up kangaroos and daffodils and gave lions their teeth. He painted the stripes on the zebra and gave pandas their teddy bear eyes. He sends the lightning to split the sky, the thunder to speak His mysteries, and the rain to wash away the storm. It is those wisps of glory we are called to capture for our readers.
We’re finite. We have only so much brain power at our disposal. But by letting God in on the discussion, we open new doors to our craft. I’m convinced that God loves to partner with us in the creative process. He wants to reveal Himself to others through us. In fact, that’s His plan.
“As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.”
“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”~1 Tim. 4:7
Cussler must be a disciplined writer, to have produced such a body of work. We can be full of ideas, but unless they make it to the page, they never see the light of day.
Develop a plan for writing that fits your life. Don’t worry about what other people do. Do what works for you. Just be disciplined.
Do the Research
“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing” ~Wernher von Braun
Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, research is the foundation of our story. It gives the story an air of realism. If we know our subject well, we will write with authority and speak with confidence.
In Clive Cussler’s books, especially in Mirage, I occasionally had no idea what equipment he was talking about. But the extra effort he put into being accurate gave integrity to the scene and convinced me of his knowledge base. Because his novels are so expansive, it also lends credibility to the story lines.
He has also taken obvious care to know the physical settings in which his characters play out the plot. In one of my favorite scenes from the book Mirage, the protagonist searches for a lost ship among the rusting hulks that litter the exposed seabed of what was once the Aral Sea. I was so taken by this image that I had to look it up and discovered that, indeed, the Aral Sea is shrinking.
Challenge Your Readers
Go ahead. Use the big words. Your readers can handle it.
Cussler’s use of military jargon and knowledge of the settings of his scenes reveals a careful study of his subject. I found myself occasionally pausing to mull over a new word or picture a piece of machinery he described. I had to look up words like “panamax,” (size limits for ships passing through the Panama Canal) “subaltern,” (a person holding a subordinate position, specifically a junior officer),“lateen-rigged dhows,” (A broad-beamed shallow-draft vessel with lateen-rigged sails), and “fusillade” ( a number of bullets fired at the same time or one after another quickly).
Oddly, I didn’t find this distracting. In fact, it was refreshing. It felt GOOD to read fiction that made me think. I was engaged and learning and still being entertained by the story.
It’s okay to challenge your readers. Writers have been told that readers want to be spoon-fed, instead of being encouraged to think. Whatever genre we’ve chosen as our outlet for our writing, it’s possible to elevate the craft and perhaps even society with our words. And I believe it’s possible to do this without being preachy or assuming a pseudo-intellectual tone. It just takes more work on our part so we don’t lose them along the way.
“There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.” ~Brian Aldiss
Obviously, we want to be the former. We want them to think, but we don’t want them to be totally lost. You can tease your readers along and pull them into the story. Then challenge them to rise above and beyond mediocrity.
Know Your Audience
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” ~Jimmy Stewart
Cussler knows his audience well. In this Oregon series, his use of military terms and non-stop action is clearly geared to lovers of government intrigue and action movies. He knows his readers aren’t looking for steamy romance. He doesn’t sell politics or try to solve interpersonal relationship problems. He gives them action, and lots of it.
Write what you love, but treat your readers always as partners in the experience.
Strive for excellence.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
I’ve been challenged by the high standards of the two books I’ve read. Along with Cussler’s superb writing, the editing on the book is impressive. You’re not likely to find typos or dangling participles or unfinished plot lines in these novels.
This is especially interesting because he produces a lot of books. He often co-authors with other writers, which is probably why he can be so prolific. As an author who has used both the traditional and self-publishing paths, I’ve learned that either way, it’s important for the writer to insist on quality control over the finished product.
One Final Thing…
Seek God’s anointing.
“Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.”
Psalm 127:1 NASB
Along with these principles of good writing, we have a greater charge: Whatever we write should honor God. When we have partnered with Him in the process, He delights in breathing life into our words.
May you be inspired to write courageously.
Last week I shared a questionnaire from our recent local event for aspiring authors. It was designed to help you understand yourself and your calling a bit better as you step out into the world of writing on a new level. If you took the time to fill it out, send me an email and tell me what you learned about yourself.
This week, I’m offering some specifics to help you in your quest. To these I would add this one thing: BE BOLD. It takes a warrior’s heart to persevere in the publishing world. Walk in the confidence that God has put a story in your heart and He will equip you to tell it. After all, it’s really His Story, isn’t it?
Now that you’ve put your first thoughts down on paper, it’s time to take the next steps. The following are some guidelines to help you in the process. Blessings on your journey!
Read all you can, especially in the genre in which you’re interested.
Get to know who the best authors are and check out their websites to see what they’re doing. Why do you enjoy their work so much? In what ways do they connect with their readers?
Invest in some good books on writing and learn the craft.
Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. This is especially true for writing. It takes a considerable investment of time and hard work to get what’s burning in your heart down onto paper. The Chicago Manual of Style is the gold standard for correct manuscript style as you begin to edit your writing.
Sure, it helps to have some natural talent in writing. But like any profession, repetition is crucial in training for the best results.The more you write, the easier it will get and the better you will become. You can’t wait for inspiration to hit. Set aside a regular time and treat it as an important appointment with God. Without discipline, your dream can’t get into print.
Be willing to be vulnerable.
Paul Gallico, author of The Poseidon Adventure, one wrote, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact your reader.” As hard as it is, it’s important to let yourself be vulnerable as you write. You will also feel vulnerable when others begin to read and critique your writing. It can be painful to have the baby to whom you’ve given birth casually tossed around by others. But once again, the ability to allow criticism and critique is crucial to becoming a better writer. These things give us perspective and help us to see our work through the eyes of our readers.
Join at least one writer’s group.
It can be a national group or a local group, but the fellowship and information-sharing between writers is critical for success and growth. Other writers can help with providing an objective critique of your writing and pray for you when the going gets tough. Go to a writer’s conference if at all possible.
Check out the many resources online.
Today’s Internet offers many great resources for both the beginner and the advanced writer. Take advantage of these free sites and learn all you can.
Begin to build your platform.
This generation of authors is expected to be proficient in social media. Work to make contacts through such media as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. You’ll meet some great people and begin to get your message out to others. Take advantage of any opportunities to speak at church, work, on community events.
Commit your writing to prayer.
The Bible tells us:
Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.
Psalm 127:1 NASB
Let the Lord let you. You want His anointing on everything you do, say, and write. If you let Him guide you on this journey, you will have the satisfaction of knowing your have been obedient to your calling, no matter where your writing takes you.
I love to write!
And I love meeting others who share my passion for words. Last month, I was privileged to be part of an event hosted by His Story Christian Gift Center in Lewiston, Idaho. We had a lot of fun meeting and working with aspiring writers. As part of this day, we handed out a worksheet to those who wanted to write but didn’t know how to get started. Today, I’m sharing this worksheet with you. Whether you’re a person who likes to carefully plan your writing projects or like to write without a net, it helps to get to know yourself a little bit better. It took me years to discover what my focus is and what motivates me to write. Here’s the first segment of the worksheet:
You’ve felt for some time that you have a story in you. It could be a novel that’s been shuffling around in your mind for years. Or you have an incredible life story that you long to share with others. Perhaps you yearn to write for children or parents or youth. You know God is urging you to step out in faith and put the dream to paper.
The journey to publication, whether through independent or traditional channels, is an arduous one. Although it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s within your reach. It takes a lot of discipline, hard work, and willingness to learn. So where do you begin?
It’s best to write down a few things to help you solidify your goals. These next questions will help you put into words what’s brewing in your heart. Take your time, think them through, and commit them to prayer.
1. What genre are you interested in pursuing (non-fiction, fiction, fantasy, young adult fiction, devotional, children’s books, etc.)?
2. Why did you choose it?
3. Who are your favorite authors, and why?
4. What Scripture(s) best describe your walk with God?
5. Describe your life’s calling in one sentence.
6. What gifts and talents do you think God has placed in you that qualify you to speak to others?
7. If others could describe you in one word, what might that word be?
8. Do you have the support of your family to take on writing?
9. What is your educational background?
10. What do you hope to accomplish through writing?
Fill this out and keep it. Pull it out occasionally and see where God has taken you in your journey. Next week, I’ll post the second half: Now What?
For the past three weeks, Anita Greening and her family have been sharing their journey through a bewildering series of setbacks and how they have leaned on God during this time. In this last part, Anita shares how she has come to find their “new normal” and the wonderful news she has just received.
How have you learned to fight the fear and despair that comes with a serious illness?
When I felt that fear and pain coming my way, I made a conscious decision to think on something else. I would open the bible, turn on some uplifting music, or just say out loud, “No, I will not think on that today!”
The cancer journey has been much harder on my family in many ways than it has been on me. The emotional aspect of it for them was very difficult. Seeing me sick and not able to do the things I had always done was hard for them. The uncertainty they felt about the future and about my future was difficult for them, too.
For me, other than the physical effects from cancer and the chemo, I wasn’t too concerned about it. I always believed and confessed that cancer died 2000 years ago on the cross of Christ, and I believed that God wasn’t finished with my life on earth. I felt sick, exhausted, and in pain, but I haven’t been too concerned about whether or not I would be well again. I just truly believed I would be.
For me, the hardest struggle has been financially. It’s funny how I can trust God in some areas and struggle to trust in others, as if God would say to me, “All right, I can take care of this for you, but I won’t help you with that problem.” It sounds silly, but I believed God would take care of the cancer, but I have struggled with the idea of Him taking care of the financial aspect. My biggest concern throughout my journey has been the financial one. I prayed and prayed for God to removed this heavy burden from our backs, and the more I prayed, the harder things became financially. I would awaken in pain and nausea, but the all-engulfing problem to me was our financial difficulties.
It was a long road for me to learn to trust God in this area. It hasn’t been easy, but at this point I am able to step out there and just tell my Heavenly Father what we need and trust Him with the answer–even when the bills pile up or go unpaid month after month. God has been persistent through our journey to move us to a deeper level of faith and trust in Him, to teach us to be content with what we have, to help us face our fears and overcome them through Him, and to bring us to a place of peace in our “new” normal way of life.
He has never let go of us as He walked with us through the valley of the shadow.
That is so beautiful, Anita. What would you tell someone else who is enduring a similar trial right now?
I would tell them emphatically that no matter what, they can make it! If they will yield to God and allow God to have His way, He will bring them through their situation. I would tell them to never, ever give up. Keep going, keep believing, and know that God is there for them. He loves them deeply. I would honestly tell them it will be painful, it will hurt. It will be very difficult but through it all, God will never let them go. Be honest with God. He can handle your honesty. Be honest with others. Let others know when you need help, when you need prayer, or when you just want to be alone.
You have an update on your condition. Please share it with us.
I had a CT scan that was clear. There was no more evidence of cancer. The oncologist said the CT didn’t show microscopic cancer cells, and therefore I would need to continue chemo for the next few months. Afterward, I will be having maintenance chemo for another few months to help ensure that the cancer will not return.
Hannah has started at a diagnostic clinic at UAMS. She had her first appointments in August and September. We are hopeful to find a diagnosis for her and are believing God for health for her, as well.
Thanks for sharing your family’s story with such honesty. It has taken great courage to walk the path you have with faith. If people want to keep in touch or help out with your expenses, how can they contact you?
This is our family’s donation page: http://www.gofundme.com/thegreeningfamily
My Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AnitaK316
Jordan’s YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Jordan1617
Hannah’s YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/HannahNoelle2158
Jordan on CMADDICT: http://www.cmaddict.com/article_page.php?article_id=438
The last two weeks, we have been blessed and challenged by the story of the Greening family’s faith in the face of continuing hardships. Today, in the next segment of the interview, Anita shares how they are learning to trust God for provision and healing in every area of their lives. Be sure to stop by next Thursday for the conclusion and to hear Anita’s good news.
What’s your favorite Bible verse? What verses have sustained Matthew and you through these last years?
These verses are some of Matthew’s favorite verses from the Bible. He has leaned on them and God has brought him comfort and strength through them.
Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for Yah, the Lord is my strength and my song; he is also become my salvation. -Isaiah 12:2
When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. -Isaiah 59:19b
I have so many favorite verses in the Bible, but if I had to choose just one, I would choose Isaiah 41:9-10:
I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant;” I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
God has comforted and strengthened me with this verse over and over again.
Jordan writes a weekly article for the music website CMADDICT.com. What is the series about and what motivates her to write for this particular site?
Jordan was asked by the owner of CMADDICT.com to contribute to his website awhile back. She was blessed and honored by this request and was excited to be a part of the site. She writes a weekly article and makes a video of her music that she wrote in the hope of inspiring others and pointing them to Jesus Christ. She is motivated to write because of her love for Jesus and her love for others. The desire to share her faith in God and the hope to be able to lead others to the Lord also motivates her. She has such a passion for God and has been through so many personal trials herself, as well as seeing and hearing from so many hurting people. She wants to encourage people to look to Jesus, to look beyond themselves to God.
She knows that when we take the focus off ourselves, our perspective is changed, hearts are changed, and lives are made new. Through God, people can endure anything. She believes true life and true love are found in God through Jesus Christ. The series she writes is based and focused on all of these things.
How do you find God’s strength on the hard days?
There have been those days that the loss, pain, and despair would creep up on me and engulf me. During these times, I felt that I could no longer find hope. At times I just really wanted to give up. I was weary I felt overwhelmed by trial upon trial; problem after problem, more and more and more issues. Inside, I felt I had nothing left.
Nothing left to give. Nothing left to say. Nothing left to hope for. I remember grieving and crying out to God and feeling as if He was a million miles away. I remember being brutally honest with God and telling Him that my family and I had had enough. I told Him that we were just flesh and bone, and we didn’t have super-human strength, and we just couldn’t take it anymore!
I believe God loves our honesty, and He is strong enough to deal with our pain, anger, and disappointments. There is not a thought we can have that is ever hidden from Him, anyway.
I remember asking Him where He was. Where was our help? God was remarkably quiet during those times. He knew what He was doing, but to me, everything about life was way out of control. At times I was angry, Matt was angry, and even our children were angry.
At times, we were all afraid. We cried. We cried together, and we cried separately. We cried out to God. We prayed together and individually. We learned through it all not to look back very often. Honestly, when we remembered the good times in the past, it brought all the more pain to our current way of life.
So we learned to live in the present. We learned to be content with what we had. We learned it wasn’t important to have abundance. Instead, the greater value was in that deep trust that came from God providing for our needs day by day. When we had no idea where food or clothing or any provision would come from, we learned to trust God.
It wasn’t comfortable, pleasant, or enjoyable.
Not at first.
Next Thursday: A New Trust
Find the Greening family here:
Donation page: http://www.gofundme.com/thegreeningfamily
Anita’s Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AnitaK316
Jordan’s YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Jordan1617
Hannah’s YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/HannahNoelle2158
Last week we posted the first part of an interview with Anita Greening and her family. Anita is fighting ovarian cancer and describes their determination to serve God in the midst of suffering in this poignant second part of the series.
You and your family have exhibited a strong faith in the face of crushing hardships.
Please tell us about your faith journey:
What have you had to give to God? What is He teaching you through your recent trials, both individually and as a family?
Faith in God is what has carried us through every difficulty we have faced. God has been our strength, our comfort, our encouragement, and our life. Our trials truly began ten years ago in 2004 when my husband and I worked for the same company. This company suddenly closed due to an insurance glitch, and we were both without a job. After months of looking for work in my hometown, we ended up selling a lot of our possessions and moving to Waxahachie, Texas, where my husband was attending Bible college. We hoped that in moving so near to Dallas, he would be able to find a good job.
It didn’t happen. After spending nearly a year there, we moved to our current town in Arkansas. Jobs have been hard to find here as well. It has been very difficult financially for our family for many years. Still, God has been faithful and has sustained us. We have learned what it is like to be fed day by day, from God’s hand to our mouths. We have learned to be content with what we have and to take one day at a time with God’s help. We have had to go deeper in faith and trust than we ever imagined going.
Peanut Butter and Two Loaves of Bread
I remember a couple of weeks when my husband was traveling due to his job that the girls and I lived off of a jar of peanut butter and two loaves of bread. There were no funds for food and that was all we had. We thanked God for it and for his provision.
My husband finished his Bachelor’s degree, and I too obtained a degree as a Radiological Technologist. His degree in church administration did not help us in our new location, and unbeknownst to be at the time, there were so many radiologic technologists in our state that finding a job was extremely difficult. To this day, I haven’t worked in this field. It has been a huge disappointment.
Also during this time, my husband lost his mother to a long-endured battle with lymphoma cancer. It was heartbreaking and so painful! I too lost my dad, who also suffered from bladder cancer and congestive heart failure. We were all grieving.
After being diagnosed with cancer in January of 2013, I was traveling back and forth to Little Rock, Arkansas for treatment. It is about an hour and 15 minutes drive one way. We had one car and it was very old. It gave out and wasn’t worth fixing nor did we have the funds to fix it. We went three months without a vehicle. It was hard. We borrowed and shared my mother’s car which she graciously allowed us to use on a daily basis. After finally purchasing another more reliable vehicle, we were hopeful that things would get better.
Next Thursday: Unstoppable, Part 3
The Greening family continues to have crushing medical bills as Anita and Hannah fight for their health. Please visit their gofundme site and consider making a donation to help ease their burden.
Hannah’s YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/HannahNoelle2158