After

Last night, the book launch. The cheer and frenzy and lights and hype. The accolades.

This morning, the silence. The blank computer screen, the absence of checklists. I had time to notice the sunshine.

Three successful book projects had just been published, each, with their respective Christian authors, having gone through months of work. And I, their editor, had gone along and lived for months consumed by the vast branching array of details that make up a book—What is the source for footnote number seventy-seven? Has the third endorser written back to confirm his position? Do we need permission to use this song? Have I checked the running heads?

Did I check them properly? And how sure am I that that is the source for footnote number seventy-seven?

I had loved it all.

Time hadn’t just flown; it had sped by—I had been in bliss, immersed in words, immersed in work—fixing, thinking, planning, writing. And then the launch, the sales, the noise—and then. Today.

The books were finished. My hands felt empty.

You love your work, the Lord told me, on that still, silent morning. That is why I gave it to you. But that is not the most important reason.

There are so many “most important reasons.” In fact, I will never know how many. One is the man sitting beside a hospital bed, grieving the loss of his wife. Another is the young woman struggling with fear and loneliness, dreading the prospect of another day. Yet another is the elderly grandfather who has never known peace—but who will, once he has picked up a certain book whose words would lead him to the Living Word.

It’s all for the sake of the Gospel, the Lord reminded me. It’s all for Me.

That morning, my hands were empty. But my heart became full.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19–20a)

Lord, in my work, You are my meaning, my strength, and my joy. Help me to work by and for Your Name alone.

Karen Huang is a writer for various print media publications. She also does editorial work for OMF Literature Inc. When not writing and editing, Karen teaches essay-writing and creative writing to high school and college students. She is also the proud aunt of Sabina, Selena, and Caleb.

This article was an entry in our LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest.

Winners of the LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest

MAI is pleased to announce the winners of the LittWorld 2015 Devotional Writing Contest. Participants were invited to submit a short devotional article to inspire and encourage fellow Christian writers around the world. We were delighted to receive more than 90 submissions from 20 countries and 5 continents.

First place prize of $300 is awarded to Melanie N. Brasher of Canada/South Asia for her entry, “The Season of Oranges and Unfinished Writing Projects.” Judges commented, “Using gifts of nature as metaphor, oranges, the writer graphically dramatizes ripening in our calling and waiting on the Lord.”

Marcia Lee LaycockThe second place of $150 goes to Marcia Lee Laycock of Canada for “God’s Best Plan: Stop writing.” Judges remarked, “This devotional vividly addresses every writer’s struggle to find balance in life and work. When our writing becomes an obsession, more important than people and even God, it’s time to step back and seek God’s direction.”

The People’s Choice Award of $100 is awarded to Yessy Sutama of Indonesia for Yessy SutamaWritten in Tears.” Select contest entries appeared online at www.littworldonline.org, and this award is given to the one receiving the most Facebook “like” votes by the contest deadline of December 15. Yessy’s received 161 votes.

Judges commented, “This bitter-sweet story tugs at the heartstrings. It gives us a ringside view of pain, particularly the writer’s, and how pain can plunge us into darkness. By writing through her tears, she found a new way to overcome sadness and reignite her world.”

Our distinguished team of international judges for the writing contest included: Grace Chong, award-winning author of the Philippines; Pearl Griffith, author, editor, writer trainer and publisher in Trinidad; and David McCasland of the USA, writer for Our Daily Bread, and author of Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God.

“I want to assure each of you who submitted a devotional that you have won a personal victory,” said David McCasland. “There are many people who want to write, but few who actually do. You have written and you have won!”

Many of the contest entries will be featured in a new devotional book for global Christian writers, which will be launched at our LittWorld 2015 conference in Singapore this November.

John 2015 headshot“We look forward to sharing these devotionals with the global Christian community, and pray it will inspire writers to persevere and excel in their ministry of the written word,” said MAI President John Maust.

No One Cried at My Friend’s Funeral

By John Gathuku, Kenya

Yesterday we lay to rest the man who literally took me to church. No one cried at the funeral; his wife and children didn’t shed a tear.

He was our neighbor and a faithful choir member at a church in our hometown. He brought me along when he went for choir practice. We had a unique father-like friendship. On Sundays he dropped me off at children’s Sunday School. That was 30 years ago! I am now a grown man with three children. We kept in touch once in a while over the years and were always joyful to meet.

My friend was a super achiever. He pursued a bachelor’s degree at age 45 and was about to finish a doctorate at 63. His determination and tenacity was admirable. He uplifted his extended family economically and financially assisted many other people.

However something was amiss… A line in the eulogy confirmed my fears: “Throughout his life he maintained a very busy schedule.” He went abroad for further studies, leaving his young family for more than 10 years. They got used to living without him. When he returned, he was a part-time lecturer at a whopping six universities spread throughout the country, meaning a very hectic travel schedule for a man over 60 years old! He died alone in a car accident at 1 a.m. returning from one of his many engagements.

My friend was a loner. It’s clear he didn’t spend quality time with those closest to him. It’s clear he spent his resources and himself serving the “church” selflessly. Hundreds attended the burial. Cars thronged the small village and had to be parked at a playfield! He had so many acquaintances but none was intimate.

I felt deeply rebuked. I did some retrospection on my own schedule and realized I am particularly prone to the same trap. I kept postponing visiting with his family until it was too late. My schedule was busy!

My heart broke at the thought that I could be neglecting my own friends and family at the excuse of ministry demands. I spent the weekend in Eldoret and on Monday morning my son started crying in class, saying he was missing Dad. Some friends have complained it’s hard to get me on phone. Yesterday, for the first time in more than five years, I spent the whole day with my mum alone as we drove to the funeral service. She was so happy. I didn’t realize how much she missed my fellowship. I also lost the ritual of taking my wife out for dinner each fortnight. God help me re-organize and prioritize my life around what is eternal and matters most.

While we abhor idleness, busyness is not an option. While we esteem sacrifice, hard work and putting bread on the table, staying away from family is not an option. My employer will replace me when am gone but my children will never have another dad. Since I don’t know how many days are left, I want to spend them first intimately loving my family then ministering to God’s people.

It would be a sad thing if no one cried at my funeral.
John Gathuki
John Gathuku is the director of Timazi Magazine for high schoolers in Kenya.  “Timazi” is the Swahili word for Plumbline.

God’s Best Plan: Stop writing!

Marcia Lee LaycockBy Marcia Lee Laycock, Canada

“Why don’t you ever have time for me?”

My heart stopped and I turned to my nine-year old daughter as she burst into tears. I gathered her in my arms and we talked. She had needed me when she came home from school that day, but I was glued to the computer screen, and had only given her a vague “uhuh” when she started to tell me what was on her heart.

A short time after that, a man stood up in a congregation and said, “What you are doing is good but your obsession with it is not.” I knew immediately God was speaking to me. I knew my writing had become an idol in my life. When I needed comfort, I wrote. When I was afraid, I wrote. When I was angry, I wrote. I went to my writing instead of my God.

So I prayed and God answered. Stop writing fiction. I didn’t like that answer but when I eventually gave in I asked God to please, please take away the stories that continually flowed through my head. He did. For over two years. I continued to write devotionals and articles for a local newspaper, but no fiction.

Then one day I was chatting with a woman about abortion. She asked, “Can you One Smooth Stone by Marcia Lee Laycockimagine what it would be like for someone to discover that his mother had tried to abort him?” I did imagine. A character began to take shape in my mind so vividly I knew God had released me to write his story. I prayed and then I wrote. That novel, One Smooth Stone, won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award. And I wept, not just because of the award, but because of what God had taught me.

He taught me that if I am obedient to Him He will bless me in ways I could never have imagined. He taught me that a strong “no” may seem harsh but will always be given with loving intent. He taught me that He intends “to prosper (me) and not to harm (me)… to give (me) a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Father in heaven keep me close to you, so close that I will never again put an idol in the place that you should hold. Thank you that I can know your plans are always best. Amen.

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from Alberta Canada where she lives with her pastor/husband and two golden retrievers. Her three daughters are often fodder for her writing. She is a columnist with Novel Rocket and her devotionals are widely distributed. She also has three published novels and several ebooks available.

This article is an entry in the MAI devotional writing contest.

Too Little to Offer?

By Jacob Samuel, India Jacob Samuel, India

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied” (Luke 9:16,17).

I had just finished reading the success story of J.K.Rowling, the author of the Harryharry_potter_paperback_set Potter fantasy series. The books have sold 400 million copies and have been recognized as the best selling book series in history. A successful writer indeed!

Then an inner voice started echoing, “You say God has called you to write. What have you done? You have published just a few articles and short stories. Do you think you can really make an impact?” Darkness seemed to fill my soul. Thank God, it did not last long. The Holy Spirit had something to teach me through the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.

five-loaves-two-fishes2A large crowd followed Jesus. As the day ended, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd home as they were in a remote place. Jesus’ response would have shocked the disciples when he said “You give them something to eat.” It was an impossible task for the disciples. To Jesus’ question about what they had, they answered, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish.” They knew it was too little considering the need. But Jesus took them, gave thanks, broke them and had them distributed to the people. They all ate and were satisfied.

I remember with gratitude how the book Man Alive (Michael Green) convinced me un_vision3of the reasonableness of Christian faith as a young Christian and how the book An Unfading Vision (Edward England) motivated me to write for God. God uses the gifts and talents of His people to fulfill His purposes. My gift of writing might look too insignificant. But God wants me to offer it to Him. It is up to Him to use my gift of writing in the way that He wants. He may use it to comfort someone in pain, save a young person from a wrong choice, or encourage a lonely missionary. What I have to offer may be too little. But He blesses it and uses it for His glory.

Lord, I offer you my gift of writing. Take it, bless it and use it to bless others. Amen

Jacob Samuel works for a non-profit in India. He also edits the campus magazine Our Contact, published by Union of Evangelical Students of India. Jacob writes for Christian students and professionals, and also for secular readers on Christian values. He enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, visiting places of historic importance and exploring creative ways of communication.

This article is an entry in the MAI devotional writing contest.