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.

 

His Master’s Voice

By Bernice LeeBernice Lee cropped2

Have you ever seen the focused attention of a dog who is anticipating a tasty treat or a meal? One morning at breakfast, I watched our dog Dusty taking up position by the side of my husband’s chair. You want a picture of undivided devotion? This was it. Dusty has been blessed with a pair of head-turning, heart-gripping eyes that have the power to mesmerize many an unsuspecting visitor into feeding him tasty morsels. So there was Dusty, training his every sinew, muscle and mental faculty on the one thing he so desired…being fed a scrap by his master.

This was just before my husband and I were about to do our morning devotional reading. And it suddenly struck me that, for shame, I do not come to the Lord’s table or presence with even a smidgen of Dusty’s wholehearted attentiveness. He comes to our dining table with complete confidence that he will be fed, and that it will be good. He knows we will only feed him food that will nourish.

bible-freedigitalphotosSimilarly, I know when I come to God through His Word, I can have full confidence that I will be fed, and that it will be good. What God feeds me will definitely not harm me. I will be nourished. Yet I do not approach Him with the eagerness that I see in Dusty. I do not gaze longingly at Him, waiting on His every word and gesture, listening for His voice. How can I, as a writer (and a Christian writer at that), be sharing from the richness of my heritage if I don’t acquaint myself with all that God has blessed me with?

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45 NIV)

In my journey as a writer, I need to take seriously my spiritual disciplines. I know this would be beyond me if not for the signposts that God has placed along the way. Sometimes, it’ll be the spiritual friends who walk alongside me. Many times it’ll be God’s Word that will cut me to the core. Daily, though, it’ll be Dusty, reminding me of the quality of my devotion. Every single day, for the past 11 years of his life, he has shown me what it is to be singlemindedly focused on his relationship with his master(s) and his food.

God’s love has been unconditional…I have stumbled and fallen so often, I have permanent scars on my hands and knees. Yet God has shown me time and again that He’ll pick me up, brush the dust off me and nudge me along my way, sorer but wiser. And blessed with even more fodder for my writing.

Dear Heavenly Father, please continue to help me hunger for your Word and your ways, that your goodness may overflow out of my brimming heart to touch a world in need.

Bernice Lee is the host chair of LittWorld 2015 in Singapore, November 1 to 6. LittWorld is the only international Christian publishing conference of its kind! Join more than 200 writers, editors, designers and publishers from around the globe. Learn more.

This article was submitted in conjunction with MAI devotional writing contest and future devotional book (details to come).

Photo above by Arvind Balaramin, Freedigitalphotos

The Editor-Author Relationship

Martin Manser is a professional consultant, trainer and reference book editor in theMartin_Manser UK. He’ll be leading our January 13 webinar, “The Editor-Author Relationship: Stormy or strong.” Below he shares a slice of his vast experience with us.

Q: Tell us about one of the best editors you’ve had.
I remember Robin from one Christian publisher coming to see me at my home. I think he had two main purposes in his visit: one was to see how I was getting on with the project, which was writing a book of quotations/ selections from the Bible arranged under about 200 topics. Secondly he wanted to discuss the style of my name. I had wanted it as only initials: “M H Manser;” he felt that was probably too academic and wanted me to put my name as two, ie “Martin Manser” with both names spelt out in full. As this affected my sense of identity, I guess he felt a face-to-face meeting was better than phone (this was before  the days of email). We settled on “Martin H Manser,” with the middle initial, following the American style.

Q: How does dialoguing with colleagues affect the quality of a text?
One experience shows how colleagues can work together well. I recall trying to work out the title of the dictionary. It was a different kind of dictionary with a boxed panel on nearly every page discussing an interesting fact, idiom or background story etc of a word on that page. But we had to think of a title: a word that would go in front of “Dictionary.” We pored through thesauruses and came up with “Essential,” “Standard,” etc. but nothing seemed to gel. Meanwhile, the marketing colleagues at the publisher (Penguin) had been working on their thinking and came up with “Wordmaster,” so the combination of Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary was born. It sounded good…and incidentally went on to sell well too.

Q: As an editor and author, tell us about a mistake you’ve learned a lot from in the author-editor relationship.
A mistake I made once was commissioning a colleague over the phone to write an article on being a Christian in contemporary society. We talked about the number of words I wanted, the payment and the date I wanted it for. But when the day of the deadline came, nothing arrived. So I rang him and unfortunately he couldn’t recall anything about the telephone call! I found myself with no text in front of me, as there was nothing in writing. I learnt from that to always confirm in writing the details of what has been agreed in a phone conversation.

Register now for our free webinar with Martin on January 13, “The Editor-author Relationship: Stormy or strong.”

Martin Manser has compiled or edited over 200 reference books on the English language, Bible reference and business skills. He is an English-language specialist and teaches English to business colleagues. Martin is an MAI-Europe Trustee.

Heavenly Editor

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest.

By Daniel Nalbantski, Bulgaria

I have lots of fun writing novels. I feel the master of my protagonists’ destiny. I can do with them anything I want: I could make them talk the way I’d talk, and do things I’d do. I could kill them without me being sent to jail. I could let them into a bank and come out with bags of money. I could make them bankrupt even if they were very rich. As an author I cross out, give up on some events, insert others, put one protagonist’s lines in the mouth of another.

It’s not the same thing in real life. I’ve no right to turn things back, to cancel or correct. What I’ve done cannot be changed. It’s the same with all of us. Those who married the wrong person cannot simply say “I’m sorry” and leave. Those who insulted cannot take their words back. Those who killed cannot get the victim’s life back. Life is a book that cannot be corrected.

What inspires me is that God acts as an editor who lets me correct my life. He forgives my sins and gives me new opportunities. As if every time he tells me: “My friend, let’s start anew. I don’t like that. Let’s try it another way.”

I often reread the story from Acts 2 about those people who listened to Peter’s sermon and felt a rising terror because of what they’d done; they feared they’d be stricken by God’s anger on the spot. This made them cry out: ‘Brothers, what shall we do?” (v. 37) Peter didn’t reply: “There is nothing to do, sorry! Whatever you sow, you will reap!” On the contrary, he showed them how wide open the door to forgiveness and new beginning was.

As an author I need to finalize my novel one day and send it for printing. From that moment on my authority over my protagonists is over. It’s the audience’s turn and I’ll have to answer to their questions.

One day it’ll be all over. I’ll finish the book of my life. What will it be? Will my Heavenly Editor like it? He will, because we’ve written it together.

Merciful Father, thank You for the years You give me and for the corrections You want me toDaniel Nalbantski make into my life. Give me the strength to follow Your advice and be approved by You.

Daniel Nalbantski is the author and editor of the Manna Daily Devotional Guide. He is the author of six novels, a collection of short stories and a collection of newspaper articles, all of them dealing with Christian issues. He is married to Emilia and they have two daughters.