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.


Christmas Story from a Faraway Land

Malaysian writer Evelyn Tan Hwee Yong was doing her devotions in a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur recently—reflecting on the challenges facing Christians in her country—when suddenly an idea came for an article. Her creative Christmas meditation follows.

Imagining myself a tired snowy owl, I flew to one of the benches in a sparkly Christmas box by Naito8 Freedigitalphotosshopping mall decked out for the season. Although it was not snowing here, I fluttered to shake flakes of snow from my wings.

For months in my country, harsh voices had been ranting about religious issues and racial rights and inciting hatred. I sighed as I thought of those calling for the “exile” of our Holy Book. How could the Bible, which speaks of the greatest love, be exiled?

“Hoot, hoot. ” I felt miserable and looked at the little hut in the mall adorned with decorations.  It had a warm fireplace, but the snow on my wings made me shiver. Pulling out a copy of the Bible in the national language, I read the account of Christ’s birth under a colorful pine tree.

“Hoot, hoot, my soul doth magnify the Lord.” I tried to echo Mary. Warmth flooded my soul as I meditated on Mary. In my snowy owl shape, I sat and read the account of the first Christmas amidst the glitter and sparkles.

“Hoot, hoot…and there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone about them: and they were sore afraid” (Luke 2:9-10, KJV).

I imagined that the bright light of glory shone around me, dispelling my frustrations and uplifting my disparing soul.

“Glory, yes, the glory of the Lord in this land! Hoot, hoot,” I cried.

The glory of the Lord entered a dark world aching with sin during the first Christmas. The tired and worn shepherds saw the glory of the Lord shining around them. The glory of the Lord had already been seen by the Prophet Isaiah long ago amidst the darkness in his land: “Every valley shall be exiled, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 39:5, KJV)

“Hoot, hoot…”   I flapped my wings, trying to shake loose my anger over the injustices in my land. Then I remembered how Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. My anger began to subside, and I realized my need to be different. After all, I too had seen the glory of the Lord Jesus.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Spreading my wings, I soared out of the shopping mall. The glory of the Lord had quelled the storm within me.

Malaysian born writer and publisher, Evelyn Tan Hwee Yong, lives in Petaling Jaya. She writes, translates and edits at Upstream Publishing. Apart from writing and translating, she teaches and preaches with passion. She enjoys cooking during festive seasons, and also learning different cultures from other nations. She also serves as a Trustee of MAI-Asia.

Photo above courtesy Naito8, Freedigitalphotos

The Nativity Painting

By Sharon Rose Estores Montojo, Philippines/USA

For the last six years, my family and I have been decorating the house in preparation for Christmas. We usually start with putting up the Christmas tree. ThisChristmas ball freedigitalphotos means bringing out items I have stored since last year like the stockings, tree-shaped candles, snowman cookie jars and Christmas village figurines.

One thing that we have always wanted is a Nativity set to serve as a visual reminder of the birth of Christ. One Tuesday morning, my husband and I went to a specialty store for home decorations and furnishings. Of all of the wall decor and different colorful items, one item caught our attention. It was a nativity painting hanging on top of the wall. It looked beautiful and captivating with the light from a lamp in one of the shepherd’s hands illuminating the darkness. My husband was curious how much it cost. He was debating whether to buy it or wait for the after-Christmas sale. As it was the only one, he decided to buy it.

When the sales lady handed us the painting, my husband took a closer look. He noticed a nail piercing through the lower portion of the canvas. He thought he might be able to get it at a discount. We then proceeded to pay for it.

As I started to reflect on what had just transpired, it occurred to me that in the same manner, celebrating Christmas is like being in a store with so many beautiful things that can easily distract us from the real meaning of Christmas until God directs our attention to the time when Jesus was born.

While we may have bought the painting at a discount, it dawned on me that it was not the case for Christ. He paid the full price for the salvation of mankind. The nail piercing the lower part of the canvas reminded me how years later His hands were pierced with nails on the cross for my sins.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6

O God, may your light continue to shine upon us and give us hope as we live our lives each day.

Sharon Rose Estores Montojo is an aspiring writer and a full-time mom. She completed a course of study in Writing for Children and Teenagers from the Institute of Children’s Literature. She is formerly the Director of Literature and Publications in IVCF-Philippines. She is married to Tim and they have two amazing kids. She currently leads a Bible Study group in the International Ministry of Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, USA.

 Photo above by Gualberto107, Freedigitalphotos

God Amazes Me

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Try your hand at a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Twikyirize Mercy Cover picBy Mercy Twikyirize, Uganda

For two days, I sat behind a computer, laboring tirelessly to have my writings in soft copy. I was tired of living scared that one day I could find my writings burnt to ashes. My sister constantly complained that they were attracting rodents in her home. If I didn’t do something, I knew soon or later, I could lose them.

This was to be the third day on duty. I was about to pat my back for this kind of commitment when I discovered my file was missing. The previous night, I had been working on it; How come that the search engine could not locate it? I was puzzled.

My shock came when the Church Administrator bluntly said he had deliberately, permanently deleted my file. To him, this was not a private computer on which I could do personal work!

For more than a year, I had been volunteering as the chief editor for my church’s weekly bulletin. Whenever I finished my ministry duty, I could do any thing with this computer without inconveniencing anyone. Why would he all of a sudden delete my two days’ hard work without warning?

The feeling I got was unexplainable. Was it anger, fear, hate, worry, wonder, disbelief? I couldn’t tell. Not even the tears that were flowing uncontrollably could explain it.

With the memory still vivid, four days later I went for a writer’s workshop. The trainer from Ghana sent by MAI donated laptops to my group. He particularly said I should immediately borrow one in which I could type all my writings. I was amazed. I had not shared with the group my traumatic experience with the church computer. None of them knew how my sister had been threatening to burn my books. Only the God who sees and cares about our call as writers knew how much I needed a laptop and surprised me with one, just in time. Wasn’t that amazing?

I put in “my” laptop a user password, GODAMAZESME, as a constant reminder that only “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Heavenly Father, help us as writers to always come to you for supply whenever in need. Let us know that only you can give us whatever we need to advance our writing call. Amen

Mercy Twikyirize is a member of the Uganda Faith Writers Association and the founder of K-AIMER, an NGO in Uganda. She is executive director of The AIMER’s Generation (TAG), a project under K-AIMER, which reaches out to youth, offering life skills, counseling and guidance through motivational speaking.

Wait, there’s more! Did you enjoy this article? Click the Facebook “Like” icon to vote for it in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. The entry posted with the greatest number of Likes will win the People’s Choice Award and $100 USD.

Enter the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Pen a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

Written in Tears

This article is an entry in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Try your hand at a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.

By Yessy Sutama, Indonesia

To become a well-known writer is one of my big aspirations in life. To imagine that someday my book becomes a classic reading and my name will be timeless in  history is really exciting. I even started thinking about what pseudonym to use, a name which would be mysterious and unique. On many occasions, I tried to write short stories, novels, poetry, devotionals, and include them in various competitions. I was motivated by the desire to make my mum proud. In the Chinese tradition, the idea of “make your parents proud” is important in a child’s life. This motivation really burns my spirit.

However, March 24, 2013, all of that dreams vanished. My mother died of liver sad asian woman Witthaya Phonsawat freedigitalphotoscancer. I was so devastated. Whatever I did seems to hold no meaning anymore. At that moment, I felt as though my life stopped suddenly. I no longer had any interest in anything including writing. I feel there is nothing else to be pursued in this life. All is over. Only regret and guilt remained. I look at myself as a shameful loser who couldn’t make her mum proud. Then, when the sadness engulfed, I began to blame myself for my mum’s death.

So dark was my world. I felt that no one can help me in this valley of sorrow. Like Jesus who felt abandoned by the Father in His sufferings, so did I. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34).

Now, one year and seven months has passed. My grief is not completely gone, but the recovery has occurred in me slowly. The Lord comforts me by giving me a daughter, who I had never imagined that I would be able to have.

Seeing my daughter’s smile and eyes, I know that God never abandon me. With a little faith, once again, I take my journey as a writer. Whether my writing will become a classic or not, whether my name will be immortalized in history or not, it no longer matters. I just want to write! Writing about my story, my joy and sadness. I believe that my mother is still and always proud of me as long as I endure to do my work well, enjoy my life, and keep writing.

I pray that God’s love will light up any darkness that buries our passion to write.

Yessy SutamaYessy Sutama lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, with her husband and one little daughter. She is editor at BPK Gunung Mulia, one of the largest Christian publishers in Indonesia. Besides editing theological books, she also edits Saat Teduh, the Indonesian edition of The Upper Room. Reading, writing and listening to music are her hobbies.

Wait, there’s more! Did you enjoy this article? Click the Facebook “Like” icon to vote for it in the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. The entry posted with the greatest number of Likes will win the People’s Choice Award and $100 USD.

Enter the MAI Devotional Writing Contest. Pen a 400-word devotional to encourage fellow writers worldwide. See contest guidelines and rules.