Monday, June 22, 2015

Guard Your Heart

The daughters of a reality show family "19 and Counting" were victimized by news that related to sealed files of years past.

Both daughters are newlyweds as of the past year or more, and one has a baby. Each was building her own family, spiritually and in relationship, when a media storm of attention broke upon them.

The sisters decided to sit for an interview on FoxNewsTV. I heard and could not help noticing a frequent referral to "our hearts."  

Guarding their hearts, it turns out, was a prime incentive for  seeking to forgive their brother, who took advantage of them when they were very young and he was an older minor. 

In these days, guarding their hearts is part of seeking to react as Christians regarding those who now take advantage of their family's very private history, a "family secret."     

There is an ongoing public excitement over discoveries or confessions of immorality among Christian leaders while they are in positions of moral leadership. That is to be expected. Yet, the innocent need to guard their hearts, too.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry said "God's counsels concerning us and our welfare are deep, such as cannot be known.... As the Lord knows us thoroughly, and we are strangers to ourselves, we should earnestly desire and pray to be searched and proved by his word and Spirit. if there be any wicked way in me, let me see it; and do thou root it out of me.... All the saints desire to be kept and led in this way, that they may not miss it, turn out of it, or tire in it."

A big opportunity lies with Christians to renounce gossip, rejoicing in others' failures, and hate; choosing to pray for those who treat us spitefully is one way to guard ourselves. It forces us to look up. Looking upward not only honors God; through it He guards us from vulnerable and chaotic hearts that can lead us off what C. S. Lewis called "the main road."  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Living in Action

My attention was drawn recently to Christian action and reaction as Jesus' followers lived the gospel: they spoke to "the people"  about Him.

Along the streets of a busy city, a man was healed by God through the apostles of Jesus. He was about 40 years old; and while the apostles Peter and John continued to speak to the people (Acts 4:1,2), "..the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead."

There we see a fear of the name, Jesus; so strong was the threat of that Name that the religious leaders did what they could legally do: they forced those giving testimony of Jesus into immediate confinement (Acts 4:3). 

They were unable to stop the message, however, because those who had "heard the word believed...," about 5,000 men among them. 

The next day, the apostles were brought to them. They were put "in their midst" to give an accounting about the healed man. At the time, "...rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander" and all related to the high priest were also in Jerusalem.

Therefore, having the offenders surrounded, the healed man there, too, and a host of powerful leaders with them, the leaders asked the believers: "By what power, or by what name, have you done this?"  

Peter seized the opening: "If we are being examined," he said, "because of a good thing we have done (the man healed) and how he was made whole, let it be known by you and everyone of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

"The stone (Jesus) that you considered nothing has become the cornerstone." In Peter's words: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

The inquisitors noted Peter's boldness, along with John and others with them, and recognized them as uneducated men. They considered them to be ignorant, the scripture says. And yet, "they marveled...." These men had been with Jesus. And they saw the man that had been healed, as he stood before them; the leaders "could say nothing against it."

Peter's clear answer was sufficient. When he testified of Jesus in answer to a question, Peter spoke to the heart of the matter: Jesus, whom the religious leaders had crucified, Jesus whom God raised from the dead, was the One by whom the man was healed, the same man standing before them whole. And by that name, Jesus, salvation came, and by no other.

Does it surprise us to hear that some church leaders have become faint in faith, waffling about the truth and resisting the scriptural record about Jesus? He was crucified for the sins of the world and raised alive from the grave by God unto eternal life--resurrection--and this, from the beginning of the church, threatened and angered the powerful. So, too, did the truth that only through Jesus could anyone be saved.   

You may have heard about disapproval of your love and devotion to Jesus or your belief that He is the only way to be sure of heaven. And if you are criticized to your face or questioned, are you prepared to answer truthfully and well? I ask myself this.

I find help from many examples, including this one in Acts 4: I think the early church as praying people devoted to God and His Son. The evidence is abundant that they were faithful in prayer and fellowship with one another. And God strengthened and prepared them. He kept them close.

That's why, I believe, that Peter did not get lost in history, archaeology, or comparative religious philosophies when he answered that morning as he stood, undaunted, surrounded by many powerful men. Peter went to the heart of the matter--Jesus crucified, buried, and raised to life by the power of God, therefore alive and working to save and to heal. 

Peter had come out of a night of confinement, as had the others; and he was ready. Maybe he and the others had spent the night not only sleeping but praying and singing.

If there are times when your words of testimony about Jesus become lost in a haze of your own thoughts or defenses, maybe believers of the past, those who walked with Jesus then, can help you hold onto the center of the message, ready to speak it to people.  

Sometimes, others hear, believe, and are healed...whether one or 5,000.


Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
(from Psalm 103)


Friday, May 29, 2015

When You Cannot Write

by Jean P. Purcell

When under extreme pressures and feeling crammed in by brick-and-mortar worries, some writers produce more. If life get cloudy and presses in on them, they still write. 

However, when deep disappointment, extra loads of duty, or grief shut out the light, shadows appear everywhere, and the light of writing is hard to find. It's close, in moments, but our heads cannot seem to lift to the horizon at such times. 

Writing is not only a creative adventure; writing also consoles, relieves, and helps our volcanic experiences find an outlet; yet, the timing varies. 

Writers that do not earn their living by writing and yet also care deeply about the work of writing want to keep at it. Being expressive in words and working at the craft have become like breathing for writers. It comes naturally, at least in the beginning stages of a new article, poem, or chapter. And later, even the revision times become a natural part of the writing adventures that are very hard work.

After years of experience in life and as a writer, I have learned that if a writing goal must be put aside for a while due to duties or emotional shock, it does not mean the end of the work at hand, necessarily. 

The writer who is willing to wait, let the writing rest, and trust that time away from it can, in fact, bring fresh author's eyes to the work can, in time, see that something special was waiting at the other end of the present dark tunnel.

If you are stressed or sad in these days, I hope that you will trust as you react or take care of what lies immediately in your life's events and feelings. I hope, also, that you will not despair about the important writing that waits for your focused attention. 

The desire or the impulse to write again will, I am sure, return, if you will trust that fact based on the experiences of others. Whether in two days or two years, depending on the circumstances, you will feel better and stronger. 

Someone waits for what you will offer then, in the future. The time still can come if you do not throw away the future of your words. I have learned that words can breathe in a box (or on a secure flash drive), and their message or story can and will wait for your voice to embed them again.  

That's the time to be most grateful that you have something to give of value to others. You would not be writing at all if you did not think that, I believe. 

The inward push to write is like a signal within you, and if not now, then later, you will experience that "push" again. I hope you will let it help you to move forward, when ready.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Caught in the Pruning

Most of us who identify ourselves as Christians are familiar with Jesus' teaching about the vine, branches, pruning, and fruitfulness. The main teaching is that Jesus is the Vine, the source of life and of fruitful eternal value. 

During Jesus' years on earth, Jews and others--including Romans of the occupation--observed and worked with, in some cases, the abundant vineyards in close proximity. Jesus Jesus used that context to teach and show a vital message.

The message is that His followers must remain with Him as closely as a vine branch attaches to the inner life of the vine. The branches draw their life from their vine, which enables them to grow stronger and produce good, abundant fruit. The continual attachment to the life of the vine gives life. 

My view as a follower of Christ is to stay close to Him and focus on the good that His teachings reveal. The more I read His words the more I can grasp the immeasurable qualities of His love and power. 

Abiding in the Vine brings a well-spring of joy that lives within as we are nourished. The fruit of that can then flow naturally and often without our awareness. Two teachings come to mind: 

Abide in Me as I abide in you.

The context is the essential Vine connection.
Do not let your right hand know what your left hand does. 

The context is to avoid, even shun, human pride due to any of our own godly works.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Deal with Every Obstacle!

In writing as in life sometimes we forget that all problem-solving is not up to us. As Christians who write, our work is submitted to God first, and then at times we quickly begin to despair when submissions to editors or agents do not seem to get anywhere.

Like me, you may at times feel that you have been patient enough, have persevered enough, have tried and labored enough over a specific work. And still, it languishes.

The languishing may be due to more work than you think...still undone. The 20th edit may need 10 more edits to make it shine.

However, maybe you see no reason to doubt the worth or readiness of your efforts.

When I get to such a place, I tend to try to problem-solve all by myself. "God gave me a brain, and I'm going to use it!" Networking, getting advice from other writers or people that care about you, all of that can help.

However, it is too easy to become so professional that we forget those humbling times alone in prayer when we lay it all out before the Lord, rushing nothing. We realize that the high, huge, and heavy obstacle're right...too much for you or for me to handle.

It is not foolish at such times to remember: Nothing is impossible with God. It is not foolish to find every bit of scripture to remind you that He can do what no one else, no other power or principality, can do! He is God!

Believing that truth about God and relying upon it...leaning with all your weight on the wisest thing in many a circumstance. You've done all you can do. So, leave it with Him! Nothing is impossible with God! It's worth remembering and repeating.

The way He leads may astound you, causing your major concern to shrink in light of what He is doing to answer your prayers! Even, yes, things far beyond what you could ask or think.

The faithfulness of God, I have learned, is a place to seek and to serve. He is faithful to the end! We lack because we forget to trust. We even may have let our love for Jesus turn lukewarm. Oh, what a thing to realize this has happened.

Stir up the fires of your love for Jesus. Use every remembrance of His remarkable kindness and faithfulness to you, His forgiveness through the sacrifice of His own life! His love to the utmost degree, the shedding of His own blood on a cross of death. That, we must dwell in, to remember what great love the Father has for us!

That is where we want to be, abiding in Jesus and His great forgiving love, His patient love, and His redeeming love. Oh, bless the Lord, my soul, and forget not one of His benefits! The psalm writer of Psalm 103 set our example, to get ourselves over the worst obstacle...any diversion from, or fading of love for, Jesus!

Whatever you are doing today, I hope that writing is not your first love. Getting over that obstacle can open our hearts toward a better time.

I hope to encourage you, as St. Paul put it, by these words!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

"What's Your Style Platform or Style Guide?"

Night Writer's Cottage, Ashland, VA_copyright (c) 2014
The photo above holds memories of a very special week of reading and talking with a new writer, my husband, who is finishing his first book. We now use much that I learned--and he heard talked about over supper--for years as a book publisher and founder of Opine Publishing. Opine's presence exists now through our seven books published and online presence at Author Support and My News and Views blog, and social networking, including one and another Twitter account and Facebook.  

You're a writer that may have been writing for a long time. You may be a prolific writer of published articles. Today I'm thinking about facts I only learned due to working with a publisher for the first edition of my first book, Not All Roads Lead Home by Jane Bullard (pen name). When Opine published the expanded, second edition, the work was much easier for Opine's other editor, Carri, who used style platforms and showed me so I could teach myself more. 

Be assured that avoiding tedious details, unless someone else is hired to do it, can run a writer outside the margins (sorry, had to say it) for a long time...or not, depending on willingness to learn. I have found that whoever does the nitty-gritty, when I know the details and "how to's" of what they're doing, I'm able to fill in, help, or co-evaluate the accuracy of the work.

My purpose here is to introduce important manuscript prep facts that I advise any writer that asks me.
Because I hate reading articles with labels and acronyms I haven't a clue about, I'll try to make this clearer, at least, than mud. So if you do not know yet what is a Style Platform (SP) or a Style Guide (SG), I'm here to help.

And why should knowing about SPs/SGs be important to you?

First and for one thing, this knowledge can save you Time and Pulling-out-of-hair so that you may work more efficiently and keep whatever hair you have left. If someone else transcribes or types your work, then they should know.

Equally important, using this knowledge can help your work gain order and uniformity that editors expect, and so do some book agents.

Finally, it can become your style platform, but it began as their style platform, a specific editor's or publishing house's document/manuscript requirements before publication. These "rules" can become habitual for the writer to use, once the details are used often enough.

For example, each magazine will likely have a specific style guide to be used not only for publishing articles and features but also for considering submitted works by freelancers. It's good to research these guides, if available. Otherwise, in a query email or letter, you can let the editor know of your willingness to follow their in-house Style Guides if you could have a copy of what they entail.

Book publishers have style platform/guide preferences from the get-go, and it helps to try to anticipate those. 

For example, a manuscript should always be saved digitally, with the style platform built into the document. The hard copy should clearly show, at first glance, double spacing (definitely), Times New Roman font-font size 12 (most likely), and 250 words per page (often). Margins should be standard and, I prefer, aligned to the left. I also prefer hanging first lines of paragraphs, set at 0.5. Those are my preferred text format options.

Other options exist for headers, footers (page numbers, e.g.), and for in-text headings, regarding style designations and applications. Learn how to use these with your document software quickly. I recently upgraded my MS Word software and feel like I'm learning so much new stuff, but it has to be done...again, for the same reasons!

All style platform options should be available in your document program, under tabs for Home or Format, or other.

Select the font and its size and apply it to each document or chapter, using the "Apply" option. For paragraphs, try (in MS Word) "Format" and select the alignment (left), first-line option (hanging), line spacing (double). Most editors flinch over any bold, italic, or underline in the text, including headings. Some do not want headings, either.

Microsoft Word software is what I am most familiar with, having left the Corel software, which I thought was better for editing. Corel got swamped, in a way, by Microsoft's Word (MSWord) popularity.

Whatever writing or word software you use, you can query editors to see if yours would be okay to use for what you'll send to them, once they accept your article query. If editors open your digital files, they will not likely want to do file conversions (converting a document from Corel's WordPerfect to MSWord, for example), so try to find out and convert your document in advance, if needed. 

Again, editors that read piles of queries and book proposals (the proposal should include style details mentioned above) usually welcome the author mentioning, upon query, a readiness to use the publisher's in-house style, if a guide will be provided.  

I am not a guide writer, so for MS Word here is a recommended style platform resource for you to try if none of this is familiar to you as a writer. I know it was posted a few years ago, but I think it is still very useful. I had to teach myself what he shares in graphics, and so I recommend it to save you the time and hair-pulling-out!

All of us have to go through phases like this as writers, so it's a good thing to get started on this one if you haven't already. I checked a few "how to" articles online, and, as I said, this one looked best to me, given what I've learned on my own. I think it is the easiest, but you might find another, so search away! If you use this one, scroll down for the helpful screen graphics, especially the style boxes and how to name and modify styles.

If this sounds really strange to you now, soon it can be one of the first things you think about to do with any document that will present your ideas and whatever else you will share or create through books or articles.

Copyright (c) 2015 Jean P. Purcell

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Grit Work for Nonfiction Finish

February 7, 2015 Update

...The American Humanitarian Spirit...1979-1986 

Authorship is about more than writing. Someone's eye must always focus ahead to a six-month publishing debut.  

With my  husband's permission, I update progress on his book manuscript, partly to honor the details of developing a book for publishing. Here is a February 2015 update, with preliminary info, also added today to post archived at My News and Views Blog, May 17, 2014. 

Jim Purcell's MS is a massive work with narrative and field accounts before and after the Fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975. Vietnamese allies that rushed to the U. S. Embassy for a helicopter on a tower on the roof were only the beginning of an unfolding tragedy. What the U. S. had to learn from the events of the Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos triangle equipped the nation to lead the world to revive its humanitarian spirit internationally within citizenry, governments, communities, churches, synagogues, and volunteer organizations.

The refugee decade, as it came to be known, required the development of policies and procedures for quick, life-saving responses in Southeast Asia, Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia), the Middle East, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Millions of lives depended on decisions and protocols made by people near and far away. Refugees would rarely see these men and women honoring and seeking to save and protect their lives. That was OK as long as the missions were accomplished.  

Files by category for the manuscript's news clippings and reports now allow faster fact-checking. End notes, the footnote-type info at the end of chapters, are fully referenced.

All MS sources have been listed according to Chicago Manual of Style formats for books, articles, journals, reports and other references according to chapters.

The list work by the author in long-hand by chapter is already typed and alphabetized in a Word document. The handwritten citations take up roughly 50 pages. I do not mind what I'm doing now, which is to type such details into pages for the end of each chapter.

Gathering publisher and copyright data online is what I volunteered for, as well as using front matter of print resources in the author's research collection.

Digital document tracking has gone along carefully, and still there are headache times for JNP and Andy Michaels. (If this interests you, use the link above, look at the graphics down the page, and see why Andy developed a system for the author.)

Two knowledgeable readers (link)--"they-were-there-too"--have digital and print copies to read and make comments. The link above goes to the sometimes underestimated Wikipedia, which has the best correct description and explanation of peer review(er) I have seen.

If the query letter (samples) succeeds in catching the interest of a key, professional, successful book agent, the book proposal (BP-sample ideas) will likely come into play; Jim's Work is not at that stage yet, but soon. The era of starting a book proposal helped additions, rethinking, and enlargement of the MS, for the better.

The author usually bears the bulk of work to gather and select resource information, as well as to keep track of the exact source of each quote, notation, or citation, including interviews by date. Plus organizing and writing the book well!

Every draft has made a better, stronger, more interesting, thrilling, and informative account of an era in U. S. history, leadership, and humanitarian response. That's my take on it.


Copyright (c) 2015 James N. Purcell, Jr. and Jean P. Purcell

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No Tide of Rudeness

JNP-in Aruba's warm get-away
We reached our island apartment due to thrifty time-share and air fare deals. I snapped a photo of JNP on the second-floor balcony, palm trees behind him.

We were in Aruba with two laptops, notebooks, and iPads, on a working vacation with a massive manuscript in progress. We could hardly believe we had reached yet another place we had never visited before. 

Aruba's friendliness, clear air, breezes and sun made the days fly. We detected the island energy and liveliness, yet there was no hint of emotional disturbances. This added to the effect of an unforgettable get-away.

We ate most meals at the time-share resort, and the dining room staff were always congenial.

When we visited the guest center for discovery ideas, staff never showed annoyance regardless of how many fast or detailed questions flew their way from other guests or us.

In the middle of the eastern coast of the United States, where I live, at times we have rudeness epidemics. In public, positions that once required patience with customers now seem to have stressed employees; customers that most likely used to hold their tongues now spew out complaints.

And, here's the thing. If you are on the bad end of an exchange, you usually have no idea if the behavior is typical of the person launching word missiles at you or if the person is having a bad day, has had a recent grief, has been disappointed or abandoned by an important someone, and so on.

If you or I launch angry-word missiles in return, in any case, a lose-lose situation has been formed, and the losing is likely to escalate into angrier words, sarcasm, or rolling of the eyes, huffing and puffing, and deep ugly frowns.

Before Jim and I left Aruba, I mentioned to one of the dining staff how kind and thoughtful everyone had been.

"We try to be," she answered, smiling. "We have problems, too...we want you to enjoy being here."

Having said that, she changed the conversation to our plans for the day.

She's right. Everyone has problems, including those on "one happy island," Aruba's tourist motto. They are committed to prove true to the island's label.

In public, we can rule out the downward trends of rudeness as a choice. We never know the difference it makes, for we do not know what burdens another carries.

What a treasure is every sign of of kindness. To give and to receive strengthens relationships--whether in the family, marriage, with friends, and at work. I don't mean pablum conversation or checking one's personality at the door, you see.

In fact, it comes down to signs of personal strength to show patience rather than quick sarcasm or outburst. I think you know what I am talking about, if this downward public trend has reached where you are. 

I like a proverb sent to me recently by someone I do not know, on Twitter. It affirmed the worth of each person. It helped my rough day, affirming that to accept one's worth is more important than others' views of you.

If I offend without knowing it, then I can only hope that someone with the strength to confront calmly and kindly will do it.

The friendliest staff in places close to where I live include: Quest Diagnostics, Whole Foods-Center city, Land's End at Sears, Giant Foods, Barnes & Noble coffee and reading area, Einstein's Bagels, U.S. Post Office at 40W, Vicki's Nails, and Twig next door.  I hope their customers are treating them equally as well. I do not dread having blood drawn, you see, because of the calm staff at Quest. Similarly, I look forward to going to the other places listed.

When in public, we never know what other people are facing or how much courage, and possibly faith, they showed by getting up and out that morning. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"To God Be the Glory"-Principle 3. for this Christian Writer

"After all is said and done, when all has been hoped for and received, what is the point?" "What's It All About, .....?" "Is that All there Is?" 

 Those questions are not rare. "These are the days of Elijah."

As for me, only Jesus knows every high mountain I have had to, tried to, or chosen to climb and every valley I've found myself in or gotten myself into.  

Only Jesus knows what I've been through for whatever reasons, including my own blindness or deafness. Only He knows what you and I have gone through, are going through, and will go through so long as we live in this worldly world. 

Only Jesus knows. He walked this earth, was tempted yet never gave in. He heard its sounds and echoes, its every cry, and never despaired. Only the Son of God did all things well in love for and in obedience to the Father in heaven. Only Jesus. There is uniqueness in Him as in no other.

His perfect blood was shed on the cross for the sins of the world, to redeem all imprisoned by sin. He said, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." He even now draws all of creation, all nations, unto Himself. 

The downtrodden soul that turns to Him gets up. That is why as he rises he cries, "Hallelujah!"

Jesus Christ is the King of Glory. Only He can set the prisoner free. "It is for freedom that I have set you free," He said.

He reached out to me one day (I was reading a little book, a gift, that quoted Isaiah 41.10), and I could hardly believe the wonder of what He said:

Fear not,
for I am with you. 
Do not be afraid, 
for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you; 
yes, I will help you; 
yes, I will hold you up with My righteous right arm." 

I did not turn away, and He proved what He said.  

As you may be, I am concerned about many things. For example, think of cities facing dire times, such as Detroit and Chicago, New York and San Francisco. All our cities and country towns are struggling, if different statistics and leaders do not lie. Yet, all have been blessed by God. Many have turned away, refusing to be lifted up and their families and neighbors with them. Some are wealthy people; others are poor. 

The Living Word has been preached in many American cities over many decades. The gospel has been sung. The light and salt of Jesus Christ continues to be sent to uplift and save cities. Wherever the light and salt of Christ are accepted, the people are lifted up. Where they are rejected, the people walk in darkness.

"...I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." 
"...I will hold you up with My righteous right arm."

God help us who are called Christian if ever we desire anything or anyone ahead of God. Writers, whom do you and I write to please? Therein lies our answer. 

May we, like Him, give and give and give. It is a merciful life, knowing Jesus as Savior. The LORD of Hosts is God. To God be the glory. May stiff words on this page soften in their reading, to revive the heart. 

"To God be the glory!" This third principle goes before and after the first and the second. In this, I rejoice! 
Principle 2. is here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Be Careful!"_Part 2_As a Writer, I follow key work principles

*True Story. At a church's September board meeting, as fall leaves began to turn, the subject of heating oil for winter came up. A prominent new member of the board chimed in quickly: "I think the church should rotate who supplies the oil." He said this earnestly, adding: "It's only fair that my company supply oil, too. I propose to do that!" The pastor and other board members looked around at each other and the new board member's intense expression changed to white-knuckled shock, as the board immediately embraced the idea: ''I am sure that our supplier will be glad for you to do that," said the board chairman. "He supplies our heating oil for free. We gladly accept your offer to share the load with him. Thank you, thank you!"*

     Wow. That oil company exec jumped into a huge chunk-of-change offer without looking, or asking questions, first. (Maybe he'd thought being on the church board would be good for business? I smile.) But this topic of being careful goes beyond that. It includes, for writers, paying attention regularly to the importance of good research, thinking ahead, considering possible consequences, including watching for poorly chosen, possibly confusing, words or themes. Surprisingly, it can add interest to how we work. 


"Be careful!" is a parting shot that lots of people feel downright angry about. Considering more of what being careful means, including watching over/being responsible for, could make being careful more acceptable as a principle for writers.  
  • Influence on others - I want my words and ideas to serve readers well, so I try to be careful with how and when I post them in an article, aware of influence of words. Recently on Twitter, however, I really mis-communicated. I tweeted without really thinking it through, and I got a fast push-back. To react, I thought about how I might correct the situation, and I think I found the words to do that. 
These days, there is a tendency not to converse or question directly whether face-to-face with people or online. There is an increasing influence in social networking to jab rather than build a dialogue. That is the situation, and increasingly I think we need to be careful over how this influences us and how we comment or initiate contact.

It's funny and yet sometimes not...but how conditions affect how we communicate. If we are shut in, for example, due to weather or health, for example, our desire to communicate may come out backwards from what we intended. Or, we may expect something that a particular venue is not meant for or capable of.
  • I am not an entertainer and I also was trained in non-essay writing, such as research reports and information writing. I'm learning to make heart and head work in a more balanced way, depending on topics.
  • Determination 1: to stay on target - First, I fight wandering thoughts that try to break in fully on me, the worst distraction. I also try to ignore other distractions, whether to begin work, continue it, or make the time work for the writing at hand. 
     I have had to train myself to ignore, completely, web pop up ads, side column photo links, and what seem like multitudes of other distractions; I allow the phone to take messages--hardest when I realize a friend or family member might be calling. 
  • More well-balanced life -This may be the need I neglect the most, and I am working to correct it. I no longer listen to much news, read newspaper cover to cover; read too-descriptive crime novels, or keep other habits whose absence has improved my life (and work, I hope) enormously
And I need to pay attention to walking even 10-20 minutes, and this is very unlikeable in winter. I confess, I cannot remember my last walk since November!
  • High sensitivity to others' language and images - I read more excellently-written books now than ever; e.g., just began Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, my second by this writer. This sensitivity is essential,I think. 
     I am not too strict on myself. I like Dick and Felix Francis horse-racing detective stories for "easy reading," i.e., faster, that makes writing a novel look far easier than it must be.
  • Determination 2: to improve my skills and techniques as a writer and writing mentor. This requires more time and attention with self-starting effort under prayer. 
 I want to grow in whatever I am doing, in whatever good relationships I have with readers!


 What parts of the definition of careful, below, help you the most? Is there an aspect to pay more attention to? 

adjective: careful; superlative adjective: carefullest
  1. 1.
    making sure of avoiding potential danger, mishap, or harm; cautious.
    "I begged him to be more careful"
    synonyms:cautious, heedful, alert, attentive, watchful, vigilant, wary, on guard, circumspect
    "be careful when you go up the stairs"
  2. 2.
    done with or showing thought and attention.
    "a careful consideration of the facts"
My key work principles began in Part 1.

*True story told to me by my parents, a church where they had been members. The event happened in the mid-1940s, and I am not sure that it happened in September. I figured the church board might be taking up a subject like heating oil early, before winter hit. I think that God is behind carefulness. He takes care of his own and is full of loving care in how he leads and corrects, in the ways most needed and most bearable, including for wealthy oil company owners.  

If you like hymns sung by country musicians, here's "I Surrender All" by George Jones.  
A capella version is here:l Surrender All. I know that George Jones led a rough life at times. I enjoy the way he sings this hymn in country gospel style.He died in Nashville, TN, in 2013 at age 81.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Key Principles of this Christian Writer_1. Start the day well

Life comes before work, clearly, and needs to be lived authentically. The first key principle is to start the day with God through praise, worship, and prayers. Here are some examples:

Scripture choices to stimulate thought and awe:
  • Read from one or more of the Gospel books, especially the words of Jesus (for example, ("...but with God, all things are possible for the one who believes." Nada es Imposible
  • NT letters, at this time focusing on 1 Thessalonians, how Christians are to live daily
  • OT Scriptures (frequently favoring the songs of Moses and Miriam)
  • Psalms (In these days, Psalms 148-150 lift my heart to praise God.)

In these days, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir helps me almost every morning. I allow as much time listening and worshiping as I am led of God, who helps me. I use YouTube (I try to ignore YT ads and exit asap)  to listen to and sing along with many songs on a growing favorites list. I frequently choose among these, which you, too, might enjoy:

Worthy is the Lamb
Hallelujah to the King of Glory
Days of Elijah*
Gloria* (beautiful in English and in Spanish) 
I Adore You (He is the "Prince of Peace"!)
I Bless Your Name*
and others 

Morning - Along with spontaneous prayer upon awaking, special music--gospel, old and new hymns, others--opens the way for talking freely to the Lord, with praises and with outpouring of desires and needs of the day.  

During the day - Prayers of thanksgiving, talking to God from my heart; wherever I am, whatever I am doing. I also pray, "Help me, Lord."  Sometimes, prayer begins: "Lord, help me to pray," and "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief."

Evening - In recent times, I love to pray the child's prayer, to be in the frame of mind as God's child: 

"Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep; 
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take." 

I often pray the 23rd Psalm, which I learned as a child.

Remembrance - God Has a Plan
When I was in my late 30s I did not yet have clearer realization of God's call on my life, including being committed to writing. Writing almost daily and with pleasure was a hint of a calling. 
     I was rearranging loose bricks around a little garden in my parents' garden in North Carolina when my dad opened the door and said: "When you were little, I used to pray for God to watch over your hands." 
     That news, and the way my dad shared it, drew me closer to him. I discovered more and thought I understood more about the inspiration of Dad's prayers of earlier years. It is God who teaches my fingers to fight (Psalm 144:1a).

*Author Support Blog (this blog Respects Copyrights*
Look for Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at for any links I have removed from this post due to their being blocked in this country for copyright reasons. Other links, in place as of 1/20/15, could become irrelevant for the same reason, but still available by title on YouTube.  

My next principle is 2. Be Careful.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A good starting point from a letter to Christians in Greece

Macedonia capital-Modern Thessaloniki. Source:
Greece was an early region of new believers beyond Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus.

Today I did a slow read of three chapters in 1 Thessalonians (a New Testament letter to believers in Thessalonica, Greece), using Revised Standard Version of the Bible with my iPad/Kindle app. I used highlight, dictionary, and note-making features, a treat for a note-taker like me. I noted text repetitions of "brothers and sisters,  "imitators/imitation," and "do more and more" living in Christ and in the face of persecution as they were. Paul and the others taught, in this letter, a pattern to follow: remaining faithful to Christ in the midst of suffering--harsh and deep stresses to force them to give up faith and to forget, I think, the strength of Christ in their life together. I see in this an emphasis on the fundamental help of togetherness in Christ.

I reflected on the words and at one point wondered why Paul, Silas (Silvanus), and Timothy described themselves, at least by one writer--possibly Paul--as"orphans." The word-definition feature in Kindle books informs that the Greek for "orphan" strongly suggests being "outcast," which is to be without the provision and protection of others. The servants of God to the Thessalonians felt deeply their inability to stay or be with the Thessalonians as God led them.

God's servants can feel orphaned due to any forced separation from other believers. In the U.S., where I live, I think we face this in less dangerous conditions than in other parts of the world. In those toughest of places, dear brothers and sisters, we know that you may feel cut off, and we long to assure you of our concern for you; our faith leads us to pray for you, and your faithfulness prompts us to pray more, due to the contests and conflicts you face.  

Outside the sharing fellowship of the Thessalonians, the servants of God gave no glossy or weak spiritual cover for their condition or their feelings. They were not proud, but were humble. God had provided protection and other needed things by way of faithful Thessalonian believers that were prospering in faith, not longing for material goods. The servants sent to encourage them were pulled away in different ways and they expressed in letters the longing and deep affection they held for those brothers and sisters in Christ.

We often long that there will be times of renewed encouragement and building up in person, when the Timothys and brothers and sisters like the Thessalonians can meet and share that indescribably precious spiritual communion among the saints.

In every tribe and nation are the continuing gospel movements within hearts and minds to bring new individual and fellowship connections of faith in Jesus Christ. Across cultures and languages hearts change and lives are transformed through the gospel of Christ that is shared in the midst of times calm or dangerous. The gospel never ceases to move in God's divine ways.

I never cease to marvel and be thrilled by these features of life in Christ, for we see how love expands and grows--apart from anything human power could devise or do. Christians give thanks to God, and pray that all new brothers and sisters will accept the provisions and protections of God, guarding their souls against enemies of their faith. Staying in touch, as this letter of Paul and his co-workers, feeds our growth as roots of faith grow deeper, stronger, and more fruitful.   

In the U.S. we see today's need--and perhaps this is happening elsewhere--that all pretexts used to cover greed must be guarded against, with divine help and discernment. The apostle Paul, preaching under hardship, emphasized his aversion to this, along with his unwavering love, gentleness, care not to burden others, and freedom from pretexts in the face of opposition to the faithful. His words were welcomed, although at times hard to hear and follow for, as taught in this first letter to the Thessalonians, mortal beings needs guidance, encouragement, and help. 

Pretexts should not be used to cover greed of any kind. This is another clear message from this New Testament letter. The trust in God that Paul wrote about thrived through the "imitation" of good actions of fellow-believers, including those who encouraged. They abhorred flattery and loved sincerity.

I was one accused of flattering someone when I was encouraging another person. I allowed the charge to inhibit my encouragement of others and to plant doubts about myself--until I realized a while later that a flatterer assumes that others' encouragements are only pretexts to serve the flatterer.

This may be similar to some contests you face now. I find that the emphasis on Christian warmth, caring, and fellowship of 1 Thessalonians 1-3 reaches out to strengthen us. We are in the minds and prayers of, and among, the saints, seen and unseen.

This is a good starting point in this year, finding nuggets in timeless scripture.