Lord, reveal and remove my pride. Extend and expand my humility. Amen
A simple prayer but a powerful one. All work for God, whether writing, preaching, praying, parenting, teaching, loving, giving, sharing, all work that we do that bears fruit in the world starts with our humility.
Humility is being humble. The word, humble, comes from the root word, humus, which is soil. Like dirt, we aren’t much without God’s Spirit in us. When we recognize that, we become open to God’s work through us, and His power to do amazing things in the world.
Today, before you come to the keyboard, the office, the breakfast table, the bedroom chair, the classroom, pray for humility. It is a prayer that God loves to answer.
This book started several years ago when we were researching Psalm 23 for our book, The Shepherd’s Song. The power of those ancient words comparing our relationship to God as sheep to a shepherd impressed us. We found that the promises of the psalm began to work their way into our prayers for ourselves and for others, especially for our children and grandchildren. We began to share our thoughts and prayers for children with our email followers.
Since then we’ve had a number of requests for those devotions and prayers. Now, we are happy to say that they are available in paperback and on Kindle.
Here’s a little about the book:
Do you want to pray the powerful words of Psalm 23 for the children in your life? This book will help you do just that. Fourteen devotions and prayers will guide you as you learn about yourself, your children, and God, our Shepherd.
In honor of Mom’s 87th birthday this week, we’re sharing some of her writing wisdom. She claims she was born the same year as Micky Mouse and bubble gum. 1928 was a good year!
We’re blessed to still have our parents with us and frequently enjoy long lunches where the discussion seems to always include books and writing. Hope you enjoy some of the many things that we learned from this wise woman we call Mom.
Although she won major book awards, the Newbery Medal, a National Book Award, an Edgar, and others, to us Betsy Byars was “Mom”, and the lessons we learned from her about writing have come mostly by just watching. Watching …
1. Her love of reading – Our mother always made a great effort to put books into our hands, from our first library, a bookmobile to the city library in the basement of the fire station. We were always leaving with armloads of books. When you’re having trouble writing, read. Reading stimulates writing.
2. Her hard work – we saw Mom spend hours at her electric typewriter, writing and rewriting. We knew that it wasn’t easy. She used to say she worked on it until it sounded like she hadn’t worked on it at all. Writing requires hard work; it only begins with the first draft.
3. Her perseverance – Mom worked for fourteen years before getting her first book published. We saw those trips to the mailbox – the disappointment – but she was continued writing through numerous rejections. The road to success in writing often involves rejection, keep writing.
4. Her creativity – Our mother’s creativity wasn’t limited to her writing. We grew up creating with her in many projects, sewing knitting, woodworking, and silk screening. To keep your writing fresh, be creative in all areas of your life.
5. Her willingness to fail – Mom thought outside the box, often sewing and knitting without patterns. This made for many failures but a lot of learning. Things we made did not always turn out like we imagined that they would. She always told us “No writing is ever wasted.” Our failures as writers teach us as much as our successes.
6. Her humility – Even with all of her successes Mom remained humble. Her humble spirit allowed her to connect with readers in a real, honest way. It made her open to new experiences and ideas and allowed her to accept input from editors. Pride is an enemy of good writing.
So much of what we learn about writing comes from observing others. Who has taught you by example?
We first shared this with Suite T, the blog for the Southern Writer’s Magazine.
The Shepherd’s Song paperback is out and we are celebrating with a blog tour! Come by any of the links and visit us and leave a comment. We have prizes! We love prizes. You can sign up to receive a free Psalm 23 devotional and printable poster here.Then keep a lookout at the great sites below for free books, recipes and gifts.
Writing Tips From Jesus: Take Off Your Outer Garment
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. John 13: 3-4
Take off your outer garment. But we don’t like exposure. A writer’s ego is fragile.
There is a poet who hides her beautiful poetry under her bed in a box. Another writer burns her journals. A friend of ours will not tell his story because his sisters would not approve.
After publishing The Lord of the Rings Tolkien said, “I have exposed my heart to be shot at.” And there are those that would take target practice on our hearts.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. compared a critical reviewer to “a knight in armor beating up on a hot fudge sundae.” And there are those knights in armor waiting.
We are all protective of ourselves. Writers can’t be. We “take off our outer garment” and serve by being vulnerable. When we write, we show ourselves and connect with others by being transparent, allowing others to see inside of us. It’s risky.
There is a cost to the exposure that writing brings.
Knowing that God has all things under control makes us brave. We make a choice to be “shot at” and “beat up” and we expose our thoughts anyway. We let go of fear and use our one wonderful life for His Glory.
But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. John 8:6
On this earth nothing we write will last. All is temporary, even the old classics are fading as new writers rise up. In a thousand years or even a hundred who will be remembered?
In the Bible God wrote twice. Once with his finger reaching down to give the law on two stone tablets. Then again as Jesus wrote with finger, this time scribbling in the sand.
When Jesus wrote men were ready to stone a woman for adultery. Jesus made a space in time. He slowed down the action as he scribbled and the men were changed. No one knows what he wrote.
It’s the idea that art is something unexpected and creative and creates a space in time where we can hear God. Michael Card.
Perhaps no one will remember our words, but if we can create a space for God though our writing our readers can be changed eternally. God can speak into that space and time.
What is your goal as a writer? Bestseller list? Fame? Few attain those goals and the satisfaction is temporary. What if we could shift our focus and write from the perspective of eternity. The best writing creates a space in a reader’s mind and heart for God to enter.
A blog, a tweet, a story written for our children, a devotional message in the church newsletter, a lesson prepared for a small group. All writing is important and at the same time all writing is just scribbling in the sand.
Some are called to be prophetic goads, and some giants may hammer in firmly embedded nails. But the rest of us can aspire, with no tinge of shame, to scribbling in the sand. Philip Yancey
What power there is in the pen. The power to allow a reader to step into a world of our creating and experience truth, love, revelation, joy. Or with stories we can take a reader to a place of fear, hate, abuse. Our creator God has made us in His image to create. It’s up to us how we will wield that power.
Light or darkness
Love or hate
Building up or tearing down
“A farmer went out to sow some seeds . . .” Jesus begins a story that is layered with meaning but simple. The reader, even years after the telling, has room to move around in the story. Jesus loves the reader.
“A man had two sons . . .” Jesus begins again and our hearts are drawn into the narrative, listening and experiencing, not manipulated and controlled. In humility Jesus creates the world of a story and gives it to us.
In the best writing the author is invisible. The reader enjoys the story without awareness of the writer’s agenda. The author’s intent and focus as been on the reader, not on himself.
As writers, storytellers, mothers, fathers, teachers we use words every day. The most powerful words are spoken or written in love and humility.
Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15
Want to be a better writer? Take off your shoes.
Sometimes when we are writing, the self slips away, out of the chair, gone, but the typing continues. Then the words on the screen seem to come from a place beyond ourselves, a holy place. In those elusive moments we feel the hands of God take our hands and the result is something beyond our own ability.
When God appeared to Moses and later to Joshua, He told them the same thing: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15).
Two writers share about this thought:
So why did God ask them to take off their sandals? I think it was an act of humility, an act of worship. It was a way of acknowledging absolute dependence on God. . . In case you care, one of my idiosyncrasies is that I remove my shoes whenever I’m writing. I do it as a reminder that I need God’s anointing. It reminds me that I am fulfilling a sacred calling. Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle
Why should you take off your shoes in the Lord’s presence? Because without shoes you are not going anywhere. You might try to walk, but you will not get very far. . . Barefootedness means immobilization, and so it is a symbol of submission. Being immobile . . . is a prerequisite for all activity, all service. Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job
Could it make a difference in our writing to take off our shoes? Sometimes our small actions in the physical world can reveal our desire in the spiritual world. We might move into a place of surrender by a small act of submission.
Maybe we should all take off our shoes today as we sit down to write.
One day when we visited a school to talk about writing we learned something from a second grader. A little guy raised his hand and said, “I can do the stories, I just can’t do the words.” He captured the struggle that every writer (or wannabe writer) faces.
How do you get the stories out of your head onto the paper? How do we even have the courage to begin? Often we write and rewrite stories over and over in our heads, but they never make it to the written page or screen.
The following scripture passages were important to us over our years of writing and we wanted to share some of what we learned.
Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
Don’t get ahead of God. If we think we have to write a whole book we can become paralyzed and overwhelmed. But what if we just have to write one paragraph, or one page. We can do that. Can we trust God for the rest?
We had written children’s books for twenty years before we decided to attempt our first book for adults. They are sooo long. We wondered if we could write a novel of more than 64 pages.
In the wilderness the Hebrew people received manna, just enough for each day. Why would we expect God to act differently with us? When we are faithful to show up and do our part, he gives us just what we need for that day, or hour, or fifteen minutes.
When we looked at it that way, we were able to move forward. Faith matters in writing.
Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. Jeremiah 15:19
Write from your heart, not what you think people will like or expect from you. When we changed genres it surprised some people. We heard a lot of opposition. “But you could sell another children’s book.” We chose what we thought God wanted us to write and we had to fight to keep from “turning” to the crowd. One agent heard about what we were writing and told us to write a Christian romance series, “because you can sell it”. God calls us to write the words that He gives us, not what we can sell or what we think people want to hear. Someone else may be called to write that romance series, but not us.
I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Nehemiah 6:3
Commit to the work. It is VERY easy to get distracted. How do you carve out time to write? We started writing during naptime. Our kid’s naptimes! It is amazing how productive you can be when you know you only have an hour to work. We also learned to put writing on the calendar. It helped us to say no to other things when it was scheduled in black and white. Each time we say yes to one thing we say no to another.
My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. Psalm 45:1
Have confidence. Do you have the confidence to begin? If you have read this far then God has called you to write. He has already equipped you and is ready to use you to write His words. What do you need to do to cooperate with Him?
For us, the confidence to write comes from God. We cover our writing in prayer and have a prayer team praying for our writing. We love this quote by Corrie Ten Boom:
“It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.”
There’s nothing to fear! Those stories that are in our heads were put there by God and He will be faithful to give us the words we need.
We would love to hear your thoughts about these passages. Do you have another scripture passage that has been meaningful to you in your writing?
Something about the first week of the year makes me feel like I’m starting a race, lined up ready for the gun to sound. This week I flipped over my calendar to 2015 and suddenly deadlines loom closer. Email messages are flowing in reminding me of promises that I made. It’s time to begin working on the goals listed on the paper before me. It can be overwhelming.
On your mark…
Where is our starting point for the New Year? It’s a good time to take inventory. What were my achievements in the past year? What are my goals for this one? If we are rooted and grounded before we start, the race will go better. We wouldn’t get far in the race if we didn’t know where we were headed.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24
Take a breath. Focus on one thing at a time. Life is lived one moment at a time. Writing requires perseverance, one word, one paragraph, one page, one chapter at a time. A slow persistence. Persevere. God provides our daily bread – just enough for today.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Okay. Time to begin. The route is marked out ahead. Let’s run it. The New Year has already begun. Let’s live it well!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.