Welcome to "Showers of Blessings" which is a blog for writers and their readers! It is my prayer you will find many blessings in these humble words as you open your heart to hear about my best friend, Jesus Christ. He has called me to write for Him and though I remain stunned by this, wondering how He could use someone like me in this competitive industry, I know He has equipped me to do the job or He would never have opened all the doors He has to a career in writing. He gets all the glory for such an awesome plan, believe me!

Below each post there is an indication of the number of comments for that post. If you click on that it will bring up the comments for you to read and allow you to leave a comment for me if you would like to do so. I look forward to hearing what you have to say and thank you for taking the time to step with me into the showers of blessings He shares with all of us through His Word!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wolves and Writing

The other day I read a Cherokee Proverb and it spoke strongly to my heart about my writing. Perhaps because right now my focus has been on writing about various Native Americans. But I choose to believe it’s because I also focus on knowing God’s Word and the philosophy behind it comes straight out of the Scriptures.

According to the Proverb, there is a battle between two wolves inside all of us. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority, and ego. [My words here: This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?]

The other is good. It’s joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth. [Hmm, seems I’ve heard this somewhere before, too!]

The wolf that wins? The one you feed.

Today, are you feeding the evil wolf inside you? Are you allowing God’s Spirit to be squelched when you express your human nature and its basest elements? What about your writing? Is it uplifting and helpful to others? Or does it tear down and destroy with its selfishness and sarcasm?

Or are you feeding the good wolf in your heart by allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through the words you write to bring healing and comfort to others? Even with fiction you can do this. But are you? Before you speak or write, do you ask yourself if it will help another or possibly cause hurt or shame? Do you ask God to bless those words to His purposes?

My writing is inextricably linked with my faith because everything in my psyche is steeped in it. I cannot separate the two, though at times I write more for the secular market than for the Christian one. But my goal is always to bring inspiration and hope. I sincerely desire for the good wolf inside my heart to win the battle and hope my readers can sense that at all times.

This week as you write, find the good wolf and help him come out. Don’t allow a prolonged battle to rage for it will diminish the power of your words. What you feed on, is what you are—a rough paraphrase of Jesus’ words to His disciples. Seek the positive and it will show up in what you write, and you will experience showers of blessings because you did!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hard Work--Me?

Last week I shared a verse from the Bible that has great meaning to my life and to my writing. This week I want to add one more verse that has impacted me as well.

Proverbs 14:23 says in the NIV, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” I can’t tell you how hard this hit me when I first read it in light of my writing. As I wrote it down to post by my computer, I wrote across the bottom of the card, “Stop procrastinating and WRITE!” All day long I can say am a writer but until I do it, my words are empty and meaningless. God takes them and creates purpose according to His will when I get out of the way and allow Him room to work through those words. However, I must do my part first before He will have something to work with!

Not only does the verse have application for my writing; in my daily walk through life, it rings true as well. This nation was founded on such a principle, in fact. One of the vital components of the Mayflower Compact was that everyone who wanted to eat must work. You can’t order the corn to grow and turn around to find steaming hot corn on the cob sitting on your table. Likewise, my husband (who is a homebuilder) can’t organize the blueprints and subcontractors for a house and sit back and watch it happen. He must work at it and keep others doing so before a finished product—and therefore profit for our business—can happen.

Many today unfortunately suffer from serious financial poverty, but far more are afflicted with emotional, mental, and/or spiritual poverty. They are equally devastating, just not quite as noticeable to a casual observer’s eye. How have you been the victim of these in the past? Or perhaps one of them holds you in its bondage right now. Emerging from it is no easier than from financial poverty but the good news is, it can be done with God’s help. This verse is a good starting point. You were created for purpose and for enjoying the work your Heavenly Father designed for you. So get to it!

We all suffer from some form of poverty from time to time and the key to defeating its hold on us lies in these simple words from Proverbs. Whether it is for our writing or for our personal lives, we must work hard to achieve our dreams. Living in obedience to His principles helps us focus on the essential and keep things in perspective as we await His blessings. It’s not a matter of luck but of confidence in God’s promises, not of talking about it but doing it.

What will you do this week to identify your areas of poverty and design a game plan to change destructive patterns and unleash God’s blessings? And no more excuses, get to work on your writing now!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Trust Versus Creativity

Much of my strength and wisdom in life has come from God’s Word. Why should my writing be any different? When discouragement threatens to rob me of creativity, when distraction attempts to block out my focus, when life gets in the way of life, nothing picks me up like searching Scripture for a sense of direction or confirmation.

One verse from The Message sums it all up. Matthew 6:34 says, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

The Lord has a plan for my life that is for good and not for evil, intended to give me purpose and meaning and hope for the future (this is my own paraphrase of another verse!). Trouble is, my enemy also has a plan for my life. It is counterfeit, though, designed to get me off track and therefore too busy or exhausted to fulfill the one intricately woven by my Creator. Fretting over whether or not I will have the ability to complete a story God has put on my heart, or spending time wondering how I ever believed He had called me to write for Him means I am not walking in obedience to this verse. What my Savior has called me to do, He will equip me sufficiently for doing. Plain and simple truth. So do I believe it? Of course!

When taking numerous plot threads and weaving them together into a cohesive whole, as the author I need to know where I am going, right? Maybe. We’d all like to see the next step in our writing—or in life. But then it would not be trust. If we can see ahead, there is no miracle involved as it plays out. My writing style is such that I like to lay out my ideas at the beginning in intricate detail, leaving nothing to chance so I don’t box myself into a corner from which I cannot emerge without dismantling at least part of the story line. Sounds nice and neat, doesn’t it? Let me tell you, it doesn’t always work out that way!

For years I’ve heard the advice that authors should allow their characters to tell their own story instead of imposing an external plot on them and forcing them to comply with its boundaries. It made sense but I didn’t understand how it was supposed to actually work. I mean, these people aren’t real, right? So how can they form the story line?

In writing my novel From Now Until Forever I discovered first hand the truth of this advice. Just as in life, I had to take a step of faith at the beginning, to start the writing process without fully knowing what came next. Word after word and paragraph after paragraph, slowly but surely God’s Spirit was unleashed in each person I had created, and before I realized it, these people took over and began to change the direction of the book. For instance, I had a minor character who was slated to appear only in the opening scene but who very soon became a major one. The whole story became richer and deeper as he spilled out the details of his evil life. This didn’t excuse his behavior or motivations, only explained them better than I was doing. Every time he threatened the heroine or plotted against her, the man became more believable—even as I shuddered while writing the words. Thankfully, my emotional, spiritual, and physical well being wasn’t being attacked! Or was it? Sometimes I couldn’t be certain, so I knew my readers would feel the same way, thus drawing them deeper into the life of at least this one character. And once he was unleashed to do his mayhem, everyone else spoke up as well, demanding equal time. God took care of the tomorrows with this book when I began listening to Him in the moment.

And He can do the same for you right now. How will He speak to you today? Share with me the wisdom He reveals from this simple verse. How exciting the future can be when He is in control!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Curve Balls and Cleats

I’m not a huge baseball fan but I know something about it at least. And one thing I know is that every pitcher wishes he could throw a fast curve ball, as these are hard to hit & result often in strikes. Of course, earning a strike – well in truth, three of them! – is the goal of a pitcher.

They are tricky ones, not going the route expected and thus many times faking out the batter. Not good if you are that person but excellent if you are the one pitching! It is a technique that is developed over a long period of time, perfecting it until it comes when most needed and always when unanticipated.

Have you ever had a curve ball slam mercilessly past you when you weren’t looking? It whizzes by at lightning speed and leaves you breathless and wondering, “What on earth was that? Oh, you mean I was supposed to hit it? Are you kidding me? Who could possibly do that when you don’t know it’s coming?”

Believe me, I’ve stepped up to the plate quite a few times in my life only to face a curve ball. And left feeling dejected and helpless and frustrated. “Will I ever have another chance? Can I ever learn how to figure out what’s going on before it’s too late to do something about it?”

And God has always answered with a resounding YES! If I will accept His timing and His teachings found in the Scriptures, I can see the signs of what is coming and be more prepared next time. With His power behind me, I can not only make contact with the ball, I can hit it clear out of the park!

Cleats are another interesting part of baseball. They are the spiky things on the bottom of the shoes, designed to help the players move faster when necessary. But they can also slow them down until they learn how to maneuver them in tight spots. Stopping when a base is reached, for instance, is greatly helped by them. But trying to steal a base when the pitcher’s head is turned away is not the moment for those cleats to hold fast! What in one situation can be a blessing can also be a curse in another. The job of the runner is to recognize this fact, learn to deal with it, and then use it to his advantage.

Writers also need curve balls and cleats. Sometimes our writing begins to plod along without anything to peak the reader’s interest—or the writer’s! What we need is something exciting and unexpected, from the tragic to the comic, from the dramatic to the seemingly inconsequential which is in truth crucial to the plot. Suddenly the reader sits up and takes notice. The wheels churn as he tries to figure out why the author stuck that in there right then. “Did I miss something important?” he asks himself. “I’ve got to pay better attention!”

You’ve thrown a curve ball and whether the reader is thrilled with the development or not, he will keep reading to see how you have played it out. Will it be a bunt or a home run? Only time will tell but nevertheless, you’ve used this technique to spice up the action and hold the interest of your reader a little longer. Until the next one flies . . . .

Our cleats are those small things that anchor our story lines and keep readers rooted in the reality of this fictional world we have created. Readers love these because they keep them intrigued by where the story is going now. For instance you stop in the middle of a kidnapping investigation to allow the protagonist to attend her daughter’s dance recital. The movement seems to have slowed a bit and the reader risks losing interest. Until the proud mother suddenly spots across the room the witness she’s been looking for! There is a specific reason she went to that event, in other words, and a purpose beyond showing off her little one’s dance skills. You as an author have made your character a little more sympathetic, too, because other “dance moms” will appreciate her priority to her daughter. And yet, would that mystery have been solved had she not taken the time to go?

I would call these a writer’s cleats. You have to know how to use them and work them into the story. A dance recital in the middle of a murder mystery is silly, unless it advances the plot and rounds out the characters a little more. Why was this witness there? To allow the mother to see him “accidentally” or perhaps to plan his revenge by stalking her daughter? If an author gets caught up in this event, however, it can become a “stuck cleat” meaning it will detract from the original purpose. The point is not the fine arts event; the point is finding the witness and figuring out why he is there.

God has a purpose for everything. In His economy, He wastes not one tear, not one victory, not one so-called mundane day’s work. Many Scriptures remind us of this fact. But if you are seeking His Will it will not be hard to discern how He works out every single thing, good and bad, to your good eventually. He will show you! As when an author completes a book, all the loose ends will be tied up and all the questions answered. Ours happens when we get to Heaven. Hopefully, as an author your readers will feel this sense of satisfaction and completion immediately upon finishing the last page of your book. They don’t want to have to wait until they get to Heaven to find out “who dun it and why”!

God has allowed several curve balls to be thrown at me over the past months but each one has had a purpose far beyond my understanding, turning potential tragedy into great victory. He has also taught me to use my cleats to slow down my pace a bit and learn to enjoy the moment without being so concerned about what is going to happen next. My absence from this Blog site and, indeed, all of my writing efforts, for the past two months has been difficult to endure but I had no choice because of Gary’s illness and our move. The Lord’s faithfulness, however, in allowing me to now return to this focus in my life has brought me great excitement and joy. As I post each week reminders of our “Showers of Blessings” I hope you will join me to discover new kernels of truth as they are revealed to me, intertwining writing and faith as only He can!

So, in this coming week, find and employ those cleats and curve balls in your writing and allow Him to use them in your life as well. You won’t be sorry. Then let me know what you have learned. I will be eager to hear all about your experiences!