Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are You Stuck in Haran?

I’m thrilled to welcome veteran Christian writer Jennifer Slattery to Writers’ Corner. I’ve enjoyed her writing and spiritual insight as a critique partner and friend. She discusses what we’ve all experienced as writers—getting stuck. However, we have a choice between settling or to start moving again. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing with us.  
Are You Stuck in Haran?
by Jennifer Slattery 
A writer’s life is equivalent to white-knuckling a never-ending roller coaster, in the dark, without a seat-belt. Only, you never signed up for that ride, right? You chose the steady upward climb free of twists and turns, and after ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years of spinning; you wonder if perhaps you’re on the wrong path. That still, soft Voice that called you into writing has faded behind a mess of rejection, disappointment and fear. What if you heard wrong? What if God changed His mind? Maybe He’s forgotten about you entirely.  

Or maybe you’re right where He wants you to be, following the long, winding, equipping road towards the goal, each treacherous step, every angst-filled tear all part of the training. What if you’re only one rejection away from the Promised Land? Will you persevere, walking by faith and the determination of a child saved by grace and destined for victorious living, or will you settle in the land of Haran? 

Last fall George Lakatos from Grace Community Church in Smithville, MO gave an awesome message (listen to it HERE).  

To sum it up, the message centered on two biblical characters: Abram (later called Abraham) and his father, Terah. Both men started in the same place, Ur of the Chaldeans. Both men left Ur to embark on a God-ordained journey to the Promised Land, but only one arrived. Terah, the patriarch died at the halfway point, in the land of Haran.  

Ur was a wealthy, sophisticated, comfortable city. It must have taken great courage for the men to leave. They had no idea where they were going or how long it would take to get there, but they had God’s promises tucked within their tunics. These promises carried them all the way to Haran, but for Terah, they couldn’t carry him over the hump and into the unknown.  

Terah continued as long as the road was easy. He and Abram followed along the Euphrates River, a well-traveled route with access to food and drinking water. They journeyed on foot, each step carrying them farther and farther from the land they knew. Day after day they marched on, the fatigue in their legs growing with each step, their doubts warring for their allegiance. Then they got to Haran, the halfway point, and Terah settled.  

Genesis 11:31b (NLT) “He was headed for the landed of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there.  

That is a powerful verse. Terah was headed for Canaan, but settled in Haran, where he died fifteen years later, never reaching his final destination. Never seeing the Promised Land.  

Have you settled? Are you stuck in Haran, on the halfway point from where you were when God called you to where He wants to take you? It’s time to leave Haran. Abram settled with Terah for fifteen years. Fifteen long, wasted years. But he didn’t stay there indefinitely. After his father died, he gathered his things and resumed his journey. 

Jennifer Slattery writes and edits for Christ to the World Ministries and is a freelance editor under Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach. She also writes for the ACFW Journal, the Christian Pulse, Internet Café Devotions, and Jewels of Encouragement and co-hosts (with five other ladies) Living by Grace, a Faith-based Facebook community. Visit her online at You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God of This City

“Rome - the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.” George Eliot (English novelist)
Rome is one of the most storied cities in the world. Its name conjures up mental images, mostly of ancient days. As Eliot described, few other cities can compete with its visible history. 
One such city was Pompeii. Living in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii’s residents were used to earthquakes and seismic rumblings but apparently didn’t connect them to potential volcanic activity. In 79 AD, the volcano erupted, destroying the city and solidifying it for history. 
Another notorious metropolis was Sodom and Gomorrah, mentioned in the book of Genesis. Its inhabitants were so wicked, the city was annihilated in a fire-and-brimstone storm sent by God. Their demise mirrored Pompeii’s—rapid and total.
Cities are a reflection of their people and era. The Roman Empire’s reach was extensive, yet wicked. The excavated Pompeiian ruins reflect a city in the same wicked moral condition that caused Sodom and Gomorrah’s downfall. 
All we have to do is look around to see similarities in our culture today. The smoke is billowing from the volcano and the ground is rumbling. Unfortunately, like Pompeii and Sodom and Gomorrah, many in our world ignore the warning signs. As with past civilizations, God’s patience has an end. 
If you’re a Christian, you have the assurance of an eternal city—one inhabited by those who chose God’s path. Evil will not exist in this new city. 
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” Revelation 21:1-4a 
In the next chapter, John goes on to describe the city’s physical attributes Christians can look forward to.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations…The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him…There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-3,5
Rev. 21:15-21 describes more physical attributes including foundation walls decorated with every precious stone: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, and many more. The gates are made of pearl. The city street is pure gold, like transparent glass. 
I don’t know about you, but God’s promise of His eternal city lifts my heart and encourages me for the future. Meanwhile, I praise God for His provision of mercy and love in my life.
As we go to the Lord today, would you join me in prayer for our country—that God would bring revival and healing to our land? That people would recognize their need for a Savior? That we, as Christians, would do more to shine our light for all to see?
Please keep Betty and Tony in your prayers for employment and other unspoken requests. Pray for Courtney and Emily both battling cancer. Several requests have been made for depression and other mental illness issues, as well as difficult family situations. Karen Redding continues in hospice care with leukemia.
I ask that you pray for a little girl suffering with a seizure disorder. Also please pray for Steve Saint, a missionary who suffered a spinal cord injury with paralysis in an experimental plane crash. Doctors are hopeful for his recovery. Click here to read his story and listen to him discuss the crash and his unyielding faith in God. 
Add your prayer requests in the comments section or email me confidentially. God's heart breaks for what breaks yours. I'd love to hear praise reports, as well.

Our song today is "God of This City" by Chris Tomlin. There is no one like our God!
God bless,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Deeper Point of View

“Good writing is like a windowpane.” George Orwell
In previous posts, we’ve discussed point of view as it relates to each character and scene. With deeper point of view, the reader is drawn further into a character’s actions and thoughts, essentially getting inside the character’s head as the scene unfolds.
One way to accomplish this is to eliminate tag lines. Instead of repeatedly interrupting the scene with he said/she said, the natural flow of characters’ dialogue, emotions, and action tell the story.  
Deeper POV also works in tandem with the concept “show, don’t tell.” Instead of telling the reader a character is wondering, seeing, hearing, or feeling, a good writer lets the characters act out the scene naturally as it would occur in real life.

Here are some examples. The second sentence/paragraph in each sequence is written in deeper POV.
She glanced at him and wondered where his patience came from.
She glanced at him. Where did his patience come from?
Jackie swirled the coffee in her cup and carefully considered her reply.
Jackie swirled the coffee in her cup. How should she reply?
She snuggled under the covers, wishing she’d planned the trip for another day.
She snuggled under the covers. If only she’d planned the trip for another day.
He thought about why she was always late for church.
Why was she always late for church?
Dave felt her eyes searching his face.
Her eyes searched his face. 
Kathy heard a rustling and then saw a snake slither out of the bushes. She hoped she could outrun the snake before it bit her. She noticed it was a harmless black snake and stopped to take a deep breath. Snakes gave her the creeps.
Kathy turned toward the rustling in the bushes. A harmless blacksnake slithered out. She jumped behind a tree as the snake slid down the trail ahead of her. A chill tingled through her. She shook it off and stepped back onto the trail. 
She was angry that he talked non-stop, never allowing her to voice an opinion during a discussion. He must think her opinion didn’t matter. She wondered what it would take to make him listen.
“Shut up!” She drew a deep breath and straightened to face his wide-eyed stare. Did that scream just come from her mouth? Maybe now he would listen. 
The first sentences/paragraphs in each sequence aren't necessarily incorrect, but they inhibit deeper character and scene development which leads to a less interesting story. 
Take another look at your WIP. Are there places you could rewrite to deepen character POV? If you’d like to share an example or make a suggestion for future topics for me to discuss, please leave a comment. I enjoy the encouraging and insightful thoughts shared each week. 
God bless,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Conflict Resolution

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” Richard Bach, American author 

Because of our global society, family encompasses more than relatives. Often, as Bach alluded to, family becomes those you share common ideals, goals, and daily life experiences.  

Biological families are unique. Though squabbling amongst the members is not uncommon, they rally against outside attacks. You can usually rely on family to “have your back” in a tough situation. 

But why does it take a tough situation for this to occur? Despite our differences in personalities, life choices, and goals, why do we allow conflict to enter what should be treasured relationships? The simple answer is we’re human. We won’t have perfect relationships this side of heaven. 

I was saddened after reading an article about singer Robin Gibb’s funeral. This excerpt from his brother Barry’s eulogy was particularly poignant.

"Life is too short. In Robin's case, absolutely too short. We should have had 20 years, 30 years of his magnificent mind and his beautiful heart. We were laughing all the way. Sometimes crying. God knows how much we argued. Even right up to the end we found conflict with each other, which now means nothing. It just means nothing. If there's conflict in your lives - get rid of it." Barry Gibb (last surviving member of BeeGees) 

If there’s conflict in your lives – get rid of it. Those words should resound like a gong in our minds and hearts, if we’re in conflict with a friend or loved one. Embracing the simple excuse of humanity doesn’t lead to resolution. Instead, would you take a moment to lift up that person in prayer? That’s the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get…And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that?” Matthew 5:43-47
Pray for those who persecute you. Ask God to help you love difficult people with His love.
Pray for your own shortcomings. Sometimes conflict is a simple clash of personalities or perspective on life. Respect those differences and try to find common ground. Ask God to show you positive steps toward eliminating your part in the conflict.  

Resolving conflict doesn’t ensure reconciliation. Sometimes prayer is the first and final step—for now.  

You might scratch your head and say, “What?”  

God created us as unique individuals. Even the most harmonious relationships will hit rough patches. At times, we have to agree to disagree, depending on the gravity of the situation. This is especially true in unhealthy relationships. Sometimes we have to walk away. God will reopen the door, if the circumstances change.  

If you’re in an abusive relationship, seek help and find a safe way to leave. Your safety trumps salvaging the relationship.  

Still, even the most difficult person and situation can be prayed for.  

As we go to the Lord in prayer, I encourage you to do the impossible. That person who hurt you, the one you’re at odds with, the one you feel you’ll never reconcile with—lift them up to the Lord. Ask God to bless them. Email me confidentially, if you’d like me to pray with you.  

Please share any prayer requests in the comments section below that you’d like others to pray about. Remember past requests for health, employment, mental health issues, and unstable housing situations. You may access the archives for the specific requests. 

Our song this week is “Who Am I?” by Casting Crowns. Join me in worshipping Our Father as we go to Him in prayer. 


God bless,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Deadlines and Word Count

“I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.” Douglas Adams (English author and dramatist)
I enjoy snappy little quotes, so I’m glad you all indulge me in sharing them. If you’ve not visited my blog on Thursdays, it’s a day set aside to encourage writers. 
So if you’re new, welcome to Writers’ Corner!
Do numbers matter? I suppose to a statistician they matter a great deal. To an artist or creative person? Not so much. The exception to this is when writers’ guidelines state a specific word count to adhere to or an editor gives a deadline for an assignment. 
If writers’ guidelines state 1,000 words, this is what they mean, not 1,100. Exceeding word count is a good way to get your manuscript tossed before it’s even read. Once you’ve developed a relationship with the editor, you might be able to ask for leniency in future articles. 
Case in point, six years ago I wrote a serial for my local newspaper. When I wrote the final installment, I asked for an extra 300-400 words to finish the story. The editor agreed. However, I never submit an article to a magazine over the limit. 
Even when you stay within the word count limit, you might be asked to cut words depending on the editorial needs of a specific magazine issue. 
My first published magazine article started as a 500-word Bible study on Proverbs 2:1-5.  The editor returned my submission with suggestions and said if I could cut it to 350 words, she’d take another look. Apparently, that was the available space in the particular issue she wanted to run the article. Cutting 150 words was difficult, but I did it, and she published the article. 
Not meeting a deadline is worse than exceeding word count. The editor/publisher has spent valuable time reading your submission and accepted it. Now they’re invested in you. They’ve given you a deadline because they have a deadline
Sometimes you hit a snag. Life happens. I spent this morning in the ophthalmologist’s office because my son got a metal speck lodged in his eye. He’s fine now. Fortunately, I had no deadlines looming today. 
In all relationships, communication is key. As soon as you become aware of a problem, contact the editor to see if there’s any flexibility. If not, then find a way to finish the assignment by the deadline.
Do you have an anecdote about getting published you’d like to share? Please leave it in the comments below so everyone can enjoy reading it. 
I want to take a moment to give a shout out to Wisdom of a Fool blogger who interviewed me for her inaugural newsletter. Click here to read it. It’s chock-full of interesting information and insight. 
Meanwhile, if you have writing questions or a suggestion for a future blog you’d like me to consider, please let me know. 
God bless,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Throne of Grace

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” George Mueller  
I often blog about praising God during trials and storms.  Sometimes the best way to gain spiritual wisdom and empathy is through a “no” or “wait” answer to prayer. But does practicing long-suffering produce complacency and low expectations for positive answers? It can, if we don’t guard against such habits from seeping into our spiritual lives.  
In my post, Confident Prayer, I wrote about the importance of recognizing God’s sovereignty in our lives. Failure to do so can lead to low expectations because we want our answers to prayer—not His.
Despite belief in God, if we don’t fully embrace His sovereignty, we yield a fraction of what He desires while banking on receiving the totality of our requests.  
What starts out as an effort to exercise faith becomes portion control over what we surrender when anxiety sets in regarding the unknown. We don't completely trust Him to get it right!
Maybe we’re really saying: Does God care about my day-to-day existence? Does He care about my needs and desires? 
God does care. He wants full surrender. He wants us to approach Him with faith rooted in boldness.   
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 
What is your greatest need today? I want to encourage you to go to the Throne of Grace with an unabridged heart, yield control, and lay down your anxiety about the answer. Exercise faith through confidence that He will respond.  
“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends.”  George Mueller 
As we go to the Lord in prayer, let us remember to lift up past requests regarding health, employment, family, and mental health issues.  
My request this week is for Emily, a 12-year-old girl battling bone cancer. She’s having a tough time with treatment. Also remember to lift up Karen Redding who is at home with hospice care. Pray for healing, comfort, and wisdom for her and her family.  
Please leave your requests in the comments section so others can pray for you, or email me confidential requests. My contact info is listed in the “Talk to Me” section above.  
Now as we approach the Throne of Grace boldly together, take a moment to worship with Mercy Me’s song, “Bring the Rain.” 
 God bless,

Thursday, June 7, 2012


A picture is worth a thousand words…Home is where you hang your hat…Experience is the best teacher…It is what it is…
I’ve been busy this week working on a book proposal, critiquing, and generally sorting out my overcommitted life. LOL. What about you? As you can see from the intro, we’re going to discuss clichés this week in Writers’ Corner. 
A cliché is any overused expression. Because we have a tendency to speak with clichés, especially in the South, recognizing them in our writing can be a challenge. There’s always a better way to express your thoughts and those of your characters than to use worn-out phrases. An editor might excuse an occasional slip-up, but repeated clichés reflect lazy writing. The exception to this is dialogue, because as I stated above, real people use them in speech. 
Here are a few examples:
All in due time                                                            An arm and a leg
As luck would have it                                                 Better safe than sorry
Between a rock and a hard place                                Cool as a cucumber
Cut to the chase                                                          Fit as a fiddle
Keep your chin up                                                      He keeps his cards close to his vest.
Knock on wood                                                         Lesser of two evils
At the drop of a hat                                                    At her wits' end
New lease on life                                                       Out of sight, out of mind
See the light                                                               No time like the present
Twist of fate                                                               Light as a feather
Time will tell                                                               Live and learn
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, a full length novel, or a magazine article, take another look at your WIP, and challenge yourself to rewrite overused phrases in a fresh way. 
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What is your most frequently used cliché?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dwelling in Safety

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young.” Psalm 84:3a
How do you like the photo of my little friends on the left? Their mama and daddy built this nest in the spring anticipating their arrival. The nest was intricately constructed with beautiful flowers, moss, grass, and twigs. It’s in a precarious place atop my porch light, but apparently, the birds feel safe because they return every spring to make a new home. Only when the front door opens do they flee, shrieking in terror that “something” almost got them. 
The birds start singing every morning around 3:00 a.m. when they imagine the first hint of daylight. I say imagine because it’s still pretty dark to me. 
“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3
One of the first things I realize upon awakening is the blessing of another day. I envy the bird’s ability to sing this to the world each morning. Often before I’m even fully awake, I began to talk to God about the day ahead. 
Sometimes humans dwell in an apparent safe place. We’ve created our perfect nest lined with beautiful things, content until something threatens our earthly trappings. While we shriek about superficial terror, we often hit the snooze button when it comes to spiritual threats.
Which would matter more?
  • If my electricity were off for 24 hours or my access to God denied for 24 hours?
  • If I lost my car keys or lost my Bible?
  • If I were denied a promotion or a family member refused salvation?
  • If the baseball game I attended went to extra innings or Sunday morning church service ran late?
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to keep my priorities straight, my focus on You, my life patterned after your Son, and my faith strengthened through your Word. 
If you have a prayer request, leave it in the comment section below or email me confidential requests. My contact info is under the heading marked “Talk to Me.”
Karen Redding, whom we’ve been praying for, is at home with hospice care. She is battling leukemia. Please pray for healing, comfort, and strength for Karen and husband Mike, who has also lost his job. 
Pray for baby Ava who has been born with a serious colon problem. 
Previous requests include several for employment as well as Courtney, TC’s father-in-law, and Piper’s family battling serious health issues. Remember those who requested prayer for difficult family situations and mental illness including depression. Please pray for one another as we share the Gospel with the unsaved. 
Our song this week is “I AM” by Mark Schultz. Join me in reflecting upon this simple yet powerful statement by the magnificent God we serve.  

 God bless,