I will remember #BibleJournaling

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In her video series on Bible Journaling, Rebekah R. Jones remembers the story of her miracle healing in a Bible art journal project connected to Psalm 77:11:

“I will remember the works of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.”

She demonstrates, on the video, how to make a striking rainbow page out of vellum, colored with gelatos and the word “REMEMBER” at the bottom. (You can watch it below.)

She challenges her reader, in the accompanying blog devotional:

“Will you take time to think back to a time in your own life when God reached out and poured His goodness on You? Will you thank Him again for it … Create something this week that helps you remember God’s wondrous works.”

Thinking back over my life, I can’t say I have a story of a miraculous healing or provision. But I am thankful for a quiet miracle of sorts.

Just over 20 years ago, when my kids were finally both in school and my home-based medical transcription business was established, I revisited a teenage dream—to be a writer.

All my life I’ve been a reader and for years had promised myself someday I’d be a writer—a published writer. Approaching a milestone birthday back then, I decided to do something about my dream.

I enrolled in a correspondence writing course and lo-and-behold, less than two years later, in March of 1997, I sold my first piece—a devotional to Keys for Kids. (Believe it or not, they’re still around!)

All these years later, I’m still writing. No, I’m not famous, but I do have three binders of clips to show that God has helped me realize a teenage dream.

My art journal drawing is an old-fashioned feather quill pen and a few books, including the Bible and My Utmost for His Highest (a fav devotional).

Ps 77_11

The verse I chose to put on the scroll (Psalm 102:18) expresses what reading and writing have meant and still mean to me. I have been impacted spiritually far more by especially memoirs and biographies than any lecture or Bible study class. What a supernatural thing God does with words, quickening them within the reader to spiritual life though they may have been written decades earlier and continents away!

The dove with a leaf in its mouth, signifying the life-giving Holy Spirit, is what I desire for the devotions, articles, poems, blog posts, and books that I write.

What life memories does Psalm 77:11 evoke in you?

Feeling burned out? Take a vacation

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Footbridge in Scout Island Park - Williams Lake BC

Footbridge in Scout Island Park – Williams Lake BC

I’ve just returned from a three-week vacation. Therefore I’m as in-touch with being in holiday mode as I’ve ever been.

I spend much of each workday on writing and writing-related activities so it was from these thing I wanted a holiday. I was ready for a break by the middle of June!

I decided this year, as never before, to vacation with no guilt. To make that possible I worked extra hard before our July 8th departure date to meet all deadlines. I also scheduled the blog posts that I wanted to publish while I was away.

The first few days of being on the road I was so keen to escape I felt an aversion to even the sight of my laptop. Thus it wasn’t hard to take a hiatus from technology. I didn’t respond to non-urgent work emails, check Facebook and Twitter, look at my blog stats, or read any of the emails and blogs to which I subscribe. My stupid-phone isn’t connected to social media so it was the only device with any appeal. I used it for making dinner arrangements with friends.

We had planned a full holiday and it wasn’t hard to take a complete and extended break from writing. We spent the first hectic vacation weekend at the Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer. That was followed by two weeks with our daughter, son-in-law, and four grandkids in northern B.C. It was easy to find ways to fill up my time. From folding mountains of clothes, to playing with play dough, supervising the baking of muffins, going to the beach, and looking on as the grandkids were wowed by their first visit to the circus, every day was busy and exhausting.

Of course I found time to read (even though that is often work-related for me). Once I finished reading the book I had committed to review, I read a novel just for fun.

Another rejuvenating practice for me is to spend free time on leisure activities that are totally unrelated to writing. During past holidays I’ve done crochet and knitting projects. This year I brought along a book of Sidoku puzzles and am now creeping through the last hard four-star ones at the back of the book.

There were times it was so easy and relaxing to not be writing I felt jabs of worry. Maybe I was really burned out. Maybe the yen to put pen to paper and fingers to the keyboard would never return. But gradually I sensed my writing well was refilling.

One day I read a few of the poems that get delivered daily to my email and my imagination began to stir. On another I returned from a walk with my mind full of images and phrases… the first glimmers of a poem. I spent over an hour the night before we got home reading posts on the writing blogs I subscribe to.

And now I’m home and happy to be at my desk writing this blog post. Later I’ll compose that review and maybe answer a few emails. After a writing-free, guilt-free holiday, I’m back and eager to do more of this activity I love!

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This post was written as the August 6th post for the Inscribe.org blog on writing, but for some reason failed to publish there.

Pray, Write, Grow – review

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Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing TogetherPray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together by Ed Cyzewski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Each year I choose a word or phrase as a focus for the twelve months ahead. My word for 2015 is “pray.” So when I saw the title of Ed Cyzewski’s latest book, I knew I wanted it.

Cyzewski’s premise is that prayer and writing are similar in many ways. In the first six chapters he shows how they both:
– Require space in our lives. We may need to jettison something else to fit them in.

“I’ve found it immensely helpful to set timers for both prayer and writing” – Ed Cyzewski, Pray, Write, Grow, Kindle Location 283.

– Benefit from our undivided attention.

“Our prayer and writing will be most effective when we tune in to both ourselves and other people” – K.L. 370.

– Help us find healing from painful experiences and aid us in helping others.

“We don’t just heal by articulating past pain when we pray. We can also heal by writing about our pain, our fears, and our struggles. As my prayer and writing work together, I have often transitioned from prayer to writing as I’ve faced the anxiety of my past” – K.L.

– Have a physical component and grow stronger through exercise and a regimen.

“… this whole book is all about simple steps we can take to improve our spiritual, physical, and mental states as we seek to pray and write” – K.L. 740.

– Guide us toward our life’s purpose.

“If we want to share something meaningful and healing with others, we have to spend time up on the mountain” – K.L. 894.

– Need a great deal of faith.

“Living by faith shouldn’t feel safe. It should feel a bit wild and reckless” – K.L.922.

The seventh chapter is lists of prompts, resources, and links under the headings “Writing Quick Start” and “Prayer Quick Start.”

Cyzewski’s voice is encouraging. When he gives advice and suggestions he does it with a subtle, not commanding tone. He shares transparently about how prayer gave him insight into the childhood roots of his fear and anger. He tells about his struggles with worry when he quit his job to freelance full time. The awareness he gains through prayer and journaling opens his eyes to his passions, which then become his writing topics.

My two top takeaways from this book are:
1. An introduction to the Examen prayer practice (developed by Ignatius Loyola) that Cyzewski uses, explains, and recommends. His experience of how this daily discipline fosters spiritual intimacy with Christ in him whets the reader’s appetite to try it for him/herself.
2. The picture Cyzewski paints of an integrated writing life. In it prayer and writing intertwine to braid a trellis that aids growth in both areas.

I think this would be a great book for Christians writing in any genre to read.

View all my reviews

Freelance Writer’s Almanac – March 2014

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Freelance Writer's Almanac icon - violetnesdoly.com

Today is the first day of March. The word “March comes form the Roman ‘Martius.’ According to this site, it was originally the first month of the year (Roman calendar) named after Mars the god of war.

The flower of the month of March is the Daffodil or Jonquil.

Daffodil

Daffodil – the flower of March

March’s stone is Aquamarine  / Bloodstone (modern) and Jasper / Bloodstone  (traditional) – meaning: COURAGE.

Aquamarine

Aquamarine – modern birthstone for March

Bloodstone - birthstone for March

Bloodstone – modern & traditional birthstone for March

Jasper - birthstone for March

Jasper – traditional birthstone for March

Here’s a rhyme for March’s Bloodstone:

Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open shall be wise;
In days of peril firm and brave,
And wear a Bloodstone to their grave.
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Some  sayings associated with March’s weather:

“When March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb.”

“As it rains in March so it rains in June.”

“March winds and April showers
Bring forth May flower.”

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  • March 1-16 – Dogsled race, the  Iditarod.
  • New moon

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  • Alexander Graham Bell was born on this day in 1847 in Edinburgh Scotland. He went on to invent the telephone (The Christian Almanac [T.C.A.] p. 141).

pancakes4

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  • On this day in 1953 Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (creator of the Iron Curtain) died at the age of 73 years.  (TCA p. 145. )
Michelangelo - self-portrait

Michelangelo – self-portrait

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  • Silly putty was invented on this day in 1950 (TCA p. 147).

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  • World Day of prayer (always first Friday)

Wind in the Willows - cover8

  • On this day in 1859 Kenneth Grahame, creator of The Wind in the Willows was born in Edinburgh Scotland. Parts of the book were written as letters to his young son (TCA p. 151).

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  • Daylight Savings Time begins
  • First Sunday in LentLITURGY

    1966 Ford Mustant

    1966 Ford Mustang (photo from Wikipedia)

  • The Mustang is 50! The Ford Motor Co. produced the first Ford Mustang on this day in 1964. It became an instant classic (TCA p. 153).

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  • Salvation Army Day

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  • Organize your home office day

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  • James Taylor (singer) was born on this day in 1948.

earmuffs13

  • Earmuffs, patented as “Champion Ear Protector” by Greenwood, were introduced on this day in 1877.

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Hamentaschen & Purim rattle

Hamentaschen & Purim rattle

  • Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim
  • Second Sunday in Lent – LITURGY
  • Full Moon

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  • Kate Greenaway, English artist and book illustrator was born on this day in 1846 in London. Her illustrated books like Mother Goose created a revolution in book illustration (TCA P. 169).

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  • David Livingstone – physician and explorer was born on this day in 1813.

Robin20

  • World Storytelling Day– On World Storytelling Day, as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible, during the same day and night.
  • Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister  turns 75 today (born in 1939).

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  • Feast of the Annunciation – LITURGY

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  • Robert Frost was born on this day in 1874. (He’d be 140 today.)
Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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  • Coca Cola was introduced on this day in 1886

Vincent Van Gogh - self-portrait30

  • The painter Vincent Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853.
  • It is also the birthday of Canadian singer Celine Dion (1968).
  • Fourth Sunday in Lent – LITURGY
  • New Moon

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  • The English poet John Donne  died on this day in 1631 at the age of 59.

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Lots of other days celebrated in March found at Brownielocks
http://www.brownielocks.com/march.html

Permission to write: Write!Vancouver – 3

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Permission to Write was a panel discussion that was part of Write! Vancouver (May 25). The panel was moderated by Lesley Bentley. On the panel were K. C. Dyer (author), Marc Cote (Publisher, Cormorant Books), Ken Shigematsu (Pastor), and Ron Reed (Playwright, Actor & Creative Director of Pacific Theatre).

Permission to Write panelists - Write! Vancouver conference 2013

Lesley Bentley, K.C. Dyer, Marc Cote, Ken Shigematsu, Ron Reed – panelists. (Photo © 2013 by V. Nesdoly)

Why I chose this workshop:

I would be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes think of quitting. A lot of things play into this: the amount of work it takes to not only write but then find a paying home for that writing, the long road to book publication and after publication, publicizing, marketing, and selling the books; the volume of words already out there these days—and the feeling that my words are just adding to the noise; and physical weariness. Writing may seem like a cushy job. But brain activity is exhausting, at least for me.

Permission to Write – Highlights from my notes:

Lesley Bentley invited the panelists to talk about what permission to write meant for them.

Ron Reed:

All kinds of things can interfere—things that are essential. We ask ourselves, how will the world even know if I don’t write. You have to assertively make that room.

He feels that God has given him permission but he has to give himself room, take seriously that permission to write.

He also has to separate that permission to write from the need to achieve, be good, be published. The play-writing process is essential to him. It’s a continuum of the kid in the sandbox (play) in the need to communicate. “To avoid writer’s block, which has to do with permission to write, you have to block out the need to get published.”

Ken Shigematsu: God In My Everything by Ken Shigematsu

Seeds of permission for him to write were sown by Leighton Ford 15 years ago. When Shigematsu said he wouldn’t be able to write like Philip Yancey, Ford said to him, ‘No one will be able to write like you.’

Ten years ago he started writing about adapted monastic rhythms. Interest sparked and he wrote some more. The writing was a reward in itself. (His book God In My Everything: How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God is scheduled to be released by Zondervan in August).

K. C. Dyer:

Find time in the middle of other things. You have to get your butt in the chair, words on the paper. Speak it into your phone. It’s like any other job: if you’re a writer, it’s a job. If this is who you are, be true to yourself and do it. 500 words a day leads to a 150,000 word book after a year.

Marc Cote:

The only person who can give you permission to write is yourself. Don’t wait for it to come from outside. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission, but take it. Go from there.

“People who have to write, don’t think about permission too much.” (Don’t remember who said this but I liked it)

Marc Cote:

Writing to express oneself is not writing but journaling. Journaling is like the 5-finger exercise in piano. People write to communicate. Put your running shoes on first before you dream of the glories of winning a marathon.

Lesley Bentley:

How do you square the results you can see in measure with permission based on the premise that it doesn’t count without an evangelistic, or money result.

Ken Shigematsu:

Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

K. C. Dyer:

There will always be roadblocks in the way. People put arts last in their lives. Sometimes we throw caution to the winds. We need to set aside the million balls in the air and work on it (our writing). Clear enough space in your head. Find your own place of peace where the ideas come to you. Fifteen minutes a day can become your time.

Ron Reed:

It is worth writing. We wouldn’t be in the room if we didn’t think it’s so. It’s worth doing it whether I win or not–for the doing of it. (“Im at the extreme end of intrinsic rewards type of guy.”) Whatever the reason it takes to get the fingers moving–do it. “I get demotivated when it has to be good enough for people. Permission to write has to do with motivation. Print the poster.” When you’re writing it, you can’t know what’s really great or not. Just type – it might be better than you think. Don’t get stuck on your first play.

Lesley Bentley:

Let’s explore the statement that permission to write has to do with motivation.

Matadora by Elizabeth RuthMarc Cote:

Told the story of an agent who sent him a manuscript from a writer he respected, but he didn’t feel he could publish it. He eventually was asked to explain to the author what didn’t work for him.

The author ended up turning down another offer on her book to take several more years to rework her story keeping in mind his suggestions. Coromorant Books recently published her book, it has been garnering good reviews and that day  (Saturday, May 25th) it (Matadora by Elizabeth Ruth) had a glowing review in the Globe and Mail (Cote waved the paper before us as proof))

Concerning motivation: “She carved out the time (years) to write the book that was inside her all the time.”

K. C. Dyer:

It’s like runner’s high. That moment when you know you’ve nailed it.

Marc Cote:

Part of the joy of it all is in the doing. It’s not going to come easy. When do runners experience a runner’s high? After a long run.

Ron Reed:

It’s worth doing. We’ve heard fifteen ‘worth it’s.’ We are highly encouraged to consume; we are not encouraged to create. God said it’s okay – Genesis 1-3: “It is good.” We are in His image and likeness: He makes stuff and enjoys it. It’s coded into us.

K. C. Dyer:

It’s very important that you read. Every writer comes to writing from being a reader first. Reading is significant to growth and ability as a creator. Always be learning. You can have this career for the long haul. Keep trying to get better. Read widely, often, and much.

Ron Reed:

Playwrights need to watch plays. You intuitively produce what you take in. If you want to write a literary book, you might be best not watching TV.

K. C. Dyer:

“It’s remarkable what you learn from reading poor writing.”

Marc Cote:

If your time for reading is limited, only read good things.

Ron Reed: 

Narrow your reading – not for your whole life but for the time you’re writing a certain play or certain thing.

Someone asked a question leading to a discussion on how to recharge when your writing (not necessarily creative things, but writing emails, and other assigned writing) makes you feel weary and like you’ve run out of words:

Ron Reed:

Finds photography a good reset button.

K. C. Dyer:

Writes by hand in her journal, vs. at the computer on a keyboard.

There was a question about permission to write what might offend someone. How do you get permission to write what you want to?

Some suggestions:

  • Pretend people are dead.
  • Leave the country.

K. C. Dyer:

Books are a safe place for your brain and ideas to meet. Pretend that no one is ever going to read it.

Ron Reed:

You can write with similar rawness to how you would write a journal.

“Get a tough enough skin. I didn’t write a role model. I wrote that play so other people could think about certain issues. It takes a certain brashness to put some things out there.”

Closing challenge was by Reed, who kept reminding us to keep putting words on paper/the screen He told the story of how he had begun a novel, quit and put it aside. Years later he came across it again and is now using ideas and snippets of it in a different project.

“Write stuff, and later you might find out what its purpose was. The words are what you’re going to carve something else out of. One thing can become another thing, and another thing. It can be a play, an email, a poem, part of a lecture etc.”

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My takeaway:

– I felt reassured by the advice to enjoy and revel in my urge to create; it’s God-given.

– I loved Leighton Ford’s advice to Ken Shigematsu: “No one will be able to write like you.”

– I could so well relate to the discussion around the fact that writing is a self-motivating job. As Reed said: “… all kinds of things can interfere–things that are essential. We ask ourselves, how will the world even know if I don’t write. You have to assertively make that room.”

– Another thought that I really liked was that we don’t always know, when we’re writing something, what it’s end-up purpose will be. We may journal and forget entirely about what we’ve written, only to reread it at some later time and find it is the perfect illustration for a talk, or the germ of a poem, story or essay.

I hope my recap of this discussion will help you find permission to write as listening to it firsthand did for me! What resonated with you?

May prompt: tree

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Zaccheus in the sycamore tree by James Tissot

Zaccheus in the sycamore tree – By James Tissot

The landscape is changing with the coming of spring. A big part of this change is brought about by the blossoming and leafing of trees. Almost overnight a row of dull brown twigs becomes a lively green canopy that gives shade, privacy, and beauty. You can’t help but notice trees in the spring.

There are at least two dozen varieties of trees mentioned in the Bible, many of which are familiar to us: almond (Ecclesiastes 12:5), apple (Song of Solomon 2:3), palm (Exodus 15:27), cedar, pine and cypress (Isaiah 41:19) and willow (Isaiah 44:4).

Trees played a part in many Bible events:

  • A tree held the tempting fruit that tripped up Eve (Genesis 3:1-7).
  • God met with Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre (Genesis 18:1).
  • Absalom’s thick hair got caught in the branches of a great terebinth tree. The Bible describes him hanging between heaven and earth and in that helpless state he was easy prey for David’s general Joab (2 Samuel 18:9,14).
  • Jesus died on a cross, made of wood from a tree.

The Bible refers to trees not only in literal ways but in symbolic ones too.

  • I’ve always been haunted by the picture of the silent harps of the grieving Babylonian exiles, hanging in the willows (Psalm 137:1-3).
  • John’s vision in Revelation makes references to several trees in mostly symbolic or picturesque ways:

– There is a tree of life – Revelation 2:7
– Two prophetic messengers are referred to as olive trees – Revelation 11:3-6.
– There is a healing tree with leaves that heal nations and a different fruit each month – Revelation 22:2,14.

Here is your TREE writing challenge for April:

For writers of fiction:

You might make a tree a key part of your setting like author Julie Chantrell gives her main character Millie “Honey,” a sweet gum tree that operates almost like another character in her novel Into the Free (review here).

Or tell a children’s story from the tree’s point of view, like Kimberley Payne does in Trees of the Book (review here).

For writers of non-fiction:

Research a specific tree to write an informational piece, or tell a personal experience with a tree and use it as an illustration in a devotional or motif in a personal essay.

For poets:

Dig deep into your connection with trees to come up with some truth about life using tree imagery. Psalm 1:-1-3 is a great example of this.