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This is the 3rd “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God

 

Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.

 

 

 

THIRD CONVERSATION

Concepts:

About himself…

– When Brother Lawrence slipped up on his concentration on God’s presence, distracted by life’s duties, he immediately confessed his lapse and returned to God with even more fervor.

– Practiced obedience results in “unspeakable pleasures.”

About God…

– God neither deceives nor abandons the person committed to endure for His sake.

– God always provides strength to bear whatever comes, when it comes.

- Our trust honors God.

Our Response:

I’ve discovered over the years that my true disappointment is not with God but with myself. I fail often; I can’t trust myself; I am not dependable. Brother Lawrence confirms that fact, but holds up the reassurance that God never fails and is always trustworthy and dependable. He always provides, never abandons.

If we practice obedience because we are aware of God’s constant presence with us, we will have the strength we need as well as joy in serving Him.

“Many do not advance in the Christian progress,

because they stick in penances, and particular exercises,

while they neglect the love of God, which is the end…

There is needed neither art nor science for going to God,

but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him,

or for His sake, and to love Him only.”

Sometimes all the programs and methods and tools we employ to bring us closer to God actually detract from our true worship, which is always and only to love and delight in God. As stated above, all we need is a heart committed to God. To love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.

 

Last month I talked about Scrivener, a software tool that has enhanced my writing process. This month I will discuss other essentials.

When I present workshops on writing, I have a list of basic suggestions:

fascinated reader

 

 

 

 

 

  1. READ—All readers don’t write, but all writers must read. Read all the time and read widely. It doesn’t matter if you choose print, digital, audio or whatever is coming along. Just read. It will help you evolve as a writer. You will find some approaches to avoid and others to emulate.
  1. writerWRITE—It’s much easier to “have written” than to actually write, but if we want to be writers, we must write. Don’t create unreachable goals, but commit to writing regularly. Tip: I began blogging reluctantly, but it has been a great discipline because I’ve had to write to a schedule, whether self-imposed or committed as a guest blogger.
  1. MEET—We writers are a strange breed, often solitary, lost in our own worlds. It’s good to meet others of the same uniqueness from time to time, both online and in person. Writing groups are an excellent place to meet, share, learn and critique. There are many benefits to memberships including news of courses, contests, meetings, freebies, etc.

People attending a Congress

LEARN—Find out about courses, workshops, conferences and seminars. There are free and inexpensive options out there if you look for them. We’re never finished learning.

 

  1. GMC—In the writing world, this acronym stands for Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Make this personal:

– What’s your goal as a writer? Break it down. What do you hope to accomplish this year, this month, this week, and how will you go about it? How can you hold yourself accountable?

– Why do you write? Think about this until you have a good idea of your motivation. Without it, you will fizzle out when obstacles show up.

– Obstacles…it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” How important is your writing to you? Set your priorities and carry on, no matter what conflict looms on your horizon.

  1. And the bonus suggestion: If you are a Christ-follower, you have the added bonus of prayer to shape, guide and enhance your writing. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and commit all your words to Him.praying_on_bible_red

Writers will differ in what they consider the essential tools of the trade. I found a terrific article on this at http://thewritepractice.com/creative-writing-tools/. Check it out.

Blessings on you and your writing.

Brentwood's Ward coverMiss Emily Payne is a spoiled young woman in nineteenth-century London, seeking fulfillment and security in a high-society marriage. She seems to care for nothing beyond the young man she has decided to win, and her purchases of bonnets and jewelry for the conquest.

When Emily’s father hires Nicholas Brentwood, a Bow Street Runner, to protect her while he’s away on business, Emily meets her match in strong-willed character. Nicholas has only one reason for accepting this awkward assignment, and that is to save the money to help his gravely ill sister.

Those are the goals and motivations of the main characters. The obstacles that spring from this premise are considerable. What stands between Emily and her father? Where has he gone and why has his business partner been murdered? And why has Emily herself become a target?

Nicholas is challenged to protect Emily from herself as well as the criminals who stalk her.

Inherent in this tightly written romance are faith in God and commitment to morality. In light of the situations the characters find themselves in, their convictions are severely tested.

Readers are held by the conflict until the last page, yet all necessary threads are ultimately tied and solved. While faith in God is rewarded, life is neither easy nor predictable.michelle-griep-headshot

 

Michelle Griep has been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones while rambling around a castle. Michelle is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild). Keep up with her adventures at her blog “Writer off the Leash” or visit http://michellegriep.com/about-3/

When I began writing, I came across the statement: “Write what you know.” Wise, but severely limiting if you’ve led a sheltered life. I reversed the adage to read, “Know what you write.” Even if I don’t know something from firsthand knowledge or experience, I can find out about it.

Research is not just for historical works. Even the simplest contemporary story begs those fascinating details and correct terminology. For example, my husband and I used to ride a 1977 Honda Goldwing, but I had to check whether the headlight was automatic or manual before I sent my character through a covered bridge. A mechanic friend told me that our Goldwing was called a “shovel head.” I used that for effect.Honda 77 Scott Francis writes, “Just because you’re writing fiction, it doesn’t give you license to make everything up.”

 

 

photo-1What’s our best source for research? Depends on what we’re looking for. The basic understanding for my stories is derived from books, but when it comes to filling in details or answering specific questions, I use the internet. How far can an average man walk in a day? How far could a horse go, and how fast? Where did the railways run? What points of interest existed in St. Petersburg in 1914? What do they call streets and avenues in China? I had endless questions and found many answers on Google.

Photo Credit Gerald Hildebrand. Appeared in Witness Magazine July 2004.

Photo Credit Gerald Hildebrand. Appeared in Witness Magazine July 2004.

But the best source of research is people. Who lives in the place you’re writing about? Who has memories about historic events? These are the people who will help us make our stories credible, and usually they are more than willing to share their knowledge/experience.

How do we go about researching? Research is an ongoing, step-by-step process. We can’t know all the questions before we get into the story. They’ll keep coming up as we write.

 

 

 

Cautions:

  1. Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Nuff said.
  2. Sources won’t always agree. At times I’ve had four books open on my desk, each one touting a different “truth.” Then it’s up to me to decide on the most probable scenario.
  3. Research is for credibility, not to show off what we know. Only include what’s necessary.

This is the 2nd “first-Tuesday-of-the-month” post in the series on The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). This little book profoundly impressed me with its simplicity and encouragement.Practice of the Presence of God

 

 

Notice: I’m not a philosopher or a theologian; the following are my simple understandings of Brother Lawrence’s writings. I welcome your insights and comments.

 

 

SECOND CONVERSATION

Concept:

  1. “Our foremost and only business,” said Brother Lawrence, “is to love and delight ourselves in God.” Love was the motive for everything he did. Even when he felt unqualified for a particular job, doing it for God transformed it into a pleasant occupation.
  2. Brother Lawrence did not place any more value on set times of prayer than on the continual prayer in which he lived his life.
  3. “He was sensitive of his faults, but not discouraged by them.” His method of dealing with failure was simple: confess it and forget it.

 Our Response:

  1. My father used to say, “If you can’t do what you like, you can like what you do.” Dad enjoyed life and lived in relative contentment. I think this is what Brother Lawrence is talking about: as we commit our lives and days and minutes to God, we will find pleasure and contentment in what we are called to do. There’s great comfort and peace in that.
  2. The part about set times of prayer surprised me. I expected this man to place special importance on formal prayer times, but he didn’t, because he strove to be in constant communion with His Father. It’s a discipline that, according to Brother Lawrence, becomes easier with practice. I find that comforting as well, and very encouraging.
  3. The most refreshing concept I gleaned from this second conversation was Brother Lawrence’s perception of God’s forgiveness. He suggested that we can’t expect to live sinlessly, but we can expect God’s forgiveness because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So, he says, confess it and carry on. How much less anxiety and stress I would suffer if I were to take this personally. How much less guilt. Guilt can be a great motivator, but false guilt can kill. Let’s take that to heart and let our failures go. Learn from them, confess them, but don’t let them discourage us.

When I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it,

saying, I am used to do so:

I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself.

If I fail not, then I give God thanks,

acknowledging that it comes from Him.”

For everyone who reads this, I pray peace in your occupation, an ever-increasing sense of God’s presence (achieved through practice), and freedom from guilt through confession and faith that Christ’s blood is enough.

God bless you!

Please note: the blog below is written from personal experience with this program and is published here for the benefit of other writers, not for any monetary gain.

 

 

Scrivener Logo

I first discovered Scrivener (Scri-ve-ner) a few years ago on one of the listservs I subscribe to. It was touted as a great tool for writing, and at the time, I was in procrastination mode. No better delay device than a new program or tool to study. So I signed up for the free introductory month. While it did cost me some learning time, it was well worth it, and I bought the program shortly after.

Scrivener is a writing software program designed by a company called Literature & Latte.

Literature & Latte

According to the site, “Literature & Latte was founded in 2006 with the sole purpose of creating software that aids in the creative process of writing long texts.” There are templates for fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, poetry and lyrics, etc., and it’s available for either Mac or Windows.

To my understanding, the most basic difference between Scrivener and other writing programs is the perception of composition. Scrivener does not function in pages but in components.

Each component in a project can be titled, moved, edited, color-coded and viewed in various modes. The options are extensive, as are the applications. Also, the writer is able to assemble all information pertaining to the project in one place. I can be writing a scene, then click on a card that gives me the synopsis of that scene, then click on a character or setting photo, then include a live link to a website I wish to revisit. And if I’m really in procrastination mode, I can vary the color of my screen or change the font or…. Delicious decisions for a visual writer.

But this is just the composition mode. After my project is complete, or whenever I wish to print out a copy, I have more choices. For example, I can compile all the scenes from one point of view and print them, to check the timeline or flow of that narrative. The compile feature is something I’m still learning, but the capacity is there for me to format my story for e-book or print version.

My greatest learning helps for Scrivener have been the courses offered by Gwen Hernandez.Gwen Hernandez Her courses are clear, concise and interactive as well as economical. At this writing the basics course is set at $25 USD. The course includes print-outs, opportunities for questions and comments, and screenshots for clarification. Gwen has also published the Scrivener for Dummies manual.Scrivener for Dummies

The Scrivener program is relatively inexpensive (I paid $40 USD), and I’ve found  the updates are usually free if I stay current.

I write these things today because in the recent past I’ve read and participated in discussion regarding Scrivener. Since it’s been such a great tool for me, I like to recommend it to other writers. But please don’t look to me for expert advice. Go to Literature & Latte, or to Gwen Hernandez for hands-on learning and practice. It certainly makes the writing experience more organized, efficient and fun.

 

Faith and Fiction

I began my writing career intent on assuring that my Christianity showed up clearly in my writing. In devotionals and inspirational articles, this worked well. In my first published short story about a young boy who gave his cloak to Baby Jesus at His birth, faith fit bfile000153464900eautifully.

But as I ventured into book-length historical fiction, the intentional insertion of faith sometimes came across as contrived. As a beginning writer, I did my best and my first books were relatively well accepted, but I had much to learn (we always have much to learn).

F A I T H. . .

As time passed, I learned more about creative writing and the unacceptability of forced theme, so in my next project, a cozy mystery, I endeavored to include no outward signs of faith. To my surprise, I realized that no matter what I write (or say or do), my faith will show up on its own, most often through the characters themselves. This, I learned, is called my worldview. I admit to being a slow learner, but this was truly a revelation for me. Everything I write filters through my belief system and life experience in specific ways.

Although we, as writers, need to take care how our worldview comes through in our work, we should not fight against ourselves. In fact, I have discovered much about myself through my characters and how they react to particular situations. This discovery has given me hope that I too could respond positively to challenges and tests, as some of my characters have done.

Whatever our level of faith, it needs to be allowed to dwell in our stories in order to make them real, authentic. We can’t write anyone else’s story, but we can write ours best if we give ourselves honestly to the creative process.

H O P E . . . 

I have been very blessed in my life, so writing fiction has given me the opportunity to give back in hope and encouragement, no matter what genre I choose. It’s a constant learning process, not just of writing technique but also of self-discovery and personal growth.

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