Hold Loosely to Words and Life

It’s a joy to introduce you to our guest devotional writer today, Kathleen Gibson. I pray you will be blessed. Marcia Laycock
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The slightly grizzled and bow-legged author of multiple Western novels filed none of the rough edges from his words: “If you can’t stand being edited, you’ve got no business being a writer.”

I’d never attended a writing conference before, but I paid attention. So, I noticed, did even the veteran writers. Authors, especially new ones, are sensitive about editing—and that may be the understatement of the century.

In the art of writing—fiction or non—stories are conceived and birthed in the soul as surely and painfully as a child develops and emerges from its mother. Editors’ decisions to cut and rearrange words can make a writer respond as a mother would to a doctor’s suggestion that he cut off a toe or place the ear of her perfect newborn on its elbow instead. Alas, a writer (if he wants to stay published) has no choice but to work through the pain. It diminishes over time.

I recall the final draft an editor returned after my initial article sale to Reader’s Digest. (The king of condensation, remember?) The story had run over five thousand words. It came back about half. My father’s favorite curse (Yawmer Yooks!) seemed far too insipid, though repeated loudly and rapidly it worked. I realized then that if I wanted to continue writing for the Digest (and I did, for several years) I’d need to put both ego and gentle editing aside.

A good editor has one goal—to help move the story forward. But the beguiling temptation of the wordsmith is to ramble, to use far too many words, to wander on, to take the circuitous route. Who, me?

“Sorry, Kathleen, but that’s the brutal nature of my job,” one of my first editors told me when I protested that he’d cut out the best part out of my work. I learned to trust his objectivity. To my surprise, the writing read better post-slash, even with the “best parts” gone.

As a writer of faith, I’ve learned that strong editing assists me in carrying out my mandate—to present to my readers the best possible words in the best possible way, for the best possible effect and the best possible reason—the glory of God.

An effective life too, requires stringent editing. But oh, how we protest the “slashing of the fat” when our Divine editor’s knife trims close to the bone; when he allows the loss of our most beloved life story-lines—a marriage, health, a comfortable lifestyle, a loved one. How we squirm and plead for our own stories back. And how we must learn to be still and pray…

Lord, teach us to hold our lives as loosely as we must learn to hold our words. Trim us for the best possible reason, that your story may shine through us—for your glory alone.

Author Kathleen Gibson lives in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Find her online at www.kathleengibson.ca.

Practice by Practice – A collection of short and timeless writings that will delight, inspire, and inform your faith. More details and purchase (in Canada) at Word Alive Purchase internationally through Amazon.com or other Amazon sites.

Being The Stillness

I’m pleased to bring you another guest blogger for our Sunday devotional. I know you’ll be blessed by Bonnie Grove’s insights. Enjoy. Marcia Laycock

“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Job 2:13 (NIV)

I have sought the comfort of the book of Job many times in my life. In times of personal suffering and loss, God often reminds me how in the midst of Job’s suffering, He came. And in the whirlwind, He answered. Not right away, not in Job’s time, but in His time – the perfect time when Job’s heart could take in the words of healing.

In past years I trained in theology, counseling and psychology. I was on a quest to understand my brokenness, and that of others. I’m still on that quest, though my method has taken another form. I write novels. C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we are not alone.” Something blooms inside of me when I read those words. Something from the aching place rises and calls out its ‘yes and amen’. And in the lonely hours of writing, I remind myself that the effort is worth the opportunity to befriend the reader, to be a voice of assurance that she is not alone. I see myself as the silent companion of the reader. The friend in the silence.

On the surface, it seems a paradox that I use words to achieve the silent friendship readers seek. That it is a story playing out inside the reader’s mind that creates stillness for her. But a good book does just that – creates pools of quiet minutes and hours.

As I write, I’m often reminded of a time when, as a counselor, I was in conversation with a man who was going through a divorce. He spoke for a long time of how his hopes for the future were destroyed. When he finished speaking, I sat in silence, knowing I had no great words of healing. He was silent too, spent from telling his story. Our silence stretched into minutes. Then, the man began to cry. I still said nothing. More minutes passed, and the man said, “That’s the first time I’ve cried since this whole mess started.” Then, surprisingly, he said, “You’ve helped me so much.”

From my perspective, my silence was a result of my limitations as a counselor. But then I remembered Job 2:13, how Job’s friends, who would later make a great mess of things, began so well by sitting in silence with Job for seven days and nights.

When I write, I strive to be one of Job’s friends, sitting silently beside the reader, a compatriot, empathizer, fellow wonderer. I look for places in the story where I can help the reader take a breath and reflect in order to listen to her own silence, and to be better able to sense God’s presence and hear His voice.

This is why I strive to ensure my stories offer no snappy fast answers, no chatty clichés. Because someone will read my novel in order to know she is not alone. Henri Nouwen said, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

I strive to be a friend who cares about the reader – even if I never have the opportunity to meet her.
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Bonnie Grove started writing when her parents bought a spanking new typewriter. She clacked out a very bad romance novel her mother loved, and has been pounding out ever improving prose since then. Her debut novel, Talking to the Dead has received rave reviews from Francine Rivers, Kathleen Popa, Mary De Muth and others.

Of her work, Bonnie says – “All my writing, short stories, novels, non-fiction – the whole shebang – are explorations of God’s grace at work in the world.”
Bonnie is Mom to two young children, Benjamin, and Heather, and happily married to her soul mate Pastor Steve. They live in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Visit Bonnie here – http://www.bonniegrove.com/index.html

Enough Light for the Next Step

Today I’m pleased to introduce another guest devotional columnist, Jane Kirkpatrick. I trust you will be blessed by her words. Marcia Laycock

There is a tree farm in the Columbia River Gorge that always intrigues me. The rows are so perfect and organized. One day the trees will be harvested and made into paper for books. Looking down the rows as one drives along reminds me of those children’s books with little pictures at the bottom of each page that form an active story when rapidly flipped. I pulled over this time when I drove along beside them and there, at the end of the row I saw something I’d often missed speeding along: a bulb of light at the end of the row.

I’m looking for that kind of clarifying light right now. Late last month my husband Jerry had a lacunar stroke.(You can find out more at my blog). Two weeks later, he had a heart attack. Nothing in our world seems straight and organized right now and there seems to be only enough light for the next step.

But that’s what much of writing is about, too: knowing enough to write the next sentence and trusting that more will arrive to fill the pages. One can’t rush too far ahead or one will stumble in the darkness. I can’t afford to look back…the light is right here, in front of me.

Jerry’s doing well and has home services for a time. He’s walking with his walking stick (a gift from a reader in Boise, Idaho, years ago) all the way to the mail box. I’m so glad it isn’t seven miles away as the mailbox at the ranch is! He’s talking well and even made a couple of jokes and we both laughed out loud. What a joyous sound, laughter in the morning.

Many of you are in places in your lives where the light may seem distant and pale. I hope you’ll remember the trees. I didn’t see the glowing globe until I pulled over and stopped. I think I’ll be doing more of that in the months ahead carrying on as I must knowing there is enough light for the next step.
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Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of twenty books, including The Daughter’s Walk. She’s won numerous awards and believes our lives are the stories others read first. She and her husband of 35 years live with two dogs and a cat on small acreage near Bend, Oregon, USA. Her website – www.jkbooks.com.