You’re a Lousy Gift Giver (And So Am I)

by James L. Rubart

This is the season for gift exchanges. But isn’t that an oxymoron? 

  • A gift is something given with no expectation of anything in return.
  • An exchange is when I give you something, you give me something back. 

Confession Time

I’ve had times where I’ve given friends gifts at Christmas and not received one in return and it hurt a bit. You too? Whew. Nice to know I’m not alone.

Jesus had a few thoughts about giving: In Luke 14 he says, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.”

What? I’m not supposed to get something back?

A number of years ago a friend of mine gave a secret scholarship so a writer could attend the Mt Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. She says it’s a treasured memory, primarily because she gave it without any possibility of the person giving anything in return. Hmmm, I think there’s a lesson here.

Dying To Self

When we truly die to self or maybe better said, fully align ourselves with Christ (not not the easiest task) we’re able to give from a full heart with no expectation of what will come back to us. There is such freedom and joy in that! 

An Idea

No matter how long you’ve been on this writing journey, there are people ahead of you. And no matter how short, there are people behind you. So go crazy, and take a moment to tell that person ahead of you how much they have inspired you. That is a significant gift.

Then turn around and take a moment to tell that writer a few paces behind you how you believe in them, and to grab onto hope and never let go. That too is an incredible gift.

Because deep inside, whether we’re a bestseller, or are just starting our first novel, we are an insecure lot who wonder if we matter, wonder if we have worth. And the gift of encouragement we can give each other is worth more than gold.


You’re a Lousy Gift Giver (And So Am I) by James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

I’m not supposed to get something back?~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

Take a moment to tell a person how much they have inspired you~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older
man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and
dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys
they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the
best-selling, Christy BOOK of the YEAR, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award
winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker. During
the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses,
authors, and publishers make much more coin of the realm. He lives with
his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at

Wishing I Could be Jesus

 by Marcia Lee Laycock

I recently attended a funeral for a young man who died too soon, leaving a wife and three young girls. The sadness overwhelms at times and it makes me wish I could be Jesus, especially now, at Christmas time, just for a few minutes, just long enough to say, as He did, “arise.”

But then, I realize that He doesn’t need me to do His work for Him. He has already done it. He has already said that wondrous, mysterious word and brought that young man into His kingdom, given him time to have a productive, full life here on this earth, and then brought Him home, to the place where he has wanted to be, as a believer in Christ.

Often things don’t seem right to us. The world seems off kilter and full of so much pain and suffering it overwhelms us at times. And we want to be Jesus. We want to snap our fingers and make it all better. But He has already been at work. He has a plan for this earth, for each one of us, a plan that goes far beyond what we could ever imagine. He told the Hebrew people that, when they were in circumstances that were full of pain and suffering – their captivity in Babylon. Living as slaves, they no doubt often cried out to God to bring them relief from all the suffering and pain they saw around them.

This was His answer – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Sometimes, in my writing, I try to be Jesus. I try to erase all the pain and sorrow and make the world a better place, a more pleasant place. An admirable purpose, perhaps, but does it serve my readers? Does it serve them to deny the pain that Jesus has allowed in the world? Would it not be better to show how we can all move beyond that pain?

Would it not be better to show them how to look up? Would it not be good to remind them that when we see all those decorated Christmas trees, we should look for the star or the angel on the top, and know Jesus is with us?

Would it not be an encouragement to show them how to look around and see there are others who are struggling, and nudge them to reach out?

Would it not be best to direct them how to look ahead, to know that Jesus has promised a bright future, and given us a way to know we are secure in his hand, even in the worst of times?

Yes, there are times I wish I could be Jesus. And there are times I write as though I am. But then I remember – He is the Messiah, the Living God, our hope and our comfort and we can survive anything with Him at our side. If I strive to portray that reality in my writing I will have done my job well.

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central
Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult
daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award
for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone, was also short
listed for a Word Award. Marcia has three novels for middle grade readers and four
devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work
has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark

most recent release is Christmas, a collection of short stories that will take you from the far reaches of the galaxy to the streets of an inner city and the cold landscape of the far north. In every setting the Christmas Spirit is alive and well. Now available on Amazon in paperback and ebook form.

up to receive her devotional column, The

3 Gifts to Give a Writer for Christmas

by Patty Smith Hall @PattyWrites

The other day, my husband asked me that dreaded question that always pops up this time of year-what do you want for Christmas? That always a difficult question for me to answer as I’m very content with our life and don’t have many wants. Yet, the more I pondered the question, the more I realized that there were a few items on my Christmas list that other writers might appreciate as well.

Time: Life is busy, and it only seems to get busier. When our girls were young, I always thought I’d have more time to write, and I do to a certain extent. But even now that they’re grown with lives of their own, I find myself busy with aging relatives and grandchildren as well as speaking and church obligations. There’s nothing wrong with those things—they are what make life worthwhile. But when the agenda is binge-watching The Walking Dead or The Gilmore Girls, or six hours of football, I get antsy, like I’ve left something undone. Which means I get up at the crack of dawn or stay up passed midnight just to put words to papers. So what can the family of a writer give that would help? A little of their time. Throw in a load of laundry. Make dinner. Run errands. And not just once—make a habit of it. Giving your writer time to write is one of the best presents they’ll ever receive.

Encouragement: When I first started writing, my husband thought of it as my little hobby, something I’d do until I got bored with it. Then he saw me pouring time and money into learning the craft; he came across pieces of paper where I wrote and rewrote segments; he ate dinner alone on those nights I was with my writing group. As I grew as a writer, he became my biggest fan. But that’s not the case with everyone. Some spouses resent the time and money spent writing. I’ve heard horror stories over the years of discouraging family members that break my heart. How painful that must be to that writer’s soul! that b b a writer’s soul! Most writers I know(myself included) are already critical of our writing almost to the point of depression. So to hear someone we love heap hot coals on this area of our lives just makes us feel worse. So this Christmas, try giving the gift of encouragement. It doesn’t have to be much—a simple ‘I’m proud of you’ or I believe you can write that book or article or blog post’ can make all the difference in the world.

Prayer: This may seem silly to some—I mean, why would anyone pray over words being written? Because those words, that manuscript is important to someone you love. The dream of writing is a part of who they are, and their dreams should matter to you. Knowing that my husband prays for me and my writing daily tells me he’s taking an active role in in making my dreams of publication come true. It’s changed his outlook on my writing too. Where once he viewed it as income, he now sees it as my ministry, my calling for this season in my life. And I’ve got to say, I love him all the more for it.

Three simple things you can give that will make your writer more productive and grow your relationship—a Christmas gift to the both of you!


3 Gifts to Give a Writer for Christmas by Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet) 

Giving a writer time to write is one of the best presents~ Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet) 

A Christmas gift to the both of you~ Patty Smith Hall (Click to Tweet) 

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon.

5 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity During Christmas

by Susan May Warren

First, I’ll just admit that I’m a bit of a writing addict.  I LOVE to write, even the rough draft stages and when I get an entire day to write it’s like, well, Christmas.  But I also love my family and just hanging out with them, doing puzzles, making cookies, chatting, laughing…so I love that there are mandatory breaks in my life to pry me away from my stories.  When I am in the middle of writing a book, up against a deadline, I’m so full of excitement it’s difficult to look up.  To eat.  To speak clearly.

But, because of Christmas, my brain gets a chance to breathe.

Letting your brain breathe is essential for creativity.  Even when I’m in the middle of a book, taking a day or two off to look up, get out in some fresh air, have a fun, no-stress conversation with friends can stir up a new perspective in my story, a fresh thematic thread, a undiscovered scene.  Letting my brain breathe also breathes new life into my novel.
So, while I won’t be writing, per say, over Christmas, I’ll still be working….and here’s how.
5 effective ways to breathe new life into your creativity while you let your brain cool off.
1. Get outside. Take a walk, run, go play on a playground…just breathe in the fresh air, the sunshine, listen to the wind, smell the snow/leaves/grass.  Somehow being away from the television, the football game (but TiVo it, because, well…it’s football!), the chatter, even the smells of the kitchen will allow you hear your thoughts.  And it’s these thoughts that will allow your creativity to stir to life.
2. Listen.  Here’s the truth:  I get in trouble when I open my mouth.  So, I force myself to listen.  And not just to the happenings in the family, but the stories of the past, and particularly the details of life in the days of our elders. Listen to the rich tales of the past and let it seed ideas for your novels (especially if you are a historical writer).  Take a few notes, ask a few questions and you’ll be surprised and delighted with the things you learn and the seeds of creativity planted.
3. Read a book. Preferably a novel. I suggest reading outside your genre because it will force you to relax and simply let a great novel nurture your creative side.  Turn off your internal editor and simply enjoy the characters, setting, plot points, even theme.  Even though you are not spending time analyzing it, the elements will sit into your brain like fertilizer, and allow those new ideas to grow.  Hey, it’s Christmas – give yourself the gift of reading!
4. Read your Bible, or some other spiritually nourishing book.  I read Oswald Chambers as well as my Bible every day and the daily nourishment of spiritual truth helps me sort out the focus of my daily tasks and even my novels. But when I have a stretch of time like Christmas break, I take extra time to read something that digs deeper – a longer Bible passage, maybe study the Greek of a verse, or perhaps I’ll read a commentary on a passage. (On my lineup for this year:  Jesus is better than you imagined.  I’m already three chapters in and love it.)  It’s like getting a deep tissue massage of my soul, working out the poisons of life and letting the truth flow.  In our busy worlds, if we don’t take time to feed our spirit, we will end up thirsty, and looking to quench it in quick, even unhealthy ways. Feed your soul now, while you have a moment.
5. Go to church. I’ve had the unique opportunity the past few weeks to attend churches different from my home church.  I love the freshness of a new worship situation – even a different denomination.  Over Thanksgiving, I attended a Lutheran church with my parents and soaked in the reverence the liturgy brings to my worship.  A few weeks before, I attended a fresh young church in the inner city with my daughter, and joined the exuberant praise of the college-age students. Their buoyant joy filled my heart with a new enthusiasm for praise.  Both pastors then offered sermons that gave me story ideas and answers for scenes I was struggling with.  I was able to go home, take notes on what I’d heard, and apply them to my story.  All that “breathing time” finally bore fruit.
I don’t know what your Christmas season includes, but give your brain time to breathe, and you’ll find that you’ll return in the new year ready to tackle those NaNoWriMo edits!
Merry Christmas!
Susie May
Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale,BarbourSteeple HillSummerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: Contact her at: