Monday, November 30, 2015

Stop, Drop, and Pray! A Writer’s Prayer Life By Karen Wingate

Welcome Karen Wingate, a Hartline author:
--Karen Wingate came to the Hartline family with a solid writing background in Christian education curriculum and with over 200 magazine article credits.  She writes historical fiction and has just completed her third yet-to-be-published novel.  Karen teaches several women’s bible studies and directs the Women’s ministry at her local church. You can read her blog at

True confession. I need Jesus. I need His guidance in all I do, all the time. That includes my writing life. Especially my writing life.

If my aim is to represent Him through the ideas and stories I share with my audience, then I need His partnership to do the best I can.  On my own, I’ll mess it up.  Pride, self-gratification, ambition, fatigue, infatuation with my own cleverness, and twisted thinking all threaten to neutralize my message.

Jesus used the imagery of a master and his steward to illustrate our relationship with God.  Everything belongs to Him.  The earth is his and all that is in it.  That includes our skills and spiritual gifts, particularly my ability to arrange words on a computer screen.  It only makes sense that I would confer with the owner about how to manage and utilize His resources or go to him when issues arise that threaten my productivity.

If my goal is to write the truth about God and about the transformation available through His Son, the Lord cares very much how I present Him.  He is more than available to help me.  He wants to make available the resources of heaven.  He doesn’t mind discussing the smallest detail about my writing.  He cares about the relationships, encounters, and obstacles I experience en route to my writing destination.

My memos to Him about my press releases about Him is summed up in one word: prayer.

I think we would all acquiesce that prayer should be an integral part of a Christian writer’s life.  With heads bowed, we would probably agree that we could surrender a lot more of our writing life to Him.  How?  Beyond panicked pleas to help me finish this manuscript before my deadline and please oh please send me a contract, how can we pray specifically for our writing life?

Here are a few bullet points for your prayer log. I invite you to add more.

Pray for yourself. Pray that God will order your day and smooth your path. Pray that your words will represent Him accurately, that you will speak truth in love. Pray that He will help you discover deeper truths about Himself through your writing process. Pray for the courage to say the hard things. Pray for protection from the Evil One when you must write about topics contrary to the world’s ways.

Pray for the little things. Pray over tangled sentences, clumsy dialogues, and elusive research facts.  We pray for missing car keys and convenient parking spots; why not pray that God help us find that research tidbit we’ve been searching for?  Pray for your connections with potential interviews. When one doesn’t work out, accept that God knows the right timing or knows someone better for you to talk to.

Pray for your audience. Pray that your words will connect with their life experience in a way that will renew and deepen their relationship with God.

Pray for other writers.  Pray the same things you would for yourself.  Pray for the life issues that distract them from their writing. Contrary to popular belief, writing is not a solitary activity.  We are all part of a team, reaching toward a common goal.  We are part of a body and each of us has a function.  We need to lift each other up, guard each other’s backs, pray over the challenges fellow writers face, and rejoice when one of us breaks out in front. It doesn’t matter which of us gets the limelight, only that together we reach the mutual goal of shining the limelight on our Lord.

Pray for your agent and editors. Pray that God give them wisdom in knowing which manuscripts to move forward and which will advance the cause of Christ best at this moment, even if it is not your own.  Pray that God will give you an inside look at their lives so you know how to pray more effectively for them.  Then do a lot of listening.  Through connections I had at a writer’s conference, I discovered one editor works with a junior high youth group, another is still suffering pain from a shoulder surgery a year ago, and yet another is juggling editorial responsibilities with her first pregnancy.  That gives me a lot to pray about!

Let others pray for you.  We have critique partners, why not prayer partners? Find someone who will pray for you and with you.  It doesn’t have to be a fellow writer.  It does help if it is someone who shares your passion for ministry.  Over the years I’ve had an email team of seven prayer warriors.  When I’m working on a difficult topic or had a bad night’s sleep on a deadline week, I shoot an email to my team, knowing they’ll bend their knees before the Father in my behalf.

I’m excited. Imagine what might happen if all the clients and agents at Hartline intensified their prayer efforts over the next year.  Imagine how the Kingdom of God could be advanced through our written words fueled by the Father’s power and partnership.

Let’s make it happen!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Our Part in the Story by Jim Hart

Note: This blog post has been re-purposed from last year. But now that Thanksgiving has given way to Black Friday, I thought it would ok, and appropriate, to share these thoughts again as we transition full-blast into the Christmas Season.

There aren’t many stories that are more powerful, more repeated, and more wonderful than the story of Christmas. As a musician, I’m in awe of the number of songs that this single story has generated for centuries. One of my favorite Christmas carols over the past couple of years has been “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen”. For a song that had its beginnings in 15th century Europe, it has found new meaning for me.

It’s the line “let nothing you dismay” that really gets my attention. Because it’s easy to be dismayed this time of year. The demands on our time to shop, decorate the house, and make it to an endless number of parties; the materialism; and the oft reported ‘war on Christmas’. All of this can overshadow the actual Christmas story, which is, as the song tells us, “for Jesus Christ our Savior was born upon this day”. The truth of that one line fulfilled dozens of prophecies in God’s great Story.
So I’ve made it my purpose this year not to let myself become dismayed and distracted from that real story of Christmas. Yup, my head is in the sand until December 26.

The Christmas story is the model for story telling - there’s danger, loneliness, mystery, intrigue, love, surprises, disappointment, a journey, the birth of a king, and joy. Great joy. I want to focus on the Story of Christmas, not the season of Christmas, if that makes sense. Because the deeper, true meaning of the Story is uncovered when we sing “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray”. And now the Christmas story contains more miracles, more heartache, more treachery, more admonishment to seek the king’s true kingdom, more mercy, more grace, more humility, more joy, more Jesus. And we have been invited to be active participants in this Story.

An even older text, Ephesians 6:12, reminds us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” The war on Christmas is not really waged in courtrooms, boardrooms, and on cable TV news. The war front is our mind and it’s a battle for the heart.

But a good story, a true story, can stir in our heart, provoke emotions and direct our beliefs like few other forces can. Stories are a direct line to the heart.

This Christmas, don't let the controversies alarm you, and the fast-pace distract you, from the Story. Don't fixate on whether or not your cashier at the grocery store is allowed to say "merry Christmas".  It doesn't stop you from saying “merry Christmas”. And don't waste energy fretting about the towns that may or may not be allowed to put baby Jesus on public or government land. Jesus tell us in John 15:18 that “if the word hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”

So now, the loudest part of the song for me comes when singing “to save us all from Satan’s power”. Because I know that somewhere else in the Story (1 John 3:8) it saysThe reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Can I get an ‘amen’!

So what’s your part in telling, and re-telling, this Story? For those of us who continue to wrestle, who have had the Christ child touch, and enter, our heart; who serve the King with all of our heart, mind and strength; and who long to tell His Story – we begin by singing out loud “Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and Joy! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!”

That’s our part in the Story.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things by Diana Flegal

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I love all things about this holiday. Gathering with family and friends, great food, and great FOOTBALL! Seriously, can it get any better? Wait- and then there are LEFTOVERS!!

Although this year will be different than many of the others I have known, it will be spent with great friends, eating good food, and watching FOOTBALL! 

And my contribution to the meal will be my baked corn casserole dish. I thought I'd share my recipe with you. There are many versions circulating now, but I stick to this tested and beloved one. Do not count carbs or calories tomorrow. Enjoy and recoup the next week.

Diana’s Baked Corn 

One stick of butter – melted in 2 quart casserole dish 

Add 6 oz’s of sour cream and one box of Jiffy corn muffin mix to melted butter  

Mix well 

Add one can of creamed corn and one can of sweet corn (do not drain) 

Mix again 

OPTION: add one small can of green chilies 

Pour batter into lightly oiled casserole dish. Bake at 350°F for 55 to 60 minutes.

And in case you are asking, "Any new recipes for those leftovers Diana?"

These Hot Brown's are really terrific. Open faced hot turkey sandwich with cheese gravy and crispy bacon...what's not to love?

I pray, no matter what personal challenges you face, your heart is full to overflowing as you list the things you can be thankful for.  

Happy Thanksgiving ya'll!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful for Ctrl+H by Andy Scheer

I appreciate this versatile shortcut.

This season, it’s easy to think of the usual, big reasons to give thanks.

But the past few weeks as I’ve worked to edit a massive, multipart project, I’ve had many opportunities to appreciate one feature of Microsoft Word.

Because a few of my colleagues on this have worked more as writers than editors, they weren’t familiar with some of Word’s keyboard shortcuts. Of the dozen or shortcuts I listed for them, the one they find most useful for editing is Find & Replace.

If you’re trying to revise a manuscript without it, you’re likely doing some tasks the hard way.

Simultaneously keying Crtl and H opens a world of possibilities for making selective or global changes.

Do you sometimes enter two spaces between sentences? That’s easy to fix. Go to the Find what box and enter two spaces. In the Replace with box, enter one space. Then click Replace all. You’ll even get a tally of how many instances were changed.

In many documents I edit, authors sometimes use the Tab key for paragraph indents. But tabs typically don’t work with typesetting programs. They need to be deleted. Fortunately, there’s no need to remove them manually. Find/Replace has an easy answer. In Find what enter ^t (the carat symbol appears over the number 6). In Replace with, enter nothing. Click Replace all, and all those unwanted tabs disappear.

Do you sometimes capitalize a word that should be lowercase? By clicking the More box, you’ll get a list of options that can enable you direct Word to replace all uppercase instances of that term with lowercase, such as biblical instead of Biblical.

Years ago at a conference, novelist Angela Hunt suggested using this case-sensitive feature to identify words you know you overuse. If you too often type was instead of a stronger verb construction, she suggested using the Replace all feature to change each instance of was to WAS. As you review the draft, they’ll instantly scream for your attention.

But in some instances, Find next is your better choice. My current client wants to refer to places where the ministry operates as centers, not projects. I was tempted to automatically replace each instance. Then I encountered one document that spoke of the center having just purchased a projector. Having made the change globally, I found a reference in the text to a centeror. Fortunately, that got flagged by the automatic spell-check feature. But that’s another topic for another day.

Monday, November 23, 2015

There, they’re, their. You’re and your. By Linda S. Glaz

Ah, yes. These words have been thorns in author—editors’ sides forever. We see blog posts on them, FB posts on them, and they lead as the greatest pet peeve in most every set of writing tips. They all boil down to one main thing. The individual has not proofread their work sufficiently.

In our rush when someone wants to look at our work, we tend to hurry through the most important process: proofing our work. Anyone can put down words and tell a story, but not everyone can make it shine.

We justify the rushed job by saying the agent or editors wants to see it now. They won’t wait. They might take someone else’s project. And all of these are possibilities. But I would rather someone made me wait than to receive their work done in a haphazard manner.

We write. We rewrite. And then we write again until the product is the absolute best that it can be. It should be. 

As Christian authors our goal can nothing less than our best. Otherwise, we give a poor example to the world of what is possible. And of what we expect of ourselves. And of our true calling. Are we writing to draw others to Christ? Are we writing to make buckets of money? Are we writing to tell stories and entertain people? All reasons should receive the same, meticulous care.

Do your best. If it isn’t the absolute best writing, then address it again. And again. And again. And again, until it is.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Words and Peace by Jim Hart

I read a blog this week that asked the question Can Books Counter Terrorism?
It’s definitely food for thought. Is the written word so powerful that it could really counter terrorism? 

It depends on the words.

As Christ followers we believe that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

In the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris the world is looking for answers and a plan of action to stand against this growing threat. This week there have been many words, written and spoken, with passion, anger, sorrow and a whole range of emotions. I’m reminded of Mark Heard’s song from 1982, Everybody Loves a Holy War and Bruce Cockburn’s 1981 song Justice.  Although both songs are a bit ‘preachy’, and not very subtle, they still, decades later, represent a certain sentiment, that even if not spoken out loud, we still repeat in our hearts.

I read a number of quotes this week that declare Christianity is the enemy of Islam. Violent words about infidels and death. And yet, despite the very real and deadly persecution of Christians at the hands of Muslims, stories abound of Jesus appearing in dreams and visions to Muslims to let them know who He is and how greatly He loves them.


It makes 2 Peter 3:9 so real and so relevant: He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” If this is Christ’s attitude, and since we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), then this should be our position as well. I was also reminded of this verse: "Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. (Ezekiel 18:23 NLT)

As writers who have surrendered life and talent to Jesus, remember that there is power in the words that you write, both non-fiction and fiction. Ask the Lord to guide your words. Maybe your words will, in some way, speak life and love to hearts lost in hatred and fear.

The blog I read a few days ago ended with these words: “Books are great at helping people learn how to improve their lives and to live a more fulfilling life.  We now have to call upon our best authors to dedicate themselves to leading us to peace.  It won’t be easy.  Every president and military general of every land of every era has failed us when it comes to bringing about a lasting peace.” (Can Books Counter Terrorism?)

Let’s end this blog with the only Word that is capable of bringing about a lasting peace:

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. (Colossians 1:6 NLT)