July 25, 2014

Living in the Nature Poem | Now on Kindle! | Hiraeth Press

[Some of you have asked if my print book of poetry published by the environmental publisher, Hiraeth Press, would ever be released as an e-book too. Just happened! Hallelujah!]

Living in the Nature Poem | Now on Kindle! | Hiraeth Press


July 21, 2014

Ways to promote church unity

Almost a month ago, I posed a question, which began a lively discussion that needs to be more than just highlighted on the Christian Poets & Writers blog. The insightful comments of many members of our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook need to be retained for future recollection and ongoing inspiration and also passed on to Bible teachers, pastors, clerics, and other leaders in the church Body of Christ. May these words continue to be a blessing in Jesus’ Name.

QUESTION: In what ways can we promote church unity? To clarify: Unity does NOT mean uniform! We're not meant to be exactly alike, but to be part of the one Body of Christ. So, maybe the real question is: How can we help each other and our readers to see this Oneness and the power it brings to bear in Jesus' Name?

Brian: Meeting other Christians, working together on a project, forming natural relationships is a start. Reaching out may be needed, and we all need prayer support from friends.

Tracy: Yes! Coming to the understanding that, like our physical bodies, the body of Christ consists of many members with different functions. All serve an important purpose. And all rely on each other's gifts and purpose in order to function at the fullness of God's Will for His body! (1 Cor. 12)

Christine: As one pastor I had said, "Keep the main thing the main thing." Don't major on the minors.

Valerie: I see it as God is a God of unity and regular prayer taps us into the heartbeat of encouragement and exhortation Christ exemplified when on earth. We set aside TIME for prayer so we can better reflect His nature. We are often too busy to do this and as a result a critical spirit can wedge into our outlook.

Susan: Oneness is shown by patience (for difficult ones or seekers), acceptance (for those with a different viewpoint), joy in the success of others, sorrow in their pain, and gentle words at all times.

Mary: What wonderful responses! Christine, your comment would make a good motto. Valerie and Susan, you describe being a Christian! Yes! If we would BE like Christ, we wouldn't need to focus on coming together as one Body. It would just happen.

Nellie: It all comes back to love. That is the greatest command. The denomination doesn't matter; through love we recognize the spirit in others. Tolerance is necessary if we are to pull together in the name of Jesus Christ. We all believe in the resurrection and that God loved us first. Everything else is minor.

Dawn: Respecting each other's right to share a point of view, whether we agree with it or not.... We come together as the body of Christ with different gifts, talents, backgrounds, and cultures. Instead of dismissing someone who doesn't believe exactly the way we believe, (we can) be willing and open to hear them out. They might have something valuable to share that we never thought of; diversity is healthy.

Jean: We have a monthly meeting here with up to 12 church bodies represented. It's great to listen to different speakers share their testimonies, have ministry time, and then eat together!

Kathy: I find the three circles help. In the innermost circle are those tenets that are absolutely essential to Christianity. Without them, there can be no true unity because without them we are not one in Christ. In the second circle are traditions that are not essential to salvation but are sufficiently disparate that folks from one tradition would be uncomfortable with folks of another. And then there are the things in the third circle, which ironically often cause the greatest disputes among believers but have no bearing whatsoever on the essentials of the faith such as music styles or the color of the carpet. The things of the first circle I must insist on for fellowship (not for friendship or acquaintance - those are different.) All the rest I can let go.

David: While each of us is different, we should pray and allow the Holy Spirit to use those unique gifts and talents in such a way that when people see us or read our words, they see Jesus. Getting people to agree with me is unimportant. Getting people to become my brothers and sisters, that is important (1 John 4:7,8.)

Mary: Amen, amen, and amen to all of your responses!

Linda: Have an artists’ showcase and invite all to sing, play, dance, read, and show their art work!

David: Lack of love can destroy this in the church. Yet it's more than what we call love that's central. It's how God created us and being obedient to that. There are lots of theological things I could say, but even they aren't worth as much as (the fact that) God made each of us in a particular manner. To snub someone who isn't like us is snubbing Jesus, because they really don't get it. God is love (1 John 4:8.) How can any person be like Him perfectly, even though we are commanded to? We can't. We can only approach that as each of us allows God to manifest Himself in us in our uniqueness. Sure there are certain absolutes, but that's only part of it.

Michele: Simplest way to keep unity in Christ: emulate Jesus in humility, yet be bold in faith in Him. We can encourage unity by reaching out and letting others into our comfortable circle. I think some are afraid or uncomfortable with our differences and don't know how to be peaceable and kind to all brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul exhorts us to embrace and support others' spiritual gifts. What are yours? (1 Corinthians 12) A spiritual gift will always glorify the Lord, never ourselves.

David: Michele, I agree. What I have a problem with is when some people say they are emulating Jesus and are not.

Christopher: Weekly community-wide prayer groups with local pastors is a great way to start. If the pastors become united, it gives their people an easy doorway to walk through for greater unity.

Mary: Excellent ideas! Christopher, your response reminds us to ask our pastors their thoughts on this and pray for all pastors too.

Matt: We must stop the "other churches" mentality. We are all the church and ought to spend time with each other and support one another… uplift each other, not tear down or pick apart doctrine.

Mary: Matt, when you put it like that, I realize, there are no other churches! WE ARE the church, and each of us is part of the Body of Christ. The more I take that metaphor literally, the more I get the larger picture. (Eph. 3:6)

Brian: But are we all "the ekklesia"? I wish we all were, but some sects/ groups deny the fundamentals of our faith. Do we need some clear thinking to avoid unity at any cost?

Mary: Brian, the point is not agreeing any more than I need my right hand to agree with my left. The idea is to realize we all have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so we're all part of the Body of Christ. Taking that literally helped me to understand how we can be together and work together even though we have very different perspectives.

David: The apostle Paul stated, "We preach Christ, and Christ crucified," (1 Cor. 1:23.) He later went on to explain that he preached that because Jesus rose from the dead. I'm fairly certain if you stick to this and leave your heart open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit there will be unity.

Mary: Yes! My devotional reading this morning focused on Romans 8:1, "Therefore, there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." So if we're IN Christ Jesus, we have Who and what's most important in common. Now to get that message across in our poems and other writings! May God heal and guide.

Jaime: I agree. That is also my thought. Sometimes we look at minor doctrinal differences and forget that Jesus is still Jesus, and if churches and people are preaching the gospel all the rest is our personal interpretations, and we as humans are not inerrant. What matters is Jesus.

Gerald: AMEN!

David: Jaime, you understood what I meant, but I guess that's the point. You DO NOT have to get what I mean, but we should all strive to understand what God means, and often that's different for all of us.

Jaime: To be honest David I didn't even read your comment. What I do know is the Bible is a living word, which means that certain scriptures speak to our hearts at one point in our lives (but) may speak something different later.

Laura: The fruits of the spirit and the definition of love develop us in a way that allows us to make allowances for others. (Gal. 5:22-23)

Mary: Amen! May God fill us with love until we spill it everywhere!

John: The stronger our relationship is with the Lord the more we become like him and the more we walk in the unity of the Spirit. We become one – One body, One spirit, One mind.

Mary: Yes, true, and amen! Thanks, John.

Stony: The Holy Spirit initiated this. This is exactly what I was pondering deeply on before coming on Facebook to see this!

David: Welcome, Stony. Jamie, isn't that neat that you could reply to my message before even reading it? This is the Holy Spirit working through us – making us ONE. And you are absolutely correct. You can read a passage of Scripture, and it says one thing to us, but when we read it later on it says something different. It is the LIVING Word of God, not something stagnant with only one understanding. (Heb. 4:12)

Lillian: I think we all need to be more accepting of others. More mercy – less judgment!

Stony: You are right, Lillian. We are so quick to call other preachers false teachers and heretics even when our theologies are not so far off. I have a dream for the unity of the body of Christ for only then will we have another awakening.

Mary: Oh, I'm so glad to see your comments, Lillian and Stony. May the love and mercy of Christ abound in us and bring unity in Jesus' Name.

Jeannie: I think my latest post is going in that direction, Mary. Being a people without division, we LOVE! If we are IN Christ, our denomination is not important. It is the choice we make to love the Lord and our neighbor!

David: In Matthew 25 Jesus is the one who separates, and He does so on this premise, "For whatsoever you do to the least of these My brethren, you do so unto Me." If that brother or sister needs your help, would you help them? If Jesus asked to stay at your home, would you let Him? If a brother or sister has asked, and you are able, then Jesus has already asked.

TR: Not having this all worked out, I am supposing Ephesians 4:3-6 would give us an outline of what is needed or helpful for unity: “(Be) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Some of the difficult parts are identified in the phrase, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." These three are where many differences exist. Christendom has many different ideas of who the Lord Jesus is, many different confessions of the faith, and a handful of different baptisms. Lacking unity in those three areas, general unity becomes something of a challenge. This suggests that to advance towards unity, we need conversations about these three things.

Linda: The lyrics (of “The Church’s One Foundation”) started playing in my head: "her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses…." Indeed we are all part of the body of Christ, we are not eyelashes all or fingernails or the heart. Each of these parts works together in unison with the others and usually doesn't war with the other parts (although there are exceptions on occasion.) Often it is too easy to look at another part and not appreciate its role in the body, but if we acknowledge the Head, it becomes an easier task. So, when I encounter a body part I don't understand, I try to take a step back, and appreciate the function, but more importantly who that part works for: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Col. 1:18)

Mary: I love these responses! Are any of you blogging on what we can do to heal the Body of Christ? If so, let me know. Those posts will certainly need highlighting on the Christian Poets & Writers blog.

Jean: In the words of Jesus: LOVE. Live a life of loving Christ foremost, then loving each other. Genuine, Christ-like love is the answer. (John 13:34-35)

Patti: Love one another as Jesus loves us. (John 15:12) And be ye kind ‘cause it's just not all about YOU or ME! And now, let's all go out for ice cream and share!

Mary: Actually, Patti, that might be the place to start! Eating together brings us together, and I'm sure Jesus enjoys the laughter and levity that usually accompanies ice cream.

Mamie: We all have different gifts and talents, and of course, we all can't be alike. So, I have to say what the Word says concerning oneness: "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12)

David: Instead of denominations I think of the church as family. At my boyhood home I would always use the side door to come in. I still do when I visit my parents. Why? Because I'm family. There have been a few churches that I felt the same way when I walked in. Yeah, praise God, it's family.

Cherrilynn: Promote Unity by agreeing to disagree on the non-essentials. Hold fast to the unchangeable truth that Jesus is God, was born of a virgin, died on the cross for sin, and now sits at the right hand of God. Salvation by Grace alone…. I am not a Theologian, but I believe you understand what I am saying. Maybe someone else could word it better.

Mary: Actually, Cherrilynn, you not only said it just fine, you came to the same conclusions the major denominations have voiced!

David: If you want to find out what Jesus' will for us is, read His prayer in John 17. We've been settling for scraps when God has a 7-course meal prepared for us.

Cherrilynn: David, I love that passage: "Sanctify us with the Truth; the Word is Truth," (John 17:17.)

David: Yes, and Jesus is that Living Word. He is that Truth. I also like what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2. The Jews were a people of the promise, but we were separated by the written Law. In Christ's death God broke down the wall of separation and made the two one. Isn't this what we're talking about?

Bill: I had forgotten you had posed this question and just happened to write about the same issue just this morning. I think we often forget that, without love, our opinions on other matters are annoying at best.

Anne: Church unity is promoted by us working through the very things that could divide. It is seeing Him (Christ) bigger than the differences that pepper our lives. (Ephesians 4) Church unity is accomplished when Christ is bigger than everything else. When our eyes are on the Master, the wind and waves are irrelevant as He reminds us He is over even them.

Mary: Oh, I pray each one of you lets your response flow into a poem, an article, a book, a Post-A-Note…! Also, I want to thank you and praise God for letting these good words on unity in Christ flow into this blog post. May the blessing continue in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, author of the Christian Writer's Guide e-book, and founder of the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook

[Note: Bible references were researched and cited through Bible Gateway.]

July 11, 2014

The good about getting older

What’s good about getting older? More than you might suspect! For starters, you can:

• Call almost everyone “Honey.”

• Give a teenager a quick hug without being weird.

• Be somewhat eccentric (as long as you know the date, your name, and the name of the current President.)

• Focus on things you always wanted to do but thought you first had to have a highly justifiable reason.

• Say “no” to projects that drive you up a wall.

• Dress for comfort (as long as you remember to comb your hair in the back and avoid smelling funky.)

• Write your memoirs for your family members while you still remember the time, place, and who your family members even are.

• Know your “life themes” and write about them.

• Ride the roller coaster of deep despair and high thrills by sending your poems and manuscripts to traditional publishing companies you've taken the time to research.

• Make up new words when “real ones” don’t come to you.

• Be glad your sweat no longer contains the small stuff.

• Recognize malarkey, hogwash, balderdash, and drivel when you hear it.

• Comment on the above with the experience and humor to back you up.

• Throw yourself into loving and being loved, thereby ensuring a throng at the memorial service in your honor.

• Say “I am who I am” and be happy with that, knowing God is The Great I Am, Who made you as you are.

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem and the Bible-based poetry book, Outside Eden,

July 5, 2014

Knowing what and when to write

Most writers wonder where or how to start when they first begin to write, but seasoned writers also have difficulty discerning which subject or story idea to focus on next. Assuming you have prayed for God’s guidance, just begin with whatever God brings to your mind. For example:

• Make a list of the Bible verses that speak to you often.

• Consider your Life Themes such as encouraging people or ministering healing to the church.

• Keep a diary, notebook, scrapbook, or journal.

• Practice journaling in a written conversation with God.

• List stories in your life that might make illustrative works of fiction.

• Start an "Idea Folder" on your favorite topics, interests, and places you would like to go.

• Jot down dreams, thoughts, and insights that come to you on awakening.

• Write down every idea God brings to mind for a story, article, or book.

If an idea or subject comes up again and again, prayerfully consider this as the start of a writing project, then let your imagination play. Have fun with the possibilities. Get comfy. Relax. Focus on a central topic or story idea, then let your thoughts flow. Write down everything that comes to mind without censoring yourself or eliminating any possibilities at this point. Later, you can cut or insert words as you revise.

Why wait? Writing and editing involve two separate tasks and actually use two different parts of the brain. By separating those aspects of your work into different time slots, you’ll avoid short-circuiting yourself!

Writing takes time. Revising takes time. So you might be wondering what you’ll do when you have no time to spare. Simple! Use snatches. A minute here or a half-hour there, waiting around for something, can offer writing moments you might not have realized were yours. For example, consider how “Tweeting” in 140 characters sounds inconsequential, but spending only a few minutes a day on Twitter for four years gave me 147 single-spaced, typewritten pages!

Although a well-written manuscript consists of more than tweets, notes, and fleeting thoughts, a little time at the beginning of a writing project can save you all sorts of time (and grief!) as you proceed. For example, almost every type of writing needs an underlying theme and purpose with an appropriate audience in mind. A favorite Bible verse can provide that theme, perhaps, with the purpose of helping to increase a reader’s faith in God, Christ, the church, love, forgiveness, or biblical principle such as this important word for Christian poets and writers:

“Wear steadfast love, kindness, and truth around your neck. Write them on your heart, and you will have a good reputation with God and with people too. Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on what you think you know. Remember God in everything you do, and the Lord will show you the way,” Proverbs 3:3-6

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. This above post is an excerpt from the Christian Writer's Guide e-book.

Christian Writer's Guide, Kindle e-book on Amazon

June 25, 2014

Time in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry

• Let a narrative poem, true story, novel, or short story unfold according to its time sequence.

• Avoid flashbacks or use sparingly.

• Avoid distractions or unnecessary interruptions.

• Let time flow.

• In nonfiction, arrange each point chronologically, sequentially, or logically in the natural order of development.

• Make your points then move along from one point of interest to another.


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler - poet-author of 26 traditionally published books in all genres, and a lifelong lover of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the church - wrote the Christian Writers' Guide e-book with you in mind.


June 21, 2014

Breaking the Good News to your readers

Television news and articles on the Internet often give the impression that no good news exists! We constantly hear about failures and falls – the fall of meteorites, the fall of the economy, the fall of politicians, pastors, past heroes, and church membership – all of which can be expected in a fallen world. But here’s the Good News! Christ rescues and forgives. Christ saves.

As Christians, we ARE the Body of Christ on earth, which means, of course, we CAN make a difference! How? Through empowerment by the Holy Spirit and the power of the pen, pencil, print, and Internet….

I’ll be eager to hear your suggestions about this in the Comments section below. Meanwhile, these starters come to mind:


Get comfortable. Get quiet. Pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Empty your thoughts. Quiet your mind. Give God a chance to speak to you. How? However, God chooses! Often this will be an impression, inspired thought, or sudden recollection of a word from the Bible that seems especially relevant and timely.

Observe. Notice. Use your good senses!

For example, notice your own reactions to people, ads, news, sermons, events. What troubles you? Do you feel grieved, as I do, when you hear someone bad-mouth God, Christ, Christianity, and the church? Do you wonder, as I do, what Jesus thinks of the bickering and “gang rivalry” that occurs among Christians and various denominations? Do you hear about problems but know of biblical solutions you can address in a poem, article, book, or Bible story retold in a fresh but accurate way?


To whom do you intend to speak? If children, are you drawn to a particular age group? If adults, do you feel a stronger connection with young people, middle-aged readers, retirees, or elderly persons? Do you interact with those prospective readers often enough to know what’s on their minds, on their plates, or under their feet?


When you know who your readers will be, think about a topic or theme you want to discuss that will most likely interest them. Then sharpen your focus as you identify your writing goal or purpose. i.e., What do you hope your poem, fiction, or nonfiction will accomplish? Do you want to encourage faith? Do you see yourself as an evangelizer whose writings can coax non-Christians to Christ? Do you hope to help heal rifts and misunderstandings in the Body of Christ? How would you go about each of those goals?


• In what ways will the Kingdom of God and Will of God attract your readers?

• In what ways would you like for the church to adapt to our changing culture but not lose the power of the Gospel message?

• In what ways can you encourage readers to take the first command in Genesis 1:28 as God's word to protect the environment?

• In what ways can you encourage readers to take the “wreck” out of recreation and put godly acts into action?

• In what way can your writing show true love for God, other Christians, and “those people” we don’t relate to or even like?

• In what winsome ways can all of us accurately, intelligently, empathetically, lovingly, and prayerfully break the good Good News to our readers?


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler - poet-author of 26 traditionally published books in all genres, and a lifelong lover of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the church Body of Christ in all its parts - wrote the Christian Writer's Guide e-book with you and the above thoughts in mind.


June 12, 2014

Ministry of Christian poets and writers

Wondering how the members of our Christian Poets and Writers group on Facebook saw their writing ministries, I recently asked:

In what ways do you hope your writing will help to draw others to Christ, up-build the church, and strength faith?

Adeline: I believe people respond to writers who are real and authentic – honest about our struggles and how God reveals himself to us in the midst of good and tough times. My desire is for my life and my writing to be congruent – nothing more and nothing less.

Brian: Many of my poems center on Christian truth. There can be a kind of prophetic dimension to poems that comfort, challenge, inform, and edify.

Christine: I hope others will be able to see and say, "Wow, she can relate to me. God does love me and want the best for me. I'm not perfect, but I am the apple of His eye, and there is hope."

Anne: I hope my writing will give others hope. I want those who hurt to know God cares. And for those who feel alone, I want them to know God is with them, even though they only hear silence.

Gregory: (I want to) empower and equip others to live out their unique, God-given destiny!

Kristen: I write for children 9 to 14. I want them to realize our God can be relied upon and even children can make a difference.

Me: What a joy to see so many ways of expressing God's love! Like Adeline, I believe people respond well to honesty, and the Bible itself shows this to be true. Except for Christ, every Bible story shows flawed people, whom God still chose, forgave, and blessed, so I want my writing to be real and help readers to get real with themselves and God. My primary goals, however, are to encourage loving interactions among Christians, up-build the church Body of Christ, and draw people into reading the Bible.

Rali: My desire is to see my readers inspired to live fulfilled, empowered, and victorious lives in Christ – that they know and walk in God's plan for their lives.

Paul: (I want to give) examples from real life that show our past errors can point us to Christ, who offers grace and new beginnings. Writing that offers hope in spite of the past draws attention away from the sin and toward His forgiveness. I'm not sure I've accomplished that yet, but every day gives new opportunities. I like blank pages.

Barbara: I hope and pray my recent book will break down some prejudices and stereotypes. I wrote it to tell a story but was also keenly aware of the fact that I was to approach a certain topic with accurate facts and an open mind. So far the response to the book has been positive.

Marie: I hope my writing will bring encouragement and hope to many people! I also pray for my readers, wherever they are, that God will bring glory to His name through my poetry.

Fran: I hope my book about seeing God in everyday experiences will bring others closer to God through my easy-to-understand poems and devotions. I also hope people will be encouraged to know my first book was published a month after my 80th birthday.

Jeannie: I hope my writing will inspire others to trust God and create a deeper hunger for His Word by sharing real life examples of what He is doing in my heart. His Word is greater than gold, achieving things for us money cannot buy. I hope my writing will show His greatness.

Norma: I believe Christian fiction is a terrific tool for leading people to Christ and discipling believers. It provides a non-confrontational format to show how believers live and how their lives differ from the world around them. I hope my characters will be identified with and will lead others to see the need for Christ in their own lives.

Stacey: All I hope my writing does is show people God/Jesus' love and desire for them and to glorify Him in all things, working for the advancement of the Kingdom.

Rebecca: By writing the truth, especially within the genre of fiction, I hope my readers will gasp and see the a-ha.

Carole: I pray the Lord will use my writings to draw people unto Himself, to realize their need for Him in their lives. I pray this with all my heart, and I thank Him for the opportunity He has given me to do so. Jeremiah 31: 1, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,” NKJV.

Patti: I write for a Christian newspaper and hope people can identify with my being real, humorous, in love with God and His church. Having my stories and poems in books and magazines 20 years ago was all about "me,” and that byline was fun! But God changed my heart around and made it all about HIM, and there the difference made a mark on my heart.

Dawn: Speak the Truth in Love. (Ephesians 4:15) Encourage and build up others. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Correct and instruct the body of Christ. (2 Timothy 4:2) Teach and train in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Brayden: I pray people realize that the way the world handles problems is not necessarily how God wanted us to handle problems. I pray that people would see that He is very much concerned with every facet of our lives and that when we follow His ways, the outcome is so much better than what we could ever expect. The situation may never change, but our hearts and attitudes do.

Elizabeth: I want my writing to point to spiritual truths in a way that catches people by surprise. Many of my poems contain symbols of spiritual truth and/ or are somewhat allegorical. I love to create an image that has greater meaning than what appears on the surface.

Terry: No matter what I am writing about, I always try to have a clear presentation of the gospel somewhere in the book. It is always my prayer that someone will be saved as a result.

Susan: Taking C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to heart, I write to feed the religious imaginations of readers through fantastical-whimsical-spiritual stories. It is a first step to belief for the secular-minded and pure fun for the believer, who will recognize Christian themes and allusions.

Susan P: Some of my poetry has me crying as I am writing it as I know the Holy Spirit is healing me through every word I write. He inspires.

Joy: My default mode seems to be to write vulnerable, open, and honest in the hope that other wounded souls will see that they are not alone. And I hope and pray readers may be blessed by hearing how being in relationship with God makes all the difference in the world in coping with life's trials. I aim to encourage fellow believers in their faith and point to the One who gives me daily grace and strength to live and write for His glory. I'm tremendously encouraged by Fran's admission here about the age she achieved being a published author! As I'm approaching my 60th birthday, I was beginning to feel time was running out to achieve publishing my own poetry anthology and/or a devotional book/ memoir. But her words have given me fresh hope that God isn't finished with me yet, and it can still happen within His perfect timing. I love how we can inspire one another here!

Keren: Poetry for me, like Susan, feels like a release which I hope others can share, mystical stories I hope others can glimpse something of the nature of transformational love, but with my theology/ polemical writing I can be more straightforward and hope to encourage and edify. I pray over all of it that the Lord will use it (one day as I'm not published yet either) and that none of it will go to waste.

Lorretta: I aim for authenticity and transparency. I simply tell the stories of how I once was lost and now am found and hope others can see Christ through it all. Humorous or Serious – no topic is too big or too small and no mistake or triumph will get wasted.

Mamie: I write for a ministry and do various other writings too (articles, poems, etc.) So, as I write to minister, I am also teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord to anyone who's already a saved person and who receives the message from the Spirit. That involves much prayer, the Word of God, and staying in living contact with the Lord. Therefore, people have responded in considerable numbers. I give praise and glory to the Lord our God Who has given me the talent of writing that I may use it to the utmost for His glory!!

Regina: My blog is all about showing God at work in our lives – every day! And the show I produce, The Hand of God, was developed to do the same.

Prayer Soldierone: I simply pray that the words I share will find the person who needs them in the moment or the one who will reflect on them from which to build their understanding as to where the Holy Spirit is guiding.

Joyce: Faith in God is found in Christ alone. Unity in the church is found in Christ alone. My writing goal is to grow, in myself and others, a hunger and thirst for the Word of God in order that we may truly know God as we walk with Christ.

Eileen: So many authors have inspired me to grow in my walk with the Lord. Some may never know until heaven the influence they've had on me. Because of that investment in my life, I'm now a writer who longs to encourage others in their faith walk. Whether it's a word or phrase that plays in the reader's mind while she washes dishes or bathes an infant, or whether it's a life-changing chapter that she must read again and mull over, I want my words to challenge thinking and move toward real change. Words keep; they are such powerful motivators, either for good or ill. I pray my words will leave a lasting legacy of faith for all who partake.

Karin: I am learning more each day that God wants me to help Believers become more connected to His mindset, which is outlined in the Bible. The more we respond to His way, the more peace and joy we will have. Having peace and joy releases us to be who He called us to be which in turn affects other lives for the better. We cannot fulfill His call if we are stressed and worried.

Lisa B: I hope to maybe help others see things in the Word that they may have had a hard time understanding, amen.

Linda: I want my writing to draw out what hurts, so the reader can lift it to the Lord.

Anne: It is only in drawing out that hurt that it can truly heal. We live in a society that looks like things are fine – airbrushed fine. And the reality is, people are hurting, just getting better at hiding it.

Tesha: Praying our post will empower single women to take godly steps to prepare to become a wife.

Tim C: I write Bible-inspired poetry to sustain long, loving meditation on Scripture and communion with Christ. Moreover, I find poetry (and hiking) most helpful in curbing depression. Now, to your question: Much of my time after coming to Christ at age twelve had been "I think" and "I feel" instead of "It is written" and "Thus saith the Lord." When the Bible (more than my gut) becomes primary in informing my Christian walk, i am greatly helped. Hence, I write to point to the word and the Word. Said another way, I write poetry in hopes of stimulating a Berean (Acts 17:11-12) response.

Me: Thank you all for your wonderful responses! May God continue to bless you and the writing you have been given to do in all genres for the glory of God and the healing of the church Body of Christ in Jesus' Name.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-author of 26 traditionally published books in all genres and the Christian Writer's Guide e-book on Amazon.

June 5, 2014

Read Like A Writer

Writing well often depends on reading well, which means studying poems or other writings to see what works and why. To analyze what you read, ask questions of the text. For example, ask:

Why did the poet or writer use that particular form, structure, setting, viewpoint, character, or ____ (fill in the blank)?

What effect did that decision have on the poem or manuscript?

Is the style formal or chatty, and does that enhance the story or topic?

Does the poem or manuscript have a rhythmic flow when read aloud?

What words jump out? Do they add emphasis or reinforce a sound effect or encourage readers to think more about the topic?

Also, notice sensory details. Then analyze whether the poet or writer relied more heavily on the sense of sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, or feeling. A well-written poem or manuscript might tap into all of the senses.

Notice the viewpoint or perspective too. What would happen if a first person poem or story (I, me, mine, we) were written in second person (you) or third person (he, she, his, hers, them, they)?

Asking questions of a poem or manuscript may seem awkward at first, but your interrogation skills will improve with practice. To ease the task, start with a book, story, article, or poem you think is poorly written, and focus on the flaws. Identify each as clearly as you can, then consider how this might have been handled differently. If you suspect your writing has a similar flaw, ask questions of it too! See what’s not working and why. Then correct those mistakes as you revise.

© 2014 - 2010 Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem, the Bible-based poetry book Outside Eden, and other traditionally published books

Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, e-book

May 29, 2014

Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully

What pressed me to request a review copy of this highly recommended book from Crossway was the title, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully, which expresses my yearning for poetry – both yours and mine.

If you have searched and searched, as I have, for Christian poet-mentors to study, you know how difficult it can be to find one who does not see beauty as saccharine and who does not write unrealistic poems that tap-tap their iambic feet onto paper from Miss Goody's two shoes! And so this slender hardback comes to our rescue, featuring three poets, writers, and pray-ers worth emulating: George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.

Although each of these writers makes use of different genres to address their honest doubts, worries, and concerns, they all keep searching for God until they find, see, and express the beauty that's bound to blossom with fresh words and refreshed faith and hope.

As the sixth book in The Swans Are Not Silent series by John Piper, this book was most likely written with Christian educators and pastors in mind, rather than poets and writers. Regardless, the book speaks clearly to any communicator for Christ, exhorting us to consider the poetic effort in the poetry of Herbert, preaching of Whitefield, and creative writings of Lewis.

The Introduction defines that premise by saying, “This effort was the God-dependent intention and exertion to find striking, penetrating, imaginative, and awakening ways of expressing the excellencies they saw. My thesis is that this effort to say beautifully is, perhaps surprisingly, a way of seeing and savoring beauty.”

Whether in writing or speaking, we choose our words and how we use them – hesitantly, softly, boldly, accusingly, or beautifully. We want to move people to hear and heed, which “may be one reason why the Bible is filled with every manner of literary device to add natural impact: acrostics, alliteration, analogies, anthropomorphism, assonance, cadence, chiasmus, consonance, dialogue, hyperbole, irony, metaphor, meter, onomatopoeia, paradox, parallelism, repetition, rhyme, satire, simile…and more.”

Anglican pastor, George Herbert (1593-1633) “called his poems the record of his conflict with God,” and yet “his skill in the use of language has earned him the high praises in the twentieth century from T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop, and Seamus Heaney.” Never aiming for “art for art’s sake,” Herbert consecrated his poems to God’s glory, aiming to “feel the love of God and to engrave it in the steel of human language for others to see and feel.” In this role as the secretary of God’s praise, “Herbert discovered… that the poetic effort to speak the riches of God’s greatness gave him deeper sight into that greatness.” In other words, “this effort to see and savor the glory of Christ was the effort to say it as it had never been said before.”

Oh, how great such an aim with no thought of a brand or platform!

Similarly, in the 18th century, George Whitefield’s sermons became “a phenomenon not just of his age but in the entire two-thousand-year history of Christian preaching. There has been nothing like the combination of his preaching pace and geographic extent and auditory scope and attention-holding effect and converting power.”

“Whitfield’s poetic effort focused on the making of sermons” where “specific biblical passages and doctrines were chosen, and specific words, sequences, consonances, assonances, cadences, images, narratives, characters, tones, pathoses, gestures, movements, facial expressions – all combined for an astonishing impact on believer and unbeliever alike.” In other words, his “poetic effort to speak and act in suitable ways wakened in him the reality he wanted to communicate. For him the truths of the gospel were so real – so wonderfully, terrifyingly, magnificently real – that he could not and would not preach them as though they were unreal or merely interesting.”

Closer to our time, C.S. Lewis came to Christ through logic and reason, which “led him to see that truth and beauty and justice and science would have no validity at all if there were no transcendent God in whom they were all rooted.” However, he reasoned that “if the key to the deepest meaning of this world lies outside this world then the world will probably be illumined most deeply not simply by describing the world as what it is but by likening the world to what it is not.” By using “metaphor, analogy, illustration, simile, poetry, story, myth – all of these are ways of likening aspects of reality to what it is not, for the sake of showing more deeply what it is.”

So, how does this affect us in our writing and speaking endeavors? As series author John Piper says, “Groping for awakening words in the darkness of our own dullness can suddenly flip a switch and shed light all around what it is that we are trying to describe – and feel. Taking hold of a fresh word for old truth can become a fresh grasp of the truth itself. Telling of beauty in new words becomes a way of tasting more of the beauty itself.”

Sometimes this simply means praying before we speak or write, giving our work to God, and giving God and the work the time needed to speak beautifully to us and others. As one of my favorite Bible verses says it, “With You (God) is the fountain of life, and in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9.) Amen!

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem and the Bible-based poetry book, Outside Eden

Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully, hardcover

May 27, 2014

Bible Reviewer: Bible study resources

[Note from Mary: Various moves around the country gave me the opportunity to be part of many church denominations where I discovered the excellent Bible study resources discussed here along with high recommendations of a new series from Crossway.]

Bible Reviewer: Bible study resources


Audio Interview on Christian Author Talks - Mary Harwell Sayler

[Note from Mary: Thanks and blessings, Donna Winters, for interviewing me about the Christian writing life and discussing what goes into the work of a traditionally published poet and writer.]

Audio Interview on Christian Author Talks - Mary Harwell Sayler