September 3, 2014

Timeless Bible questions to answer

As Christian poets, writers, pastors, and/or communicators for Christ, we often begin our articles, books, and sometimes poems by asking questions our readers might ask then thoroughly researching information to provide the solutions or answers needed. In The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer published by Thomas Nelson and kindly sent to me for review by, prolific author O.S. Hawkins gleaned many, many questions from the Bible then narrowed them down to one a week for a year. Although I liked the idea of the book in general, two premises especially appealed to me:

1. Timely questions asked by the Lord and/or Bible people will most likely be timeless.

2. Each Bible-related question gives a theme and purpose for poets and writers to focus on, research well, and address in all genres of writing.

Both of those aspects make this evangelically-oriented book recommended for poets and writers, regardless of denominational preferences.

For example, the first timeless but troubling question began in the beginning and is still being asked today: “Has God Indeed Said…?” Or, to put it another way, “Does God really mean _______?” (fill in the blank.) So, if I were looking for a new topic to write about, I’d pray about it and ask God to bring to my attention specific scriptures people often question or water down or, in some way, say, “Well, God does not really mean that for us now.”

Another of the many questions the Bible asks is, “Where Can I Go from Your Spirit?” The answer, of course, is nowhere! God is everywhere, and as the text says, “What a wonder! God knows you… your e-mail address… your phone number… your worries… your hurts… your fears… your dreams. And He loves you.”

Thinking again about our potential readers and writing interests, we might ask ourselves, “Who most needs to hear this?” Would people in prison be glad to know God has not forgotten them? Would Christians weighted down by dark thoughts or chemical imbalances or financial woes be relieved to hear that, yes, God is with them? Or, if you’re into politics or social needs more than mental health or legal issues, the Bible question “Who Is My Neighbor?” will surely appeal to you.

If we look carefully into each page of the Bible, we could eventually locate these questions ourselves, but O. S. Hawkins has done this for us with pastoral guidance we can prayerfully translate into that poem, article, or book God has put on our minds and hearts to write.

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

The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer, hardback, imitation leather

I review for BookLook Bloggers

September 2, 2014

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: book review

The enticing title, Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson, drew me to request a review copy from Blogging for Books – a site that provides review copies of a variety of books in exchange for an honest assessment. Fortunately, that's what I aim to provide, whether I'm discussing a new edition of the Bible or reviewing a traditionally published poetry book or a book about the writing life in general, as happens here.

Published by Waterbrook Press, this particular book also appealed to me because the author knows how to write! That might seem to be an obvious prerequisite, but I’ve discovered a new world of newbie writers who blog about writing and sometimes pass along assumptions, rather than reliable information. Conversely, Robert Benson has written many books and knows the in’s and out’s of writing and publishing. So, believe him when he says: “Most of the time, writing a book more closely resembles digging a ditch than participating in some transcendent creative experience.”

How we go about “digging” depends on what we dig. As Benson says, “Any of us – writer, designer, potter, painter, sculptor, architect, and on and on – wisely studies the habits practiced by the artists who inspire us in the first place. Those habits can guide us as we try to learn to do the work ourselves.”

For each of us, the work and surrounding habits will differ, not only from one another but also our own earlier selves as we experiment, pick up ideas, and find workable ways to write and continually improve our work. Most of us, though, will do well to heed Benson’s call to be quiet.

As he explains, “Solitude is likely necessary to be in touch with the things deep inside you. Silence may be required for you to hear what those things are saying to you. Do not be afraid to be quiet. Never be afraid to be alone./ Wandering around in wide-open spaces, especially spaces offered by a blank page, may be the key to making some art of those things found in the silence and the solitude.”

By now, you may be wondering if this book provides a devotional guide or tips on writing or suggestions for establishing your own routine or more than the sum of those parts, and to all, the answer is: Yes!

Once we’ve heard ourselves think enough to know what we’re to write next, we have to decide what type of writer we want to be. Like Benson, “I want to write. I may even need to write. But I want to be read as well.”

Knowing this about ourselves helps us to know whether we want to write for publication. If so, we need to have some type of reader in mind and some idea of whether anyone else might be interested in our chosen topic.

The author says, “When I begin to write a book, I ask myself some questions. Who do I think might read the writing I am about to do? Who do I expect to be interested in the stories I am trying to tell? Who do I hope will discover and enjoy and be moved by them?” And always, “Write for those you love.”

As Benson also says, “A writer has three jobs. Write the work. Make the work as good as possible. Find the work a home and a crowd of folks to love it.”

More than this, however, Robert Benson tells us, “I spend most of my time, metaphorically speaking, as a kind of explorer, out wandering around in the philosophical dark, lost in the spiritual words, searching for a deep something I often cannot even name, following trails leading to dead ends and darkness as often as not.” But then, “The spiritual life is not so much about answers as it is about better questions. Writing can be the same.”

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, authored 26 books in all genres, primarily for Christian and educational markets, before writing the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book on Kindle.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen, hardcover

August 30, 2014

Seeing ourselves as part of The Storytelling God

A year or two ago, I began translating the parables of Jesus into poems and prose poetry, so when I heard about The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, written by Jared C. Wilson, I requested a review copy, which Crossway kindly sent.

In the Introduction, the pastor-author immediately gave a fresh perspective by saying, “The word parable from the Greek means ‘to cast alongside,’ and like the seeds cast in one of the few parables for which Jesus offered an interpretation, the parables may land on rocky soil.”

Wow! Had you ever thought of Jesus’ stories in that way? I hadn’t. i.e., The Parable of the Sower is a parable on parables, illustrating how words work in our lives and in the lives of other people.

Inspired thoughts, spiritual insights, Biblical truths are cast (broadcast?) like seeds to land where they may among listeners and readers and, hopefully, to flourish and grow.

As Pastor Wilson explained, “The parables, then, serve this end: they proclaim, in their unique way, the gospel of the kingdom of God and Jesus as king of that kingdom.” Furthermore, “God is the greatest storyteller ever,” and “All good stories are but pale reflections and imitations of the great story of God’s glory brought to bear in the world…. The poetry, the history, the laws, the lists, the genealogies, the proverbs, and the prophecies together make up the mosaic of God’s vision for the universe with himself at its center.”

In our lives as Christian poets and writers, we are a circle, rotating around the world with our words in all genres, evolving into artistry and revolving around our One True Center: God. We are one with Christ and one with one another since the beginning of petroglyphs or stone tablets as we write from the same rock, the same central core.

“The rock to build on, then, is not the doing of Jesus’s words but the work of Jesus already done, namely his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. The rock to build on is Jesus himself. When we really hear and do, we are showing that he is our foundation.”

We who have ears, let us hear what our storytelling God has to say to and through us in Jesus' Name.

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

The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, paperback

August 25, 2014

Christian Writer’s Guide to writing options

After starting the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook, I realized that most of our members self-publish because that’s what they know. Since my 30+ years of experience have mainly been with traditional publishers of books and manuscripts for Christian and educational markets, I wrote the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book to provide the info you need to have more options as a freelance or assignment writer in almost any genre.

Hopefully, the table of contents will give you a good idea of what to expect:

Table of Contents

Let God and the Bible Guide
Welcome Your Gift or Calling
Find Your Favorite Genre
Listen for The Voice in Your Voice
Write, Write, Write
Search and Research
Record Information Accurately
Edit or Revise
Prepare to be Published
Write Freelance or on Assignment
Inquire with a Query Letter
Cover Highlights in a Cover Letter
Prepare Your Manuscript
Propose a Book in a Book Proposal
Track What Went Where and When
Develop Your Bio
Establish a Presence on the Internet
Learn Writing Terms: A to Z
About the Author

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler is the poet-author of 26 books in all genres and approximately 1500 poems and short manuscripts, ranging from church curriculum to children’s “take home” papers to nonfiction articles on subjects as varied as the Bible, poetry, writing, family life, and natural health.

Christian Writer's Guide e-book on Kindle


August 19, 2014

Centering Prayers

Focus! Focus! We've said that to our children and ourselves, but the catch is knowing what, or rather Who, to focus on -- and also how or when.

As I look at the review copy Paraclete Press kindly sent me of Centering Prayers by pastor-writer, Peter Traben Haas, the poetic words enable me to see the focal point and adjust my sights clearly to get centered on God.

Each month of the book’s year-long daily devotionals begins with a timely word “as if God says to me _____.” Then each day of that month includes a theme in the title, followed by a brief prayer that comes from the Christ-given heart we have in common-union at the center of ourselves.

To provide you with examples of what to expect, I turned to the preface for my birthday month, July, and read:

It is as if God says to me:

You are a lamp and my love is your fuel.

I love you and wish to anoint your life with the
kind of light that heals your deepest darkness.

I am with you on your journey.

Follow the Son who knows the way and is always close.

Once I'd read that, the inevitable interruptions and morning routines occurred, but after the children had safely caught their school buses for their first day back to class, I turned to the centering prayer for today, entitled “Returning to you in surrender.”

Beloved One:

Bless all students returning to school.
Bless all teachers returning to teach.
Bless all leaders returning to lead.
Bless all workers returning to labor.
Bless all beggars returning for more.
Bless all heart returning to you in surrender.
Remind us all that your gift of grace takes us all the way home.


Hopefully, prayerfully, that amazingly timely word to me speaks to you too, and yet we cannot help but be aware of the troubling times around the world where too few choose to surrender to God’s way of love as revealed to us in Christ. And so, after closing this highly recommended book, I opened its pages at random and found a prayer dated June 27 that speaks to current needs, too, in the prayer “The miracle of many voices becoming one.”

Jesus Christ:

Refresh me by your Spirit.

Lead me into peace and understanding with others and help me experience the miracle of many voices becoming one in you.


Yes! and amen. So be it in Jesus' Name.

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

Centering Prayers, paperback

August 11, 2014

Modern Poetry and the Christian Tradition

Who would expect a book written over 50 years ago to give serious poets and poetry students such a timely word about Christianity and culture today? Nevertheless, Modern Poetry and the Christian Tradition manages to do just that.

Written by the late Amos Wilder – a New Testament scholar, poet, literary critic, clergyman, and brother of Thornton Wilder – the book, kindly given to me for review by Wipf and Stock Publishers, provides a highly intelligent look at ways we can relate Christianity to the culture in which we live.

Interestingly, the poets Wilder highlighted for significant contributions in this area are the ones I also recommend: Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, and others.

Why does this matter? As Wilder said, “We recognize that the creative, imaginative expressions of culture are often our best clues to the diagnosis of men’s hearts and the deeper movements of the age.” Furthermore, “of all the arts, poetry, since it is an art of language, of the word, will often retain and sustain a varied relation to religion.”

Attesting to the insight that “poetry is praise,” the author acknowledged different views “held as to what is important and unimportant, what is healthful and harmful, what is Christian and un-Christian, in the tangled skein of cultural traditions” as we find “differing judgments as to the true spiritual heritage of the West and especially as to the Christian tradition in our English-speaking lands. Thus different values can be assigned to such main factors as Catholic order, the Protestant revolution, scientific empiricism, all of which have had their changing roles through the centuries and which have entered into special combinations with more recent phases of culture….”

With a fair-minded presentation of the many factors involved in the “story of what happened to the modern world’s faiths and assumptions” in literature, the author stated how, “We note first the loss of absolutes in our world.”

This loss led to devaluing traditions and communal roots until we reached a general “depersonalization” of mankind. If we take a sec now to think about the ads, television programs, popular books and movies today, we can see how timely or, perhaps, prophetic, Wilder’s words were in saying, “The depersonalized psyche, the numbered and enervated worker, requires high-tension stimuli to recover a transient awareness of his own identity.”


In other words, the more insensitive society becomes, the more it takes to awaken individual readers, help them to feel again, know themselves again, and/or draw them to Christ, the church, and the Christian faith.

So, how are we, as Christian poets and writers, to respond to this dilemma? As Wilder reminded us, “It is the spirit, as the Christian understands it, which searcheth all things and which underlies all the dynamic impulses of our crisis. Therefore the Christian is in the best position to understand them, to diagnose the age, to ‘interpret the times’.”

While acknowledging that a “diagnosis of our time in terms of its imaginative literature allows us to speak rather of directions than of solutions or conclusions,” the author gave us insight into Catholic and Protestant poets and writers who found ways to connect with readers during their lifetimes and also with readers now.

As I mentioned earlier, Wilder selected works to discuss of the very Christian poets and writers I’d also recommend for careful study and enjoyment. What I did not mention, though, is that it took me years of reading and searching on my own to “discover” and recommend those same literary artists as mentors I turn to again and again.

Be forewarned, however: You might need a dictionary, as I did, to clarify some words in Wilder’s heightened vocabulary, but his insights will give you a wide view of the impact and Christian influence your poems and writings can have on our needy society now.

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler - poet-author of Living in the Nature Poem and the Bible-based poetry book, Outside Eden - also wrote the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry e-book, based on the home study course she used, one-on-one, with poetry students and other poets for years.

Modern Poetry and the Christian Tradition, paperback

August 9, 2014

How do Christian poets and writers get prepared to write?

Recently I asked members of our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook how they go about preparing for the writing God has given them to do, and within a week or so, we had the following responses collected here for you to read and recollect as needed:

QUESTION: How do you prepare for the writing God has called you to do?

Henry: (I) pray and listen for the direction to go, then do the research necessary.

Jaime: Sometimes I start by arguing with Him honestly. A lot of times God asks me to write things that are very uncomfortable for me, but I think my arguing or questioning opens the dialogue for God to show me why I need to write what He tells me to. I also spend a lot of quiet time really thinking through whatever the topic is then making sure it's covered from all angles.

Nellie: Two words: Pray and Listen.

Sharon: I pray and take time to listen before I write anything. I often consult with others and listen to their words, knowing He is guiding that too. Over the years I am learning the importance of writing over (revising) a piece.

Joy: (I) pray and write my heart out!

Danielle: (I) pray and read the Word.

Karin: I study the Bible and pray. I also listen to what others have to say, conversations that give me a clue as to what people are dealing with and going through.

Cathy: Same as above, pray, listen, write, rewrite. And read!

Art and Teresa: I start reading and writing down every thought that comes to mind. Pretty soon a bunch of fragmented thoughts come together to form a theme. With prayer and searching out scriptures related to the theme, a message forms.

Mary Ann: I read Psalms, think on them, and write.

Dawn: I pray and ask God for wisdom and inspiration. When I have a direction on what I'm going to write, I research the subject. Then I do an outline and start writing.

Bill: I pray, and then if nothing pulls at my heart strings within thirty seconds, I'm tempted to start smacking myself in the noggin with a frying pan! (But) I sit still for awhile. Then I start writing.

Patti: (After praying, thinking, researching, talking) the biggest prep I could make would be to get my rear in that chair and begin again!

Terry: Listening to Him...

Stacey: Prayer, the Word, and sitting still to hear and receive. I then put my fingers to the keyboard and let the Holy Spirit take over.

Lindabelle: (I) seek God in earnest prayer, then write whatever He puts in my mind and heart. (I’m) praying my stories will inspire and encourage those who read them.

Rebecca: Be diligent to keep writing time as a holy commitment.

Neil: I have gotten adamant about writing down every idea, title, or phrase that comes to mind, saving it for future development. No more mental notes! I've found those are written in disappearing ink. As quickly as an idea slips into my mind, it slips out again. I've said, "Oh, I'll remember later," then I promptly forgot!

Mary Ann: I know what you mean, Neil; my mental notes disappear too. I'm learning now to jot down in a journal.

Neil: Also, I've begun praying for the ones who will need to hear what I'm writing to meet a need or provide direction in their lives. I don't know the needs or the individuals, but God does. So, instead of assuming that people will come across it randomly and benefit, or “if you write it, they will come," I'm praying for the ones it is for, even before putting pen to paper, and asking God to guide my thoughts to meet the needs of specific people He knows who will read it a year or two from now. It's an “only God" thing: only God could do it!

Linda: I keep it a priority to open my head to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and work them ASAP. That might mean hopping out of bed to work all the way through a new hymn text, or just jotting down a few phrases for future development. Everything He gives me goes into a PC file, so it doesn't get forgotten. Then I rely on the Holy Spirit to direct which piece to work on and where/when to submit or publish. Meanwhile, I prepare technically by studying craft and attending conferences. If you think God is calling you to share your writing through publication, you'll want to learn more and get a knowledgeable support/critique group.

Rodney: I gather inspiration from reading other books - the Bible included, praying for clarity, and… listening to people talk in all realms of life…. God uses people, places, and things to speak to me.

TK: I settle my spirit and await further instructions. Before writing I commune with the Lord for the direction and purpose of that particular project. All of my books can be the essence of the divine scriptures with one or two in particular. As a Christian fictional author, I utilize my experiences to help create a fictitious reality with a subliminal gospel message.

Barbara: I've only written one book, and that took me 17 years…. Much prayer precedes everything. Then I wait. I pray again. I start typing whatever comes out. I walk around. Pray some more. Cry, if needed. Moan. Perhaps start over. I go through this because I am afraid to write something that He would disapprove. Sigh.

Ashley: Lately, God has been asking me to write on some topics/issues I'm not 100% wanting to write about and I often find myself going back and forth before writing it. However, when we obey, it's very rewarding. (Also) I think reading the Word is very important for Christian writers. How can we teach and share the Word if we don't know it?

Linda: Please don't let fear of God's or anyone's disapproval deter you. Think of God as your writing partner, your co-creator, your collaborator, not as the divine writing judge. Go ahead and write whatever comes into your head that you know to be true to your experience of Him. Then the Holy Spirit can guide you to edit it. Maybe in that process you'll end up with something very different from what you started with. That's okay! That's the Holy Spirit at work. I think never trying would disappoint the Lord more than the poorest quality work, because he has someone waiting to be touched by what He wants to say through you.

Even for us Christian writers, inspiration is just the start. You have to be willing to do the work. Accept knowledgeable critique humbly; remember, your words aren't sacred scripture that can never be revised. Be patient when it takes more time and effort than you thought. And leave the outcome …to God's intention and timing without comparing your success to anyone else's… If you accomplish the Lord's plan for your work, you are a SUCCESS, even if you never sell a single book!

Connie: I don't think I have what it takes to write, for I am my worse critic. I pray for encouragement and boldness. I am not one who feels the need to write all the time, (and so) with that, I feel I must not be a true writer.

Linda: I just took up writing again after years of doing God's will in other ways. Does that stop me from being a "true" writer. No! No! and No! Be a writer who is true to the Lord's calling…. You can do it!

Connie: Thank you Linda, for your words of encouragement. I want to please the Lord in all that I do. Thank you.

Eileen: Pray first. (I) ask God for the story concept He wants me to present. Then I quiet my mind so the ideas can begin to form. When ideas come, I mull them over for a few weeks, arranging and rearranging the plot in my mind before my fingers hit the keys or the notebook. Then off I go, developing an outline/scenes, one-liner, two-paragraph summary, etc. After that, the actual writing begins.

Joyce: I spend a lot of time in God's Word and prayer. I have found if I do not allow God to fill me, I have nothing of spiritual significance to write.

Christine: Pray.

Mary: You all are mentioning what I believe is most important too: Praying, listening to God, and studying the Bible. But what about studying your craft, experimenting with forms, playing with words, and reading poems, stories, articles, essays, books, etc. in the same genre you want to write? How important are those to you?

Joyce: I believe that whatever we do for the LORD should be done skillfully. Studying our craft and reading books written by successful authors, studying marketing skills, and belonging to a writer's group are a few of the ways I try to improve – after I have prayed and studied the Word of God, of course. I am also a songwriter and have bitten my tongue on more than one occasion as I heard a songwriter say "God, gave it to me this way and I'm not changing it!"…I'm afraid Christians too often confuse inspiration and perspiration. Excellence takes both.

Michael: Thank you all! This is inspiring me to keep going.

Robin: I have been writing poetry for over 30 years and no one has ever given me encouragement or invited me to join a writers group/attend conferences until this past year. A personal friend and accomplished author read some of my poetry and invited me to do both. I entered my very first writing competition and attended a writers conference... The poem I entered did not place this year… Yet the most exciting thing is that the judge who critiqued my work compared it to Robert Frost! She …said to study his work because I have meter much like his. I love that she said to study and rewrite, rewrite and rewrite and enter the same poem in next year's contest! So to those of you…who are concerned that your writing is not good enough or that you don't know where to begin, may I offer this bit of advice and encouragement: DO NOT GIVE UP! Stay teachable, flexible….

Brian: Some poems bubble out with little immediate preparations. Others are based on study and thinking. Some are motivated by my experience or reaction to events, and some were written to influence or persuade….Some poems are the result of hard work on the theme of the poem or the poetics -- structure, meter, and rhythm.

Anita: Pray, read, go to writing conferences, meditate on the Word of God!

Barbara: As I pray and study, I listen to Christian music or fellowship with friends on the things of God, (then) thoughts, phrases, visions, and inspiration sometimes floods my being…. Descriptive Words formulate and begin to flow like water.

Rodney: For me and some of us…, it's a difficult assignment to be able to hear from God …or speak words of life, listen clearly to the Spirit, and work diligently and effectively where the environment is dysfunctional…. Clear this space for Jesus!

Mary: Yes. Writing what God has given us to write needs to be a top priority even when it's hard and we have to let some things go until later…. For freelance writers in general, the biggest obstacle is not writing! When I began freelancing about 30 years ago, I had to establish a routine and find ways to handle – or preferably, avoid – interruptions, and that's still true even now. As with any job, my family comes first, but otherwise, I go to work every day at my desk at home.

Judy: Pray daily seeking His will! (Also) I have been to…writer conferences through the years, learning from some of the best Christian editors and publishers. And, I enjoy this group!

Songaye: (My preparation for writing involves) praying, reading, writing, praying for wisdom and guidance, rereading, rewriting, praying….

Nellie: I get very calm and quiet. I open my iPad and start typing. If I start feeling an agitation, I take a deep breath and ask God to give me a clear mind and calm spirit.

Robin: I agree 100%. I am listening and learning – implementing things I learn from people in this group. And I agree with Judy. This… is a wonderful and very enjoyable group of people to learn from and grow as a writer!

Annie: Oh, my wonderful sisters and brothers, I enjoyed everything each one of you had to say. It was simply enriching. Why? God deals differently with each one of us and we get the assignment done according to His plan and will and He gets the Glory!

Linda: How wonderful that the Lord works within each of us in a unique fashion! Each is valid for that individual.

Mamie: You may not know you're called until you actually began to write naturally. I noticed I started that way--writing technically first, and then many other kinds of writings afterwards. Finally, I began to write poems and fiction about 20 years ago. So, you may not start out writing the things God has called you to write, but one thing is sure. You will start out writing little by little with the anointing of the Lord, writing something that pertains to the divine things of God.

Linda: I cut my teeth on technical writing, too. I figure that was all part of the call, because I was storing up skills and observations for the day when the Lord invited me to write for Him instead of an employer. Drama scripts and hymns are a far cry from training materials and case analysis documents, but it was all grist for the mental mill.

Miisrael: I believe true preparation for writing what God has for me is with trust and obedience to God. He gives me what to write. With trust He guides, with trust He delivers, with trust He directs (my) writings with the Word. All the trust I have (comes) with dedication and the commitment of loving Him. With obedience I become united with Him.

Mary: Thank you all for your responses! Not only have your words blessed one another, your thoughts will help other communicators for Christ who stop by here to read. May God continue to guide and empower each of us to write as we’ve been called in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014 Mary Harwell Sayler placed 26 books in all genres with Christian and educational publishers then wrote the Christian Writer's Guide e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun e-book, and the Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry e-book on Kindle. She also founded the Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook where this discussion began.

August 4, 2014

Praying for Christian poets, writers, the church Body of Christ, and the world

A few weeks ago, I asked the members of our Christian Poets & Writers group on Facebook what prayers keep coming to mind for each other, the church, and the world. Some responded with actual prayers (italicized below) and some with prayers thoughts and/or a prayerful purpose:

Jewell: To impact for Christ through gentle and loving words

Patti: Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Valerie: Father, give us ears to hear and Spiritual eyes to see what you place before me and how I can make an impact in my church and in my community. Give me your heart of compassion, so the door can open for me to tell more of your goodness. Allow me to run the race of life from an eternal perspective.

Mary: Besides the Lord's Prayer aka Our Father, my frequent prayer is: Lord, give us the prayers to pray.

Joyce: (I pray) that we will never lose sight of God's call to write – be it poetry, fiction, non-fiction. Our purpose as writers is about sharing God and Christ with the world, never about dollars and cents. Money and fame may come but should never be our reason for writing.

Karin: I often pray Philippians 2:13: For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Miisrael: I pray that God's poets keep writing of his wonderful love, his beautiful spirit to give us what we need to reach others with words and expressions. Prayers of poets I feel should never cease to show God's gift of words he has given us to share with others.

Wanda: I pray we never lose sight that gifts were given to us to praise God.

Jerome: Prayers of the faith of God – should the church come to embody such faith, we would indeed turn the world upside down.

Prayer S: My simple prayers are often associated with His commandments to love (Matthew 22:36-40.) If we comprehend all that’s behind these two commandments, we have before us all that’s needed to share the blessings of His church, share in the blessings of His love and share the blessings of His Word with the world.

Edie: When I was leading the opening for our Sunday School, I taught the kids my brief prayer with which I start many days: Lord, help me to be your child today - in all that I think and do and say. (For the kids, I added hand motions for think/do/say.) If each one of us in the church lives this way, then the church itself is strengthened – and the world is better served by us.

Mary: Lord, help! is a frequent prayer in times of trouble.

Lori: Lord Jesus, forgive our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of thy mercy!

Patti: (Re: the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father) That's how Jesus taught us to pray, so yes, I do, all the time. Also, I love turning other scriptures into prayers with my name and others in them.

Rodgers: I pray that we may find satisfaction in life through Christ.

Lionel: That we may be less worldly and more holy....

Eileen: Unite our hearts to fear Your name, Oh Lord.

Cherrilynn: Philippians 1:9-11, And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Glynn: (I pray) that in what we do, how we serve, and what we write, we are a witness.

Tesha: Unity and CHRIST FOCUS!

Mary: I woke up this morning thinking about my first Fav from childhood, David's prayer (the last verse in Psalm 19.) What a great prayer to begin each day: Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Nellie: Help us to constantly strive to live up to the image in which we were created. Help us love one another as Jesus loved us.

Marie: May my words and actions be a reflection of Who Jesus is in my everyday life. I desire that my blog and life reflect who HE is to others!

Cathy: Father, let Your kingdom come and Your will be done. Speak to our leaders, give our leaders wisdom. Lord, how we need You now!

Theresa: That we become scribes "instructed" in the Kingdom of Heaven.... Matthew 13:52.

Bill: For the church: to be conduits of God's glory. For this group: The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I may know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. The world: to bend the knee in adoration.

TR: Save and defend Your whole Church, purchased with the precious blood of Christ. Strengthen Your faithful people through the Word and the Holy Sacraments, making them perfect in love, and establishing in them the faith once delivered to the saints. Send the light of Your truth into all the earth. Raise up faithful servants of Christ to advance the Gospel both at home and in distant lands. Lord, in Your mercy, Hear our prayer. Sanctify and unite thy people in all the world, that one holy Church may bear witness to thee, the God and Father of all.

Dawn: My prayer for the church is that we would rise up and walk in the authority God gave us. Lord, we need to band together and get over our own egos and become one as you speak about in John Chapter 14. Your word says they will know us by our love one for another. My prayer for this group is that we would use the writing gifts to make a difference not only in this group, but to reach out to the unsaved with our words.

Robin: Venerable Lord, come quickly, and if you don't, please help us all! We are at the end of time as the Bible says will happen, and as we witness the growing evil, my prayer is that God would send Jesus to come quickly, or if not, help us all who call upon His name to be emboldened to stand up and claim the good news and the name of Jesus Christ. There is nothing darkness can do against the Light.

Wanda: My prayer for everyone is that we all recognize Christ is the only entrance into heaven.

Jean: I'm sensing that there needs to be the spirit of repentance unleashed upon all of us, to begin to understand God's holiness, and our sinfulness.

Yolanda: These scriptures come to mind for me: Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.

Mary: Amen to all the above! If you have prayers or prayer thoughts to add, please do so in the Comment section below. Thanks. And, may each of us love one another and live each day in God's ongoing prayers for us 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 where this discussion began

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