January 25, 2017

Relearning how to think

The Bible encourages us to have the mind of Christ, but how does that happen? How do we trade dark thoughts for light or exchange ill thoughts for good?

Effective change comes about through the grace of God, prayer, and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless our own choices and actions have a part in this too. For example, Philippians 4:8 tells us what we can do to reshape and reform our thinking as this prayer-a-phrase will hopefully show:

From now on,
think about
what’s actually true

which may require research,
study, and an open mind –
free of prejudice to find out.

From now on, notice
whatever is honorable

and honestly worthy
of time and attention.

From now on, think about
whatever is just

right, fair, equal, unbiased.

From now on, be attentive
to whatever is pure

as shown by pure motives,
selflessness, and empathy
toward others.

From now on, contemplate
whatever is lovely

beautiful sounds in psalms,
poetry, prayer, music –
beautiful art and religious icons
with which to meditate –
beautiful variety in God's creation.

From now on, put your thoughts on
whatever is commendable

of good repute, of good report –
of Good News.

Finally, if you see any
excellence anywhere,
anything worthy of praise,
think about those things

dwell on the excellent,
inhabit the virtuous,
live in God’s praise.

Philippians 4:8 prayer-a-phrased by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, using translations found on Bible Gateway

January 20, 2017

The Word Center: Praying for our leaders

The Word Center: Praying for our leaders: This Inauguration Day has been dreaded by some and longed for by others. Regardless of our personal choices or opinions, 1 Timothy 2:2 clear...

December 31, 2016

Keep Your Eyes On

Learning to play softball, most kids need to hear, “Keep your eyes on the ball,” meaning:

• Pay attention to the ball and every move it makes.

Learning to drive, teens often need to hear, “Keep your eyes on the road,” meaning:

• Be aware of the lines and edges of the road.
• Notice what’s coming toward you and behind.
• Pay attention to signs, lights, and the rate at which you’re moving.

Throughout life, Christians often need to hear, “Keep your eyes on Jesus,” which means:

• Read, read, read God’s Word to get to know The Word.
• Notice how both testaments point to Jesus.
• Observe everything Jesus did as reported in the Gospels.
• Pay attention to everything Jesus said.
• Let the Lord be the road-map for each step to take or avoid.
• Stay focused on Jesus, regardless of those circumstances inclined to make faith swerve.
• Pray like Jesus prayed.
• Love like Jesus loves.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016


December 15, 2016

10 Ways a Writer’s Work Has Changed

Back in the different old days (neither good nor bad) a writer’s life didn’t focus on marketing or building a platform or connecting with other writers.

1. We had no Internet to build a platform. We did no marketing. We “got known” if we wrote well, consistently placed manuscripts with publishers of books and periodicals, then waited for word to get around – mouth-to-mouth or through ads, book-signings, or other events our publishers planned and paid for. For example, one publisher flew me to company headquarters to talk about writing with school children who approximated the ages of my readers. On another occasion, the publisher of my 7-book devotional series sent a make-up artist and photographer to my modest home for a photo shoot! The picture chosen became a huge poster placed beside my books in bookshops and now in my basement.

2. No Internet also meant no social sites, so those of us who lived in small towns or rural areas almost never had contact with other poets and writers except through writing conferences or by reading publications for poets and writers. Basically, we lived in a vacuum, worked in isolation, and, in solitude, prayed a lot.

3. To find potential publishers, we went to libraries, bookstores, or newsstands to see who was publishing what – a task I highly recommend poets and writers continue to do today by visiting Internet bookshops. This still goes on the “different” list, however, because, once we had found potential publishers, we had to write letters via snails (known then as “first class mail”) to ask for writers’ guidelines. If we ever wanted to hear from them, we included an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) to ensure a reply.

4. Few of us could afford to buy each magazine that interested us or every new book a book company published, so we had to request sample copies of periodicals and current catalogs of book titles – again enclosing an SASE with every request. We would then study, study, study each publication to see where we might fill a gap in their line yet stay in line with that particular company’s needs and requirements – a practice I still recommend for anyone who wants to be published by an established publisher, but now, by studying the samples and information on their websites.

5. In the days when libraries had only books, we would read, read, read everything we could find in our favorite genre. If our writing required research, that, too, meant hanging out in a public library, checking the card catalog index to see if the book or journal needed was on file and, if so, where it was located. Since we weren’t always allowed to check out reference materials to take home, we had to ask the librarian to find the publication for us and let us see it long enough to take copious notes and document the name, title, and page number(s) of each source. Another option was to pick up the phone to call on the expertise of an expert, who inevitably lived in another town. Often, this resulted in a horrendous long-distance charge on our next telephone bill, whether the book or article sold or not.

6. Our biggest expenses, though, were office equipment and supplies: a desk, an electric typewriter, well-inked ribbons, reams of 20 lb. paper, carbon paper, and postage.

7. Working on an electric typewriter meant using white-out to correct a mistake then trying (and never succeeding) to erase the same mistake on the carbon copy. If we had too many typing errors on a page, we had to retype. Worse was revision! If we added a full paragraph or scratched through lines, not only did we have to retype that page but those following as the pagination changed.

8. Since most editors wanted an approximate word count, we had to count words – now done by clicking “Review” and “Word Count” in Word software. Then, it meant the ole one, two, three, four, which got tedious if a contract required 100,000 or more words! (Usually, I shortened the process by counting the number of lines and average words per line then multiplying the two.)

9. Writing assignments came with very specific instructions on how many characters were allowed per line. When writing church school curriculum, for example, I had to count – not just the words for the whole manuscript – but the number of letters on each line.

10. Writing freelance also involved querying the editor of the first publishing company on the list, and if s/he wrote back with interest, mailing the article or book manuscript – with SASE – first class. If the editor approved the work, a contract followed – also by mail. If the manuscript was rejected, it came back dog-eared and smudged, which, yeah, meant retyping the whole thing. That alone was an incentive to do the best we could do the first time out. Praise God, I managed to place several books and a few hundred poems and articles that way until my computer and the Internet made my work much, much easier. But working in cyberspace altered everything forever – at least until the next big round of changes.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, © 2016


December 5, 2016

Contacts & Critiques - Mary Harwell Sayler

If you plan to self-publish, get professional feedback before your work sees print. For minimal fees and information, see the newly updated page below: Contacts & Critiques - Mary Harwell Sayler

November 29, 2016

Bible Prayers: Praying with Psalm 4

The Psalms were the prayerbook for Jesus and the early church. May these contemporary prayer-a-phrases bring us a prayerbook now for us to pray as one in Jesus’ Name. Bible Prayers: Praying with Psalm 4

November 28, 2016

31 Women of the Bible

If you like to read books for Christians and have a relevant blog, you might want to sign up (free) to be a B&H/Lifeway Blogger. Broadman published my first books years ago, so I joined their bloggers and soon received a review copy of 31 Women of the Bible by Len Woods.

As the Introduction says, the book includes, “A concise summary of each woman’s appearance in Scripture, viewed through the lens of our modern culture.” In addition, the hefty, slick-paper pages in this quality edition present “Helpful prompts for applying the principles of each woman’s story to your own life” and “Thought-provoking questions to help you find common ground with heroes of the Christian faith.”

For example, a quick study of the first woman Eve offers “The Takeaway” of how “life works best when we trust and obey the explicit Word of God.” Then, a sidebar entitled “Food For Thought” asks questions related to the text such as “We’ve all experienced loss, but Eve lost paradise. What do you think that was like?

Those of us who had an idyllic childhood have probably felt the same way, especially in preteen and teen years when we were caught between being little kids and grownups. (No wonder that age group often has a hard time!)

Christians in general, however, often have a hard time dealing with difficult Bible people or situations. Because of this tendency, the book’s goal of viewing Bible people “through the lens of our modern culture” could add fuel to disturbances that already inflame, rather than helping us to understand more about where Bible people were coming from in a particular time and place.

For instance, the profile on Hagar, Sarah’s maid and mother of Abraham’s child Ishmael, ends with a takeaway that offers no insight into the situation yet states the obvious way this story is now viewed: “As a servant and concubine, she was treated like property…. And she was sent into the desert by the father of her child.” Although it’s true for most of us that “You can’t study Hagar’s life without wincing,” many of us want to get beyond that tragedy and find out things like why were women in Egypt sold into slavery in the first place or why did Hagar think it would be okay to make Sarah feel worse about being childless or why is Hagar – a woman from the continent of Africa – illustrated as an overwrought white woman?

Indeed, almost every beautiful painting used as an illustration in this book shows tones from stark white to ruddy skin but does not feature women who look like they’re from countries in Africa or the Middle East. Also, I recognized some of the paintings from ones I’ve seen in art books or museums, so I tried to find acknowledgements of the artists and titles, but the “Art Credits” in the back matter merely point to stock photo companies found online.

Regardless of these shortcomings, the book makes an interesting one-month devotional to help readers see how human nature hasn’t changed, nor has our need for God. Each woman portrayed in this book comes with a unique personality and strong character from which we can learn more about ourselves or the women in our lives.

However, I’d most recommend this book as a 31-week (or more) guide for a Bible discussion group where members are encouraged to read the text, consider the questions prior to meeting, and come up with questions of their own. Then, oh, what lively discussions would most likely occur!

Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer, Bible reviewer, ©2016

31 Women of the Bible, hardback with ribbon bookmarker

November 26, 2016

StumbleUpon - StumbleUpon

If you have blogs, books, or both, as I do, StumbleUpon lets your profile page (free) group your work in one place on the Internet. StumbleUpon - StumbleUpon