Monday, November 24, 2008

Devozine Article Rough Draft ~ Grief

First, to give an idea of what it is that I need to write, here are the guidelines put forward by Devozine.


Our purpose is to help youth develop a lifelong practice of prayer and spiritual reflection. devozine is designed to help readers grow in their faith and explore the relevancy of the Christian faith for the issues they face. Undergirded by scripture, devozine will aid youth in their prayer life, introduce them to spiritual disciplines, help them shape their concept of God, and encourage them in the life of discipleship.

WHAT IS devozine?
- A bimonthly, 80-page magazine for youth
- Written by youth and by adults who care about them
- Each issue focuses on eight or nine themes.
- Each theme includes weekday readings and weekend features, enough for two months.
- Meditations may be read in chronological or random order.
- Meditations may be expressed through scripture, prose, poetry, prayers, stories, songs, art, or photographs.
- Readers and writers include persons of many different denominations and cultures.

- Youth ages 12-18 who seek personal devotional readings
- Youth groups who seek devotional reflections
- Adults who seek to understand youth spirituality

- Daily meditations should be 150-250 words long.
- Poetry and prayers should be short to moderate in length -- 10 to 20 lines.
- Think about the purpose of the meditation -- what do you want it to evoke in the reader?
- Style notes: Simply written (preferably in youth language), realistic and relevant to life experiences of youth, does not need to be overtly religious but should help to open youth to the life of faith that we all seek, inclusive of multicultural experiences
- Language guidelines: Try to use language that is non-sexist and inclusive of everyone (examples are words such as humankind, persons, or everyone instead of mankind or men in the familiar generic sense). We encourage the use of a wide range of biblical images for God.
- May include scripture verse or suggested text (state version of Bible used)
- May include a reflective element: brief prayers, quotes, reflection or journaling questions, action ideas, or other items. Prayers should use honest, straightforward, conversational language.

- Devotional writing should invite people to come closer to God.
- Devotional writing should tell about real experiences of real people who are struggling to apply their faith to daily life.
- Devotional writing should express only one main idea. It should leave one memorable image with the reader.
- Devotional writing should lead persons into further conversation with God after they finish reading the meditation.
- Your journal can be a great source of devotional writing because your journal records your real thoughts about your experiences.

See that last tip, that I underlined? Well, Lord knows I've written about grief enough here, let's see what I can find as inspiration from some of my past blog posts. (Obviously, I'll need to cut them down quite a lot of I use them. They're all quite a bit longer than 250 words.)

Also, here are the tips specific to writing about the "Good Grief" theme.

good grief

- When in my life have I experienced grief or loss? What feelings or stages did I go through? Did any of these feel good? How has time eased my pain?
- When have I been grateful for the ability to cry? When have tears been a blessing? a release?
- When have I been tempted to ignore my grief or to pretend I was not grieving? What happens when I bury these feelings or refuse to deal with them? Who or what helped me to realize that it’s OK to grieve?
- When has a painful time of letting go or of leaving something behind led to a new opportunity, such as moving from the house in which I grew up or going off to college?
- When through the death of someone close to me have I begun to understand the natural cycle of life, as when leaves die in autumn and fall from the trees, but after a long winter, new buds sprout to re-create beautiful foliage?
- When have I found a blessing in the experience of loss? How have I sensed God’s presence with me through the pain and the tears?

From Suffering And Thanksgiving, November 22, 2007:

"No, suffering isn't enjoyable, but my spiritual joy can still remain constant, because if I respond to my Heavenly Father's love while in my suffering, He will then draw me closer, revealing to me more about Himself and what He did for me. Once I completely trust Him and place my suffering in His hands, I will then be able to accept the gift of peace He has waiting for me, because He is then my focus, and not the pain in my heart."

"I have so much to be thankful for. Not because my life is perfect, but because my Father is faithful. My Abba will never leave me or forsake me. He desires me to rest in the fullness of His embrace, and find peace and supernatural joy in my suffering, as I begin to understand His Son in His suffering as we stand face to face."

From Grief: A Study ~ Part 1, December 10, 2007:

"Grief. What has it meant to me in my life? Is the issue that it caused me pain? No, that is not the issue. Nor are the specifics that caused my pain the issue. The issue is how it changed me.

I need to show how it changed me for the worst in the beginning, and that change kept me captive in a pit. It turned me....not against, but away from my Heavenly Father. I lost my trust in Him. Not my trust in His Son for eternal life, but my trust that He is able to do "exceedingly abundantly" above anything I would ever dream to be possible. I also didn't understand that this ability of His, this power, has more to do with inner transformation on my part than a changing of outward circumstances."

"No matter where you are in life, no matter what you're going through, no matter what decisions you have made or what things you have done, you are LOVED. By a powerful, but gentle, Father, who desires NOTHING more than drawing you closer to Him.

This is my comfort, and the reason I can thank God for everything that happened to me, because I know now that it happened for a reason. It was all a part of God's wonderful plan to bring me to Himself. He didn't orchestrate the pain, much of it was my Enemy doing His best to keep me from seeing my Father's face, to keep me from reading the love He has for me in His eyes, from His Word. But though it was meant for evil, God turned it to good, and I am His vessel, willing to be used in whatever way He sees fit, to His glory, to proclaim His love, to show His majesty in the miracles He worked in me."

From Grief: A Study ~ Part 2, December 18, 2007:

"If anyone knew about grief, it was King David, and he experienced it throughout his life in almost every way imaginable. Pay attention to the way he describes the state of his soul, of his spirit in these verses. "My soul cleaves to the dust.....My soul weeps because of grief."

Have you ever gone through something in your life where you felt like you couldn't get back up? Like you'd been pushed down too many times? Was there ever a pain so strong you could hardly bear it? That is the picture David is painting here; he knew what it was like to have that kind of pain.

Like David, every single person on the planet goes through grief and hard times. Some experience it more than others it's true, but I have learned that there is more than one way that grief can appear in a persons life. A lot of the time, it happens through situations we can't control, like the loss of someone we care about, or through the workings of our Enemy as he tries to get our eyes of our Father. Just think about Job. He was a Godly man, and loved the LORD, but God still permitted a lot of horrible things to happen to Him. Did this mean that God did not love Job? Of course not. I think He loved Job enough to let them happen, because they ultimately brought Job even closer to his Father, and brought him more understanding. Look to Psalm 119 again; what does David say, right after expressing the pain in his soul? "My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your Word....My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word." David knew that what he needed was not for the pain to go away, but for God's will to be done, which always, no matter the circumstance, is that we draw closer to the Father, that we trust His commandments, trust His Word, and only look to Him and His truth for sustinance."

"Simply put, when we choose our own way over God's way, no matter how much pleasure it might bring us at first, it will always end in grief. God can allow us to run the way of emotional destruction, and we hit obstacles and trials as consequences of our sin. For me, God knew that I needed to hit rock bottom, and then continue to dig my pit deeper, before I would realize what I needed in Him. A lot of the grief I experienced in my life was simply me reaping the fruit of the seeds of neglecting the Spirit within me. I kept on turning away from Him, so He chose to let me hit hard and fast, thankfully, before I did any more damage to myself or anyone else."

From A New Year and Grief: A Study ~ Part 3, January 2, 2008:

Following writing out the story of what I went through when I lost a friend to suicide, I wrote:

"The knowledge that everything is always under God's control was something I had been taught my whole life, but this was the first time I had ever claimed that truth for my own in order to comfort me through the strength and love of the Holy Spirit, to give me strength to bear the pain.

The night afer I found out, I was sitting at the computer, just playing solitaire, trying to get my mind off of things, and I had some music from the Gaither Vocal Band playing as well. As I sat there, I couldn't help but think about what had happened, about what I had learned, and I started crying again; but silently, not the sobs they had been earlier.

As I cried, I started listening to the music that was playing, or more specifically listening to the words, and as they began to sink in, I realized something amazing.

The song "Let Freedom Ring" was playing, and for the first time, I realized that despite the song sounding like it was talking about freedom from sin, it was also talking about freedom of any kind, because that's how capable and powerful our God is. I started crying in earnest at that point, because I realized that despite the fact that I knew that my grief wasn't a bad thing, that God expected it, and even wanted it so that He could bring me closer to Him, it didn't have to keep me in bondage. Immediately, I felt wellsprings of joy bubbling up inside my soul, completely seperate from the pain and grief in my heart.

That joy did not come from me, it was the Holy Spirit within me giving me His joy, keeping me from despair despite the horrible pain in my heart.

This truth is something that I have clung to ever since, because now I know that truly, I can be content, and even filled with God's supernatural joy, no matter whatever cirumstance I am in, no matter how grieved I am, no matter how much pain I am experiencing. He is always faithful, and His power can cut through any chain.

Dear believers, do not let past hurts and wrongs and griefs keep you from experiencing the love and joy of the Father. For that, along with anything that keeps us from drawing closer to Him, is bondage. That love and joy is always there, just waiting for us to accept it, so we can experience the freedom and blessings our Heavenly is just waiting to give us, and give us abundantly."

Well, at least I have a lot of material to work with now.

Zane Hodges

Even though I haven't written very much about it since I started my blog over a year ago, I have been very aware over the past year of the issues involving and within the free-grace movement. I was shocked and surprised to learn that Zane Hodges, the author of the book Absolutely Free!, the book that has caused such a stir in the Duluth camp, passed away and went to be with the Lord over the weekend.

I don't know very much about the man personally, and I haven't read any of his books - though I've been meaning too - but I have a great respect for his ministry and I know he will be greatly missed.

Please see this article at the GES blog.

My first thoughts are thankfulness that Zane Hodges is with the Savior he loves, and that he is no longer in danger of being grieved and discouraged by the divisions amongst us. May we all remember to Whom we belong, and HIS work to which He has called us. May we all love each other and treat each other with kindness and gentleness, making the unity of entire Body of Christ our priority, not proving ourselves right and other brothers and sisters wrong.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


The past several weeks have been alternately busy and stressful for me, as I'm trying to secure a second job on top of the one I have at the convention center here in Duluth. I'll be moving to Iowa by February Lord willing, and I need a second job so I can become MUCH more financially stable and able to support myself while settling down in a new apartment in a new town. I've been putting in applications, which I'll be checking on now in this new week, as well as putting in new ones in other positions I've found to be open. However today I'm exploring again something that I've desired to do for quite a long time - freelance writing.

Devozine, by The Upper Room is a devotional magazine for teens that is 90% freelanced by both teenagers and adults who want to minister to them. I've known about this opportunity to pursue for a while, but I as of yet have not seriously pursued it for one reason or another. (Mostly laziness if I'm going to be honest.)

A second opportunity I discovered today, and I'm going to try it out, though I'm not sure how well it will actual produce monetary returns.

On my facebook page the ads most frequently displayed are those geared toward blogging and freelance writing for pay. Most of these ads are pretty much scams, requiring the writer to pay a membership fee before giving assignments to write. But I saw one today that is absolutely free and pretty much like a blog. It's called Hubpages, and it uses GoogleAdSense and other third party ads to bring revenue to the Hubber. You can have multiple Hubpages for writing on different specific topics, but I only have one for the moment to see how much I like it and how well it works. There's a box further down on this page that will link to my Hubpage, so if anyone wants to look at it and tell me what they think I'd of course appreciate it.

For now though, I'm going to focus on writing something to submit to the Devozine, and I'm going to post here the possible topics that I could write on and turn in by the December 1st deadline. Later today hopefully, I'll write a rough draft on at least one of the topics.

September/October 2009

[Deadline: 12/1/08]

in your shoes
can you say no?
good grief
like Christ
learning differently
i believe...
my fab fam

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Personal

Anyone who knows me very well can tell you what my favorite thing to do is: read. I DEVOUR books, and during times that I can't make it to the library, I re-reading anything I can find on my bookshelf. In the past two weeks I have finished reading Watership Down, Shadow of the Hegemon, A Voice in the Wind, and An Echo in the Darkness. And each of those books was at least 350 pages.

As I said, I love reading, but there is something about myself when I read certain books that really annoys me. Sometimes, the books get very personal, and I don't like it. It's not very pleasant when I get angry at a character in the book I'm reading, and a few hours later when trying to figure out why I'm restless and crabby realizing it's because I'm taking the characters actions personally. THEY'RE JUST BOOKS FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

*sigh* It's only certain books though, and none of the books that I finished recently elicited that reaction from me. (Although that might be because I'd already read them all before. I haven't been to the library in a while.)

It's the book I'm reading right now that is getting under my skin. I was prowling all the nooks and crannies in our house for a new book to read - we have a TON of books in our house, as I'm not the only one with a reading problem - and I stumbled upon a Christian Fiction book in the middle of a pile that I didn't know we had, so I decided to try it. Like most Christian Fiction books, unfortunately, this one is a little wanting in the literary department, but the story is pulling me in despite the deficiencies in writing quality. It's titled Pearl, the second in a series by Lauraine Snelling about a small town in the Dakotah Territory in the 1880's. We don't have the first, so I've had to make some guesses about some of the main characters regarding what happened before this book, but the main character, Pearl, is completely new as far as I can tell. And SHE is the reason for my emotional quandary.

She lives in Chicago with her family, consisting of her Father, brother, step-mother and half-siblings. She's 22 years old, and she has a scar on her neck from a childhood accident. (And like all the other main characters in the book, she's of Norwegian decent. I know there are a lot of Norwegian decedents in the U.S., myself included, but it's a little coincidental that ALL the main characters in a book, divided between 4 cities, would be Norwegian. But anyway, that's not what's keeping me up at night.)

Pearl's father is very controlling. It didn't really bother me at first, because he wasn't any more controlling with Pearl that he was in any other area of his life, and it seemed to be just part of his character. Another reason why it didn't bother me, his character isn't very realistic. Not in the way that he does things and makes decisions and says things that don't make any sense, but the author hasn't given enough information to explain WHY he is the way he is, and therefore justify the character she's given him. If something doesn't seem realistic to me in a book, it won't become personal. Until the character does something so stupid and selfish and egotistical that I begin to fume.

I'll explain: Throughout the whole book so far, Pearl's father has been hoping for her to marry one of his employees, Mr. Longstreet, a widower moved to Chicago from Duluth, MN (who woulda thought) with five kids. Pearl isn't interested, because he's not her type, and she knows she couldn't love him, even though as a teacher she of course has a soft spot for his kids. This didn't bother me, because I already know - from the back cover - that she's eventually going to move to the little town in the Dakotah to teach in a schoolhouse there. I still know that's going to happen, but the situation has gotten a lot more complicated. As Pearl lives in her fathers house, and as she's a Christian, she takes obeying her father very seriously, even though it's hard for her because she has a hard time believing that he actually does still love her. So when her father tells her that she needs to agree to Mr. Longstreet's request to court her, she has no choice but to obey. This was a little annoying, but I was under the impression that if Mr. Longstreet proposed she would have the freedom to say no.

I was mistaken. Mr. Longstreet never even proposed to her! Her father gave a party at their home, of course Mr. Longstreet was there, and during the party Pearl's father gave an announcement that his daughter was engaged!!! I mean, come on!!!

Gah, I HATE it when women are trapped by what they believe to be right. Pearl's father has put his foot down and is FORCING his daughter into a marriage, without her even being given the right to hear a proposal from the man she's supposed to marry.

Writing this, I feel really silly for getting so worked up, but this is the kind of thing that does it. Pearl knows she needs to obey her father, but I can't help but feel that this ISN'T what God meant.

But then I get to thinking, just because arranged marriages aren't the social norm anymore, does that make her father wrong? In biblical times, most marriages were arranged marriages. If I had been born in the time of Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or David, I would have had no choice but to marry whomever my father chose for me. But then again, I would have grown up with the knowledge that that would be the case. In this book, Pearl is taken completely by surprise. I'm sure she was under the supposition that if she were to ever marry, it would be to a man of her own choosing, someone she would have time to get to know and fall in love with. I know this story is set 120 years ago, and that society was much stricter for women especially, but I still can't see how her father is right in demanding this of her. When Pearl goes to try to plead with her father, and asks if she may say something, he responds with "only if it is to say 'yes Father.' " I just don't understand....

*deep breath*


Monday, November 17, 2008

A Conversation

~Child, daughter, beloved. You know I died for you, for your sins, to bring you to my Father. Why do you hold onto the failures that embarrass you the most? That make you feel the most unworthy of the love I've already given you freely of myself?

~Because I'm frightened.

~Of what?

~Of facing the truth. Of continuing to let myself down and let those down who love me. Of not becoming what I want to be.

~Has holding onto your sin helped?

~No. It just keeps getting worse. My circumstances never seem to change. Things on the surface fluctuate, but I still have the same weaknesses I fell to over and over again four years ago. It seems that everything I've learned in the past year has done nothing. I'm still clinging, looking for stories and ways to make my pen flow in ways pleasing to others.

~So... what does that mean?

~You know.

~Yes, but you need to know.

~I thought this was all about my knowing not helping anything.

~No, that's what you think it's about, that's just a symptom.

~A symptom of what?

~What did you write to your friend about with so much joy and conviction?

~Which part?


~Everything is about you. And your love.

~You sound so enthusiastic.

~I wish I felt enthusiastic! I've felt so dead lately, or I fluctuate between deadness and guilt and pain. I'm either overwhelmed by my sins, or when I can get my mind off them because I know you don't want me to dwell on them, I still feel like there is something blocking my connecting to you. During the messages and the conversations and the letter writing I know all the answers and everything seems to fit together. But when I'm on my own, trying to reach you, I can't seem to get things to click together, to connect with what I know to be true.

I'm so tired, and it's so easy to just give everything up and try to forget about it when fatigue takes over and I sleep.

~Does that ever bring you peace? And do you really think that would be worth it?

~No....and no. It's just been my fall back plan so many times in my life that it's just too easy to fall back into....wait a minute. That's it. It's my pit.

~And child, what do you know about pits? Or better yet, what do you know about me and how I relate to pits and those who are in them?

~I know you're the only one who can get me out. I know I never want it to get as bad as it was before.

~And why did it get so bad before?

~Because I completely lost sight of you. Until it got so bad I only had you to look to.

~Beloved - and I love that that's what your parents named you, remember that. Your name - Amanda - really does mean the way I think and feel about you. My beloved Amanda, I am so thankful that you turned to me at that point, and I never felt anything except sorrow during the time I was waiting for you. Never anger, never disappointment. Just sorrow and yearning for you to let me draw near and introduce you to my Father and our truth and love. But child, I don't want you to have to wait that long to turn to me! I want you to choose me before it gets to the point where I'm the only option. I don't want you to lose the blessings you have let me give you because you get my priorities for you rearranged and out of place. I love you, let me give you everything.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Yep, I know it's kinda bad that the last time I wrote here was when I discovered the NaNoWriMo competition....thing. I'm in the midst of it right now of course, and struggling, so I don't really have time to even THINK about my blog. I barely take the time to read my email. But I wanted to share this encouraging letter the NaNoWriMo authors were sent as one of the first-week celebrity pep-talks by author Jonathan Stroud. (I'd never heard of him before, but once this horrible month is over I'll have to check him out.) ...and no, it's not really that bad. It's hard, but so far I like my novel and the direction my novel is taking. If anyone reading this is by any chance interested, I'm writing my novel on my Livejournal account, then copy/pasting it to an Word document so I can get the word count. I'm not very far at the week 3 is going to be hell...but I'm determined to get through this. All you other NaNoWriMo's out there, I wish you luck! See you on the other side.

Jonothan Stroud Pep-Talk ~

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

You could write a novel about the act of writing a novel. It's a heroic act. (Or so I tell myself as I sit here in my garret study, chewing my nails, scratching my nose and staring blankly at my screen. That's what this is, I say grimly: a heroic act.) Why is it so heroic? Because it fits the mythic pattern of all great legendary heroes' lives. It's the story of a mighty quest accepted, of a long journey undertaken, of insuperable obstacles overcome and finally—in your case after 30 painful days—of lasting triumph won. It would make a fine movie, apart from the scratching the nose bi t—probably starring Charlton Heston. Full of dramatic highs, dreadful lows and endless tedious bits when the audience goes out to make a cup of tea. It's an epic, all right, and we're all in it together.

Here's how it works for me. At the beginning there's a kind of honeymoon period, where I'm pretty excited by the idea in my head, and the possibilities it evokes. Sure there are a zillion details to be worked out later, and plenty of things that don't yet mesh, but that's ok—we've lots of time. I write the odd fragment and chuckle over the occasional piquant joke. I do a bit of research, visit museums wearing black roll-neck sweaters, scribble ideas down on napkins in coffee houses. It's a pleasant calm before the storm.

Then things darken a little. Time is pressing. I want to get to grips with the novel, but I haven't a clue how. This is the 'phony war' period. I now apply myself seriously to work, but the trouble is that it doesn’t hold together. Scenes start promisingly but peter into nothing. Main characters turn out to have all the zest of a cardboard box abandoned in the rain. Dialogue is lousy. Description descends into wall-to-wall cliché. No fragment lasts more than two or three pages before being printed off and tossed aside. And still the real writing hasn't begun.

In fact, without a few imperatives to nail things down, it's quite possible for these first two periods to last forever. Honeymoon and phony war: one of them's breezy, the other's frustrating, but both are equally deadly to the hopes of any novel. The author might easily stay scribbling, doodling, crossing out and reworking forever. The heroic quest deteriorates into a dog chasing its tail.

That's why a deadline—like the one you're working to—is such a good idea.

With my Bartimaeus Trilogy I had a big fat fantasy novel to write each year, three years in a row. One novel a year? That's not so hard. Or so I thought. Then I figured out that what with the time taken up with editing and revising my manuscript, and then with printing and distributing it, I actually had about five or six months to get the first draft done. And it wasn't long before I was mired in the phony war period, with lots of fragments, half-ideas and wasted weeks behind me, and saw my deadline looming.

So I did exactly the same thing you're doing this November, and set myself a strict schedule of pages per week to get the first draft done. In my case this worked out at about 100 pages per month for 3-4 months. Each day I kept strict records of what I achieved; each day I tottered a little nearer my goal. Five pages per working day was my aim, and sometimes I made this easily. Other times I fell woefully short. Some days I was happy with what I got down; some days I could scarcely believe the drivel that clogged up the page. But quality was not the issue right then. Quality could wait. This was n't the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages.

So I did it, one page at a time, even when it was like pulling teeth or squeezing blood from a stone. I did it. And you can do it too.

This is just a first draft, after all. It doesn't have to be a perfect thing. I once met an author who claimed only to write when actively inspired. She was a fine and venerated writer, so I didn't let my jaw loll open too widely in her presence, but I didn't really buy her claim, and I still don't buy it now. If 'inspiration' is when the words just flow out, each one falling correctly on the page, I've been inspired precisely once in ten years. All the rest of the time, as I've been piecing together my seven novels, it's been a more or less painful effort. You write, you complete a draft in the time you've got, you take a rest. Then—later, when you've recovered a little—you reread and revise. And so it goes. And little by little the thing that started off as a heap of fragments, a twist of ideas trapped inside your head, begins to take on its own shape and identity, and becomes a living entity, separate from yourself.

Getting that first draft out is a horribly hard grind, but that (perversely) is where the joy of it lies. There is nothing better for me, nothing more uniquely satisfying in the whole process of making a book, than the sensation at the end of each day—good or bad, productive or unproductive—when I look over and see a little fragile stack of written pages that weren't there that morning. A few hours earlier they didn't exist. And now they do. In a strange way this is more actively thrilling than even holding my finished, printed, book in my hands. It's where the magic lies. Alchemists tried for centuries to turn base metals into gold. Every time we sit down and put words on paper, we succeed where they failed. We're conjuring something out of nothing.

So what does my advice boil down to? Sweat blood, churn out the pages, ignore the doldrums, savour the moments when the words catch fire. Good luck with your novels. Those old legendary heroes may not have sat around like us drinking cold coffee and tapping steadily at their keypads, but for them—and for us—it's the journey that's the thing. That's where the fun is.