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How to Bless Those You Met At The Writer’s Conference (and 4 Highlights From Blue Ridge)

BRmtnsNow that the dust is settling from last week’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, highlights {and ideas} are beginning to surface.

First, the highlights:

 

 

 

 

{ONE}

BRHelenrevised

Highlight: Meeting Helen McIntosh

Forging new friendships and celebrating established ones. There was a time in February when I considered not attending Blue Ridge this year (gasp!). I didn’t have a particular project to pitch, and with us prepping for a move, I thought the money should be allocated toward that goal, but it was Brian who insisted I go — “if for no other reason than to re-connect with friends, you only see once a year.” Yep, that’s my hubby! As it turned out, this was a defining year at Blue Ridge when it came to meeting new friends and deepening established ones. Rosie Williams (fellow Hope Writer!) Robin Luftig, Leigh Ann Thomas, Tammy Van Gils, Jodie Bailey, Meredith Mills, Donna Nabors, Karen Friday, Jean Wilund, Nan Jones, and sweet Helen McIntosh, author of Messages to Myself, Overcoming a Distorted Self-Image, are just some of the new friends I met last week and look forward to establishing relationships within the coming years.

 

{TWO}

Eva Marie Everson’s Visual of Nehemiah’s Wall. I admit I was tired and ready for my evening pick-me-up (which usually consisted of peanut butter crackers and a soda) when Eva Marie told everyone to get up at the end of her keynote speech and stand around the room. As she read from Nehemiah, four hundred + people lined the walls, exhorting everyone to take their place at the “wall,” much like the 44 separate groups of people who had specific tasks to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. There was a job for every group, each person, to fulfill — and our calling is no different, regardless of what it is. I can’t do what you do in exactly the same way and vice versa because God handcrafted each of us. We literally broke the mold! You have your place at the wall, and I have mine. Now let’s get to it!

 

{THREE}

BRcoffeeIt’s not just about the coffee. It rarely is, right? Starbucks sells an experience, and it’s no different for the Clouds Cafe on the Ridgecrest Conference campus. Yes, it’s newly renovated but the polished floors and expanded menu are not what makes this gathering place memorable. It’s the people who serve/volunteer there. Women like Loretta and Linda (lovingly known to Marcia Moston and me as the “froth queens”). Seeing their smiles is an experience I look forward to every single year.

 

 

 

{FOUR}

God Stepped Up When I Stepped Out…of My Comfort Zone. Two friends made this clear at Blue Ridge. One quietly offered me a hand to join in the adventure. The other threw me overboard to sink or swim. I love them both and God used both approaches to reveal Himself.

BRDDmerevisedWhile staying in my room Saturday night, Dee Dee Parker came up with the brilliant idea (at 2:00 AM)  to do a fun video the next morning on the subject of snacks at Blue Ridge, or the lack thereof, in our nearby vending machine. Now I’m the girl who doesn’t even like to have my picture taken, but something inside (perhaps it was the lack of sleep) said, “Go for it!” And we did. {2Peasin1LittlePod…Productions! #wejustwanttobeablessing} We proceeded to do two more videos that were also well-received. (Thank you!) But what touched us most was the feedback from those who shared how our friendship was evident in the video. Some even said they wanted to attend the conference next year to be a part of the fun. “Comfort zone” Cathy would not have dared to shoot a silly video, but because Dee Dee invited me to join in the fun, and I was willing to step over the proverbial line between silly and serious, new friends were made. From what we hear, many were blessed. To God be the glory!

BRLoriresizedbLori Roeleveld, a sweet friend and mentor in many ways, scooted shoved me out of my comfort zone a little differently. After I shared how I’ve never liked being called out in a class setting with Lori over lunch, she promptly stood up, shouting to Jim Rubart, one table over, how he needed to put me on the spot in the next session. Really? 🙂 It wasn’t until I actually began considering skipping that class the next day that I knew this was much bigger than my insecurities. Feeling certain that Jim’s class was one I needed to attend, it was no surprise the enemy would try to use an innocent and well-intended shout-out to prompt my fears into action. Not only did I attend the final class, but I also thanked Lori for the outburst that initially had me shaken because it led to an opportunity to stand steadfast, stomping my fears into smithereens.

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blessing fellow writers-1

Edie Melson, our fearless leader and Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, encouraged us to exchange business cards with one another again this year. While there’s an array of reasons for doing this, there is one I’ve overlooked in the past⎯the opportunity to pray for fellow writers. As I begin to write each morning, I will lay my hands on the piles of cards and pray for them, for us. Prayers like:

  • business cardsKeep our motives pure, Lord. (Psalm 139: 23,24) Flesh pinches the tenderest of places, tempting us to put the spotlight on ourselves, our name, and our brand when our greatest desire is to reflect You, Your name, and Your kingdom alone.
  • Keep our priorities aligned in a way that pleases You, Lord. What do we gain if our name is on a book but find it no longer written on the hearts of those we love?
  • Keep our eyes fixed on You, Jesus. For You are the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Let the things on earth grow strangely dim as we rejoice and write in the light of your love.
  • Help us run this journey as companions, not competitors. There is no room in the kingdom for competition. This is not Your desire for us. We are on the same team: Team Your Glory.
  • Infuse our writing with divine creativity for You are Creator! Your Spirit indwells within us, equipping us to write beyond our means. As Al Gansky said in his keynote speech, “Creativity Begins With The Creator.” Amen.
  • Help us to release our work for Your glory. Some are called to plant, and some to water, but You alone, God, bring growth, landing our work in Your chosen places. We don’t need to manipulate, beg, or sulk. Help us to embrace truth — that You are for us, not against us, even when we cannot see, hear, or feel You at work.
  • Help us to find our validation in You alone, Jesus.

Now it’s your turn! Please take a moment to share one of your highlights from last week’s conference (or another one!). Or, feel free to share which of the above prayers you will begin praying for yourself and fellow writers.

 

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Staying in Step with the Spirit Via A Breath of Prayer

by Cathy Baker

{ Day 24 } 

“I drove away from my mind everything capable of spoiling the sense of the presence of God. I just make it my business to persevere in His holy presence. My soul has had an habitual, silent, secret conversation with God.” -Brother Lawrence

The habitual, silent, secret conversation is a stealth weapon residing in the soul of a believer, wielding power with but one breath. 

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 
and I answered the king…”
Nehemiah 2:1-5a

Nehemiah inhales prayer and exhales action. A “breath” prayer, if you will.

Nehemiah valued his relationship with God, so he spent time with Him—talking, asking, and most importantly, listening. This foundation of prayer released a current of godly wisdom and discernment that could be drawn from at a moment’s notice.  

When in constant communion with God, breath prayers rise as natural as a chest drawing in air.

In 2013, I wrote the brief post Befriending, Not Depending, On Breath Prayers for it’s the habit of prayer that empowers the silent, secret conversation with God, not the other way around. 

Staying in Step with the Spirit: Prayer ushers us immediately into the presence of a holy God and loving Father. No greater way of staying in step with Him exists.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of prayer. Please forgive us when we say we love You with our lips but don’t reflect it in our actions, beginning with prayer. Help us to grasp the magnitude of Your goodness and holiness as we reflect on this costly privilege.

Is there some way I can pray for you today? I would count it a privilege. 

Friday Fave: Kelly Minter Study

We recently finished up our community Bible study, Nehemiah…A Heart That Can Break, by Kelly Minter.

Obviously when a group studies a particular book in the Bible one can’t go wrong. Every word is profitable. Not one returns void. Each syllable, exhaled by our living and active God. 

Each Bible study author, however, has their own way of bringing to light what God lays on their heart via thought provoking questions and insights shared in their unique voice. And it’s Kelly Minter’s voice/style that our group especially enjoyed. 

Favorite excerpts:

  • Sometimes the most accomplished people aren’t the ones with the most ability but with the most breakable hearts. 
  • If we view our sin as a minor infringement we will view God’s forgiveness with equal mediocrity. We can’t appreciate the great cost of forgiveness if we think our sin barely needed it in the first place. 
  • Even well-meaning people can unintentionally draw us away from God’s will in our lives.
  • We expect enemies to wound us, but wounds from a relative or loved one inflict hurt inside the private property lines of our souls. 
  • This single focus of Nehemiah simultaneously convicts and inspires me as I consider the ways I am so easily drawn away from what God has put in my heart to do. 
  • I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Nehemiah’s enemies unleashed threats, lies, and an onslaught of intimidation when he and his people were just inches from the finish line. 
  • How easily I can put the ministry of people above the people themselves. The subtle temptation to exalt the “wall” of study, returning e-mails, planning events, and even putting together a meal for a Bible study over actual people is the most counterproductive traps we can slide into.

Is it any wonder why we’re already planning to go with another Kelly Minter study later this year? Hint: Esther.

Who are some other Bible study authors you would suggest we (and other groups) give a try? 

Think Bullying is Just For Kids? Think Again.

When asked by Oprah if he considered himself a bully based on past interactions, Lance Armstrong said, “Yes.” Many were surprised to hear his admissions of dominance over colleagues, some for simply disagreeing with him.

Bullying during adolescent years, however, doesn’t seem so surprising. Perhaps statistics from i-SAFE Foundation prove why, unfortunately:

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber-threats online.
  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
  • Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

The results can be devastating. 

But bullying isn’t just for kids. Although adults may react differently, the pain remains — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. (If you’re being bullied at work, home, or in ministry, please tell someone.)

This post, however, is to raise awareness of our own actions.

According to bullystatistics.org we might be considered a bully if we:

  • Are quick to put down others
  • Desire to gain power over another person to make himself or herself more dominant
  • Enjoy showing others “who is boss”
  • Use sarcastic or demeaning language to dominate

More subtle ways? 

  • Invading another person’s “personal space” in a strong or dominant way. (Some believe this to be about arm’s length) Hugs, of course, do not count.
  • Using a dominant tone of voice when speaking to others.
  • Facial expressions. A nonverbal but powerful source of communication.

While preparing my first lesson in Nehemiah, I was struck by how Nehemiah’s shrewd leadership skills were divinely rendered in love. 

The result? God used him to not only rebuild a wall, but to restore His people. 

Are our actions/words restoring or destroying others? 

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. (Neh. 2:17, 18)

 

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