Category Archives: Guest Posts

Why Write Fiction? + Giveaway

Just a quick note to let you know I’m guest posting at the Dare to Bloom site, and giving away an ebook copy of Heaven’s Prey. Come join the conversation about why we write — and/or read — fiction. Click here: Why Write Fiction? (Giveaway ends July 26, 2017, and is of course void where prohibited by law.)

Treasured Release (Guest Post)

Treasured Release

by Steph Beth Nickel

This post was first written for Stephanie’s “Hunting Treasure” series of devotionals, which can be read (and heard) at HopeStreamRadio.

Do you have things or do things have you?

My mother-in-law was a perfect example of the former but definitely not the latter. After moving into a nursing home and before selling the house that had been her home for decades, Dave’s mom took one last look around.

My mother-in-law’s observation? “There’s nothing here for me anymore.”

Many people place great sentimental value on material possessions, even those not worth much monetarily. But not Dave’s mom.

Oh to hold things with such an open-handed grasp!

We’re in the process of decluttering our home, getting rid of those things we’re not using. The progress is slow going, but it’s very rewarding. We’re making room not only in our home but also in our heart and mind.

However, I have a not-so-secret stash. You won’t find it in the spare room or the basement, not even on my bookshelves. But if you knew where to look in cyberspace, you would be amazed—but not necessarily in a good way.

There is no way one person can possibly get through all the online course material I have stored up … at least not if that person wants to actually implement any of what she’s learning. I’m an e-course addict.

And what does the virtual weight of all these courses do to me?

It preoccupies my thoughts. It distracts me from my already overflowing To Do list. And, worst of all, it keeps me from focusing on that heavenly treasure I very much desire to store up. The treasure mentioned in Matthew 6:19-21.

Outstretched hand, with text: Hold things with open hands.

[image: Pixabay]

What are you clutching?

Money? Possessions? Reputation? Career? Relationships?

When my kids were little, we watched a Berenstain Bear video over and over and over. The one thing that has stuck with me over all these years is the song Sister Bear sang, “I Want It All.”

And although there are many things I’m quite content to do without, I am still eager to jump at almost every opportunity that sounds interesting. And even though I know I can never complete all the online courses—or read all those books on my aforementioned bookshelves—I’m still far too tight-fisted.

In a way, I want it all. How about you?

I can’t help but think of Jesus’s disciples.

In Matthew 4:18-19, we read that the Lord commanded Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, two fishermen, to follow Him, promising to make them fishers of men.

Their response?

In verse 20, it says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (ESV*). (emphasis mine)

In the next verse, we read that Jesus also called James and John to follow Him.

Their response is recorded in verse 22. “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (ESV). Note the word immediately in this verse as well.

In Mark 2, Jesus came upon a tax collector named Levi. In verse 14 we read that Jesus simply said, “Follow me” (ESV).

And without apparent hesitation, Levi “rose and followed him” (ESV).

These men and others didn’t cling to their careers, what was familiar, their apparent source of security. Instead, they left it all behind to follow One they barely knew.

The things I cling to seem silly in light of the disciples’ example.

Maybe it’s time for some treasured release.

How about you? Are there things holding you back from following the Lord and His teachings as revealed in the Scriptures? Are you willing to leave them behind? Are you at least willing to be made willing?

Does this mean He wants you to turn your back on your job, your material possessions, your online courses? Not necessarily.

But if we’re so busy storing up treasure on Earth, we just may be missing out on what’s most important.

Tweetables

What are you clinging to? (click to tweet this)

Do you have things or do they have you? (click to tweet this)

Hold things with open hands. (click to tweet this)

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

How Not to Pray (Guest Post)

How Not to Pray

by Steph Beth Nickel

This post was first written as a devotional for HopeStreamRadio.

Matthew 6:9-13 is a very familiar passage. Most of us know it well. It says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (ESV*).

The preceding verses, verses 5-8 read this way: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (ESV).

Praying in Public, Motivated by a Desire to Be Seen and Admired

Where is our focus?

Prayer is about glorifying the Lord rather than ourselves.

Praying in Order to Receive a Reward

If we’re seeking the praise and admiration of others, God says that’s all the reward we will receive. Contrast that to praising Him and asking Him to send His kingdom and accomplish His will. That’s infinitely better than any reward we may receive from others.

Praying in Secret

Although we are to pray with and for one another, by and large, prayer is a personal matter, one between God and each individual. It’s a time to do business with the Lord as it were. A time to ask Him to meet our needs. A time to ask for forgiveness. A time to ask for the desire and the ability to forgive those who have wronged us.

Praying to our Father Who is in Secret

As I was reading these verses recently, the words “who is in secret” caught my attention like never before. Our Father is in secret. What does that mean exactly? Perhaps it means that there are few who even begin to know what He is like. Perhaps it means that only when we are alone with Him can we truly focus on who He is and not become distracted by our environment. Perhaps it means He chooses to meet with those who come apart. It’s interesting to think about these things—and to pray about them.

Image with text: "Pray... confident God hears." #prayer @StephBethNickel guest posting at janetsketchley.ca

Photo: Pixabay

Praying, Confident that He Sees (and Hears) Us

If we pray to impress others, if we pray all the while considering what they think of us, our focus will not be on God. And it’s likely our confidence will be in ourselves. However, if we shut ourselves away where others won’t see or hear us, it’s much more likely that our thoughts will be about Him, that our prayers will be for His ears and not the ears of others.

Praying, Confident He will Reward the Humble

It’s humbling to pray by ourselves. There are many passages throughout the Scriptures that stress the importance of humility. We must acknowledge God’s greatness and our inadequacy to ever earn His favour. Still, we can be confident of His love and His desire to meet our needs.

Praying without Rambling On

As a communicator (that’s a polite way to say I like to talk a lot), I am able to express myself with words—lots and lots of words. And yet, there have been many times I’ve thought about just how inadequate those words are. There is nothing I can say to impress the Lord or convince Him to do what He is not already willing to do. Even so, He invites me to pour out my heart to Him, to seek His intervention in my life and in the lives of those whose paths cross mine. But I must always remember that it’s not because of my many words that He acts. It’s because of His great love.

Praying, Confident that God Knows What We Need

The wonderful thing is that God knows everything we need—even better than we do. As we come to Him and ask Him to meet those needs, we can rest assured that He will do so—not always when and how we want. But He loves us and will always do what’s best.

Praying, Confident that He is Willing to Provide

It’s during those times when things aren’t going as we want that we must remember all of God’s promises are true. He will fulfill each and every one of them. As we come apart to seek His face, may we have confidence in this truth.

I encourage you to take some time to come apart and seek the Lord in prayer this day.

Tweetables

Pray in secret, confident God will reward the humble (click to tweet this).

Pray, knowing God is willing to provide your needs (click to tweet this).

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

The Journey Continues (Guest Post)

The Journey Continues

by Steph Beth Nickel

"Decluttering is like a weight loss program for your home, heart, and head." #clutter #Christianliving @StephBethNickel

Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (ESV*)

During Lent I participated in Kathi Lipp’s clutter free challenge. It was easy to get rid of 10 items per day. In fact, as well as thousands of other items, I got rid of approximately 400 books and magazines—and if you came to my house, you’d never know it. It was amazing, but I still have a long way to go.

What are some of the things God has been teaching me along the way?

All glory belongs to Him. Although I knew this long before I began the challenge, I was reminded time and again that any success in this or any other area is evidence of His work in my life.

Naturally, I’m lazy—very lazy. But thankfully, God is teaching me to push past my tendency to procrastinate—especially in the areas of decluttering, organizing, and cleaning.

Habits that have taken over 50 years to develop don’t disappear overnight. Unless I continue to declutter and refuse to succumb to old patterns, I will slip back into my old ways. Every sinkful of dishes washed and every item dropped into the box to be taken to the thrift store is a small step to developing new habits.

Community is crucial for any success. There is a reason why God calls Jesus’s disciples “the body of Christ” and distributes different spiritual gifts as He sees fit. We are not meant to go it on our own. The clutter free Facebook group was a safe place to be 100 percent open and honest. We celebrated one another’s victories and encouraged one another when we were struggling. It soon became one of my favourite groups. I’m convinced many of these friendships will endure the test of time.

Self-realization is good. Knowing why we buy what we do and why we keep things we don’t use, don’t love, and wouldn’t replace should something happen to them is eye-opening. (These are the criteria Kathi Lipp uses when choosing whether to keep any given item.)

Like any other form of healthy living, living clutter free is a lifestyle choice. Some days I’ll win. Some days I’ll stumble. And some days it will be a challenge to do much of anything around the house. But that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It just means, should God give me tomorrow, I’ll have another opportunity to move toward a clutter free life.

Although I have a long way to go before our home is truly clutter free, I’ve discovered some amazing truths already. If you embark on this adventure, you may find these apply to you as well.

Tweetables

Clutter free living is a lifestyle choice. (click to tweet)

Decluttering is like a weight loss program for your home, heart, and head. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

 

 

 

 

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Surprised by Transformation (Guest Post)

Surprised by Transformation

by Steph Beth Nickel

Photo of butterfly, with the words "Transformation can come in the most surprising ways"

Be on the lookout. Transformation can come in ways you never expected.

And that’s exactly what has been happening to me this Lenten season.

While I don’t usually participate in the tradition of giving up something for Lent, this year I became aware of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Bible Study and decided to jump onboard.

The challenge: get rid of 10 things per day for the 40 days of Lent.

Having wanted to declutter our home for years, I thought it was a great way to start.

I had no idea.

I knew I could get rid of most, if not all 400 items, by culling my books and magazines, which I did.

However, I have also kept going, aiming to get rid of 10 items per day not only until Easter but also beyond that, until our home is the way we want it, free of clutter.

You have to understand … I used to have a blog called “Confessions of a Horrible Housekeeper.” That wasn’t one of those cutesy titles created by someone who was actually just shy of receiving The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. No! Horrible was an accurate descriptor.

But that’s changing.

Not because it will make me a better person.

Not because others will think more highly of me.

Not to my credit.

It’s all about the Lord.

What does decluttering have to do with our spiritual life?

In the study, Kathi Lipp addresses the “whys” of clutter. Why do we surround ourselves with things we don’t need and/or love? Why do we hold onto things even when we’ve come to recognize them as clutter?

This is not a one-size-fits-all study. But when you discover yourself in the pages of Clutter Free, it’s powerful.

What are some of the advantages I’ve discovered so far?

I feel lighter emotionally, having gotten rid of so many items.

Because I’ve cleaned out my kitchen cupboards, I’ve found “forever homes” for items that have sat out for years. I’m also motivated to wash up the dishes as we dirty them, leaving our newly discovered counter free of clutter.

I’ve set a good example for my hubby and our daughter. No nagging necessary. They’ve both begun to address their own clutter and we’re enjoying the transformation together.

How do I know this was the right time to take this challenge?

For the sake of peace in our household, I decided years ago not to nag my family members about the condition of the house. Therefore, for the most part, I ignored the ever-increasing piles of stuff that surrounded us.

When I made an effort to tidy up, I became overwhelmed with the immensity of the task and would give up.

I was under the mistaken impression that something new and shiny would either make me happy or motivate me to do what I felt I should (thus, the accumulation of cookbooks and fitness equipment).

But no more.

I’ve found contentment in addressing the clutter in even a small corner of our home.

The Clutter Free Facebook group is a safe place to be open and honest. I’ve been encouraged and had the opportunity to encourage others.

I’ve let go of my defensive attitude. In the past I felt others were judging me because of the condition of our home—and I was determined to defend my choices even if they never knew about it.

Never before have I been so excited to get rid of things.

The most important changes are taking place within me, not the walls of our home.

 When has transformation surprised you? (Scroll down to share your comment.)

Tweetables

Transformation can come in surprising ways. (click to tweet)

As I declutter, the most important changes are taking place within me, not my home. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

The Grass is Always Greener—or is It? (Guest Post)

The Grass is Always Greener—or is It?

By Steph Beth Nickel

I had an epiphany recently.

I would have said, by and large, I was content—happy even. But then I took a closer look at my dreams and aspirations.

"The grass isn't always greener."

Work Life

I serve as church administrator. The hours are good. I have every Friday off. I enjoy interacting with the other staff members and those who call or pop into the office.

But part of me would enjoy earning enough money from writing that I wouldn’t need to work outside the home. Odd … because I’m an extrovert.

Ministry Life

I am involved with the Awana program at church. I love the kids and enjoy sharing the truths of Scripture with them.

But I would like to help develop a more active ladies’ ministry. Plus, I’d love to have the opportunity to once again speak to ladies’ groups at other churches and at workshops, seminars, and conferences. Years ago I spoke fairly regularly.

Writing Life

Most of my writing opportunities are in the area of nonfiction. And I’m honoured to be a contributor to HopeStreamRadio and to be working on a follow-up to Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances.

But I have tried my hand at fiction and have gotten some great comments. The fact that I love to read novels is likely why I would like to write short stories, if not full-length fiction. Plus, I have an idea for a series I’d love to develop.

Spiritual Life

Having dreams and aspirations isn’t a bad thing, but it can get in the way of obeying Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV).

Whatever you do …

So whether I’m creating the bulletin, cleaning toilets (as co-custodian with my hubby, I do that too), or hitting the best-seller list (not really a dream of mine, but you get the picture), I ought to be doing it for God’s glory. [Tweet this: Do each task in a way that honours God.]

While both women’s and children’s ministry are important, for now, I’m involved with children. Not only should I do it “for the Lord,” I must remember that I can be instrumental in pointing boys and girls to Jesus and that’s an incredible privilege (Matthew 19:14).

I have a number of writing and editing projects on the go. In order to fulfill these responsibilities, I must buckle down and focus. I must also, more regularly, give thanks for these opportunities. I have this moment; the next isn’t guaranteed. If I am to write fiction, I will—someday.

How about you? Do you consider the different aspects of your life and wish they were different?

Just remember … the grass isn’t always greener [tweet this].

As believers in Jesus, may we commit Colossians 3:23 to memory and seek to live it out.

 

(Scroll down to share your comment.)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

My Theme for 2017: Less (Guest Post)

My Theme for 2017: Less

by Steph Beth Nickel

Having read Kevin DeYoung’s newest book, Crazy Busy, I came face to face with what I already knew: I spend far too much time doing things that don’t actually propel me toward my goals.

Clock with words "we must refuse to fritter away our discretionary time"

My word of the year for 2016 was more, as in more time spent writing and editing, more time spent in prayer and Bible study, more time seeking the Lord with my hubby and our daughter. My lack of success in these areas could be because I wasn’t focussed on the flipside of the coin.

If we’re going to achieve more, something has to give. We have to do less of something else.

So how does this apply to writing?

We must refuse to fritter away our discretionary time.

“Discretionary time? What discretionary time?” you may ask.

But let’s be honest. Do we watch even half an hour of TV most days? Do we spend far too much time on Facebook and the other social networks? Do we spend hours each week waiting on our children—at sports practice, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities?

You don’t need hours and hours of uninterrupted time to write a book—and certainly not a blog post or an article. There was one author I heard about who wrote an entire book in 20-minute increments during his lunch break. Amazing!

DO THIS: Take a look at your schedule and see where you can “steal” 20 minutes here, an hour there.

We must learn to say no.

Many—if not most—of us are not only busy, but we keep taking on more and more responsibilities. If you’re like me, you don’t want to miss any opportunity that comes along. Thankfully, I’m learning to say no; I’m learning to focus on what’s already on my plate; I’m learning to take on less.

Lysa TerKeurst wrote a book called The Best Yes. It’s about analyzing why we say yes when we are already overtaxed and really shouldn’t be taking on anything more. The book also addresses the importance of saying no or not now so we will be free to say yes when God brings a specific opportunity across our path.

If we feel God has called us to write, we must free up dozens—if not hundreds—of hours. We may find some time by restructuring our discretionary time, but very likely we’ll have to make even more significant changes.

DO THIS: Prayerfully examine your To Do list and choose one or more time-consuming items you are willing to eliminate in order to have more time to write.

We must spend less time making excuses.

There are legitimate reasons we don’t put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, but excuses often outnumber these reasons.

That voice in our head that says …

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said—far better than you could ever express it.”

“Writing is a selfish endeavour. Think of your family and friends.”

“You may squeak out the time to write, but you don’t have the time to hone your skills.”

“And you certainly don’t have the funds needed to get your work published.”

“God didn’t really call you to write. You’re delusional.”

DO THIS: Identify the #1 obstacle that keeps you from writing and create a game plan to crush it. The first step is often to simply pick up that pen or open that Word doc and get writing.

And what will I be doing over the next weeks and months? Hopefully, taking my own advice.

What are your writing plans for 2017? (Scroll down to share your comment.)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

My Corner of the Vineyard (Guest Post)

My Corner of the Vineyard

by Christine Lindsay

Looking back almost 17 years ago now, I started out as a writer hungry to share my memoirs as a birth-mother, a woman who relinquished her baby to adoption.  But I was far from ready to write that book, far from ready to give comfort to others. The Lord redirected my energy into writing Christian fiction.

He used that time to refine me as a birth-mother, to refine me as the woman He wanted me to be. He did that by helping me see who I really was in His eyes. I had so much healing still to go through at the beginning of my writing career. Like I say in my non-fiction book,

“Typical. Most people going through emotional healing think they’re healed long before they actually are.”

I’m so glad today that my heavenly Father held me back from publishing that non-fiction book in the year 2000, when I was chomping at the bit to stand on a soapbox and tell the world how I felt—that relinquishing my baby broke my heart. That book would have done little to help others. It would have only allowed me to toot my own horn.

This past summer the Lord opened the doors—after all these years—to publish that true-life story that started me writing in the first place. Finding Sarah Finding Me is my birth-mother memoirs, about what God taught me through that tumultuously emotional journey, and also the heart-wrenching and joyful stories from other adoption triads. But with relief I see that long-held-back book is now helping others through their adoption story. It’s helping women see themselves as God sees them.

Christine Lindsay and her birth-daughter, Sarah

Whenever I speak in public I get the great honor of hugging some hurting woman. They range from adoptees, to adoptive moms, women who suffered infertility, or women who married the man they used to call Mr. Wrong because of an unplanned pregnancy, and most quietly of all, women just like me who sidle up to my side—birth-moms.

It’s been a long journey, certainly not an easy one, but to see God working in this part of the vineyard, the part where one woman gives her baby up to another mom and dad for the sake of the baby, is a really special corner. I live here and at long last this birth-mom is happy.

Finding Sarah, Finding Me, by Christine LindsayBook Blurb:

Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.

Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.

Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up…and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.

Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.

AUTHOR BIO

Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction with complex emotional and psychological truth, who always promises a happy ending. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.

Christine’s Irish wit and use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary and historical romances Londonderry Dreaming and Sofi’s Bridge.

A busy writer and speaker, Christine, and her husband live on the west coast of Canada, and she has just released her non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.

Please drop by Christine’s website ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and Goodreads

Read Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me: Click HERE

Purchase links:

Amazon (Paperback and Kindle)
Barnes and Noble

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Escaping Captivity (Guest Post)

Escaping Captivity

by Steph Beth Nickel

Because of Jesus... we can escape captivity.Many of us have read books or watched movies in which the main character is taken captive, books such as Janet’s own Heaven’s Prey.

While few (if any) of us have experienced this horror, we have all been held captive at some point. Some such occurrences seem almost too insignificant to mention: that bad dream that leaves us in a funk for the rest of the day for example. Some we seek to keep hidden: that bad habit we can’t seem to shake perhaps.

And what about that careless choice that makes us want to relive even a few seconds that would change the course of our lives for several days, months or even years to come?

Our Response to Captivity

Do we get tied up in knots? Do we obsess over negative feelings or less than stellar choices? Or do we actually believe Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).

Many Christians have memorized this verse and quote it often. But do we cling to this promise when we’re at a low point?

Do we quote this verse and others like it to reassure ourselves, to pull ourselves out of emotional captivity or simply as a declaration of truth?

Our Response to Truth

If we don’t instantly feel better, will we still cling to the truth?

If God doesn’t “fix” everything in the way we want Him to, as quickly as we want Him to, will we still believe?

Will we allow our captivity to keep us bound in knots, making us ineffective?

Or will we deliberately look for the good in every situation? Will we pray for those involved? Will we see it as one more step on the journey to spiritual maturity, to authentic freedom?

Our Response to Promises

Will we rejoice in the midst of everything? (See 1 Corinthians 5:18.)

How can we, as Christians, escape captivity? We can hold onto 1 Peter 5:6-8 with both hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV).

And when we can’t hold on, we can trust that our great God will always, always, always hold onto us.

No matter what happens, whether because of our choices or the choices of others, we can trust God. Even in the midst of apparent captivity, we can live in the freedom there is to be found in a growing relationship with the Lord.

Tweetables:

Because of Jesus, we can escape captivity. (click to tweet)

God’s promises believed bring freedom. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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3 Challenges of the Christian Book Lover (Guest Post)

3 Challenges of the Christian Book Lover

by Steph Beth Nickel

3 Tips for Book LoversGiving a Kind Critique

Have you ever been asked to critique someone’s writing or been approached to be a beta reader? (A beta reader is given an author’s unpublished manuscript for review.)

Anyone who writes knows how hard it is to allow others not only to read the words they’ve spent hours—sometimes even months or years—grueling over but also to ask readers for feedback, both what they liked and what they didn’t.

As believers, we want to be kind and encouraging. We want to build up rather than tear down. These are godly responses, but we must also seek to be honest.

How can you and I express our opinion in a way that is both honest and encouraging?

Here are three suggestions:

Before you start to read, ask what the writer is looking for in particular. Don’t give them a list of grammatical errors if they primarily want to know if the characters are believable and the storyline plausible, for example.

Remember to list what you liked as well as what you didn’t. Some people use the 2-1 rule: list two positives for every negative. Others simply list the things they enjoyed first and then those they feel could be improved.

Even if you’re an editor, a critique is not the same as an edit. Try to approach the work as a typical reader rather than a professional, although there will, of course, be an overlap. It’s hard to switch off the editor brain even when reading for pleasure.

Tweetable: Build up, don’t tear down, when giving a critique. (click to tweet)

Leaving a Realistic Review

If we’ve been asked to leave a review—or simply if we choose to do so, it can be challenging if we didn’t particularly like the book.

We may not want to hurt the author’s feelings—or their sales—especially if we know them personally.

While we want to be kind to the author, we must also keep in mind those who may choose to read a book based upon our review.

Here are three suggestions:

Deliberately look for something positive to include in your review, especially if you can’t honestly give it four or five stars. Point out what you enjoyed—or what other readers might enjoy—before listing those things you didn’t like.

It’s best to leave a brief review. Even so, take the time to craft it well and read it over a few times before posting.

And when it comes to reviewing books by authors you know, you may not want agree to do so if you think your review may affect their sales and / or your relationship with them.

Tweetable: Give kind but honest reviews. (click to tweet)

Selfless Self-Promotion

Whether we write, edit or proofread, we may have to promote our work. As Christians, we may find this difficult to do. After all, humility is a godly trait. However, humility doesn’t mean denying the gifts and abilities the Lord has enabled us to develop.

I once heard of an author who said if he didn’t believe his book would be valuable to his reader and worth their financial investment, he had no business writing it. What a great perspective!

The same is true of any creative or professional endeavour we are involved in. And if it has value to others, it makes sense to make them aware of it.

How can we do so without coercing others or allowing pride to motivate us?

Here are three suggestions:

Truly consider how others will benefit. Keep them in mind when developing a marketing strategy and promoting your product or service.

Be generous. Many creatives, even those who aren’t believers, give away bonus material that is of significant value. They may offer their first book free. They may record podcasts or webinars that are more than simply promotional tools. Follow their example and seek to bless your readers or clients.

Although this may sound overly “spiritual,” believers ought to pray about this, as they should about all areas of life. God will show you how to engage in selfless self-promotion if you ask.

Tweetable: Consider how your writing will benefit the reader when marketing. (click to tweet)

Will you accept these challenges? What could you add to these lists?

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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