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The Learning Curve

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, but I confess it’s often sadly lacking in my life. Especially when it comes to learning new technology (or trying to), patience is not something I possess. Knowing that patience grows through testing, I admit that I avoid praying for patience. It’s easier to simply give up!

Hasn’t the technology that is part of day-to-day living gotten ridiculously complicated? I got a new smart phone, but it makes me feel dumb! I purchased a book (of course, since I’m a writer). But seriously, did I really think I would take the time to read 697 pages? iPhone the missing manual does have a good index and lots of illustrations, but I’m impatient. I don’t want to take time to study a manual. I want to immediately be able to use my iphone. After all, it’s supposed to be “intuitive.” Well, maybe for some.

Then there’s the daily challenge of wrestling with my computer. Instead of thanking God for all it enables me to do, I waste valuable time grumbling when I could and should be tackling the learning curve.

But today I made up my mind to stop moaning and groaning about HTML, HyperText Markup Language. It’s known as “the most basic building block of the Web.” Just the name makes me feel hyper, but it’s something I’ve known I need to learn to more effectively manage my four websites. So today I finally got started on a Udemy course, “HTML, CSS, Bootstrap.” It took some searching because I purchased it over a year ago. (Yes, I also struggle with procrastination!)

Amazingly I somehow had the patience to get through the first 14 lessons. (I didn’t pray for patience, but I did ask Father to “Please show me how to do this.) I’ve still got much to learn, but it was enough to enable me to copy, paste, and revise some bootstrap code (something else I need to learn) in the website for the Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

It took all afternoon, but I’ve now got bootstrap working to display two photos and text on the top of the Continuing Session page that will adjust to all different size screens. Thank You, Father!

Like a kid in a candy store or with a new toy, I’m revising the bootstrap code to add pictures throughout the website. Check out the Continuing Sessions page by clicking here. The eight sessions are all in place and I’m excited. (The link is not yet available through the menu at the top of the page. That’s a challenge for another day!)

The learning curve is not just something I need to grin and bear when I’m dealing with technology. It’s a key to my growth in all areas of my life – personally, professionally, and spiritually.

Study [learn and keep learning]
to shew thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

For those who seek to serve the Lord through the ministry of writing there is also a learning curve. And it can feel really steep. That’s why we need to “encourage each other to build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11 TLB). And it’s why I’m directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference for the 24th year and the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference for the 37th year. Someone has said they are the equivalent of a semester’s course in college. I doubt my first book would have ever gotten in print had my pastor not sent me to the St. Davids’ Christian Writers Conference over 40 years ago.

Father, You know how easy it is to get frustrated and discouraged by the learning curve. Forgive us, forgive me, when I grumble rather than trust You to help me do what feels impossible. You are so faithful!

What difficult task, that you’ve been putting off, do you need to tackle?

Creativity!

Today is my birthday! Turning 75 is one of those sobering birthdays like my 40th. Hard to believe I’ve lived 3/4’s of a century!

A friend sent me a link to this hilarious video. What a wonderful example of creativity.

Happy Birthday, by Beethoven? Bach? Mozart? – Nicole Pesce on piano
https://bit.ly/2QJYBPX

I can only play simple melodies (sometimes in two-parts) with my right hand. But He’s given me – and YOU – other gifts. In fact, His Word promises in Ephesians 4:7 (TLB):

Christ has given each of us special abilities—
whatever he wants us to have
out of his rich storehouse of gifts.

Do you believe it? And if you do, are you using the gift(s) He has given you to further His Kingdom?

One day all those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior will stand before Him. I have no doubt one of the questions He will ask us is, “What did you do with the gift I entrusted to you?”

I have invested 37 of my 75 years in directing the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference (24 years directing the sister “Write His Answer” conference in Colorado). Each year there are more challenges – not, I believe, because I’m “over the hill” but because the evil one knows his time is short. My purpose continues to be

to encourage and equip writers
in all stages of their journey to write about
a God who is real, who is reachable,
and who changes lives
.

Father has given me the special birthday gift of enabling me to have the faculty in place for the May 13-16 Colorado conference. Last year at this time because of my husband’s fall and long recovery I had just begun planning. Our faculty includes 3 agents, 20 editors, 17 authors, 9 other professionals, and 10 staff. Nineteen are new to CCWC; 6 were not with us last year. You can see who is coming at https://colorado.writehisanswer.com.

About half of the faculty is in place for the July 22-25 Philly conference. See https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com. Wednesday evening Liz Curtis Higgs will launch the conference by keynoting. Then, new this year, will be a full day of workshops on Thursday as well as Friday and Saturday.

If you’re not able to come to Colorado or Philly, I encourage you to check out the other Christian writers conferences around the nation. I believe attending a conference is the best investment you can make in your writing ministry.

You’ll find a list in the 2020 Christian Writers Market Guide. I have copies available at a discount (click here) or you can subscribe to the online edition. It really is a must-have resource as is a subscription to The Christian Communicator.

But the most important thing you can do to grow your gift is to grow closer to the Giver. In this new year I urge you to dig into His Word more deeply than ever. How else can you “write His answer”?

Beyond the Manger

How tiny and helpless
how wonderfully human,
yet so mysteriously divine,
was the Baby born to Mary.

How great the promises
of who He was,
of why He had come,
of what He would do.

But did Mary know,
did Mary see,
beyond the manger—
to the Cross?

Did she know
that He would bear
our grief and sorrow,
be wounded and bruised
for our sins?

Did she know
He would be chastised
that we might have peace,
and lashed
that we might be healed?

This Christmas
will we be drawn
just to the manger
or also to the Cross?

manger cross

My tree is decorated.
Gifts purchased but
not yet wrapped.
I still need to bake our
favorite cookies
and my mother’s
famous coffee cake.

Our inflatable Christmas nativity, lights, and two deer are shining brightly outside. (It’s too cold to go snap a picture.)

My husband’s health is so much better after a mid-June trip to the hospital by ambulance in the middle of the night. (He said, “I think I’m dying.”) A new primary care / geriatric doctor has discontinued three of Paul’s meds. He still walks slow since he broke his knee cap and tibia over a year ago, but except for occasional “senior moments” he no longer gets so confused he doesn’t know where he is at. Thank You, Father.

I’m still managing to avoid knee replacements and my kidney and blood sugar numbers are improving now that the same doctor has eliminated a pill my previous doctor prescribed that I should not have been taking. I’ve lost a little weight but need to lose at least another 40 pounds. Please help me, Father.

Sharon, our oldest daughter has just had her right hip replaced. The surgeon said it went “great,” but she’s in a lot of pain. Father, please place Your hand of healing on her.

The rest of our family and grandkids are all doing great. We are blessed!

The other night we went to our oldest granddaughter’s concert at the high school. It ended with about 70 alumni joining the chorus and the director’s request that we stand for the “Hallelujah Chorus.” I sang along although I’m no longer able to reach those magnificent high notes.

I can’t help but wonder if this is the last year this “tradition” will be tolerated.

Our nation is gripped in a spiritual darkness that is rapidly intensifying. Will America be saved by a mighty revival that brings us to our knees at the foot of the cross? Or will we lose our freedom to proclaim the name of Jesus and be arrested and imprisoned for our faith in Him?

This may seem like dark thoughts for what should be such a bright and merry time of the year. But I can’t be silent. As long as I am able I will continue to use the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conferences to address the issues facing our nation and equip all who come to “Write His Answer.”

Father, thank You for sending Jesus. Help us, help me, to reflect His light and to share His love this Christmas and every day of the coming year.

A blessed Christmas to you all because He came and is coming again!

There are presently 38 on faculty for the May 13-16 Colorado conference and 18 for the July 22-25 Philly conference with more to be added to both conferences. Visit the websites to see who is coming, and save the date for what I know will be life-changing conferences.

Confused
and
unhappy!

Today we are dog-sitting our son and daughter-in-law’s two dogs. Bailey, the brown dog, climbed in my lap to get away from our Labradoodle, Emmy, who is clearly confused and unhappy that Bailey has taken the place that she thinks belongs to her. For about 15 minutes Emmy barked and Bailey howled. I laughed so hard I started crying.

Yesterday I felt like Emmy. A missing “i” in “Mennonite” in an ad for The Christian Communicator caused me 2.5 hours of frustration and real tears. For years I’ve used Quark, a desktop publishing program similar to InDesign. Although I’ve never mastered it (someone has said that takes a full year), I have gotten comfortable with it. But my 2015 version crashed, and yesterday I was forced to use the 2018 “upgrade.” I purchased it a year ago, but found the learning curve so daunting I gave up.

Computers are supposed to make life easier. Right? Wrong! Although I’m more computer savvy than most of my friends, I am still challenged every day to understand technology that keeps getting more complicated. And it’s amazing how dumb my “smart” phone can make me feel.

I confess I do not “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4 NIV) or “celebrate God all day, every day” as The Message paraphrases this Scripture. I try. But honestly, I probably do more whining. Father, why does everything have to be so difficult? Why didn’t You make me smarter or more patient?*

(Oops! I definitely do not want to pray for patience!) But seriously, why can’t I be like the elk I enjoy so much at CCWC? I don’t think they whine about grass becoming brown or sparse. Or about the cold and snow. You provide for them the same as for the birds of the air.

Father, thank You for being with us especially when we feel confused and overwhelmed. Thank You that we can know the joy of the Lord as our strength. Help us, help me, to embrace my need to be dependent on You knowing that I can trust Your promise:

I can do everything God asks me to
with the help of Christ
who gives me the strength and power.

Philippians 4:13 TLB

* Sigh. I can’t see anything in the code next to the elk box that increased the font size. Can a HTML or WordPress expert help?

Despite ongoing computer challenges, plans are underway for the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. Be watching for an email before Christmas with the latest news.

It’s been over 35 years since the traumatic Christmas Eve I wrote about below. Thank You, Father, for bringing Your peace to these strained relationships and for the assurance that my mother and stepfather are now home with You. Please bring Your peace – Your shalom – to families in conflict. Restore estranged relationships and help us to love others as You love us.

~ * ~ * ~

How fast the year has flown, I reflected as I took the photographs off the mantle to decorate it for Christmas. A charred mark on the paneling behind one of the photos instantly reminded of a Christmas when our home had been anything but peaceful.

My mother and stepfather were visiting. The relationship was strained, but we had been trying to keep the peace. On Christmas Eve the tension erupted into a bitter argument. The smell of burning wood stopped me from saying things I would have later regretted. A candle had tipped over on the mantle causing the paneling right near the thermostat to smolder. Trembling with fear of what might have been, I soaked the wall with water and later hid the damage with a photo. The damage in the relationship with my parents was not so easily hid.

Painful memories have a way of refusing to stay camouflaged. At Christmas we are forced to face the fact that all is not always “calm” and “bright” in our relationships with a brother or a sister, a parent or a child, an in-law or cousin. This season of joy can turn into one of misery as we have no choice but to spend time with people who go out of their way to avoid us the rest of the year.

When our homes are filled with conflict, what can we do to have “peace on earth, good will to men”?

1. Keep our eyes on the One whose birth we celebrate. The Gospel of John opens with the poignant words: “His life is the light that shines through the darkness–and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John l:5 TLB). The reality of that first Christmas was not just the angels’ song, but Herod’s decree that every baby boy two years old and under be slaughtered (see Matthew 2:16). The shadow of the cross was already hanging over the Holy Family as they fled to Egypt.

Jesus never promised us problem-free relationships, but He has promised to give us the wisdom to know how to love those who may be anything but lovable. Difficult relationships do not have to spoil the joy of Christmas if we follow Jesus’ example and respond with love and forgiveness.

2. Try not to put unrealistic demands on ourselves. Christmas Eve I typically am still racing to complete my “to-do” list and end up too tired to enjoy Christmas much less to cope with difficult family members. We need to learn when to make a good night’s sleep a priority so that we’re able to handle added emotional pressures.

3. Avoid having unrealistic expectations of others. It is unlikely that people who have been less than pleasant throughout the year will suddenly become nice just because it is Christmas. Yes, I believe God works miracles, but it is just as great a miracle to learn not to set ourselves up to be hurt through our unrealistic expectations.

I cannot remove that charred area of paneling without replacing the entire wall, but it can serve as a reminder that if I want peace in my family, it must begin with me. Truly, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Cor. 5:19 NIV). Because Christ came, we can be reconciled to one another.
___________

The above article was first published in the December 1986 issue of Decision. It has been reprinted by Our Family, Messenger of St. Anthony, Christian Standard, Sunday Digest, Family Forum, The Gem, and ASSISTnews.net.

Thankful?

It was one of those mornings! Multi-tasking (as always) I cracked two eggs into a pre-heated pan. I don’t waste time watching eggs fry or pots of water boil. Instead, I reached for my tray of pills, removed the lid, and somehow knocked it (the very full tray, not the lid) on the floor.

Knowing that our two-year-old Labradoodle (she has yet to grow up) eats everything but her monthly heartworm pill, my husband and I tried to get her to go outside. She thought it would be more fun to play catch-me-if-you-can. As usual, I had to give her a treat to get her to do what I want. (Yes, I know I’m rewarding her for bad behavior.)

Paul got two garden kneelers from the garage. I grabbed a flashlight and managed to get down on the kitchen floor. (My arthritic knees are bone-on-bone and one has been swollen for a week.)

The pills, of course, had rolled everywhere. I remembered the pick-up stix game I played as a kid, but this wasn’t a game and it wasn’t fun!

Paul is now vacumning the floor and then will give it a much needed scrubbing. (It was scary to see at eye level just how dirty my floor is.)

So . . . “give thanks in everything”?
Yes, “for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
1 Thess. 5:18 KJV

Now, I don’t think it is His will that bad things happen. And I don’t think He expects me to thank Him for my carelessness or the dumb and often sinful things I or others do. But in the midst of frustrating, annoying, and even awful circumstances I can choose to thank Him for being with me and for His promise to work all things together for my good.

Even when we are too weak to have any faith left,
he remains faithful to us and will help us.

2 Tim. 2:13 TLB

Now dumping a bunch of pills on the floor isn’t a biggee when it comes to my faith. But Father did use it to teach me, yet again, to give thanks.

  • Thank You, Father, for the availability of medicine and the wise new primary care doctor You have led us to.

  • Thank You that this new doctor discontinued three medications that were obviously causing my husband to be confused. (After almost a year of health issues since Paul fell and broke three bones September 30, 2019, I am so thankful He is much better.)

  • Thank You for my wonderful husband and our 56th wedding anniversary we celebrated November 9.

  • Thank You for calling and enabling me to direct the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference and for the progress I’m making planning next year’s conferences. (Colorado is May 13-16; I don’t yet have a date for Philly. I’ve asked for July 22-25 or August 5-8.)

  • YES, thank You for every thing!
And yes, I’m grateful for our strong-willed puppy!

Guest Blogger
Patricia Durgin
Marketers with a Mission

Your greatest gift to your audience is your message. God entrusted you with a vision of what your audience’s life can be like, and He planted that vision within your message. Think of it as a roadmap.

They need you to be their guide. You know the hidden trails not shown on the map. The secret passageways. How to escape the Scary Forest.

You know the way because you once faced the same peril or challenge your audience faces today, and Christ—who is THE Map—guided you to safety. Then He invited you to share His Good News through your message, which is really His message in yours.

You accepted, and you’ve written a book, or you have one in mind. How will it reach your audience? You must take it to them, for they won’t come to you for it. How could they? They don’t yet know that yours is the message they seek.

Would you sacrifice your comfort to reach your target market for Jesus?

I invite you to consider public speaking as the single most effective tool to reach your audience in real life. To gather them round you and assure them that yes, there is hope, and its name is Jesus. That’s Christian communication at its best!

This hope is shaped surprisingly like your audience’s needs. Perhaps they’re in an unhealthy relationship and you’ve been delivered from one. Or their children have special needs and you’re able to maneuver through the insurance maze. Maybe they long to travel and you’ve ridden across the country on a motorcycle.

Whatever their challenge, you know the path that can lead them from where they are to where they want to be, because God first led you down that same trail, and then invited you to turn back and lead others into His light. What a privilege! What a responsibility!

But your message will never reach beyond your local circle of friends and family if you don’t step into the unknown. Your audience is waiting for YOU to find THEM.


Perhaps you’re working to reach your audience online. Great idea! I specialize in online marketing, so I love it.

But online marketing is the long game. Does your audience—and your writing career—have time to wait?

Public speaking is the short game. Create an event. Deliver your life-giving message. Return home and repeat as desired.

This Friday, November 1st, the Speakers QuickStart online course will open for enrollment. It’s designed to help Christian writers and speakers without any / many followers build their audience in real life, via live events.

As your audience grows offline, invite them to join you online, too, thus growing your online platform (which publishers require).   

Instead of waiting to be “discovered” and invited to speak elsewhere, help your audience “discover” you…by hosting your own events. We’ll show you how inside the course.

(Note this is not for those who already have a large following, but rather for those who enjoy intimate get-togethers or small group settings and would like to grow from there.) 

With each presentation, your message will become tighter, more effective. You’ll be acknowledged as an expert. And as your offline followers join you online, your platform will finally gain traction. More of your books will sell in both arenas.

All because you stepped out of your comfort zone to serve your audience as God’s representative.

If you’d like to find out more about how speaking can help you reach your writing goals, I invite you to join the Speakers QuickStart 14-Day Challenge private Facebook group for Christian writers and speakers.

Join the group to learn more about the course. Stay to learn more about marketing (our main focus).

Compassion for hurting people drives us to serve in ways and in places we normally wouldn’t consider. Will you dare to step out of your comfort zone by hosting small gatherings so your audience can hear God’s Good News?

Join us now in the Facebook group: https://marketersonamission.com/challenge/

Every year in the closing session of the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference I encourage conferees (faculty and staff too) to make a commitment to complete in a year what they believe God is calling them to write.

It’s the challenge Lee Roddy gave his class at the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference over 40 years ago. Father had nudged me to join Lee’s continuing session on writing fiction after I heard him keynote Sunday evening. I didn’t understand why since I don’t write fiction, but I’m so glad I listened.

Not only did I learn how essential it was to use fiction skills in the personal experience story I was writing, I needed Lee’s challenge to get it finished. PTL I did. Not early, but not late. A year to the day I completed the book and mailed it to a publisher who had shown interest at the conference.

And then the waiting began! And the rejection slips. But my writing papa, Lee, who is now home with the Lord, encouraged and sometimes scolded me to persevere.

How Our Family Coped with Incest was returned by 42 publishers during the next six years. The book that no one wanted to publish is my testimony to how God enabled us to care for my half-sister who came to live with us when she was not quite fourteen because her father, my step-father, had been sexually abusing her.

Finally, at the end of those six long years I met a publisher at the St. David’s conference. He called me three months after the conference to offer me a contract.

I’m convinced that if I had not responded to Lee’s challenge and kept the commitment I made in his class the book would never have been finished much less published. After being out of print about 37 years, I reprinted it last January through my indie publishing house, Ampelos Press. I also seriously doubt I’d still be writing today much less directing two Christian writers conferences.

Because Father enabled me to not give up (although I certainly came close many times), for 36 years at the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, 23 years at the Colorado conference, and at the 50 plus seminars I’ve taught around the nation I’ve always given the Lee Roddy challenge.

What I’ve not done as faithfully as I intend to do, is provide the resources to help writers keep their commitment. Well, that’s not totally true. I blog, although it’s been, yikes, a month. And “Making It Happen,” a chapter from my book, Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers (Lee wrote the foreword and said “this book can change your life) is on my website along with the Goal Planning Chart below. (Click here to download it as a PDF.)

But Father is convicting me that I need to follow my own advice. Today I have made a commitment to focus on the “practical preparation” of sharpening my writing skills by making time to listen to the workshops and continuing sessions from this year’s GPCWC. I’ve spent the last two days uploading 75 MP3s (with 9 more to come) to the conference website (click here).

I want to challenge you to join me in this exciting learning opportunity. Using the honor system you can purchase sessions at $4.00 each (for 7 or more, only $3.50 each) and download them or listen to them online. You’ll also find links to the handouts, if any.

Friends, let’s commit to grow our writing ability. Let’s listen and learn so we will be better equipped to “write His answer.”

This morning I’m seeing more clouds than sunshine. The majestic Rocky Mountains are only a distant memory. Instead, all I’m seeing is mountains of work!

I’m overwhelmed and frustrated. Checking 11 voice mail messages, more than half of them were scam calls from Social Security.

For over an hour I tried to reach the doctor’s office that was supposed to be open. When I finally got through, I had to listen to 8 menu options – none of which addressed my need to talk to a real live person to get the script for the blood work my husband is scheduled for this morning.

Last night we couldn’t get in the house. Well, that’s not totally true. I got in, left my keys in the door, set my cell phone down, and went to get a flashlight so Paul could see to get in. I pulled the storm door shut when I left so our labradoodle wouldn’t get out.

Several minutes later (Paul is walking so slowly), we couldn’t open the storm door. We banged and pulled and tried prying it open with a knife. I admit I was close to panic. A neighbor across the street frequently comes to our rescue, but his front steps are very steep and there is no railing. Our daughter lives two blocks away. As much as my knees have been hurting (the gel injections aren’t working this time), I honestly didn’t think I could walk that far. Duh! I just realized I could have driven over there. No, double duh. I couldn’t drive the car. My keys were in the door!

Earlier in the day, Paul fell in the driveway. He tripped over the kitchen and office trash basket. He called for me for ten minutes before I heard him. He’s sore today but walking – slowly – so he must not have injured the knee cap he broke September 30.

And then there’s the frustration I’m feeling over my STUPIDITY. When I took Paul to the neurologist on Tuesday, I dropped him curbside. I spied a close by handicap parking space and headed for it, completely forgetting and not seeing the 10-12″ high concrete and dirt island.

I’ve never had an accident or ticket in 59 years of driving, but I really hurt my new leased car that I’ve only had for two weeks. I ripped off the shield under the engine and learned yesterday that I damaged three other things on the underbelly of my car. The Honda serviceman is guessing $1100 – $1500 for repairs, but if body work is involved it could be much more. They are going to take a closer look next Wednesday (so glad I can still drive it) to get a better idea of the cost so I can decide whether or not to file an insurance claim. If I do, the question is how much our insurance will go up.

All the above, and so much more on top of the exhaustion I’m still feeling from the conference, is incredibly frustrating. But I have a choice. I can choose to keep my eyes on Jesus and to trust Him and even praise Him for all these irritations. Yes, He can use them to grow the fruit of His Spirit in my life and to prove to me again that He is faithful.

And He can fill me with His peace that passes understanding. I have a choice, and so do you!