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This is a great learning opportunity that I HIGHLY recommend!

One free registration available.

Email me at mbagnull@aol.com and tell me why you believe God has called you to write a novel.
Include the title & a 50-100 word description.
How far along are you in your work-in-progress?
Deadline to apply: October 5, 2020

STARTS NEXT WEEK: REGISTER NOW.
The Art of Writing and Christy Award Webinar Series for writers, storytellers, and publishing curators. Live-streamed every Thursday, October 8 to November 12. Recordings available on-demand for 30 days to those who register.



The Christy Award® is a program of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) and is the foremost award honoring and promoting excellence in Christian fiction since 1999.

For more information about ECPA, visit ECPA.org. 

For more information about the Christy Awards and Art of Writing conferences, visit ChristyAwards.com or email TheChristyAward@ecpa.org


Leona Choy is an author, speaker, publisher, and broadcaster still going strong in His strength at 95 years of age. The following is reprinted with her permission from her 9/17/2020 blog at https://leonachoy.com/therestofthewayposts. I encourage you to visit her website and subscribe to her posts.

A Fresh Slice of Daily Bread

What does the Almanac predict for this fall?

For the benefit of younger generations who might never have heard of such a book, it is a formerly much-relied-upon annual paperback publication listing events forthcoming in the next year: weather forecasts, farmers’ planting dates, tide tables, celestial data like eclipses, religious festivals and holidays. That was before the sophisticated technology of weather forecasting and today’s scanning the heavens for astronomical data. In spite of all the refined applied science, the weather person on TV is seldom right on the button.

If we’d like to know the societal and political forecast for the rest of 2020 and into the next year, forget the Almanac. Don’t consult some crystal ball. Google can’t tell us either. Modern seers and prophets of the day are attempting to interpret their personal dreams. The Bible is being seriously studied to understand the signs of the times which many conclude are “the end times.” We listen and then must pray and discern. God, who created this blue planet and mankind to populate it, is still in full control. He hasn’t left us without a reliable Scriptural GPS for “things to come.” At least to provide us with as much as we need to know to navigate one step at a time.

SO WHAT’S THE FORECAST? We can expect unusually stormy weather! Perhaps a fall and winter such as we have never known before. Not necessarily in amount of snow accumulation and severe temperatures, but in our daily way of life. Let’s be realistic. Not to scare but to prepare ourselves and our families. It is a fantasy to expect our society to ever return to the lifestyles to which we had been accustomed.

What happened to the world we once knew? How is it possible that so many things could change so fast and so dramatically?

Look around: Society has lost its way. Possible, probable, incredible uncertainties and shakings are in the offing even as early as this fall: Facets of our society are moving at warp speed to cast off all restraints while insisting on ever-increasing entitlements. Evil powers both in heaven and on earth are reaching for the reset button to drastically change the trajectory of our beloved nation and the entire globe toward lawlessness. The spirit of the age is reflected in moral breakdown, free-floating ethics, the shakeup of our courts and justice systems changing the way our nation has been governed, redefining marriage, the family, even genetic identity. Natural catastrophes of unusual proportions are accelerating to shake the world and add to the threatening storm clouds.

Affecting Christians directly is the widespread mutiny against God, We face an anti-Christian future nation and world where intolerance has turned to outright hostility toward those who stand for moral absolutes. Our freedom to practice our Christian faith is in jeopardy. We are moving toward being controlled in many critical aspects of our lives where we have heretofore had liberty.

Let’s not be afraid of “things to come” or let “our hearts fail us for fear.” Nothing can separate those who belong to God from His love and care. (Romans 8:35-39) We are not to be anxious for daily protection and provision. Jesus promised that our Heavenly Father knows we have need of these things. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:31) As God’s children, part of God’s Kingdom and His Body, we are not living through 2020 by accident. He has chosen us to live in this climactic generation to stand steadfast and shine in these prophetically “perilous times.”

Although darkness encroaches on this entire planet, we can circumvent the pitfalls. Each of us must choose whether “me and my house will serve the Lord.” Will we retreat and accommodate to the coming upheaval of the world system or will we stay anchored in Christ? Will we be overcome by the chaos and shaking or will we be courageous overcomers?

The genuineness of our Christian faith is soon to be tried by fire and tested. (James 1:2-4). Don’t be surprised or think it strange or unusual. (1 Peter 4:12, 13) “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (MSG)

We don’t know about tomorrow, (James 4:13-15) but we know Who holds our hand. Let’s trust the Lord completely and rest confidently in His peace even if the world’s forecast is “probability of extreme weather conditions ahead.”

“With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 MSG)

___________

A Note from Leona: May your readers become aware of the challenge of our uncertain times and at the same time our incredible opportunity as Christians which lies ahead of us. Without fear, in God we trust!

And from Marlene: Again I encourage you to visit Leona’s website at https://leonachoy.com and be sure to visit her bookstore with 36 titles in print including 3 books for writers that I highly recommend: Release the Poet Within, This Is Your Life – Write It!, and Writing for the Supreme Editor.


Ten Good Website Design Practices

Guest blog by Bruce Shank, Celebration Web Design

Note from Marlene: I strongly recommend Bruce and his team at SKWD Associates. They designed and have helped me maintain my three websites: https://writehisanswer.com, https://colorado.writehisanswer.com, and https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com for the past 8-10 years. They are not just skilled professionals, they are committed Christians that I am blessed to have as friends and partners in ministry.

Not every website will be able to adhere to all of the good practices. Different websites have different purposes, but in general most of these practices should be present in every website design.

  1. Simple Is Best
    Simplicity usually works in an effective web page design. Be careful not to use too many elements on your landing page. This may lead to distracting visitors from the main purpose of your website. Clean and fresh design makes your website appealing and helps the user to navigate from one page to another seamlessly. Keep your design, including the navigation of your site, as simple and easy-to-use as possible.
     
  2. Website Purpose (Communication)
    The ultimate purpose of the visitors is to get information, and if your website can communicate with your visitors efficiently, most probably they would spend more time on your site. Organizing information by making good use of headlines and sub-headlines is a great way to display your information. Avoid long gusty sentences. Use shorter sentences and sometimes bullet points are effective.

    Your website needs to accommodate the needs of the user. Having a simple clear intention on all pages helps the user interact with what you have to offer. What is the main purpose of your website? What do you do? What do you want the user to do? Make these easy for the user to grasp.
     
  3. Content
    An effective website design has both great design and great content. Great content can attract and influence visitors. Readability is a key element in web design. Readability is the ease in which text can be read and understood. Make sure your copy is easy to read and easy to understand. Have at least 300 words of content on each appropriate page. There is a fine line between keeping it simple and having enough text on your site. Grammar and spelling are important. Flawless copy makes you look professional. Read and Reread your copy. High quality content is easy to read and suitable for scanning by Search Engines.
     
  4. Typography
    Font style and size play an important role on your website. They command attention and work as the visual interpretation of your brands voice. Typefaces should be legible, and you should use a maximum of 3 different fonts on the website. Since search engine crawlers are very familiar with this data, it becomes an integral part of SEO activities. Consider using fonts that are easy to read. Stick with your font choice throughout the website. Font size needs to be appropriate, not too large and not too small.  They need to be readable especially on handheld devices.
     
  5. Imagery
    Imagery includes still photography, illustration, video, and all forms of graphics. All imagery should be expressive and capture the spirit of you site. Most of the initial information we consume on websites is visual, and as a first impression, it is important that high quality images are used.  High quality images form an impression of professionalism and credibility. For faster loading, remember to optimize your image size. Celebration Web Designs EZ-CMS  management system helps with optimizing images.
     
  6. Color
    Color has the power to communicate messages and evoke emotional responses. Finding a color palette that fits your brand will allow you to influence your visitor’s behavior. Sometimes the colors which we like, might not be liked by others. There is often a tradeoff between colors we like and colors that are widely liked by others. It is important to make sure that the colors you choose are well-liked by others. Keep color choices to a minimum: too many colors are distracting. Keep the coloring scheme consistent throughout. Remember you are building your site for visitors, make sure your site is pleasing to look at.
     
  7. Formatting
    Eye tracking studies have shown that much of what people see is in the top and left area of the screen. The F’ shaped layout mimics our natural reading pattern in the West. An effective designed website will work with a reader’s natural pattern of scanning the page. Grids can help when structuring your design. They can help keep it clean and keep your content organized. The grid helps to align elements on the page. The grid-based layout arranges content into a clean rigid structure with columns, sections that line up and feel balanced impose order in an aesthetically pleasing website. Remember most peoples’ eyes will skip the banner before scanning the page. The banner can help set the tone of the website but don’t put critical content in it.
     
  8. Navigation
    Navigation is the way your visitors interact and find what they are looking for on your site. Website navigation is key to retaining visitors. If the websites navigation is confusing visitors will give up and find what they need elsewhere. Keeping navigation simple, intuitive, and consistent on every page is key. Studies show that visitors stay longer when websites are easy to navigate. Remember to follow the “three-click-rule” so visitors are able to obtain the information they need with as few clicks as possible. A max of three is a good rule to follow. Often repeating a link to your most important content is effective.The CWD teams often includes a menu item, text and button link from your home page for the most important items.
     
  9. Mobil Compatibility
    Keep in mind the ever-growing usage of smartphones and tablets. Web design must be efficient and effective for all of your pages. If your website is not responsive, and does not support all screen sizes, the chance is that you will lose visitors and certainly you will not be indexed well by search engines.
     
  10. Loading (Time)
    Waiting for a website to load can lead to losing visitors. Nearly half of web visitors expect a site to load in 2 or 3 seconds or less. In most cases they may not wait and will leave your site if loading time is greater than 2 or 3 seconds. Using good judgment and design elements when creating your site is essential. 
     

Thought For Today

Standing Up For Your Faith

Excerpt taken from a Feb. 6, 1968, speech in Washington, D.C. 

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it political?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Where do we stand? Are we often afraid to say what is right, to say what we believe because it is not politically correct? The more we allow Jesus to control our lives, the more we are able to take a stand for what is right, whether it is politically correct, popular or safe. Let’s not worry about what our culture says we should say or do. Let’s pursue a lifestyle of obedience to the Lord and allow Him to control what we say and do.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Psalm 19:14 ESV


Bruce Shank

Bruce is a graduate of Philadelphia University and has been working in the IT world for over 35 years. His experience ranges from programmer to president of Finpac Corporation, a software design firm. He is currently president of Celebration Web Design by SKWD Associates, LLC. Celebration Web Design is dedicated to designing, developing and hosting websites for ministries, businesses and non-profit organizations. Bruce is always looking for the opportunity to partner with others seeking to further God’s Kingdom.

I’ve so missed connecting with old and new friends this year on the mountain in Colorado at CCWC and here in my backyard at GPCWC. Postponing both conferences until next year was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but the coronavirus gave me no choice.

This year more than ever I believe we needed to hear our keynoters challenging us to “Write His Answer.”

I’m feeling a growing sense of urgency as I view what is happening in our nation. And I’m fearful of our fear to speak God’s truth into the events that are unfolding.

For years I’ve been talking about how we are like the frog in the kettle – how the temperature is being turned up but in our complacency we are not even aware of the danger.


You have probably heard me quote my friend, Hannah Crabtree, who grew up in Switzerland before the start of World War II. She said, “The church in Germany saw what was happening, but the church in Germany was silent.”

My friend, Eric Ludy (I was blessed to edit and typeset Eric and Leslie’s first two books many years ago) has just echoed Hannah’s words.

In Nazi Germany, out of 65 million people, there were 45 million Protestant Christians. And out of those 45 million, only 150,000 of them stood up against Hitler. That’s something like three out of every thousand. The church in America today is on the verge of being just as passive as the church in Nazi Germany was. In my new blog video, I present a challenge to all of us as modern Christians to rise up and take a stand for truth — not in the future when things get worse, but right now. Let’s not become silent at the very moment we need to speak up.  

Friends, I can’t urge you strongly enough to listen to Eric’s blog video. It’s only 2.36 minutes.

Father, please help us to wake up and to write and live Your answer for such a time as this.

With the Colorado and Greater Philly Christian Writers Conferences not happening this year, I’m still faced with ongoing expenses. Please help by purchasing books from the Write His Answer bookstore. I’ve just added seven more books and discounted all of them. It makes no sense (or cents) to have money tied up in books I purchased for the conferences especially when those same books can help you grow your writing and marketing skills.

Whether you are traditionally published or have self-published, most all the work of finding buyers for your book is your responsibility and challenge. I love Cheri Cowell and Michelle Booth’s approach in this book. Their heart is in the right place, and the info they provide is very helpful. Both have served on the faculty of CCWC and GPCWC. I highly recommend this book.

If you want to be traditionally published, a well-crafted book proposal is essential. Terry’s vast experience in publishing, including as an acquisition editor, makes this a must-read book. Even if you choose to go indie, you’ll find a lot of helpful info. Terry has served on the faculty of CCWC & GPCWC, and I highly recommend this book too.

Three helpful books for novelists:

The Crown of Excellence
for Book Marketing

by Susan G Mathis

Don’t we all want a marketing crown? One that lets us know we’re successful as an author with all the marketing efforts we do? I sure would. But how can we measure that, see that, know that?

Last year’s debut CAN Crown Awards did just that, and our winners showed us some wonderful results for their work. You can, too.

Measuring marketing excellence, especially as an author has been too elusive for too long. But the Christian Authors Network (CAN) has developed tangible, measurable marketing standards of excellence to help Christian authors know that their marketing for books, book series, or brand if effective. After all, that’s why CAN exists!

Authors are often unsure, fearful, or reticent to tout their marketing work. And every time there’s a new platform to learn, well, our marketing confidence can be shaken. Can you relate?

What if someone showed you what a successful marketing plan looked like and how to plan to succeed by example? What if being recognized for marketing excellence earned an award—a crown— that continued to gain marketing and media attention?

Welcome to the Christian Authors Network #CANCROWN AWARDS. These awards recognize, educate, and encourage excellence in marketing and promotion skills of Christian authors. 

Christian authors want to get their books, book series, and brands out to readers, retailers, and librarians. The messages in those books reflect the love and glory of God. But without an excellent marketing plan that very message may go unread. The #CANCrown Awards recognize authors for their excellence in marketing and media, and being a winner gives you continued credibility long after the contest.

By highlighting stellar examples and recognizing marketing and media expertise, the #CANCrown Awards helps all of us as authors. There are three categories for books, book series, and author brands:

• Visual Media

• Broadcasting

• Web Presence 

These three categories evaluate the author’s physical materials, social media, major media, websites, blogs, and newsletters respectively. Therefore, the purpose of CAN Crown Awards is: To recognize, educate, and encourage excellence in marketing and promotion skills of all Christian authors.

The CAN Crown Awards Celebrate Excellence
in Christian Media and Marketing by Authors.

The CAN Crown Awards

Time is limited; the CAN Crown Awards close August 31, 2020.

Judges are independent professionals with knowledge in marketing and media. Finalists will be announced and will receive finalist logos/badges for their websites and materials.

The Christian Authors Network will announce the finalists in advance of the Crown Award Celebration. The virtual Crown Awards will be presented in November. Winners (Gold, Silver, and Bronze) will be awarded at the virtual Crown Awards. Presentations will include an overview of each winners’ campaign to an audience of filmmakers, publishing industry, and then out into the public to reach readers, retailers, and librarians.

The Christian Authors Network will also partner with authors to share finalist and winning entries to bring attention to these excellent author marketing plans. We’ll promote the winners through the many  #CANCrown Awards channels of influence—all for the price of entry.

Award design and entry pages are on the CAN website. 

Cost per entry: $40 CAN Members/$80 non-members.

Access the entry forms on our CAN Website: https://christianauthorsnetwork.com/can-crown-awards/

FAQ:

What’s CAN? Christian Authors Network. Check us out here: https://christianauthorsnetwork.com 

Hurry! Time’s ticking. We’ll be watching for your entry and will enjoy connecting with you.

Susan G Mathis, Christian Authors Network vice president

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are also available. Visit www.SusanGMathis.com for more.

Here’s a excerpt from Grace and Weight, the new book I’m writing. Even if you don’t struggle with excess pounds, I believe you’ll find it relevant.

Stress Eating

Let him have all your worries and cares,
for he is always thinking about you
and watching everything that concerns you.

1 Peter 5:7 TLB

Someone has said a picture is worth a thousand words. Drawing isn’t a gift I possess, so picture this caricature in your mind: A wild-eyed woman is clutching a big bag of potato chips in one hand and stuffing a fistful in her mouth with her other hand. The caption reads: “I’m not stressed!”

Stress may not cause us to look wild-eyed, but it is likely to cause us to consume food without thinking. We can call it “just nibbling,” but let’s face it, we’re likely to nibble more than we realize. We’re horrified when we finally have the courage to get on the scale, but we deserve those pounds we’ve put on.

[Don’t I wish I only weighed 118 pounds!]

Now picture one of those graphs that have become so familiar during the pandemic. This one represents the weight gained each week from a cross-section of women who tend to be overweight. I have no doubt the curve would be trending up and not flattening.

The past months of lockdowns, mask-wearing, and social distancing have been stressful. For some it’s been a life-altering time with the loss of employment. And tragically, for others the pandemic has caused the loss of loved ones.

We hope and pray that a vaccine will soon be available that will put an end to the coronavirus, but invariably we’ll encounter another crisis. None of us are immune. Jesus sought to prepare His disciples, and to prepare us, for hard times. He said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 TLB).

Christians are not promised that life will be easy, but Jesus has promised, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 TLB). I don’t think it’s stretching the truth of this Scripture to add, “So don’t use food to try and ease your stress.”

What does Jesus want us to do when we’re confronted with a stressful situation? And let’s be realistic. More often than not it won’t be just one situation that is causing us to stress. What can we, should we, do? Instead of reaching for comfort food, let’s reach for Him. After all, “He knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and he is wonderfully able to help us” (Hebrews 2:18 TLB).

Thank You for Your promises, Lord. When life overwhelms me, help me to turn to You and to Your Word rather than to food.

If you need to lose weight, I hope you’ll visit my new Facebook page, Grace and Weight. And please pray I can finish this book and lose the excess pounds that are not helping my knees.

Reminder: The special price of 37% off MP3s of the 2019 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference is good through July 31. Go to https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com.

Overcoming

Overcoming my disappointment in needing to postpone this year’s Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference because of the pandemic has been difficult. I had such exciting plans for our 37th year of ministry.

In case you missed my Facebook posts this week, I’ve offered several MP3s from last year free of charge. You can download them at https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com/2019Mp3s. While there, I hope you’ll decide to purchase the entire conference at a savings of 37%. Individual workshops can also be downloaded at 37% off.

Debbie Maxwell Allen taught a Thursday afternoon early bird workshop (T1) on Practical Productivity. She says, “If the lure of laundry, the fear of the blank page, or the siren song of social media stops you from writing, learn ten ways to write more, write better, and quash your inner editor.”

Last year Michael Gantt gave the opening keynote. Cry Mercy is a powerful message as is his book with the same title. It is also available for you to listen to free of charge. I encourage you to visit his website at https://mkgantt.com. Michael is speaking and writing His answer.

Last year Peter Lundell keynoted Saturday morning on Your Voice in a Hostile Climate. His message is needed even more today. Peter said, “In a society that is increasingly deceived and divided, our calling is to write in the opposite spirit. What does this mean, and how do we effectively and consistently do it?”

The need to overcome disappointments and problems big and small isn’t new to the pandemic. Below is a column I wrote for the October 1982 Christian Writer.

~*~*~*~

As I write [wrote] this month’s column, I’m waiting for the ophthalmologist to call. My little boy has an infection around his eye that’s already depleted half our savings for vacation. My two older children are less than sympathetic. It’s a blistering July day and they want to go swimming. I have a bad cold and sinus headache. My husband’s overtime has been cut. My best friend is angry with me.

The list could go on and on. I’m grateful that none of these current problems is serious. I’ve also experienced more threatening problems in various forms – health, financial, family, inter-personal. I am learning, however, that God is faithful and that He does work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

I believe one of the ways God works problems for good is His enabling me to write about them so others may be helped and encouraged. This process begins by my writing my way through the problem. I do this in the form of a prayer diary. When I’m anxious or upset, its often difficult for me to pray. My thoughts keep wandering. I’ve discovered I can pray more effectively on paper. I also find that my prayer diary is invaluable later when I’m ready to write for publication and need to get back in touch with my feelings.

The readiness factor is important when it comes to writing personal experience pieces for publication. Writing through problems may be personally helpful as therapy, but rarely does it produce a salable manuscript. It’s only as I stand back and allow God to work in my life that I have the insights needed to make my experience helpful others. It is imperative that I remember I’m writing for them – not for myself. Their needs must be kept uppermost in my mind.

A ministry of writing from personal experience is not easy. I can’t go to the library one day and write my article or story the next. Instead I must stay close to God and look for the truths He reveals through both the minor irritations and serious problems of day-to-day living. Often they are discovered only in retrosect. Regardless, I must face life with the question, “How can I be an overcomer?”

Choosing to be an overcomer means I cannot ignore or suppress my feelings. I can’t tell myself or others that I’m fine when I really don’t feel fine. I must face my feeings and the probems that bring them about.

Being an overcoming also means I can’t become so introspective that I constantly dwell on my problems. If I do, I’m apt to convince myself I can’t cope. Sadly, those thoughts tend to become reality.

Instead, being an overcomer means recognizing, working through, and rising above my problems. It sounds good, but how do I do it? I don’t claim to have “arrived,” but I have found the following to be helpful.

Keep a balanced perspective.
The best way to do this is to heed the biblical principle that says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about” (Philippians 4:8 TLB). It takes self-discipline to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, which is the first step toward helping yourself and others get a handle on problems. Life is never all black. You can always find something to be thankful for, even if it’s just remembering that someone else’s problems are worse than your own.

Turn your eyes on Jesus.
If you’ll look to His cross and see the victory He won there for you, you’ll know that nothing need defeat you.

Tell the Lord your honest feelings and share your needs with Him.
It is only as I am completely honest before the Lord that I am able to find and share His answers.

Look for the good things God can teach you through the problem you’re enduring.
This is a crucial point for us as writers. We must learn to be constantly asking the question, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me?” The lessons learned in life’s crucible produce the most powerful writing.

Be still.
We’re often like little children, angry and frustrated because we can’t make something work, but unwilling to be quiet for even a minute to listen to our Father’s instructions. God doesn’t hit us over the head with His promises, any more than we should preach at our readers. God waits for us to be still and listen. We capture our reader’s attention by the credibility and sensitivity of our words.

Choose to use problems as opportunities to experience and display God’s power.
“Why does God comfort and strengthen us in our hardships and trials?” the apostle Paul asked. It is “so that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1: 4 TLB).

Develop an expectant, faith-filled attitude
as you learn to wait on God and praise Him before as well as after He answers. One of the best personal experience stories I’ve written was open-ended (although I don’t recommend this approach). It was about a serious financial crisis we were still in. It concluded with the words, “There is something about the inner peace – even joy – that I’m experiencing that is worth it all.”

Today, tomorrow, next week – life is going to confront us with problems, but we can learn to be overcomers. Like the apostle Paul, we can write living letters that will show, from our personal experience, the difference Jesus Christ makes.

~*~*~*~

I encourage you to ask Father is there is a personal experience He wants you to write about. My latest book (see below) is available through the end of July at 37% off because this would have been the 37th year of ministry for GPCWC. Click here to order an autographed copy from me or order from Amazon.com.

The 2020 Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference was scheduled to begin this evening with a keynote by Liz Curtis Higgs. But then the coronavirus locked down our nation. It didn’t take God by surprise, and He does have a plan.

For seven weeks I struggled with whether or not to postpone the conference until next year. Should I trust the Lord and move ahead with finalizing the program, updating the website, and printing the brochure? But I didn’t have peace. Still, the thought of cancelling what would be GPCWC’s 37th year of ministry, especially after the pain of cancelling the Colorado conference, was more than I could face.

Finally, on May 20 I knew Father did not want me to risk the lives of faculty and conferees, many who would no doubt be high risk. And so the decision was made, and finally I experienced His peace that passes understanding.

Since then I have felt such an emptiness and sadness. Yes, I’ve been grieving. I have kept busy with editing books for other writers, but I didn’t even blog for a month. Never before in the 40 plus years I’ve been writing have I been at a loss for words.

I’m so grateful for the couple at church who prayed for me two weeks ago. Their prayer and mine broke through the block.

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”
Jeremiah 29:12-14 (MSG)

I finally had words to share and blogged about the conflict that is tearing our nation apart in Bring Us Together. I finished and published How to Write His Answer – Testimonies & Personal Experience Stories and blogged about it in Persevere – and TWO surprise gifts.

What joy to again feel His presence and to know that He knows the plans He has for me and is leading me.

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

For over a week I’ve been searching through my files for the columns I wrote for three years for what was then The Christian Writer. It’s not hard for things to get lost in the three filing cabinets, five carts of drawers, and three other carts of hanging files with two drawers each that are packed into my office that my husband calls “the black hole.”

I even searched in the basement but with no success. “Father, please show me where else to look.” Then I remembered the filing cabinet in our garage. The drawers are so stuffed I could hardly get them open. But finally, in the third drawer I found what I was looking for and something else. I’m certain God was NOT surprised!

Thirty-seven years ago I began work on Grace and Weight – Devotions for Dieters. I found an outline for 17 devotions along with Scriptures for each, the introduction, and the first devotion. But thirty-seven years ago was the year I launched the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship and directed our first seminar. I had no idea it would grow to a 3.5 day conference with a faculty of over 50, or that 24 years ago God would also lead me to begin directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

Thirty-seven years ago – and this year’s GPCWC would have been our 37th year!

I remember Gayle Roper telling me that directing a conference would cut into the time needed for my own writing. That’s true, but I have no regrets. I’ve always known I can make a much greater impact for His Kingdom through encouraging and equipping others to “write His answer” than just through my own writing. And as I told someone this morning, the conferences will continue next year if not live, then virtual. The YMCA of the Rockies is already reserved and the deposit paid for the May 12-15, 2021 and May 11-14, 2022 Colorado conference. I won’t have a date for next year’s Philly conference until the end of the year, but Liz Curtis Higgs is saving the three possible dates (July 21-24, July 28-31, or August 4-7).

The 2021 Colorado conference is already planned with the faculty and program in place. Go to https://colorado.writehisanswer.com. Even my taxes are done! (For years I’ve been requesting an extension until the fall because there’s no time to do them during conference season.) So . . . I can’t use the excuse of not having enough time. I do have time to work on this new book! And it’s something I need to do for me. For years I’ve battled (not always successfully) being overweight. It’s taken a toll on my knees that both need to be replaced. Doctors say “losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from my knees,” and I have a lot more than 10 pounds to lose!

Would you please pray for me? Pray I’ll apply the same energy and determination I’ve had directing 59 conferences into finishing Grace and Weight – A Bible Study for Those Who Weigh Too Much. Pray for Father’s anointing of my words and for His strength to “live the answer” I’ll be writing. If like me you need to lose weight, I hope you’ll visit my new Grace and Weight Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Grace-and-Weight-107196014414185. In today’s post you’ll find a link to the first short chapter.

Meanwhile, let me know how I can be praying for you. What writing project is Father calling you to begin and to finish during these days that have not taken Him by surprise?

My Testimony

Two huge silver maples towered over the house in Chicago where I grew up. I remember sitting on my front porch looking up into those enormous trees and thinking about God. Instinctively, I knew He created everything, including me. I sensed He had a plan for my life, and I longed to discover what it might be. But He seemed far away and unapproachable. With a mixture of fear and awe I would pray to Him. Sometimes, when the breeze rustled through the leaves of my trees, I’d imagine He was whispering to me. If only I knew what He was saying – if only I knew Him.

My mother took me to Sunday school and church every week. My father wouldn’t go. He said he didn’t believe in God. That made me sad and frightened me, too. Although there was a lot I didn’t understand in the sermons our pastor preached, I knew my father couldn’t ignore God and hope to go to heaven.

The night my father died was terrifying. I felt as if he had been swallowed by a deep black hole. That blackness threatened to engulf me, too. I dreaded going to bed at night and facing the nightmares that always came. But the days weren’t much easier, especially when my mother remarried and we moved away from the home where I had always lived and from my two special trees.

“Your sister would like you to come for a visit,” Mother said one day. I hadn’t seen my half sister in years, but Mother was insistent. “She has another baby coming and needs your help.” And so the summer of my fourteenth year I spent in St. Louis. In ways I could never have anticipated, God’s plan for my life began to unfold.

Diane and Joe were devout Catholics. Every night they said bedtime prayers with their children. They prayed before each meal and attended mass several times a week. In my church the emphasis had always been on the empty cross and the risen Lord, but in their home and church Jesus was nailed to the cross.

One night, reading one of their children’s catechism books, I fell face down on the floor sobbing. I thanked Jesus for dying for me and asked Him to forgive me for my sins and to come into my heart.

When I returned home, I began reading the New Testament and attending my church’s youth group. The more I learned about Jesus, the more I wanted to tell others about Him. So I decided I would become a missionary evangelist. But something was wrong. I could picture myself proclaiming the Gospel to people in faraway lands, but I didn’t have the courage to witness to my schoolmates.

If only I could be like Billy Graham, I thought. I admired him so much and was thrilled when my youth group decided to go to the crusade he was holding at Wheaton College in the early 1960s. His message was compelling – and convicting. I knew I needed to go forward and publicly proclaim my faith in Jesus. But what would the kids I had come with think? I didn’t leap out of my seat and run down the aisle. But I did go forward, and that decision changed my life.

Truly, “his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of” (Ephesians 3:20 TLB). Although I never became a missionary or even went on to college after the disappointment of not being accepted when I applied to Wheaton College, thirty years later I walked past that stadium on Wheaton’s campus where I publicly said yes to Christ’s Lordship over my life. The next day I had the privilege of teaching a workshop on writing inspirational articles for the Christian Writers Institute being held on the college campus.

God has indeed called me to be a missionary – a literature missionary! My work has appeared in hundreds of periodicals and even has been read on the radio in India. I’ve published twelve books and experienced the joy of publishing books for other writers through my small house, Ampelos Press.

For 36 years I’ve directed the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference that I founded. And since 1997 I’ve been directing the Colorado Christian Writers Conference.

Although this year the coronavirus has made it impossible to hold the conferences, I am committed to keep on keeping on with the work He has called me to do of encouraging and equipping you to write about a God who is real, who is reachable, and who changes lives. May He bless you and your writing and keep you safe.

~ * ~ *~

Because of the heat wave, I worked inside today and cleaned files. I found a version of the above testimony that I wrote about 25 years ago. I’m disappointed I didn’t find it before I published my latest book, How to Write His Answer – Testimonies and Personal Experience Stories, several days ago. The book includes links to 4 hours of audio workshops and can be ordered through my website, https://www.writehisanswer.com, or Amazon.com. I know it will encourage you to write not only your salvation testimony but powerful stories that will impact your readers in life-changing ways.

Because next week would have been the 37th year of ministry for the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, I’ve reduced the price 37% through the end of July. (The reduced price is now available on Amazon.)

There are a few things wrong with the above photo.

  1. I do NOT like to run.
  2. My arthritic knees would send me sprawling on my face if I even tried to run.
  3. I am not and never have been this thin.
  4. There are many who run [write] faster than I do.

But . . .

In 1983 Father called me to launch the Greater Philly Christian Writers Fellowship and direct our first event. Back then it was a one-day seminar with one speaker. Never did I imagine it would grow to be a 3.5 day conference with a faculty each year of over 50 authors, editors, agents, and other professionals.

And never did I imagine it and the Colorado Christian Writers Conference that I began directing in 1997 would both have to be postponed this year because of a pandemic.

Oh yes, I stressed over the time pressures in getting ready each spring and summer. And yes, I felt like I was constantly running (racing) from one task to the next with hardly enough time to catch my breath.

But each year when I stood to welcome everyone in the opening session, you would have seen me jumping for joy (if my knees allowed) and praising God for enabling me to persevere. Despite the huge obstacles I encountered with each conference, Father brought His scribes from the east and the west, the north and the south.

This spring and summer have felt so strange with no conference deadlines pressing in on me. Yes, I think I’ve finally caught my breath although I have kept busy. For the first time in many years I have vegetables growing in my garden although I’ve been fighting with the bunnies to not eat everything I’ve planted. The deer have been chomping on my lilies, and the squirrels have dug up almost all the bulbs I planted.

I’ve also kept busy editing over six books for others since the pandemic and finally (drum roll please) I have uploaded my latest book to kdp.amazon. I had hoped to have it ready the beginning of July but glitches with both Word and Quark slowed the process and tested my determination to persevere.

Who would have thought that adding one space after the title on Amazon’s book detail page would create the need for two phone calls to Amazon’s support (PTL they answer right away) and one to the ISBN folks at Bowker? Quark has again been quarky with menus disappearing, and I haven’t a clue why it created a first line indent that I didn’t request and couldn’t delete. Ah, yes, Father, another lesson in perseverance – and patience!

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Hebrews 12:2-3 (MSG)

With the disappointment I’ve been feeling over missing the joy-filled fellowship on the mountain at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in May and knowing I won’t be seeing dear friends at the Philly conference that was scheduled for next week, I’ve wanted to do something special to encourage you to keep persevering as you strive to “write His answer.” (Oops – long sentence. Would anyone like to diagram it?)

So . . . two surprise gifts!

Liz Curtis Higgs was scheduled to keynote at this year’s Philly conference. She graciously recorded a short video to encourage you, and she is planning to be with us next year. Click here to view her message. Thank You, Father, for how Liz has persevered in serving You through the ministry of writing and speaking.

Second, the book I just uploaded to kdp.amazon, How to Write His Answer – Testimonies and Personal Experience Stories, I wrote for you. This 78 page book along with its links to FOUR audio workshops (237 minutes of instruction) will inspire you and give you practical tools to write stories that Father will use in Ephesians 3:20 ways. As Lee Roddy prayed for me and the class he taught at the St. David’s Christian Writers Conference over 35 years ago, “Heaven will be different because of the words you write.”

Here’s just one of the nine endorsements it has received:

Few have the experience of Marlene Bagnull to teach writers and to give writers the tools they need to Write His Answer and to do it so well. These are practical items even experienced writers need reminding of, such as: have a clear focus, stay close to the Lord, search for truth, reflect (and journal) on your life experiences, stay humble, know your audiences—all of this to remind us that we, as believers in the Lord Jesus, are called to write His answer to those with so many questions. Written conversationally, this book invites you to take part in the work with a ready pen.

Eva Marie Everson
Bestselling & multiple award-winning author & speaker
President, Word Weavers International

With the conferences not happening this year, we’re facing financial challenges, so I’m sorry I can’t give you How to Write His Answer. But because this would have been the 37th Philly conference, for the month of July I’m reducing the $20.99 regular price by 37%. That makes the cost for the book plus the links to four audio workshops only $13.22. If you’re math challenged as I am, that’s a savings of $7.77. Wow! I hadn’t pre-calculated that, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Four 7’s – the number of days the Bible tells us God spent creating our world. While I can’t guarantee you’ll write your story or testimony in seven days, I fully expect Father will multiply many times over the number of people whose lives will be touched if you’ll persevere and get it in print. Click here to order an autographed copy from me or order from Amazon.com. Hopefully the reduced price will be available on Amazon tomorrow.

Father, thank You for the number of years You have blessed me with directing CCWC and GPCWC. Thank You for all the lives that have been changed by the words that have been written and published as a result of these 59 conferences. Help us not to miss the lessons You are seeking to teach us through these difficult days or fail to share them. By Your Spirit help us to deepen our commitment to “write Your answer” and to persevere.