Before the Lord

Hezekiah is helpless. His nights have been sleepless; his days worried and stressed. And now this—an ugly letter full of threats and taunts from Sennacherib, King of Assyria. He has nowhere to turn, except to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the One who can do something about it.

He walks up to the temple, spreads the pages out before the Lord and bends low, hands spread out in petition.

“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it.

Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.

And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God…deliver us from his [Sennacherib’s] hand so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.’” II Kings 18:14,15,19

The powerful example of this story affected me profoundly. I have since followed King Hezekiah’s example with various things that overwhelm me. Things I know I cannot possibly handle on my own: the endlessly large parade of medical bills following my husband’s recent kidney transplant; a painful letter from someone; a letter from a reader who is hurting, sharing with me, and who wants my prayers and advice.

And for the past seven years, I’ve also applied this to my writing as well. I have prayed over rejection letters and hopeful queries. Before I submit a piece, a proposal, or publishable material – paper pieces of my heart – I spread the pages out (or place my hand on the computer screen) and petition God to guide these pages into the right hands.

I ask Him for the right eyes to read this work.

For my agent to have wisdom and discernment on where my writing would be best sent.

For both my agent and me to have diligence and determination without undue discouragement.

For readers’ hearts to be touched.

For me to write to His glory alone, every word committed to Him.

For me to honor God with my every written word, my every action, my every thought. After all, what I want more than anything is for my writing to help “all kingdoms on earth to know that He alone is God.”

And then, I hit send, or carefully slide the manuscript into an envelope and seal it, trusting God for the outcome.

How do you commit your writing to God?

Making His Name Famous

Making His Name Famous

By: Cindy Sigler Dagnan

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Romans 12:15

      I was on my way to speak to a writing group about crafting pieces for the Christian market, still unsure about my opener. Once in the parking lot, I dug in my purse past gum wrappers, receipts, dry Cheerios and unidentified melted goop, pulling out an envelope from the day’s mail. Aha.

Going inside, I unfolded the letter and held it aloft in front of the group. Grinning, I explained. “This is my 29th rejection slip from this particular publication. Notice at the bottom the handwritten line – ‘By the way, I really enjoyed your book.’”

Groans and laughs rushed up to meet mine. A community of writers gets used to this. There are so many ways to be rejected these days: e-mail, snail mail, text message, forward from your agent.

Sometimes the rejections come with encouraging words.

“Well written, just not for us.”

“Liked your piece, however it doesn’t fit with our current theme/we ran out of room.”

“Try again. Seriously.”

“Use this letter for the cat litter box.”

Like most of you, I’ve been told not to take it personally. And yet, how do we not? It’s part of us. Our souls on paper. A glimpse of our hearts in a sentence. Our thoughts assembled in structured paragraphs and our flights of fancy in story.

As Christian writers, that rejection can be magnified, for if we are doing this right, our goal is to make His name famous. His alone.

Yes, we need a platform. Sure, we have to market. So how then can we approach this goal?

1) Be Vulnerable.  For all our talk of agents, writing getaways, conferences, deadlines, plotlines and proposals, the truth is, writing exposes us. We want to play our worries close to our chests. But we need to get real and stay real. Share your struggles, for when you do, your writing community can identify, empathize, and later, rejoice with you.

2) Be Accountable. Challenge yourself to create a 1-2 sentence mission statement that clearly captures the ultimate goal for your writing. I’m not talking about a word count, but clear direction that focuses on God. A mission statement is best if simply stated. For example, the theme park Silver Dollar City has this as its mission statement: “To create memories worth repeating.”

Have a writing partner who will hold you to that higher purpose and keep you from straying from that ultimate goal.

3) Be Teachable. Having a humble, teachable spirit means two things: having a right perspective – we don’t know it all now, and we never will. There is always something we can learn. Secondly, it means giving credit to the proper place. If we have been blessed with talent, it is God’s doing. To Him alone be the glory. All accolades should be humbly & sincerely reflected back to Him.

“Now, Lord…enable your servants to speak your word with boldness.” Acts 4:29

The Greatest story ever written happens to be in the Greatest handbook for writers, God’s Word. Creativity comes from His hand. We learn to write boldly, but with grace and truth. Success comes from our hard work and His blessing. May we be bold. May we be reflections of His glory. If we are, then we can be genuinely happy when we embrace a colleague and say with joy, “Congratulations on that contract! I am thrilled for you. May you make His name famous.”

A Mean Delivery

I’ve spent the past few weeks doing the unthinkable: scrubbing unwanted birthmarks, surgically altering dangling participles and mutated paragraphs off my newborn. Manuscript, that is. But it feels every bit as painful as though it were one of my children that is running circles around me, hanging out underneath my elbows even as I type.

An occasional deep sigh runs out of me like flipping the pancake syrup bottle over too quickly. This is my baby.

Its inception was 7 years ago as I spoke at a conference and heard so many stories about this issue. I wanted to reach them with fiction.

Its conception began a year later. But starting actual labor was harder; I much preferred the slow incubation and the relative safety of my baby being hidden from other eyes. I tolerated the creeping pace of false of labor and welcomed the wussy labor pains, preferring to box the baby back up and allow it to grow some more until the mood struck/it was convenient to write/I was having a good hair day.

And then my book club/accountability girls decided it was time for Pitocin. “Let’s speed this thing up,” they chorused. “You’ve written other books and had them published. Get on it!”

“But those were non-fiction,” I protested. “I don’t know if I can share this one.”

Ignoring me, they chose my novel as the November book, thereby forcing me to have it completed by October 30th.

They loved it. It was inexpressibly joyful to have actual readers discussing opinions and for me to be able to explain my thoughts. “That surprised me, too!” And it did. Sometimes my characters took over.

Then my baby went to the NICU with Sarah Joy Freese. She was so gracious in her admiration. No plot problems or character problems, a rarity in a first-born. BUT…there were changes to tweak, tighten and thrill. Some things had to go the land of the unwritten for the sake of pacing.

That’s a lot of pressure for someone who’s not yet been out of the isolette! But I’m learning this process of birthing a different sort of baby. When the changes are completed, it will go from the nurturing NICU into the hands of the ruthless publishers.

And instead of a decent score on the Apgar scale, I’d settle for naming it “Published.” The last name could be, “Best Seller.”

How is your baby doing?