Great Writers Series: Serve

~~ 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV1984) ~~  Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.   

by Carley Cooper

Yay!  I made it to the end.  It’s the fifteen, and final, habit in the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  The habits we talked about were: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, Share Others Work, Declutter, Provoke, Publish, and Brand.  The final habit of great writers, our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Serve.    

He says “It takes more than words to make a writer great.  A great writer is selfless.  He doesn’t look to his own needs, but finds a way to help others.  He’s a servant.”   I read that statement in the daily challenge email and my first thought was “Wow.  That’s the description of  a disciple of Jesus.”  He continues on to say that “One of the biggest questions other writers ask me all the time is, “What do I write about?”  The wrong answer is whatever you want to write about.”  We are to write for ourselves but with the purpose of serving others. 

This description is what Worship Melodies is all about.  I pray, and try very hard, with each and every post, to let God lead me.  He even picked out the website theme!  This is one way that I choose to do a ministry to Jesus; to use my talent for words, that He gave me, for His purpose.  I want to do my part to further His kingdom, to fulfill my responsibility as His disciple by spreading the gospel.  Showing others, who are on their own road leading to God, my insight or how I have overcome a speed bump they’re currently caught on is how He has led me to help other people.  

I am helping others, which means I am serving them, but I am doing that because I am serving Him first.  I didn’t have to ask “What do I write about?” because I knew the answer already.  I write about God’s Word.  The old saying “write about what you know”, and a book called If You CanTalk, You Can Write by Joel Saltzman, led me to write about my life, and how I am trying to understand and apply God’s Word.  When people see that others are going through problems similar to their own, they don’t feel so alone.  It’s not only the habit of a great writer to be selfless, it’s the habit of a great human being.  It’s what we are called to be if we are to truly live according to how God wants us to live.  Helping others through writing about the Bible gives me a never ending source of subjects to write about.  Literally.  There is nothing that we need to know about in this lifetime that God doesn’t answer for us in the Bible. 

The challenge for today was to serve the reader by being generous.  Do this, Goins suggested,  by giving away a product or service (which, as it turns out I just did recently in my Birthday Gift Give-Away), or to write something important and give it away as an ebook (again, this was something I’ve already planned.  I have a couple of ebook projects started, and ideas for a couple more.  They are just not completed yet). 

I have made it to the end of this challenge.  I am happy about that.  It’s been enlightening, encouraging, and challenging.  Each day in this series has  shown me that I am on the right track, which is confirmation from God that He is indeed leading me.  Every day has also taught me a lesson, which I have in turn used to help others by writing about it; which means singing His praises, and thereby fulfilling Worship Melodies purpose.    

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for the gifts of enlightenment, encouragement, and for the challenge.  Serving others as a way to serve and honor You is a blessing.  Please continue to lead me on this journey, and I pray that I will get closer to You with each and every day.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Great Writers Series: Brand

~~ 1 John 3:10 (NIV1984) ~~  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.   

by Carley Cooper

We’re working on habit number fourteen in the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, Share Others Work, Declutter, Provoke, and Publish.  The next habit of great writers, our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Brand.      

Yep, it’s just what it sounds like.  Great writers make a brand name out of their name (or business or blog name).  It means having a logo, business cards, social media profiles, promotional materials; all consistent in colors, graphics, photos, and fonts as any other business would be.  It’s not always that cut and dried though.  It seems that everyone has a brand already.  Did you know you had a brand?!  Me ether.  It’s all about first impressions.  Accurate or not, no matter how long or short the meeting, people walk away from you with some sort of mental image about you that sticks with them.   What kind of impression do you want to leave with others?  Do you care?  You should no matter who the other person is, what your relationship, or your feelings about them; you should want to leave them with a good feeling about you.  A first impression can only be created once, and leaving a bad one can come back to haunt you in the future.     

There is another key reason why a first impression is so important.  Even with the greatest blog title, professional name, website design; it’s all useless if I don’t present myself a positive light.  As a child of the living God, the image that I am creating is about showing the world I am His child first and foremost.  The image that the world should see in me first and foremost is the image of Jesus.  There’s no better branding than that! 

~~ Dear God ~~  Please let me always do what is right by Your will.  Let me show love to everyone I meet, whether it is in person or online.  Let each of them see the image of Jesus in me.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

A True Worship Melody

~~ Psalm 30:11-12 (GNT) ~~  You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; You have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.  So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.

by Carley Cooper

Microsoft Office Copyright Free Image
Here is a Worship Melody in the truest form.  I just had to share this with you today.  As I begin writing this, it’s about 4:00 pm EST on Saturday, June 23.  

I live alone and I woke up this morning with my Bipolar being in a bad place, with no one to turn to or comfort me.  I spent some time crying feeling like there was no hope for me.  This episode did have a trigger though, and there’s a long story behind that.  The nutshell version is that a really big dream that I had crashed last night when I found out someone important is moving out of the country.  It was someone that I had hoped to have a future with.  I’ve had several big trauma’s this year, and it’s only half over yet.  My emotional and mental strength had run out, and it hurt so bad that I was in physical pain as well. 

My morning prayer and devotional time refueled me enough that I spent my morning doing housework.  Sometimes nothing works for a downward spiral like good ol’ fashioned hard work.  It’s amazing how much you can find to clean, even in a small 500 sq. foot apartment, when you need to! 

Afterward, I spent the early part of the afternoon doing my power walking in Barrie’s Heritage Park.  Beeeeeeeautiful spot, by the way!  As I walked, I didn’t listen to my regular walking workout routine on my MP3 player.  I listened to worship music.  About half of my music collection on my MP3 player is by my friend, Chris Blakley.  He’s in town again this weekend to preach and perform.  I’m looking forward to it.  We never know for sure when he’s going to make it here, and it’s always a great time filled with the Holy Spirit when he is here.  Going and going sometimes, like the Energizer bunny, like I was today is another Bipolar symptom.  By the time I made it home, between pushing my body and the blessing of music, I was feeling better.  I was finally ready to collapse, so I wasn’t great, but good just the same.  I was glad that this energy surge was short lived.  Praise God for that!  Sometimes they can last for days, with little or no sleep.    

I sat down to my computer, checked email, Facebook messages, and did a small project.  Then this song came on my player.  It’s called I’ll Take Jesus by Jason Crabb.  It’s a tune that I listen to all the time.  Quite often when I hear it I get stuck on it.  What I mean is that I can’t help but play it over a few times before I let the player continue on to others.  I always feel the Holy Spirit so strong during this song.  Today was no exception.  I’ve had a few incidents when I can feel God with me so strong that it’s almost tangible.  It is such an incredible experience; and this afternoon was like that.  I found myself putting the settings to continuously repeat that song, and it played for at least a few hours.  Before I knew what hit me, I realized I was sitting in my living room alone with tears streaming down my face, singing along with this song, and my hands raised to Jesus because I was so filled with His love. 

I just saw this on a photo on my Facebook Newsfeed, “When life knocks me down, Jesus picks me up.”  No matter how dark things seem He always brings me to the Light.  Every time I hit rock bottom, He lifts me up.  He never misses an opportunity to send me encouragement when I need it.  God has a great plan for my future.  He spoke loudly to me today through this melody, and I couldn’t help but to worship Him because of it. 

~~ Dear God ~~  I love You.  Thank You for always picking me up and loving me back.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Here’s the lyrics to I’ll Take Jesus.  Below is a video Jason Crabb performing it live on stage. 

I’ll Take Jesus

by Jason Crabb

Verse I
As they gambled for the robe He wore,
they chose a worldly trail.
Not thinking about eternity
as the soldiers drove the nails.
Will we learn from what they've done
or make the same mistake?
Me or the world My child,
Which one will you take?

I'll take Jesus, I'll take Jesus.
I've tried those earthly pleasures and they failed.
When you see the gates of Heaven,
you hear the Master say;
Me or the world My child,
Which one will you take?

Verse II
As the pages of my life have turned,
and time has rolled away,
you see, the greatest things that I have done
they're not gonna matter on that day.
All my earthly treasures
that I have laid away,
Listen, they're gonna be to me just a memory
and this you'll hear me say,

I'll take Jesus, I'll take Jesus.
I've tried those earthly pleasures and they failed.
When you see the gates of Heaven,
and you hear the Master say;
Me or the world my child,
Which one will you take?
Me or the world my child,
Which one will you take?

Song lyrics to "I'll Take Jesus" are the property of their owners.  No copyrights are claimed by Carla Cooper or Worship Melodies. 

Great Writers Series: Publish

~~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) ~~  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  

by Carley Cooper

We’re working on habit number thirteen in the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, Share Others Work, Declutter, and Provoke

The next habit of great writers, our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Publish.  OK, seriously; Goins has finally thrown a challenge at me that I can’t do right now.  At least, not in full.  All the other tests, I had either already done, or I did it when asked to do (and got great devotional messages to prove it).  This task, isn’t quite so quick at being completed.  He says “The amateur doesn’t understand this.  And let’s be honest: There’s a bit of amateur in all of us, isn’t there?  We struggle with this discipline of sharing our work.  All because of the most potent enemy of art: fear.”   

It’s human nature to fear the unknown.  We’re afraid of everything; even success half the time.  Goins tells us to stretch ourselves.  Get over it already and share the fruits of our labour!  We are to publish something; and it needs to be more than another blog post.  It should be a manuscript, article, ebook; something.  Anything.  However, all my works are incomplete.  I have my ‘big’ manuscript project half done.  Actually, I’m thinking more than half, but that, in itself, probably tells me that it’s half or less!  I have no doubt that there’s more to this than meets the eye.  Anyway, I have another that will likely be an ebook, that is also not completed.  Another ebook started; and several ideas for more.  But nothing that is far enough along to publish. 

Is this really the fear he’s talking about?  I wasn’t really thinking about this as fear of sharing.  I really thought it was about not being finished my projects yet.  As I sit here on my couch with my laptop in front of me working on this blog post, I’m learning a lesson.  It seems that part of my anxiety is indeed about fear.  Wow!  Who knew?!  Goins was right.  Good job, Dude!  Thanks for helping.  Oh and as a side note, congrats on being a new daddy! 

God has led me through so much, and fear is just one of those things.  I am a survivor in so many ways, and I have the SurvivorsVoices support group to prove it.  I’ve learned that if I am to be a success then I have to wait for God’s leading.  Conquering the ghosts is only half the problem.  As much as I’ve over come, and I am proud of myself for those accomplishments, I still have a lot more to achieve and learn.  I can defeat anything with God’s help.  I will publish, when His timing says it is so. 

As it’s turned out, this challenge is a two part trial.  First part, kicking fear habit.  Secondly, following God as He leads me to share my work.  When that day happens, and I can share my completed work I will shout it from the rooftops; and write an awesome devotional message about it.  I am confident that it is not too far away.  In the mean time, so I don’t keep kicking myself for not completing a challenge, and to take that first step outside of my comfort zone... which is always the first thing God will have us do when we are growing... I will tell you a few things about my manuscript.  As it stands right now: 
  • The title is Cocoa with Jesus (there may be some slight adjustment to that later such as Drinking Cocoa with Jesus, or I Drank Cocoa with Jesus.)
  • It is the story of my life
  • It is divided into four parts (the book, not my life)
  • The first 3 parts are to provide information that will help others in similar situations, and help readers understand the story of my life
  • The first part is about mental illness
  • The second part is about abuse
  • The third part is about how it feels (the mental illness and abuse).  This part is important as it will tie in with the very end of the book.  It will show how it felt to finally be released and into the arms of Jesus.
  • The forth part is my story.
So, to fulfil the challenge for today, at least in part, here is the Preface of my manuscript; as it stands right now (remember there is work to be done on it yet)... 
     It was sometime early 2007, and I was on the phone with Paul.  So, ‘Who’s he’, you ask?  Well, our relationship falls somewhere between friends and ex’s.  We’re not together any more; that ship has long since sailed, but we have managed to salvage a friendship.  As usual, we were laughing our way through our conversation.  For years, we even giggled our way through many of our arguments.  Of course, there were lots of discussions that were nowhere near as warm and fuzzy as this one.  As a matter of fact there were times when we practically clobbered each other over the head to get a point across.
     This particular day, I was talking to him, yet again, about ‘the book’.  It is the same book that I had talked about to him for years.  The book, that ‘maybe I’ll write some day’.  I hit a nerve with him.  He said to me, in a rather stern and snappy voice, “Carley you have to shut up talking about this book and either write it or give up the idea”.
     He called me “Carley” even though that is not my given name.  I told him how I had always wanted a nickname.  I always thought it showed ‘extra love’.  I’m not even sure that I really knew what that idea meant.  I just always knew that women who were called “Honey”, “Sweet Pea”; or “Baby” by their mates, or even parents, had something special that I did not have.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what that missing bond could be, but I wished my whole life that I could have it.  Paul came up with a myriad of pet names, but “Carley” was the main one; and  it really did make me feel special.  After a while, though, others picked up on it too; and it stuck.  Though the real ‘glue’ didn’t take affect with others until after we broke up.  I didn’t want to let it go.  I missed hearing it all the time.  Suddenly “Carla” seemed all wrong.  So I made a point of reminding people that all my friends call me “Carley”.  Not that I really had many friends at that time in my life, but I’ll get around to that later.  Though, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, God’s was leading me; and it would come to symbolize so much more than just a simple nick name.       
     We finished our conversation; I hung up the phone and thought to myself “Huh.  I wonder who rattled his cage this morning?  He didn’t have to snap at me.
     Then it hit me.  “Oh my gosh, he’s right.  He is so right.  I have to make a decision.  Do I really want to write this book about my life?
     There was only one answer.  “Yes.  Yes, I do want to write this book.  So I am making the decision right here, right now that I am going to write a book about my life.
      “OK, so I’m writing a book.  Now what?  If I’m doing it, I’m doing it right.  There’s not going to be any half hearted, unprofessional type work.
      I thought for a minute.  I realized the first step was to pray about it.  I didn’t know why this was the first step, but I knew it was.  God was whispering to me again.  I didn’t have a relationship with Him yet; but I have learned, since, that God has always been by my side guiding me.  I just had to learn to listen to Him.  I’ve also learned that unless God is at the center of everything in my life, as the most important priority; things won’t work out in my favor.
      So I said a prayer to God, and found myself being completely surprised at what I heard coming out of my mouth:      
     Dear God, please help me write this book.  Please make it a book that will; one, show Your awesome grace and glory through the telling of my story of...
      Then, I got stuck.  My first thought was “triumph over tragedy.”  However, I knew if I asked for “tragedy” than I would likely get it.  How did I know this?  God was telling me.  Somewhere inside me I knew that God is faithful and loyal to the very last detail.  “Tragedy”, I decided, was much too strong a word.  I need a new word.  What word?  Then it hit me... “Trauma!”   I figured trauma is hard times, but not as bad as a tragedy.  I mean, tragedy is terrible, awful things... people dying, getting cancer, kids getting hurt... really dreadful stuff.  I didn’t want to write a book so badly that people would have to go through that kind of thing; especially if it was going to be my fault.
      So I continued with my prayer, “Dear God, make my book a story that will show Your awesome grace and glory through my story of triumph over trauma.  Secondly, make it a story that will help people with mental illness see that there is hope.  Thirdly, help those who live with people with mental illness gain information and understanding that will help their lives and relationships.  Fourth, help relieve some of the stigma that the public has about mental illness.  The stigma against mental illness makes living with it much harder than it needs to be.  Next, that it would be therapy for me.  I pray these things in Jesus name, AMEN.”         
     One day all will be revealed; every thought, word, and deed.  I thought that, if I tell my story now, the hardest things will be revealed in circumstances that I get some say about.  Plus, if I keep my heart in the right place, I figured, it could help a lot of people at the same time.  A story; a true story, that is a good testimony with the potential of helping people and leading others to Jesus cannot be told by leaving out bad things or keeping secrets; especially to have goals, such as mine, be met efficiently.  As I thought about some of the details in my life and how I felt about them I realized that there was a lot of pain and frustration underlying it all.  I was fearful of hurting those I love the most; and very worried of letting them down or disappointing them in some way.  I was also troubled that it might end up sounding like someone who was simply lashing out in anger toward the world.  This was absolutely not the story I wanted to tell the world.  Deep inside, I knew that this is actually God’s story; and writing it without Him is impossible.  I wanted my story to show believers and non-believers, alike, the reality that is God, and that Jesus is alive today and He loves each and every one of us that believes in Him.
      So, later with all this in mind, I also asked God to please help me tell this story, all of it; in a way that will not hurt those I love the most.  Then, the final thing I prayed for was that He would lead me to the people that I would need in my life to complete this project.Little did I know at that point how much work there was to preparing to write this book; and I don’t just mean studying and learning about the writing process.  First, there was work to be done on and inside me.  God had an incredible plan to let that happen.  I was about to take an amazing life-altering journey; one that would be worth writing about!
      Over the next couple of years or so I came up with ideas, and made stacks of notes and plans.  I learned later, as well, that nothing we will ever do that means getting close to God or doing His work will be done without interference from Satan.  Then, right on cue, the enemy started to influence my thinking because I started to doubt myself.  I wondered “Should I really be doing this?  Is it just a pipe dream that will never come to be?  I don’t have professional writing education?  Is this beyond me?  Will anyone want to read it?  If they do, will they take me seriously, or just laugh at me?
     Then, also right  on cue, God sent me confirmations to ensure me that writing my story is the right decision.  He did that by sending people to tell me as much.  Within a two week period in the summer of 2009, I had several people suggest to me that I should be writing a book about my life; because, they said, it would inspire others.  None of these people knew that I had already hoped to do that, or that others had told me the same thing.  Not only that, but I felt that all these individuals were in such positions in life that I should, no doubt, highly respect their opinions.  God didn’t stop there, though, with the encouragement.  I started writing blogs; and the followers were loving what I was writing.  I heard, all the time, how much I inspired people, and that I had a true gift for writing.
      As I think back, now, on the story that would have been told if I had started writing back when the decision was first made; I realize that it would have been the hashing out of a lot of pain, hurting everyone that I love, and accomplishing nothing that would help people or lead them to God.  The journey that I’ve been through since the day I made the decision to turn my dream into a reality, has made this a vastly different story.  Now, it’s a story about God.  One by one, God erased all the uncertainties in my mind.
      After those first couple of years writing notes, life started to get busy; which was a great excuse to use for the following two years as to why I wasn’t actually sitting down writing my manuscript.  Remember those people that I asked God to put in place to help me?  Well, the next one to help me entered the scene.  It was my friend, and author, Brenda Wood, who contacted me after she read one of my blogs where I mentioned, for what was likely the 5,267th time, about this book that I intend on writing.  Her email told me about a writing challenge that she was entering.  She suggested that I also join this challenge and write my book… in one month!  Next month, November!  But that wasn’t all of it.  See it was only about four days until the end of the month.      
     I immediately came up with a list of reasons why this was not possible.  “I’m not ready”, I said.  “It’s way too soon.  I have much more preparation, reading and research to do.
      “Forget all that stuff”, she said.  “Just start writing.  Worry about all that later.God was telling my heart that “It’s time to stop puttering around and making excuses.  It’s time to get started.
      “OK, Lord”, I said.  “I’ll do it, but I need Your help.  I need You to tell me what to write.  I cannot do this on my own.
      I spent the next few days reading, planning and preparing as best as I could for the start date. I started writing on November 1, 2011.  By the 30th I had met, and surpassed, the challenge goal of fifty thousand words.  I was declared one of the winners; even though my first draft wasn’t finished, but I kept on writing.
      As I held the certificate that I was given, it hit me “I am a writer.  I’m a real writer!  Thank You, Lord.”  I have to say that this was an incredible shock to me.  It never would have been a career choice that I would have ever chosen for myself.  God led me to this path, and now that I’m here I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  Way to many writers, poets, artists, musicians, pastors, and even truck drivers don’t ever have the courage to chase their dreams, let alone share their gift, to change lives with it.  I’ve learned that the first step in achieving a dream, is to acknowledge that you have it.  How can others believe it about me, if I don’t believe it myself?  This was an important lesson.  I am a writer.  The next step is to trust God, and jump!  If you don’t land where you expect, that’s OK, because He will catch you and set you down in a place that is awesome.  I am honored to be given the opportunity to share my words with you.  I hope my story, and my words, touch your heart and help you.            
     Well, now that it’s time to start telling you about my life, where do I even begin?  It sounds rather corny, or maybe it sounds more like common sense.  Sometimes, I’m not sure there’s a difference; but “at the beginning” keeps coming to mind. 

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for the journey that You lead each of us on, that brings us closer to You each and every day.  Thank You for loving me enough to want to change me and help me grow.  You are always me protecting me.  I have no reason to fear.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Here is a PDF of  the Survivor Voices manual if you would like to know more.  Click here. [You need a PDF viewer installed on your computer to read]

Great Writers Series: Provoke

~~ Ephesians 4:29 (NIV84) ~~  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  

by Carley Cooper

We’re working on habit number twelve in the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, Share Others Work and Declutter

The twelfth habit of great writers our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Provoke.  He tells us that “Writing is an art.  And all good art pushes buttons.  It pokes and prods, makes people uncomfortable.”   He continues on to say “Listen: You need to quit screwing around.  Stop playing it safe and provoke us, already.”  His challenge is to “Take a risk.  Write something provocative and stand by it.  Yes, you may make a few people mad, but you’ll also liberate those locked in self-doubt and fear.

I wanted to write this post yesterday, when it was first presented.  As read it, I thought to myself ‘the only one whose going to be shaken up is me.’  It bothered me that the challenge appeared to be that I was to let out all my ugly feelings about something and just lash out at the world saying “Here take that.  Like it or lump it, that’s the ugly truth!”   I have a whole list of things that I could write about to attempt to ruffle some feathers.  The temptation to go with it was overwhelming.  Worship Melodies is about encouraging people to realize God loves them and there is hope no matter what.  I know as a child of God I am to follow the rules He’s laid out for us.  Shooting off at the mouth saying what I think people should hear is not included in God’s laws. 

I also know, most of the time, the message we want to “teach” people by lashing out, doesn’t get taught.  It’s rare actually.  I know people with a need say “They will learn... [this or that]... and then they will ‘know’... [something].”  It’s a power struggle.  This kind of logic is... well, in a word, hogwash (I could have used a more colorful term here to ‘provoke’, but would it enhance the message any?).  When you really tick off people, they either argue back or look at you as though you are something to be pitied.  Not cool options.  People see things differently, and God is the One who does any real teaching.  We all need to learn.   

I stared feeling depressed over this challenge.  Fulfilling this task verses sticking with what I know God would want me to say.  Temptations are always plentiful supply, and I certainly didn’t need another.  I even considered skipping the assignment.  It reminded me of when the idea first came up for me to write a book.  I prayed and cried about it.  I told a loved one about my book dilemma, saying “If I write my story from my own point of view, as I see it now, the only thing I will accomplish is to hurt and push away everyone that I love.”  Thankfully, how God has lead me through that obstacle into a manuscript that, I believe, will not do that could be a book in itself.  This morning, He also led me to an answer to this challenge quandary.  In my morning devotional I was reminded by Pastor David Zandstra in an article called Helpful Words, that he wrote for This is Today, what truly is God’s intent for how we are to use our words.  Ephesians 4:29 (NIV84) says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Zandstra explains that our words should speak of “...encouragement... sincere compliments... thanksgiving...”; language that will help bring love, joy, and peace.

So, the biggest test is not really to provoke, but to get the message across without hindering progress by doing too much damage along the way.  The challenge is to avoid temptations and always stay on track with how God wants us to react.  God loves us.  There is no offence that can make Him stop loving you, as long as we believe in Jesus, follow Him, and keep faith.

Yet, even if I could possibly give the perfect message, there will be ruffled feathers.  There are still those who will insist that they don’t need God or Jesus to have a fulfilled life, or as long as they believe in a God they will be saved.  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me(John 14:6 (NIV84)).  Others will insist that as long as they do good works and are nice to people, God will let them into Heaven.  His Word says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast(Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV84)) .  Yet others will insist that believing in Jesus is enough; that repentance isn’t necessary.  They believe they can follow the world, and still depend on Jesus to bail them out on Judgement Day.  He told us “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him(John 14:21 (NIV1984)).  Well, I apologize for ruffling feathers of those who think these things, but the truth is sometimes a shock.  Believe in Jesus, focus on Him, keep faith, confess your sins, and repent; then you will go to Heaven for eternity.  Without that formula, it’s not going to happen, and you will spend eternity in Hell!  That is a message I will stand by!  

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for giving us a solution to every sticky situation.  Please let me be open to hearing Your voice always, so that I will stay on the path leading me closer to You ever day.  If those with ruffled feathers, please lift the veil and let them see just how wonderful Your love really is.  Show them the wonderful Gift that You gave us when You sacrificed Your Son, to save us.  Let this be the reality for every person on earth.    In Jesus name, AMEN

Great Writers Series: Declutter

~~ Psalm 51:10 (NAS) ~~  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

by Carley Cooper

It’s day Eleven of the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  This is the second post today for this challenge series.  I found myself a little busy yesterday.  So now I’m playing catch up!  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, and Share Others Work

The eleventh habit of great writers our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Declutter.  OK, seriously, on this thought, I think I’m ready to go do something way more exciting.  Anything’s gotta be more fun than cleaning up.  Reorganizing the cutlery drawer, or the book shelf; or watching my African Violet bloom.  Of course, since my African Violet hasn’t bloomed in the few years that I’ve had it, maybe I should stick with one of the other options. 

The challenge for today is:
  • Clean up our workspace – literally.  File papers, wash dishes, feed the dog, close Facebook.  Make the space comfy with no distractions.    
  • Clean up our writing – Cut out all the unnecessary wordage!  If it’s not needed, it’s a waste of paper, ink, my time, and yours!
So, I went through some past blogs and came up with one that I could cut down in size.  The original post was called The Truth.  MS Word tells me the original word count was 434 words.  The challenge was to cut down an article so it says what it needs to say without all the extra fluff.  Here is the revised edition of The TruthNew word count 253
Ever wonder, if what you know for certain, really is the truth?  Is your own judgement the foundation for your beliefs?  You know you can trust that because…?  It is only by being outside of your experience that you can see if deception exists.

I have Bipolar and Major Depressive Disorders.  I refuse to bend to the stigma in the world any longer.  Patients with cancer or diabetes are not judged for their diseases.  They may be experiencing any number of emotions, but shame is not one of them.  None of us chose to have these conditions.  Mental illness is the result of chemical imbalances generally.  It is not a choice, sin, crime, weakness or character flaw.
My worst episodes cause so much confusion that I do not trust my reality.  It is a terrifying place to be, especially when you feel alone in the world.  This misperception appears as true as the trees around me, and I argue it is genuine.  Only after the incident is over can I see reality, and that people do love me.

A newspaper I saw with the mission of telling the ‘Truth’, publishes only anti-Christian articles,, and proudly supports sinful living.  Where is the evidence for their truth?  Mine is based on God’s solid Word.  Even through all my confusion I have never doubted Jesus as The Truth.  He said “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  I wonder who’s reality is more clouded?
It always amazes me at how much God brings to me exactly what I need, when I need it.  I’ve been concerned about this for a while, in regards to doing rewrites on my book.  Being too wordy that is.  Right now, as I write I keep thinking “No one will read this.  It’s way too big.”  I’ve prayed for more education and guidance.  Voila!  Right on cue, He gives me this, and some leads on some free writing courses.  God is good!

So friends, I’d love some feedback on the new updated version.  Whatta ya think? 

Oh, on a side note, if anyone has any tips and advice on growing African Violets, please leave me a comment!  While I’m on this topic, I have a Spider Plant that’s looking a little worse for wear too! 

~~ Dear God ~~  If I could list out and say Thank You for each thing that You have given me exactly when I needed it, I would spend the rest of my life reading the list and saying “Thank You”’s.  Thank You, Father, for each and every item.  Help me to develop the disciplines I need to continue on this path of writing.  Thank You for Jeff Goins and this challenge that he’s hosting for almost 1200 writers.  Please let each writer grow through this journey.  I pray that You will guide all the challenge participants, in our writing projects.  I pray that each piece can be used to further Your Kingdom.  Oh, and if it’s not too much trouble, could you please help those of us whose thumbs aren’t so ‘green’ to keep our houseplants alive and well.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Great Writers Series: Share

~~ John 3:16 (NIV84) ~~  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

by Carley Cooper

It’s day Ten of the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  Technically, it’s day eleven; but I found myself a little busy yesterday.  So now I'm playing catch up!  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build and Connect

The tenth habit of great writers our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to ‘Share Others Work’.  He also says “Great writers share.  Not just their own knowledge, ideas, and expertise.  They also share the work of others and credit them accordingly.  And ironically, paradoxically, they ultimately benefit from their own generosity.”  The minute I read the challenge that he gave us today “Find someone whose message we need to hear and share it…”, I instantly two names came to mind. 

The first is Paul Duarte and his new book Shakedown.  As a friend of Paul, I can say that he has never done anything small, and fear is not a word he’s familiar with.  He pushes the boundaries beyond expectation in everything he does.  Even his physical disability hasn’t slowed him down.  Shakedown, is no exception.  This is a book that will, no doubt, cause a lot controversy; and may even get him in some hot water.  Duarte is a newbie in the book writing world, but shares his own incredible true story very well.  It is a tale of one man’s strength through the overwhelming trauma and aftermath of the murder of a dear friend.  The story leads you through, as the cover says; “murder, police deceptions, lies and extortion.”  You will get a glimpse of what it feels like to see an investigation from the inside view of a murder suspect.  It’s a view of authorities who will stop at nothing, including the law to get their man; except it’s the wrong man!  You will be left with your mouth dropped open in shock at the lengths some will go to in order to make a situation turn out the way they want it to.  Shakedown is exciting and will leave your heart thumping!  The most incredible part is that Paul comes through it all still holding onto his faith.

The second name that came to mind that has a message to share is Jesus.  No greater story has ever been lived, or told.  The title of the book is The Holy Bible.  It is the written and living Word of God.  It is filled with excitement, murder, deceptions, lies, war, fear, betrayal, sex scandals, drama, intrigue, love stories, action, suspense, and so much more.  Yet, it is the greatest guide ever published on how to live life to its fullest.  It is a manual  on how to be everything from a good parent to a successful entrepreneur.  No question that you will ever need answered, cannot be found within its pages.  At the end of the story, the whole world has been given the greatest gift ever given.  Eternal salvation.  That’s because God’s Word also tells us about His awesome love, grace and mercy.  It’s a story of a love so great that a Son, named Jesus, was sacrificed in order to save everyone else.  What greater story is there?  It’s one that every person on the planet needs to hear. 

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for the most incredible story ever told.  Thank You for all that we have gained from it.  I know that one day every person will get to hear that story.  One day every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Praise You, Father, for this great gift.  I pray, also, that You will help Paul in his quest to get his story told; and that his relationship with Jesus will be strengthened, and others will be helped and lead to You as a result.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Great Writers Series: Connect

~~ Psalm 27:11 (NIV84) ~~  Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

by Carley Cooper

It’s day Ninth of the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge.  Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly and Build.  The ninthe habit of great writers our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to ‘Connect’.    

The challenge was to connect with people that we will need in our career of being a great writer.  Those would be Friends (those who can help us, and who we can help), Fans (that would be you, Sweet Followers!), and Patrons (the leaders and influencers in the industry). 

I read this and my Social Anxiety started to squirm again.  Then, I realized that I’ve already taken the first steps to connecting with these people.  I know several authors, I chat with a few others online now and then, and I have fans; which is a list that’s growing slowly but surely all the time.  I love all of you!  Truly. 

The Patrons... well, I’ve been in touch with a few self-publishing companies.  They’re very nice people, and they sent me some great info packages.  But the best Leader that I need on my side , is the one that I’ve asked to be my Guide and Leader since the beginning.   That would be Jesus.   He has brought me the people I needed thus far, exactly when I needed them, for everything from starting to write in the beginning, to those who have encouraged and helped me in many ways since then.  He helps me write, He led me to start blogging (He even chose the theme of Worship Melodies!).  What greater contact would I need on my team?!   

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You, Father, for giving me this talent for words, for the passion to use it, and for leading me so far in this journey.  I pray that You will continue to lead my every step, and every page I write.  Please continue to bring me the people that I need to continue to advance.  I ask that my work will help others, always; and to show Your glory in every work.  In Jesus name, AMEN.