A Child Is Born

I was delighted to run across a meditation I wrote five years ago. I wanted to create a collection of seasonal meditations and managed to write a few before life took me on another writing path.

The writer’s life can be that way, and that’s okay. As long as we are following God, we are moving forward, but the path can meander. God has amazing treasures in store for us on each trail. It’s most important to be present and take in whatever is in front of us in each season.

Whether I will go back and continue writing these meditations in this new season, I don’t know yet. Right now, I’m just enjoying having unearthed them.

These meditations start out in a way similar to devotionals, but with some added steps. Kind of like guided devotionals with a response and an activity, so readers can be not only inspired but also can dig in a little, get some dirt under their fingernails while they experience God’s presence in their midst.

I’m always interested in ways to create deeper studies and experiences that build on the basic idea of a devotional. As writers, we have so much creativity available to write in ways that encourage people to interact with God in His Word. I hope this devotional meditation for the Christmas season will help you reflect on creative ideas for your writing. Be blessed!

Winter Meditation

A Child is Born

Scripture

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

Reflection

I love when the warmth of Christmas meets the cold winter landscape. I didn’t grow up in a cold climate, like the one where I live now. But there was still something about the warmth of Christmas … the light shining in the darkness. Something that welcomed every heart to respond with joy: our Savior is born!

Over the years, that message has never failed to move me. Through every Christmas Eve service of the nearly five decades of my life to date, I have felt the warmth of the presence of Jesus in a way so sweet it makes my heart weep.

This year, the Christmas message was sweeter than ever as it poured its warmth and love into an aching heart. I’ve experienced so many losses over the years, and Christmas is when the remembrance of all of them comes bubbling to the surface.

As I prepared for our Christmas Eve services this year, I had a revelation. God reminded me that despite all the lost relationships in my life, I never lost the one He offers. I confess there have been times when that offering hasn’t satisfied the pain in my heart. There is a season of grief and it is vital for healing. God knows that. But there are times when I chose to carry my sadness of loss much longer than I needed to. I wanted to hold onto my sense of injustice for all that those losses had taken from my life. I refused to exchange that pain for the comfort, healing, and peace He offers.

This Christmas Eve, I decided to let go of my pain. There are losses I will still grieve, as memories surface. But I choose to come out of agreement with a spirit of heaviness that has spent too many Christmas Eves, and all the days in between, in my heart. My heart belongs to God. I choose to let Him come in and dispel my sadness and my sense of injustice and of a life “incomplete.” He is my justice, my wholeness, my joy, and my peace.

As I watched the children of our church family put on a Christmas Eve pageant that included a live baby Jesus, and listened to the words of a song that asked if my Lord Jesus knew, from the first moment He opened his infant eyes, that He would be my Savior, I wept. These were not tears of grief, pain, or loss. They were tears of joy, that this tiny infant’s love for me was greater than all my losses. The life I have in Him is so filled with love and peace that I have yet to fully receive.

I choose to lay down my sadness, to step away from the bleak landscape I’ve inhabited in my thoughts and emotions, and receive the warmth of Christ’s love into my whole heart. Thank You, God, for the warmth of Christmas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming into our lives – to save us, to lead us, to transform us, to redeem us. Thank You that Your love is stronger than death, stronger than loss, stronger than all the things the enemy throws at us. Thank You, Lord, that You know You’re our Savior, and that it is Your greatest desire that we receive that good news in every part of our hearts. Thank You for bringing the warmth of Your love into our lives. We love You! It’s in Your precious name we pray. Amen

Thoughts

Are there parts of your heart where you haven’t yet received the warmth and fullness of Christ’s love? Will you invite Him to show you what stands in the way … and to help you lay down those things at the Cross, so He can enter into those parts of your heart that you’ve kept locked away?

Is there a loss in your life – a loss of any kind – that you still struggle with? If so, talk to Jesus about that right now. Ask Him to help you find healing and peace through His presence in your heart.

Do you know the difference between healthy, healing grief, and an unhealthy spirit of heaviness, sadness, and despair? Ask the Lord to show you the difference. If you are grieving a loss, ask Him to help you grieve in a way that is healing, and to lift your despair.

Activity

Take a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights. If you drive, if at all possible stop and park your car, so you can spend some time looking and reflecting on the warmth of the Christmas lights. Ask the Lord to join you. Reflect on how those beautiful lights demonstrate the way His light shines into your heart.

Close-Up

For the next five minutes, sit quietly and invite the Lord to sit with you. Do nothing; say nothing. Simply enjoy His presence.

Journal

In a journal or notebook, share your thoughts in a letter to God about what it means to let the warmth of His love fill your heart. Listen for His response and write what you hear.

God’s Invitation to You

Do you know how precious you are to Me? Do you know the depths of My love for you? Do you feel My love in those parts of your heart that have been hurt? Will you allow Me to come in and bring peace?

Your Response to God

God, thank You for loving me with Your whole heart. Help me to give my whole heart to You. Sometimes the thought of opening my whole heart scares me, or feels overwhelming, or seems too much to ask of You. But I want that. I want a heart that is full to overflowing with Your love. God, forgive me for [tell God what you would like forgiveness for, and know that He will forgive you]. God, thank You for [tell God the things you’re thankful for today]. God, I need You. Please help me with [tell God how you would like for Him to work in your heart and life today]. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sensing God’s Presence

Where do you sense God’s presence?

I sense God’s presence in the scent of the Christmas tree that He lovingly raised in a pine forest and filled with His presence just for me.

I sense God’s presence in the warm smells that come from a Christmas kitchen and in the memories of childhood Christmas meals with family and friends.

I sense God’s presence in the beautiful face of a baby that reminds me of the infant Jesus, and in the sweet chorus of children’s voices as they proclaim His holy birth.

Share with God some examples of where you sense His presence.

God bless you. He loves you so much.

If you enjoyed this meditation, you might like to read two of my spring season meditations:

First Planting – available to read on my blog.

Blanket in the Shade – this link will take you to Reflections Christian Online Magazine, where you can read this spring meditation online.

Your Words Mean the World to a Child

Have you considered how you can use your writing gift to speak encouraging words to a child?

Every month I have the privilege of sending a letter to a young girl in the Caribbean. I am her “correspondence sponsor” through an international program. As a missionary, I don’t earn enough to financially sponsor a child. But I am allowed to write letters to a child whose sponsor is not able to write on a regular basis.

Many organizations that help children are glad to have volunteer letter writers. Letters are so important to the children, and not all sponsors have the time to write.

You might find opportunities closer to home as well. Not every organization is able to connect letter writers with children. Usually, this depends on their level of administrative support and security for the children. But it doesn’t hurt to inquire around your town. There might be an organization – even your own church – that would love to give encouraging letters to children. They might even ask for a general letter of encouragement that they can share with all the children.

Or perhaps you feel called to write for organizations that serve the elderly, or the homeless, or others in need. I will never forget when our mission team took a package of letters – written by children in our church – to a group of women living on the streets in Guatemala City. The looks on their faces as they read those letters (in translation) will stay in my heart forever. Those children truly brightened the women’s lives with their words.

You can also write letters of encouragement and blessing to children in your church’s youth ministry, or children’s ministry, or confirmation class. When the kids go to camp or to a retreat, or on a youth mission trip, they also love to receive letters. Talk with your church’s youth or children’s leader to learn how you can put your letter writing skills to good use!

Even closer to home, write letters of blessing and encouragement to your own children and to the children in your extended family.

Pray about it and see where you might fit in best as a letter writer. Don’t underestimate the power of your words to bless a child’s life.

Good Writing Means Good Reading

If you are a writer, there’s a pretty good chance that you love to read. When you start writing, you may be tempted to put your reading on hold. But reading time is not something you should sacrifice. The most effective writers are avid readers. Reading is one of the best ways to inspire your creativity and strengthen your writing skills.

You can also create writing projects around your reading. Choose a book of the month to read. Then think of a few creative ways you can practice your writing in response to that book:

1. Write a book review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads. Or find a magazine that publishes book reviews and consider submitting one, based on their specific requirements.

2. Discuss your favorite line from the book on your blog.

3. Join a book discussion group online and share your thoughts in writing and in conversation with others online. (If you have your own writer’s website, some discussion groups will let you link to your website in your profile.)

4. Is this book in your church library? Write a set of small-group discussion questions and see if your pastor is interested in making those questions available with the book. (This might lead to a request for more!) You might even want to send your discussion questions to the author. I created a series of worksheets for teens, based on Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven for Kids, and his ministry published these worksheets on their website.

What other ways can you practice your writing by responding creatively to a great book?

Bible Time for Them, Bible Time for You

As a Christian writer, you probably love spending time reading your Bible. Writers are attracted to words and books. The Bible is the ultimate book and the biblical words are filled with the life of the Holy Spirit. There is no other book like it. There are no other literal words of life.

The problem with being a writer is that when we read the Bible, we often start thinking about insights to share … in our blog, in a newsletter, in a book. We are so used to responding, in writing, to things that inspire us. And as Christian writers, we are so eager to share the Word of God.

But we have to be careful. We can’t give away our Bible time for the sake of what we write. We need that time for our own spiritual growth. That is our time to be alone with God.

This takes discipline. Set aside a certain time each week (or month) to read the Bible as part of your writing projects. Then set aside other times (much more frequently) to read the Bible just between you and God.

During your personal Bible time, keep a “writer’s notepad” nearby, separate from what you might use for your own personal growth.  If ideas come up that you would like to share as a writer, quickly jot them down in just a few words on that separate notepad. Then let them go and move back into your personal Bible time.

Your personal time with God in His Word is not only vital to your spiritual well being. It will also strengthen you as a Christian writer. You will be surprised at the insights that will come to you while writing. These are rooted in the spiritual formation that takes place when you spend that private Bible time with God.

Read God’s Word. Love His Word. Write about His Word. And most importantly, immerse yourself in His Word – just for you.

If you are looking for a Bible study created especially for Christian writers that includes prayerful reflection and writing exercises, you might enjoy my new book: Personal Bible Study for Christian Writers: 2 Corinthians by Janet Lynn Eriksson. My book is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Use Your Writing Gift for Prayer Cards

Prayer cards are a wonderful way to use your writing gift.

While prayer doesn’t always require words – some of the most powerful times of prayer are done in silence – we use words in prayer for several reasons. One is to express what’s in our hearts for confession, repentance, forgiveness. Another is to get the words of scripture into our hearts. And one of the most important reasons we use words in prayer is for the sake of the person receiving the prayer.

When you are praying with someone, your words offer a way to convey God’s comfort, hope, forgiveness, and assurance. Your words can help the person receive God’s love into their hearts. This can happen through spoken prayer but also through written prayer and blessings.

Does your church send prayer cards to people? If not, this might be a great time to ask. If they already do this, consider volunteering your writing skills. If this isn’t something your church does yet, maybe they would consider it – especially if they know they have a writer willing to volunteer.

Outside of your own church, what kind of ministries exist in your town? Is there a jail ministry, or a ministry to seniors, or a ministry to homeless kids, or a recovery ministry? Perhaps they can use prayer cards as well.

You can also write prayer cards on your own to send to people you know who need a word of comfort and encouragement.

If you are not sure how to write a prayer, remember that the most helpful words are often the simplest:

1. God loves you so much.
2. I pray that you will feel God’s [comfort, presence, hope, encouragement, peace … choose the right word for the situation].
3. I am praying for you. [We are praying for you … if this comes from the church.]
4. God bless you.
5. Then write a scripture verse as a closing prayer.

I hope you will enjoy the blessing of writing prayer cards. I know your words will really bless others.

The Blessing of Prayer Writing

One of the most powerful ways to grow as a Christian writer is to write prayers.

How amazing it would be to see the internet covered with prayers. How powerful too – prayers written on the internet literally speak out over the airwaves, affecting the atmosphere all around us.

Prayers are helpful to people who are struggling. If you write prayers on your blog, you have no idea how those might affect someone’s life.

People appreciate finding prayers on different topics. Moms are always looking for prayers to pray on days when their children have tests at school. That’s just one example of a prayer you can write and share!

Christian magazines are often looking for prayers. Find a writer’s market guide to Christian publishing and visit magazine websites to learn who is looking to publish prayers.

Closer to home, you can also help your church or people in your community by writing prayer cards.

If you aren’t sure how to write a prayer, remember that prayer is simply talking to God. Talk to Him, write your words, and share your prayer. Others will thank you and be blessed.

To help you get started, I’ve created 156 prayer writing prompts, which you are welcome to download here:

156 Prayer Writing Prompts – Janet Eriksson

Above all, let the Holy Spirit guide you as you write each prayer. Your prayers will really bless people.

Writing Spiritual Legacies

As a writer, I have enjoyed helping people share their life stories. Often, these have taken the form of books that bring to life the testimonies of how God has worked in their lives during difficult times. My job has been to listen, ask questions, help the author shape his or her story, and then edit the finished book. Trusting Love by Donna Estes is one of several books I’ve had the privilege to assist with. I enjoyed meeting the author’s family and hearing her stories of faith and trust.

Life stories are a form of spiritual legacy. Many authors share life stories to bless others, and also to leave a legacy for their families. But there are other forms of spiritual legacies as well. My cousin, who loves music, made a pictorial-musical remembrance of her family legacy. A friend of mine is blogging the generational stories of her family,  sharing how family members and life moments have affected her spiritually.

Another way to share is simply to write a spiritual legacy. This can be one page or a booklet. It can even be a bullet point list or a collage. It represents spiritual wisdom, understanding, and experiences that you want to share with your children, grandchildren, and other young people with whom you have a mentoring relationship. A church school teacher, for example, could share a written spiritual legacy for a graduating class of students.

If you are hoping to write professionally or even as a volunteer, helping people write their spiritual legacies is one way to get involved. I would encourage you to search online and see different examples of how people are writing and sharing their spiritual legacies.

To help you get started, either in writing your own spiritual legacy or in helping others write theirs, I have created a spiritual legacy journal available on Amazon.

A spiritual legacy might also take the form of generational blessings. As an inner healing minister, I spend a lot of time on prayers for generational healing, for myself and the people I pray with. Part of this process – beyond prayers for generational healing – includes researching my family history and discerning the generational blessings, as well as writing out the generational blessings as a legacy for the younger members of my family.

While this is a work in progress, some of this generational healing process is detailed in blog posts on my prayer website. If you have an interest in generational healing, perhaps this will encourage you:

Generational Prayer Blog

It is amazing to watch God at work in generational healing, and to watch the generational blessings begin to flow.

Devotional Writing Basics

I love writing devotionals. They are a wonderful way to stay focused on scripture in your writing. Devotionals are a powerful way to reflect on what God is doing in your life. They offer a testimony to your daily encounters with God.

Devotionals also make it easy to share those experiences with others. Sometimes when I want to share a discovery, I will write a devotional about it and send it to friends who I think would appreciate it. I’ve also written devotionals to capture experiences my friends and I have shared. I publish the devotional on my blog and then send them a link as a remembrance of that moment.

How to Write Devotionals

As a writer, you will find that writing devotionals is a good way to grow in your writing skills. Devotionals can also help you plug in as a writer – at your church, in an online magazine, at a prayer group, or on your blog.

I have taught many workshops on devotional writing – to writers and to church members who have never written a printed piece before. Now I offer a self-paced online course: Let’s Write a Devotional that will help you get started in devotional writing.

6-Day Devotional Studies

Years ago, I began writing devotional material for small group ministries and retreats. I designed a 6-day devotional study format that I taught to the writers in my online workshop. I also wrote several of these studies and really enjoyed the process.

A 6-day devotional study helps the reader focus on a theme for the week. Morning, noon, and evening devotionals, each day for 6 days, take the reader on a journey through that theme. The devotionals build on each other and are followed by reflection and study questions. These can be used individually, as a family, or as a small group.

A similar concept can be used for a retreat, with 3 days of morning, noon, and evening devotionals focused on the retreat theme. If you know a retreat leader, this might be a great way for you to participate as a writer.

If you would like to get a sense of what 6-day devotional studies are like, here are two studies I wrote many years ago. You are welcome to download and read them:

Moments-with-Jesus-Janet-Eriksson

Kingdom-Home-Janet-Eriksson

You’ll notice in the Kingdom Home devotional study that the font changes color in different sections of the study. This was a way to enhance the reader’s experience by representing the kingdom in increasing clarity.

No matter what kind of writing you enjoy, I encourage you to try writing some devotionals.  They are a wonderful way to spend writing time with God.

Write from Your Heart

One of the first things I teach new writers is to write from your heart. How else will you get your heart on paper?

Growing up in school, we are often taught to edit as we write, and to always be thinking through our words. The problem is that our minds often filter out what’s in our hearts. You might have to re-learn how to put your mind on hold while you share your heart. Spiritually speaking, you allow your mind to rest in your heart. Children know this. Adults often struggle with it.

Apart from not wanting your mind to filter out your heart, in general I don’t recommend trying to edit as you write. These are two different processes. Ideally, they take place at different times and in different ways.

Writing comes first, from your heart. Just get your heart onto the paper. That is writing – it’s talking from your heart. Editing comes later, in layers. Through editing, you bring shape and texture to your words, and you enhance the hues that your heart has poured out there.

If you can picture someone making pottery, imagine the potter throwing clay on the wheel. That’s the first step – the clay has to be on the wheel for anything else to happen. That is writing.

Everything else that follows – shaping the clay, firing, painting, glazing – all of that is editing.

Write first. From your heart. Throw that clay on the wheel. Pour your heart out on paper and don’t stop until you’re done with that “moment.”

Editing comes later – one layer at a time.

Pray. Write. Share your heart. That’s where it all begins!

First Steps on Your Christian Writing Path

So you’re just starting out as a Christian writer? Or wanting to hear God more deeply in your writing?

Maybe you already have a sense of what you want to write. In a writing workshop I taught years ago, a new student said he knew he wanted to write novels like Ted Dekker’s. Another student knew she wanted her devotionals to be published in The Upper Room. I knew I wanted to blog even before blogs were a thing. Several of my book clients knew they wanted to tell the story of how God had healed them and changed their lives.

But not everyone knows, starting out, what he or she wants to write. In fact, most people don’t know. Often, writers start in one direction and end up following another path or two. I began with fiction writing and business writing. Before long, I discovered a love for blogging. Farther down the road, I found that I enjoy curriculum writing. I never would have imagined that starting out. I had to live a little as a writer – and as a person – and allow God to shape me.

So, if you don’t know where you are headed, don’t worry! You are in great company. Most of the writers I’ve interacted with, who have answered God’s call to writing, did not know what they wanted to write. That is a wonderful place to be. You are beginning an amazing journey of experiencing God in your writing. He will lead you to your heart’s desire, even if you don’t know what that is yet. And you will get to know God – and yourself – even better along the way.

So, where do you start?

(1) Pray and ask God. He will reveal whatever you need to know to take your first (or next) steps as a Christian writer. He doesn’t often share a long-term plan. But He will give you enough to begin.

(2) Start noticing what you enjoy reading. Do you love novels? Short stories? Or maybe you enjoy watching movies. Learning to write Christian movie scripts can be a wonderful outlet if that’s what you love most.

Do you enjoy reading blog posts? Magazine articles? Maybe you are even attracted to those short filler articles in magazines. Writers are hired to create those.

Do you like listening to testimonies? Reading church newsletters?

You get the idea. Your heart already has a sense of what you enjoy reading.

Not all Christian writers are called to write specifically Christian material. God might call you to bring His heart to business writing, or sports writing. He might call you to contribute heartfelt family articles to your small-town newspaper. Pay attention to the kind of writing that attracts you, and where you feel God’s heart beating in you as a writer.

Granted, the kind of reading you enjoy might not be your favorite kind of writing. I love reading novels, and I’ve been well trained in writing them. But it’s not my favorite way to put pen to paper in this season of my life.

However, what you enjoy reading most is a good place to start exploring what you might enjoy as a writer. And it’s a great way to learn. The most effective writers are avid readers.

(3) Learn about the kind of writing that interests you. For example, if you enjoy fiction, do some research online. There are wonderful websites with helpful articles that will help you learn more about the craft of fiction writing. Even if you discover down the road that fiction isn’t what you want to write, your time will not be wasted. You will still grow as a writer as you explore different kinds of writing.

(4) Look for a first step you can take to get started:

  • Start a blog – the various popular blog platforms have really made this easy, and you can find a lot of help online through articles and video tutorials.
  • Write a letter to a loved one, sharing God’s love, encouragement, or a prayer.
  • Ask your pastor if you can write a short article in the church newsletter; if that sounds like too much starting out, write a paragraph about something happening in the life of your church.
  • Learn how to write a devotional.
  • Take a writing class.
  • Attend a Christian writing conference.

Prayerfully take one step, and then another. Before long, you will start to find more opportunities that you can enjoy as a Christian writer. The key is to take those first steps: Pray, read, and write.

When you are ready to move beyond these initial steps, you will discover many possible paths to explore. To help you along your journey, I have created a PDF of 156 ways you can get started in Christian writing. You are welcome to download that PDF here:

156-Ways-to-Reach-Out-with-Writing-Janet-Eriksson

These are just a few ideas to help you get started. God will lead you into the areas where He will bless and grow you as a Christian writer.