Everyone Needs Encouragement and Inspiration from Somewhere
By Judy Segraves
Someone once said to me, “You really are an encourager to people.” I felt a little embarrassed and very small. Then along the way different ones would comment on a story or article they had read. “That really spoke to me,” they said. “That is exactly how I felt in my situation,” one minister’s wife commented.
Writing to touch people seems to be a gift the Lord saw fit to entrust to me.
When this volume was in its planning stage, I was asked to add something to it, for the leaders felt inspiring people was a good ministry. For me, inspiring and encouraging others emerges as I write with a personal touch.
I have had some ask me how to begin writing. That is not an easy question to answer. Since we are all different parts of the body of Christ, our skills and gifts will be displayed differently. When one can grasp that, his own particular style of writing can become exciting. It can be exhilarating to birth a story or article for others to read and find food for their soul.
Now take my husband and me. We are examples of two different types of writers. He loves to study and dig out information about doctrine and theology from various angles. He will study for hours and write one paragraph. His paragraph might have a dozen footnotes. I am not a footnote kind of person. I just recently learned how to make a footnote appear on a page using a computer. This was only because a college course I was taking required me to make a footnote. I don’t even like footnotes. My husband actually reads footnotes!
I write totally from something that pops into my head, or from something that I experienced or felt. A story or theme will suddenly come unbidden, and I am immediately on a roll. I can sit at the computer and finish an article in an hour or two. I feel writing in my heart. I will look at the sentences and laugh or cry sitting in front of the screen full of words. I feel the message and hope the reader will feel it also. This is called “writing by inspiration.” In a creative writing course, the students were told that if the writer can feel the story, more than likely, the reader will.
The following story gives an example of a person wrestling with hidden guilt and how releasing that guilt can bring freedom. What better person to write about this subject than the guilty culprit. That, of course, is me.
Settling an Old Score
I was hoping I’d never see him again. Though I had tried numerous times to locate him, it seemed he was always out of town. In a way, I was relieved.
It had been forty years since the altercation that still troubled my conscience. It haunted me periodically. There was new determination in my spirit as I learned of his whereabouts. As a matter of fact, he was located not far from the place it had all happened.
My husband and I were returning to our childhood hometown to speak at some special meetings in the church we attended as teens. While visiting with a distant relative of mine, I learned that my seventh grade gym coach and history teacher was right there in town. He had opened a pizza parlor upon his retirement from teaching.
It was time to settle an old score that kept popping up too often.
I took my husband along, and we walked into the door of the restaurant. The smell of pizza and my nervousness made me nauseated. My hands were perspiring. I hoped I didn’t look as nervous as I felt to the customers sitting at the green covered tables.
One of the waitresses told us my old teacher came in only during the rush hours at noon and at dinnertime. We made plans to return just before my husband’s first speaking session that evening. We waited until most of the dinner crowd would be away and made our second entrance. Some of the nervousness had dissipated by now. My former teacher had gone away to pick up some needed supplies, and we missed him again. We couldn’t hang around or we’d be late for our own meeting.
As the evening wore on, I forgot about the coach. He could wait a little longer. After all, he had waited forty years.
The next day, once again I made myself ready to do what I had wanted to do many times in the past. When it was close to the noon hour, my husband and I made our way back to the pizza parlor. I saw him standing behind the counter, and my stomach did a couple of U-turns.
He was older for sure, but so was I. A lineup of about fifteen middle-school kids hovered about the cash register giving orders and handing him money. They stood around teasing each other, pushing on each other, and making calls on cell phones. Times had changed a lot of things. I saw myself as a youth when I looked at them. The coach was still working with kids as he had been doing when I first met him.
We sat out of the way and waited. He was expecting me but couldn’t take a break until everyone had been served. I watched him and dreaded when he would be done.
Well, I did it.
All too soon, he came over and said, Well, it’s so good to see you again. I knew he really didn’t recognize me. Tell me what you’ve been doing these past few years, he added.
I interrupted and introduced my husband. Then we talked of family and told each other how many children and grandchildren we now had. Then I decided it was time to get to the reason for my visit.
Coach, I wanted to come by and see you because I have something that has been bothering me for over forty years. He had a rather puzzled expression that mixed in with his broad smile.
I know you probably really don’t even remember me. I was on your seventh grade girls’ basketball team and I was also in your history class. When I told him what year it was, he said it had been his first year to teach school. He was twenty-two at the time.
I proceeded. You may think I’m a little strange to do this, but I have come to apologize to you. It is for something that happened one day in class. He looked even more bewildered. We were taking a final test and my girlfriend and I had decided she would help me out if I got stuck on a question. She was always the smart one in class. I would tap her chair that sat right in front of me, and she would gently mover her paper over so I could see it. Well, I did it. Just as I looked at her test paper, you saw me.
I cleared my throat and went on. That will be twenty points off your score!’ you said in a very deep, commanding voice.” His eyes twinkled. “I won’t ever forget the sentencing I received for trying to cheat on a test. I still have the report card that states I didn’t do my own work on the final. I almost flunked history because of that one mistake!
“The reason I am here is to apologize and tell you how sorry I am for doing that. It has bothered me all these years. I am now married to a preacher. I don’t know what got into me! It has never been my habit to cheat or do anything wrong on purpose. I have really tried to be a good Christian since I was a girl.
“I am sorry,” I said again.
He smiled even wider. “Hey, don’t worry about it. All of us have done things like that and wished we hadn’t. I’ll tell you what. You can just consider that your slate has been marked clean.”
We talked a little bit more before we said our “good-byes.”
I couldn’t get his words out of my mind. “Your slate has been marked clean.” It was a good way for a teacher to say it.
But he isn’t the only one who gives me a clean slate. Every once in a while, I have to go to God and ask His forgiveness and tell Him I am sorry for my wrongdoing. But just like the coach, He sends me away feeling good again because He, the greatest Teacher of all time, keeps erasing things that should not be on the slate of my life.
That story is one many can relate to. The human race deals with similar problems. The situations might vary, but the heart of man has to continually deal with greed, pride, or moral impurity. The lesson: There is always peace in forgiveness.
Another sample story follows. It should cause the reader to think about examining his own life before placing judgment on others.
Stained Glass Windows
Since we lived right beside the church my husband pastored, I made it a practice to wash the glass entry doors before each service. It wasn’t a chore, really. I rather enjoyed the quietness of working on them. I might have been called the “doorkeeper” by some.
For many months during the year, the weather was nice enough for the neighborhood children to play their games on the street in front of the church building. To my dismay, they often made a game room of the entrance into the building. After all, it did have a nice porch to protect them from the sun and rain. Cars were pushed along make-believe freeways, and dolls were cuddled close to little girls’ hearts as they sat on the welcome mat and rocked back and forth.
One little boy, who lived across the street, made it a habit to cup his hands around his eyes, set them on the glass doors, and peer inside. It was hard to see through the tinted glass, so he would change positions several times. This left a smear of dirt and grime from his sweaty, little-boy hands.
Over and over it happened. I might be in the church doing something, and I’d see him peering in the door. He always left his mark. I knew when he had been there.
At first it didn’t bother me. I just kept cleaning the doors. Even through the week when there was no service, I would find myself getting the window spray and some paper towels to erase the smudges. But then I began to let it bother me. Why didn’t his mother make him play on his own porch?
I was standing on the platform one day and looked back toward the entrance just in time to see the four-year-old leave a large stain.
“Another mess! Some more smudges! I will have to clean it again!”
A small voice seemed to whisper, “Yes, the same way I keep cleaning smudges from the windows of your heart.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and spilled over. I thanked God for the many times he had washed me clean. The little boy had served to remind me of His cleansing power. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
I continued to wash away the stains as before, but my attitude changed. It became a reminder to me.
Could you feel the writer’s heart melt when she realized her own shortcomings? An inspirational story sends out a message to the reader. The lesson: Don’t be critical of others, but be certain that your own life is pure.
It was Mark Twain who said, “Write about what you know about.”‘ Many of his writings were taken from his experiences in childhood. It is a fact that many writers have branched out to put things into print that they have not studied out or researched. In a lifetime, one will come across something that is simply not fact. Those who are born to research will write from their findings. Those born to tell tall tales from an expanded imagination thrill readers worldwide. Those who write from experiences tap into another type of reader. As there are many different kinds of writers, so are there many different kinds of readers. There is something for everyone.
Even this chapter within this book might give a point or two that will enlarge someone’s knowledge. Writing is to tell someone something you are exploding to share. The following article will give some tips to the reader about writing. Writing is one way to inspire. It is a ministry also. You might be the next one to pen (type) a masterpiece. You may be surprised at what is hidden within, that is just aching to get out to help and inspire someone!
So You Want to Write?
I guess everyone at one time or another thinks about becoming a great writer. It might be after reading a good book or an article that spoke to the heart or left you with warm feelings. You ask yourself, “Now, why couldn’t I have written that?”
But there are some people who don’t just talk about writing, they actually sit down and do it. If you feel writing is something you wish to do, I want to give just a few guidelines as to some of the procedures.
It isn’t a hard thing to do; you just do it. There are four basic questions every prospective writer needs to ask.
1. Why do I want to write? Here’s why. It is to tell someone what you know. If there is something you have learned, experienced, or read about, it is easier to tell more people if you put it on paper and in a language they understand. Going from person to person to tell them your message is far from feasible. It only makes good sense to write it down and pass it around.
2. What will I write? That will depend on what you know. You don’t have to be really intelligent to write. I know that from experience. If you have something burning inside that you want to share with others, the simple thing is to put it on paper. No one has had quite the same experiences you’ve had, although most experiences are very similar. Automatically you have a “listening ear” as the reader relates to what he reads. It’s the comparison mode. For example, if you write about being lost in the woods, the reader shifts into your shoes and begins to feel what you felt. The terror and agony become very real. The reader feels a real sense of relief when he knows the writer has found his way home.
A poem written on paper can be preserved and passed down through the centuries. A poem spoken aloud would in time not even resemble the same poem. Dropped words and phrases and even added words and phrases would eventually make the original not original at all.
Do you know how to do something that others do not know? “How to Repair a Leaky Faucet” is a good bit of knowledge to share with someone who has a leaky faucet.
Maybe you desire to tell others how to live a victorious life. You have found some steps that help you, and writing them down just might help someone else. The list of “what to write” is endless.
3. Where do I write? That will depend solely on you. There is no assigned place. What is good for one writer may not be suitable for another writer. For some, it will be riding thirty thousand feet in the air with a laptop on their knees. Others will recline on a sofa with a yellow legal pad and write with a medium point blue Bic pen. Then there will be those who refuse to give up the ever-faithful IBM typewriter. Those who have turned to the modern PC are quickly gaining momentum in the writing field.
Whichever method one chooses to use is entirely up to the individual. But after the thoughts are recorded, they will need to go through a process to be made ready for public consumption. This is where a good editor is valuable.
4. How do I write? This is probably the most important question of all. It will be impossible to write if you haven’t mastered the alphabet. And I mean “A” to “Z.” It also helps to be knowledgeable in sentence structure.
There is a subject (who or what the sentence is referring to). There is a verb (this is some sort of action that is taking place). There is usually a descriptive word or phrase to help the reader understand what is actually happening to the thing doing the action.
If you can recall the first reading lessons in life, it will be easy to see what I am about to explain. As the writer matures, he is able to “flesh out” his written message.
Let’s use the following sentence as an example.
See Dick run. We are told to look at Dick because he is running. Unfortunately, the early reading books did not tell us in this sentence who he was running from, how fast he was running, or why he was trying to get away. Was Dick running after Jane or away from Jane? The key is to build up those sentences so the reader can visualize what is happening.
There has been a great change in writing practices. The very earliest writers chiseled on the sides of caves and other hard-to-get-at places. It was very different from going into the nearest Christian bookstore to find a good book to read. Who would want to find a cave in the dead of winter, climb into it with a torch and read the messages? And who knows what they wrote about. Maybe they recorded a list of the savages who had tried to take away all their wives. Tables of stone seemed a bit more progressive. At least you could haul them around on a wagon.
The creation of paper from leaves, bones and whatever else was pure genius. The writer could actually carry everything under his arm or in a valise. But the greatest invention so far has been the high powered computer. It puts the words down almost before you have had time to think about what you’re writing. The spelling and sentence structure correction feature is terrific. It’s rather hard to argue with a computer. And sometimes it’s so stubborn it won’t let you write what you want to write.
This is only a beginning for the writers of tomorrow. One of my friends, who doesn’t type well, bought the most recent computer gadget so he could write quickly while the thoughts were hot in his head. All he has to do is speak to it. He plugged in the little timesaver and set about to test it. Some of his first words that he spoke into the handheld contraption were his name: Arlo Moehlenpah. Immediately, across the computer screen was displayed, “Hi! Old moldy paw!” This could be a problem. Sometimes I really believe the pen and paper will always be the leader in tools for writers. At least ideas can be recorded on paper and tossed into the “Ideas to Write About” file.
You see, it really isn’t hard to be a writer. You just write. Psalm 45:1 refers to a ready writer. There are other references to the ready writer. In the Bible it was someone who wrote down the things that needed to be recorded.
Now you know some things about the why, what, where, and how of writing. All you have to master at this point is taking up the pen and becoming one of those “ready writers,” one who writes because there is something of great value that needs to be recorded and passed around for everyone to read.
There are many gifts given to the body of Christ. To encourage, to edify, and to strengthen are gifts that can be shared with everyone. If God has blessed you and endowed you with the ability to uplift others, whether by writing or personal contact, don’t delay. Use your gift today.
Now that your appetite is stirred a bit for the ministry of writing, let me share some things you can do with a story, article, or book.
Within the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) there are many opportunities to have a story or article printed. I have submitted stories to my local church for different bulletins, magazines, or newsletters and they were published. There are many district magazines whose editors are looking for publishable material. Word Aflame Publications at the UPCI headquarters needs stories and articles for Sunday school lessons and take home papers for all age levels. The Youth Division publishes various magazines and has a variety of writing needs. They have a magazine for young people and another for married couples that deals with marriage, the home, and family.
The Women’s Division publishes a magazine six times a year and prints stories from various writers.
If you wish to publish a book or booklet, it can be submitted to Word Aflame Press at the UPCI headquarters for consideration. Because they receive many submissions and are able to publish only a few of them, it is sometimes difficult to find a publisher for your book. If a publisher will not take your manuscript and you feel your written material would have a reading audience, you can self-publish. There are many publishers who can do short runs if you wish to make only a few books available. Of course, the fewer you print, the higher the price per book.
Some have printed books for just their local church. Others who travel in ministry can take their books and offer them at the various churches where they minister. There is always a person whose life can be helped by reading something written from the pen of the ready writer. If you are leaning toward writing as a part of your ministry, the next time you feel a flash of inspiration, go to your computer and sit down. Take a step of faith and begin. They say that starting a project is the hardest part. That really is true. I can testify to that. But because I sat down and started this chapter, it is now finished and ready for you to read.
THE GRACE OF INSPIRATION
Inspiration, elusive angel,
Why do you kiss at such an inconvenient time?
While I sit and dawdle with an empty page,
in leisurely moments’ void of demands,
your grace is never near.
But when I’ve thousands of things to do,
and activity buzzes my cluttered brain,
you light like a feather in a bated breeze,
and a flood of inspiration fills my mind and heart
A million ideas for song and verse,
and themes for literary masterpiece, and art and prose,
and sermons with powerful points to pen.
And then, why can’t you come at will,
with ordered steps present your understanding,
let your brilliant fire burn with clarity and flow,
like oil from a fine tuned pen,
and script appear upon demand.
No you, like the Spirit who guides you,
whisper in the wind, lighting where he lists,
and sets ablaze the desert bush or chariot ride
and drops his mantle on whom he will.
Inspiration like grace conies not with demand nor design,
but with delight on some unsuspecting soul.
–Terry R. Baughman