Blogs for poets, writers and all communicators in Christ

When I began this blog on my website, I’d hoped to collect in one place my posts from other blogs. Now that I’ve seen the site only retains prior posts for a limited time, I hope you’ll follow my individual blogs that interest you.

Bible Prayers – brings you prayerfully paraphrased (pray-a-phrased) prayers from the Bible – prayers you can pray in community or alone, knowing you automatically have “prayer partners,” now and from centuries past. These actual prayers from God’s Word have since been collected in a book with many, many more added, but if you “Follow” the blog, you’ll know when the book has been published and new posts resumed.

Bible Reviewer – reviews new editions of English translations, study Bibles, biblical resources, and Bibles for children. Scroll through the posts to find the edition that speaks clearly to you. And, if you want to give the gift of God’s Word to someone else, these reviews will help you to decide which to order.

My personal blog on Blogspot  discusses Bible topics, various aspects of Christianity, sermon tips, devotionals, writing tips and topics based on decades of writing, revising, and having my work accepted by numerous editors and publishers.

Poetry Editor on poetry – focuses on poetry techniques useful in all genres of writing, traditional poetry forms, free verse, unique terms used by poets, and things to consider when writing, revising, marketing, and publishing your poems.

 

Pray First! Then Write.

Some writing projects might not even mention God’s name, but every manuscript needs to begin with prayer as we ask God to guide, inspire, and be with us. In the Lord’s Prayer, also known as the Our Father, Jesus gave us the highest example. Similar to an outline, the prayer can be adapted to lift each need and encompass each occasion, such as this prayer-a-phrase especially for Christian writers:

Our Father Who Is in Heaven,
let Your Name be holy in us.
Let Your Kingdom Come.
Let Your Will be done
in our earthly writings
as though written in Heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread
to nourish us and our readers and
strengthen the whole Body of Christ.

Forgive us for trespassing
with old assumptions or
biased words that intrude,
and help us to forgive  those
who speak ill of You.

Lead us not into the temptation
of accepting facts without checking
or giving up when our work
seems rejected.

And deliver us from evil –
especially unloving words that speak
unfairly of us or others and reflect
poorly on our LORD God.

For Yours is the Kingdom –
where our work and writing
belong as we long to live
and write in Your Power
for Your Glory forever. Amen.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019-2013 from the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book

The Gift of Wonder

Many of us think of Lent as a somber time, but this unique season of reflection on spiritual matters can also help us to become more aware of the ongoing gifts of wonder given by our loving God. That said, Christians with decades between us and childhood might need some help!

Poet, author, and physician Christine Aroney-Sine offers that help in her new book from IVP Books, The Gift of Wonder, which I happily received as a gift to review – and to renew those creative practices that explore and expand our delight in the Lord.

As Christine says in the Introduction: “I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering our inner child is essential for our spiritual health.”

With that thought as the central theme of the book, the author began to ask people, “What makes you feel close to God?” Interestingly, the responses rarely included what we think of as spiritual practices but were more apt to involve playing with children, taking a meandering walk, or even stirring a compost pile!

Subsequent pages aim to “awaken your inner child” through creative suggestions and interactive exercises designed to implement the main focus of a chapter, each of which “addresses one characteristic we need to embrace:

 

  • delight in God
  • playfulness
  • sharing our stories
  • imagination
  • curiosity
  • awe and wonder
  • love of nature
  • the ability to live in the present
  • gratitude
  • compassion
  • hospitality
  • the intrigue of looking with fresh eyes
  • trust 

The author also encourages readers to consider such questions as:

“What do I enjoy doing that makes me sense God’s pleasure?”

“When was the last time you experienced a sense of wonder at the world around you or sat in awe of God’s greatness?”

“How would it change your life and faith if you took regular awe-and-wonder walks?”

“What distracts you from the Divine Presence and prevents you from fully appreciating the revelation of God in this never-to-be-repeated moment?”

Not sure how to answer? No worries! The author’s experiences as the founder of GodSpace and, with her husband Tom, the co-founder of Mustard Seed Associates, will guide you gently into the wonder of creation and God’s ongoing love.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer of Bible resources and poetry

 

 

 

First Love, God

In Matthew 10:37, Jesus made a puzzling statement: “People who love their father or mother more than Me are not worthy of Me. Those who love a son or daughter more than Me are not worthy of Me.”

To keep that hard saying of Jesus in context, however, He showed us a bigger picture in Matthew 22:37-39: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Clearly God wants us to love other people and ourselves very much but not put what they want –or what we want – before anything God wants.

What does God want? Who can possibly know without knowing what God says? And so, Jesus urged His followers to listen to God. Quoting from the Torah (Jewish law) He commanded: “Hear, O Israel.”

Known as the Shema (Hebrew word for listen), the full commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says: “Hear, oh Israel, listen! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord! Therefore, you must love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Keep these words I am commanding you today in your hearts and on your minds. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit around your house and when you go out, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, and put them on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on the doorposts of your home and on your gates.”

As these Bible verses show, God wants us to use everyday opportunities and experiences to show our children, friends, and neighbors our beliefs. Even strangers who knock on our doors will be able to see that we belong to the Almighty Lord God and Father of Love if we have symbols and signs of God all around our yards and houses. A lawn statue, a Bible verse plaque, a cross on the wall, or a dust-free Bible on a table can openly but quietly attest to our love for God in a way that people can see as soon as they enter our homes. More importantly, those same signs, symbols, or icons also remind us to love God and to put God first and foremost – in our relationships, decisions, our daily activities, and even our décor.

Prayer: Dear Lord God, help us to love You more and put You before anyone or anything else at any time. Help us to listen and really hear what You have to say to us. Help us especially to see how You first loved us so much that You gave up Your only Son for us, so we could forever be Your beloved children too. We thank You and praise You, O Lord God, for your ongoing love.

Mary Harwell Sayler, from her book What the Bible Says About Lovecontemporary paraphrases of the scriptures on love interspersed with short devotionals

What the Bible Says About Love: scriptural prayer-a-phrases

Bible Talk: What do we have to offer?

Scripture Readings for November 18, 2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14, 15-18, 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Every Sunday we read scriptures, which usually include a Psalm, from the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible.) Then from the New Testament, we read a letter to the early Christians and a passage from the Gospels. We select these Bible verses from the ones suggested for the week in the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used by many churches and denominations all over the world. So, for one day a week anyway, we are literally on the same page as other Christians.

There’s unity in that, but also diversity. In other words, we each hear the same passages from the Bible, but each of us will most likely notice something unique to us, something personal, or something that leaps out from the Living Word of God and speaks to us, individually, but also corporately as one Body of Christ. For example, God’s Word might evoke a reminder of something we’ve been taught or give us a new insight or bring to our mind the thought of doing something differently from what we’ve done (or not done) in the past.

Very often God speaks to us quietly – like a mere impression or unexpected idea. Those impressions that come to mind as we read the Bible ourselves or hear it read in church and Bible study are like the Lord’s way of helping us to apply God’s Word and will to our lives. For example, reading the scriptures suggested for today brought to mind a word that seems to connect one Bible passage to another, thereby giving a theme for this Bible Talk, “offer.”

The most obvious example is when Hannah offered her child to God – even before he was born! Then the Psalmist reminds us that God offers us protection. Then the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews recaps how Jewish priests offered sacrifices to God every day even though that didn’t remove sin forever. And so, God came to us in Jesus Christ to offer Himself as the sacrifice that He himself required. What wonderful offerings we see in those highlights from today’s Bible readings! But let’s look closer.

Hannah didn’t just suddenly offer her son. She didn’t even have one! What she did have was frustration, sadness, grief, and the emotions anyone might get when ridiculed and mocked to the breaking point. Eventually, she couldn’t take it any more. She could no longer tolerate the way she felt nor the way she was being treated by society, by her husband’s other wife, and even by her husband, who loved her but met her grief with the insensitive remark: “Don’t I mean more to you than 10 sons?”

Now, this had been going on for a long time and had probably been building and building the hurts, grief, and resentments inside Hannah for many years – at least enough years for her husband to take a second wife and have several children with that pesky woman!

But then in today’s story in 1 Samuel, Hannah has had it! At long last, she pours out her heart to God, and there, in the Temple, she offers up her disappointments and woundedness. She offers up herself and her desire for a son. And THEN, she offers up the child she asks God to give her – even though she doesn’t have him yet!

Meanwhile, the priest Eli is watching. Since people usually prayed aloud in the Temple, Eli initially offered Hannah his judgment, condemnation, and call to repent! But, by then Hannah was on a roll. She didn’t respond to her husband who thought he ought to be worth more than 10 kids, but she did respond to Eli to set the record straight. She offered the priest what she had offered God – her honesty. She told him how she’d been feeling and how she had poured out those pent-up emotions, so she no longer felt anxious or worthless, but she didn’t want Eli to think she was worthless either.

The priest believed her. He offered up a prayer for her. He offered a blessing and told her to go in peace, and she did. Now that she had laid the negatives in her life at the altar, she was freed of the past and free to conceive of all she had asked for! God gave her a child, a son – Samuel, whom Hannah offered up to God. She went on to have other children, but, raised in the Temple with Eli to teach him, Samuel became the son offered to God and, eventually, the man offered by God to the people, for Samuel became a priest, a judge, and a prophet who could be trusted to be honest, to hear God, and speak the truth – something God’s people had not witnessed for a long time!

When it comes to offerings, God started it!

As Psalm 16 reminded us, God offers us His protection, spiritually and mentally – and often physically too. Then, like the Psalmist, we in turn offer our thanks to God as well as offering our faith and trust.

In today’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews, we’re reminded how the Jewish priests offered daily sacrifices to God – an ongoing bloody mess that didn’t remove sin beyond that day. And so, when the time was right, God offered Himself as The Sacrifice to end all blood-sacrifices forever.

Jesus’ offering ended the need for blood sacrifices on the Temple altar – animal sacrifices which had been offered year after year with no cost to the priests or people, other than the loss of an unblemished, healthy animal. The cost to Jesus was His life – His blood. This not only made everything right between God and us, it removed the need for the Temple as the only place designated to offer sacrifices.

Remember last month’s readings about King David and how he longed to build God a temple? He gathered supplies and made big plans, but God chose David’s son Solomon to commission and oversee the actual building. The grand temple that resulted became the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, beautifully built of the finest materials, thick walls, and humongous stones! But, as the Gospel of Mark, reported centuries later, Jesus let His followers know the Temple was coming down, and a few decades later, it did.

The famous Western Wall of the Temple, now known as the Wailing Wall, still stands as a place and a pilgrimage where God’s people offer their prayers (including wails!) as Hannah had done. However, the Temple was no longer needed for animal sacrifices or tears or worship because, as the Body of Christ, WE the Church ARE the Temple of God. And so, as the letter to the Hebrews told us, at any time in any place in any circumstances, we can approach the Almighty God as only priests could once do. First though, we must be open to receive what God offers!

Thanks to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God offers us forgiveness, guidance, and empowerment in this life with eternal life to come or to be more accurate, with our relationship with God continuing forever, so even death cannot break that unending bond.

For now however, God offers to write on our hearts what God wants of us. As the letter to the Hebrews said, “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Now that’s an offer we don’t want to refuse!

When we’re open to all God offers us, we can come to the Lord like a beloved child who freely approaches a kind and loving Father. We can receive more fully God’s kindness, comfort, forgiveness, and love, and then we can offer the same to the people with whom God places us in contact – our families, our neighbors, our church fellowship, the clerk in the store, and the stranger on the street, which brings us to the bottom line:

Anything and everything good that we have to offer – to God, to other people, or to ourselves – first came to us from God. So what we have to offer is God’s offerings or gifts to us.

Dear Heavenly Father and Most Generous and Loving God, thank You for offering to help us in every aspect of our lives. Help us to receive Your gracious gifts with thanksgiving and love in Jesus’ Name.

 

3 ways to get closer to God

Each of these spiritual disciplines provides the basis for a sermon, article, or beginnings of a book. May God guide you as you communicate – clearly, accurately, and lovingly – for Christ.

Pray:

Matthew 6:9 – As Jesus taught us “This is how you’re to pray: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name….”

Mark 11:24 – Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe you’ll receive, and it shall be yours.”

Psalm 122:6 – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”

1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray constantly.”

Romans 8:26-27 – “The Holy Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit intercedes with groans that cannot be expressed. And the one who searches our hearts knows the intention of the Spirit, Who intercedes for us according to God’s will.”

Ephesians 6:18 – “Be alert! In every situation, pray in the Spirit. Use every kind of prayer and request for God’s people.”

Matthew 5:44 – As Jesus told us, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who mistreat you.”

Mark 11:25 – Jesus also taught, “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a complaint or grudge, so your heavenly Father may forgive your offenses.”

Confess:

Psalm 32:1-6 – “When I kept silent about my sins, even my bones ached from groaning. Your hand felt heavy upon me, and my strength drained as in summer heat! But when I acknowledged my sin and no longer tried to hide it, You forgave me and took away my guilt.”

Proverbs 28:13 – “Those who conceal their sins do not prosper. Those who confess and turn from their wrongdoing will receive mercy.”

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

James 5:16 – “And so, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so you may be healed.”

Romans 10:9 – “If you confess aloud that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Worship:

1 Chronicles 16:29 – “Give to the Lord the glory due His name! Bow down before Him. Bring your gifts of worship to the Lord, Whose holiness is splendid.”

2 Maccabees 1:3 – “May God give you all a heart to worship Him and do His will sincerely with a willing spirit.”

Matthew 4:10 – Jesus said, “Get away, Tempter! As it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord, your God, and God alone shall you serve.’”

John 4:21-24 – “Indeed, the time is coming – and is here – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. Indeed, the Father seeks such people to worship Him. For God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Revelation 4:11 – “O, Lord our God, You alone are worthy to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things. Through Your will all creation came to be.”

Psalm 100, King James Version (KJV)
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord is God: it is He Who hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endures to all generations.”

Compiled by Mary Sayler, ©2018, following word searches of various translations found on Bible Gateway.