Taking the Leap: A Goal Fulfilled

Fulfilling a goal many times requires taking small, gradual steps. Other times, however, it demands a giant leap. I took such a leap two weeks ago.

Since my former critique partner decided she could no longer critique for me, one of my writing goals (and ongoing prayers) for the past couple of years has been to find a new critique partner or group. Even though I’ve known having other writers read and make suggestions on my writing is essential to turning out my best work, I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge and get involved in a new critique situation. Why? Fear of the unknown.

For one thing, it would mean learning a new computer skill. I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t yet learned how to insert comments into attached documents emailed to me. I didn’t know if I would be able to figure out whatever method a new critique group might require.

Also, since I don’t live in a metropolitan area, I knew my chances of finding an in-person critique group were pretty slim. The other option would be an online group, but the thought of joining an online group that would include strangers didn’t really appeal to me.

Not only could it be uncomfortable communicating with strangers, it could get especially tricky when pointing out weaknesses or offering suggestions on their writing. I was also concerned about getting into a situation where I didn’t know the level of experience the other members might have.

Still, I knew I needed a critique group if I hoped to improve my writing and my chances for publication. It was time—no, past time—to set my fear of the unknown aside and join an online critique group. It was time to take the leap.

And so, after seeking the Lord’s guidance, I joined the FCW online critique group. I have to say it felt GREAT to finally fulfill this particular goal of mine. I’ve already had one piece critiqued and offered critique as well, and now I’m kicking myself for not having taken the leap earlier. I can already see that this group will be a huge help to me—and I know some of the members as well since I attend the group meetings in Tulsa.

How about you? Anyone need to take your own leap of faith in order to fulfill one of your goals? Don’t let fear of the unknown (or any other fear) hold you back the way I did. Seek God’s leading—and then leap away!

“‘. . . The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17b

*Flickr photo by The Daily Ornellas

**Don’t forget to enter the “Back At It” Giveaway 2! Leave a comment on that post by noon Sunday for a chance to win.


5241046624_76bb6b5145_z“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

“Us.” One tiny word, two little letters, with giant impact.

Who is to throw off everything that hinders? Us. Who is to run with perseverance? Us. Who is the race marked out for? Us. Not me. Not you. Us. We don’t have to run the race alone.

Just think of how that one little word changes everything. We can have support. We can have camaraderie. We can have the encouragement of others as we run our races, whether they’re races wrapped up in relationships, jobs, illnesses, goals, losses, or living lives of faith with victory.

In fact, we’re not meant to live the Christian life independent of other believers. Another passage in Hebrews (10:24-25) tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Do you see it again? Us. Yes, we need to run together.

Let’s consider each of the races in our lives right now. Do we have running partners or groups running alongside for each one? Do we have those who are spurring us on, encouraging us, and giving us strength to persevere—or are we out there all on our own?

Let’s not forget the little word that changes everything. Let’s not forget “us”.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

*Flickr photo by Drongowski, Creative Commons License

*Next post will bring the return of Summer Photo Fun. Don’t miss it! :)

Christmas Music in October??

Christmas music in October?? You bet — at least for our church choir and many more like us getting ready for the upcoming holiday season. In fact, it’s none too soon to start rehearsing for cantatas or musicals. Such musical marathons require hours and hours of practice — plus the crowning touch of God’s help as most of us never feel quite ready when performance day arrives.

Our choir will begin practicing our Christmas musical, Unspeakable Joy, tonight. Fun stuff for an old choir junkie like me. I had to hang up my choir robe for the past few months (actually we don’t wear robes anymore…I just like the play on words :)) while dealing with Don’s mom’s repeated hospitalizations and the final days of Kelli’s wedding prep, but as of last week, I’m back — and hoping to keep it that way for awhile.

And what better time to jump back into choir than when we get to start singing Christmas music. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, and it’s filled with joy. Best of all, it’s brimming with the best glad tidings the world has ever heard — “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

Even if you’re not in a choir making preparations for a joy-filled Christmas program, why not get in on a little of that joy yourselves? Why not sing a Christmas carol or two? I know it’s a little early, but that’s okay. I give you permission :) After all, it’s never too early to worship and praise the Lord. I guarantee you, both you and the Lord will enjoy it!

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD…” Psalm 95:1a

*What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

**Flickr photo by John-Morgan

Insider Tips and Sight Encouragment with Cec Murphey

Call us darn lucky. Our Fellowship of Christian Writers group benefited Monday night from valuable insider tips presented by Cec Murphey, NY Times bestselling author of 90 Minutes in Heaven (coauthored with Don Piper). Cec had been in the area teaching at a writers conference and graciously extended his stay to be with us and spur us on in our writing endeavors.

He spoke about the business of writing, giving special emphasis to things to watch for in a book contract as well as questions regarding literary agents. And since he’s author of well over 100 books and is one of only about 2% of writers who actually make their living from writing, his expert advice can be trusted. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about.

Not only is Cec knowledgeable, but he has a heart for helping other writers (for example, speaking to our group). Since I posted Cec Muphey, Author and Mentor a couple of years ago, I won’t repeat that mentoring info but do have one thing to add. Recently, Cec started his Writer to Writer blog and faithfully shares “lessons learned from a lifetime of writing”. Upon hearing about it, I jumped to subscribe, added his link to the “For Fellow Writers” section on my sidebar, and have been gathering nuggets of wisdom ever since.

Even though it’s a blessing to hear Cec’s insider tips and nuggets of wisdom, it was also a real blessing just to see him and be encouraged by his gracious spirit and the common bond we share as writers and Christians — especially since he’s been down the writer road longer than any of us in FCW. Writers, much like any other like-minded group of people, can be encouraged just by hanging out together, just by seeing one another.

The Bible tells us the apostle Paul experienced “sight” encouragement, too. After appealing to Caesar during one of his imprisonments and trials, he sailed to Rome under guard of a Roman regiment. After delays, storms, and shipwrecks, they arrived in Rome and were met by some of the believers there who had heard that Paul was coming. Scripture records, “At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” (Acts 28:15b)

Isn’t it wonderful how just the sight of fellow believers — or fellow writers — can encourage and refresh us? Isn’t it a blessing to think that we might be that encouragement for someone else? Let’s be ready for our own opportunities to offer insider tips and sight encouragement. Let’s be ready to spur one another on…

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

* I posted a review of one of Cec’s books last year and also included another in a past issue of Life Notes, my free quarterly newsletter (sign-up to the right).

*My photo – did you spot me in the shot? I’m sitting at the far-right corner of the table, taking notes as fast as I can. Just hope I can read them now :)

Conquering the Canyon

There he is — Canyon Man at it again. May at the Barker house means another Grand Canyon expedition for Don. For many years now when the spring semester is over, he’s been leading groups of college students on the trip of a lifetime — a field biology course to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

No, they don’t go down on the mules or on the trails where you’re likely to see other hikers or park rangers. They do it the hard core way. They pack for a three night stay, filter water where it can be found, and hike out — exhausted, hungry, and sometimes injured. Even though I enjoy hiking, I’ve never attempted this adventure. I know my limitations. If I did go, I would probably fall into the “sometimes injured” category :)

This year they did something new — something they’ll probably never do again after finding out how difficult it was. Instead of hiking in and out on the same trail, they hiked down one trail and then trekked several miles each day to make it to the trail they would hike out on. In fact, they hiked over 14 miles on the day the above picture was taken — Don’s 55th birthday. What a way to celebrate, huh? And by the way, he’s much older than I am :)

The thing about the Canyon? You can’t really change your mind once you’re at the bottom. You’ve got to get yourself out. The planned hike for Don’s group this year was a killer, but they did it. They persevered, even though at one point they lost the trail (Don thought, “oh great — I’m gonna die in the Canyon on my birthday!). He even developed huge blisters on his feet, but he pressed on. Others, I’m sure, had their own personal challenges. They didn’t give up, though. They conquered the Canyon.

Are you facing a killer challenge? Or maybe you’re in a race you’re tired of running? Let Canyon Man be an inspiration to you. Persevere and conquer your canyon!

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b