Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Christmas Child

My grandson, Ethan (4), cupped my chin in his hands, looked into my eyes, and said, "God wants to do great things with little children."

He reminded me of this statement two or three times throughout our Grandma/Ethan date. I couldn't help but giggle.

On reflection, I realize how powerful a line my young grandson delivered. For isn't that the very heart of Christmas?

God wants to do great things through a Child.

And so He did. 

God came down in human flesh, clothed as a baby . . . as one of us. Humble beginnings in a manger. Feeling the same soaked diapers we experience, the same hungry stomach gnawing, the same loneliness, sadness, grief.

In order to identify with mankind. With you. With me.

To know how we feel, in every way . . . physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. He became one of us. 

And then He died, for us. Because He could. Since He was also fully God, He was the only One who could bear our sin, offering redemption through His blood.

Oh, glorious Christmas Child! The One who invites each of us to become little children in the attitudes of our heart. To be humble enough to admit our sin, draw near to Him, and accept His gift.

The ultimate Christmas gift from one Child to another.

~~

Eileen Rife, author of Second Chance, invites women to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story! The article above is taken from a newly-released devotional titled, Penned from the Heart, compiled by Marilyn Nutter. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com,


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Did He Die, Grandma?

Five-year-old Hannah and I colored a picture at the kitchen table. "Remind me, Grandma, why did Jesus die?"

I paused, overwhelmed for a moment by the sincerity and gravity of her question.

Through threatening tears, I managed to respond. "Because He loved us."
 
"To pay for our sin," her older sister sitting on the other side of me added. 

Seemingly satisfied by the answers, Hannah hummed as she picked up a yellow crayon. 

But Hannah's question continued to roll around in my mind. 
 
Remind me. 

We all need that reminder of why Jesus died. That God would become man in order to identify with and deliver us, to understand our hurts, our sorrows, our sickness, our sin.

The perfect God-man.

Emmanuel. God with us. Born in a lowly manger. Crucified on a cruel cross. Buried in a tomb.
 
Can you hear the musical crescendo?
 
Then with a blast of forever victory, rose from the grave!
 
A living Savior!
 
Guaranteeing eternal life to all who will believe and receive Him!
 
Remind me.  
 
Yes, Lord, remind me every day of why You came, died, and rose again for me. Help me live with gratitude for what You have done to secure my forever salvation. Help me not to hoard this amazing grace, but to share it with others!


 
 



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Social Media: First Impressions

No one can argue that social media plays a high profile role in today's world. From family videos to political diatribes to marketing strategies, social media ignites a flame, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. 

But let's focus on the good social media can do in regard to marketing. As a professional writer, I am consistently on the lookout for strategies that help get the word out about my books and articles. The work I believe God has gifted me to accomplish and deliver to readers. 

In a recent webinar with Christian author, Karen Kingsbury, she reminded participants that "marketing is ministry."

I like that, because for the Christian, all of life is ministry, a sacrifice of worship (Romans 12:1). Perhaps no one feels this any greater than the Christian writer who offers her words in worship to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

With this confidence fueling her writing, she moves forward to proclaim the message God has placed on her heart to the world. At times, it feels like business, but wasn't it Jesus at age 12 who said He must be about His Father's business?

Call it what you will--ministry or business. For the Christian, it amounts to the same thing . . .

An offering to the Lord for His use in readers' lives. 

So, enter social media and first impressions. Regardless of your choice of media--Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. etc. etc.--you reach potential readers. Folks who may just be getting to know you as a person, let alone your writing. 

The way you communicate in a tweet, post, or pic speaks volumes about the writer/person you are. What do you hope to communicate about your character, your style, your message in those brief interactions?

There are many, but may I suggest five possibilities?

Communicate with care. 

Be mindful of what you type. Once your fingers hit enter, your message is in cyberspace and difficult to retrieve. You either communicate care for the reader on the other end or you don't. Virtual relationships are difficult to sustain given the lack of real face time. Physical presence affords a glimpse of body language, facial expression, voice inflection. Not so in the virtual community. Words on the page carry it all. So think before you write. Don't allow emotion, especially negative emotion, to drive your writing. Pray first, write second. The care you show toward social media readers will leave a lasting impression about who you are that may lead to further reading of your books/articles.

Show concern for the individual.

Few Christian writers do this as well as Kingsbury. In spite of her rigorous schedule, she responds to every reader who communicates with her. Her mother assists with this. She sends a personal message and prays with readers about their personal concerns. That's encouraging! Not only to the reader but to me as a writer. It affirms my heart for marketing. I want God to be glorified and readers to be blessed by His touch in their lives. If I can play a small part in that through a personal word of encouragement and/or prayer, wonderful! To God be the glory!

Be aware of your writing style. 

If you want to draw in new readers and sustain current readership, take care with not only the content of your posts, but also your mechanics. Proof your posts before hitting enter, just as you would with your manuscripts. We may not like it, but readers expect more from professional writers. We can't afford to get sloppy. What we do, we do first of all for our King, not just for the reader on the other end. Work on your craft as you design e-newsletters, blog or FB posts, or tweets. They all add to your writing portfolio. 

Focus on the message that's on your heart.

Social media is another way to get your message to the reader. Posts, videos, and links that contribute to the message God has given you may interest your readers in picking up your book/article. For example, two overriding themes fuel my work: 1) healing words for hurting hearts and 2) building awareness and moving to action. Thus, in the context of story and through nonfiction, I've written about issues such as marriage, abortion, empty nest, homosexuality, infertility, grief/loss, miscarriage, volunteering, inner city ministry, homeschooling, special needs children, death of a spouse/child, sex trafficking, and foster care. My prayer is that readers will come away with increased faith in God, renewed hope, and ever increasing love for Him that extends to others. 

Give more than you ask.  

When book sales are abysmal, it's easy to panic or get discouraged, which sometimes leads to over-promoting a book. Posting an ad every other day or more! What you're communicating is buy, buy, buy! I've been guilty of this at times. However, what I've learned is that gifting readers with my words does more to "promote" my work than asking them to buy my book. In the long run, it works in both the reader's and writer's favor. Kingsbury's rule of thumb is give three things before you ask for one thing. When you gift a book, be sure to deliver in a timely fashion with a personal message attached. You can also gift "free" words by posting an article you've written. And don't forget the gift of prayer. Huge! Your heart will be blessed as you bless others. 

If you are a writer or reader, what tip might you add concerning Social Media: First Impressions?