- Is this the man God wants me to marry?
- Is he a Christian?
- Is he growing as a Christian and becoming a spiritual leader?
- Are the things that are most important to me also important to him?
- Do we share common goals, dreams, and values?
- Do we share similar backgrounds? If not, are we prepared to face the differences?
- Are we going the same direction?
- Do our personalities work well together?
- Have we built a strong friendship together?
- Can I trust and respect him?
- Are we stronger together than we are apart?
- Do our parents and trusted Christian friends approve of our relationship? Why or why not?
- Does our relationship make good sense as well as bring us happiness?
- Have we given enough time for our relationship to be sure God is leading us into marriage?
- Are we both convinced God is leading us into a lifetime relationship?
In February I talked about how to find God’s will for your life. I talked about finding God’s will through the Bible, positioning ourselves to do His will, getting godly counsel, and rattling doorknobs. I promised to give you some personal examples of how I found God’s will in several areas of my life. In March I talked about the way the Lord has led me in writing for Christian publication. Today I’ll talk about how the Lord has led me in ministry. I hope this will help some of you who may be looking for guidance in your own ministry.
I became a Christian at age five and, as a teen, told God I would do whatever he wanted me to do. I was raised in a pastor’s home and always had a special heart for ministry. It only made sense to go to a Bible college, since Bible college training is a pre-requisite for many kinds of ministry. I thought it would be great if the Lord would lead me to become a pastor’s wife, but for several years no would-be pastors asked me out. During my junior year at Faith Baptist Bible College I felt God leading me to write for Christian publication, but that didn’t rule out other ministry at the same time.
Suddenly I became aware that Art Brammer was interested in me. After dating 2 weeks he informed me that God had called him to be a missionary to Taiwan. He asked if that was an option I would consider. It sounded a bit like a proposal, but it wasn’t. He just didn’t want to waste time and emotional energy dating if there was no future in it. Being a missionary wife sounded more daunting than being a pastor’s wife, but I told him I believed it could be an option. We continued to date, asking the Lord to lead us apart if this wasn’t his will for us. God continued to lead us together. We married in 1978 and I believed God had called me to my husband and the field of Taiwan as well.
After about fifteen years in Taiwan we came to a scary place in our ministry. We had started one ministry and helped with another. In a period of about a year it became clear that both of the ministries weren’t really going forward. We didn’t want to quit and go home if the Lord wanted us to stick it out, but we also didn’t want to stay when the Lord was leading us elsewhere. How could we know what the Lord wanted?
We prayed and ask God to lead us very specifically. We sought godly counsel from our field council, mission board, and sending church. Finally we set some goals for our ministry that would help us discern the Lord’s leading. The goals were high enough to show progress, but low enough to be reasonable. If the ministries met these goals we believed God would continue to build those ministries and we should stay with them. If the goals were not met however, we would take that as a sign that the Lord was moving us on.
Within about six months the Lord made his will very clear. Neither of the ministries came close to meeting the goals. It was time for us to move, but we had no idea about what to do next. Art had planned on missions in Taiwan since he was a teenager. It had been difficult for him to even consider any other ministry. But sensing God’s leading, we brought our two high-school-aged daughters back to the US and began the search for a new ministry.
At first we looked at Chinese ministries in the US and Canada. Some sounded promising, but when we actually visited them, we didn’t feel like they were a good fit for us. God didn’t give us peace about them. Each time we “rattled a doorknob” we found the door was locked. After a couple of months in the States our field administrator from our mission board called. “Would you consider pastoring a church in New Zealand?” he asked. On the southern tip of New Zealand was a church that had been started by a missionary who felt the Lord leading him away. We said sure, we’d consider it. Then we got out our maps. Where in the world was New Zealand?
Within about a month Art and I flew down to Invercargill, New Zealand for ten days so we could meet the church people and he could candidate as pastor. We visited the church and toured a bit of the South Island. Soon after we returned, the church voted to extend the call to Art to be their pastor. We talked about it with our kids, prayed about it, and God gave us peace. We’ve been in that ministry for twenty years now.
Early on in our ministry here, God showed us that this new place of ministry was right for us. Our daughters both had opportunities to share in our ministry before they moved away from home.
Most ministries go through ups and downs. Sometimes God brings us through down times to times of more apparent blessing. It’s not always easy to know when to leave a ministry and when to hold on. But if we really want to know God’s will, because we want to do it, because we love him, he will show us his way. We may only be able to see the next step, but when he shows us that step, we can take it in confidence. God will help us through all the necessary changes.
Are you confused about the direction of your ministry today? Are there godly counsellors you can talk to? Have you made long range goals and short range goals to get to the long range ones? Are you flexible enough to sense when God is leading you in a different direction? Are you moving forward, rattling some doorknobs to see which ones are locked?
My prayer for you today is that God will lead you to make good decisions and you will find the place or ministry where you can best serve him. May you find joy in serving him today.
Four times this year I’ll give one blessed Deb’s Book Blast subscriber a free ebook by another Christian author. You don’t have to do anything to be in the draw to win! Being a subscriber to Deb’s Book Blast automatically qualifies you.
My March giveaway features another art mystery by another Christian author. I’ll announce the winner who will receive A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard at the end of this Book Blast. If you don’t win this time, you have three more opportunities to win other Christian ebooks during 2018.
A Writer’s Journey
In this Book Blast I’m going to use the books in my Art Spotlight Mysteries to take you into my writer’s world and show you an example of how authors live their fiction before they write it.
Early in the plotting process for this first book I chose graffiti as the predominant art form. I figured graffiti would be the ultimate insult to any serious artist. For inspiration I studied the work of Banksy, the foremost graffiti artist on the planet. Then I designed a character, Zaxx, a Banksy copycat, to make Jordan’s life miserable.
Now, even though I gravitate easily to crafts, I’m definitely not an artist. Still, I needed to come up with fictional art to go with my fictional character. I needed very specific graffiti to fit my plot. I didn’t just want to describe the images, I wanted to include real images in my book for the reader to see. Starting with silhouettes I downloaded from the internet, I doctored some images and crafted others, cutting them out of red and black paper. The result was six graffiti images which you can view in the book or on my Pinterest board. My efforts turned me into a copycat artist telling the story of a fictional copycat.
As I sat at my desk in New Zealand, I took a desk chair journey to Boise, Idaho to search for art Jordan would love. It didn’t take me long to find gorgeous sculptures of children by Ann LaRose. I contacted the artist and received her permission to include her pictures of them in my book. After the book was complete (but before an extensive revision), I returned to the States and, in 2011, I actually saw the real statue with my own eyes. I borrowed a broom from a nearby Subway, brushed the leaves from “Keepsies,” and snapped photo after photo of it.
My research had turned into writing and, in the end, actual on-site experience. It’s sort of a backwards way to experience art, but it makes writing possible from a distant location. In 2018, I was back in the States again. I searched out an Ann LaRose statue in the public library in Loveland, Colorado. Here I am sitting beside “C is for Cat.”
See the graffiti images and Ann LaRose’s statues on my Pinterest board.
The second book in this series is all about real vs. fake. Forgeries and illusions form the art backbone of the plot. I needed a fictional forgery of a real painting, which you read about in the end. More than that, I needed a fictional forgery of a fictional painting by a fictional author. Of course, crafting a likeness of “In the Garden” by Helen M. Brady, or even locating an image to represent it, was way beyond my skill. I leave the reader to imagine it.
Much of the art I describe in the book can be viewed online. My research showed me real Lego reproductions of M. C. Escher drawings which are illusions in themselves. (Like Escher, the Lego artist had to “cheat” a bit to make the image work.) Jordan and Felipe weren’t the only ones who loved these. This author was grinning as she wrote about them in this story.
I did, however, take another backward journey into experiencing the art of Déjà Who? The book would be incomplete without a mention of Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Here Felipe fell in love with art. Andrew Wyeth’s “Bronco Buster” inspired him to become an artist.
Among the illusions in MIA, Jordan found a peculiar exhibit, a historical office filled with real objects that told a fictional story. It was here he met the redheaded Rafael Romero, an FBI agent who himself “fooled the eye.” In 2018, after my book was complete, I saw the “real” painting and exhibit, as you can see from these two photos.
I find it a bit surreal to stand for the first time before a work of art about which I’ve already written, described, even pretended to be an expert on. It makes me wonder about the fine line between real, fake, and copied. Writing about it first and discovering it last seems wrong. And yet I praise God for the world that opens up to me now as I sit at my desk in Invercargill, New Zealand. (Invercargill is not quite the end of the world, but not far from it. It’s the southernmost English speaking country in the world and boasts the southernmost Starbucks.)
See amazing illusions from Déjà Who? on this Pinterest board.
As I came near to finishing this third book, I found I had made a near fatal error for my book. I was using the term “abstract art” for what was actually “contemporary art.” In art circles, abstract art is usually considered to be art that separates itself from how something really looks and originates from about 1860 to 1970. Contemporary art is not just current art, but especially applies to edgy art that challenges traditional boundaries and isn’t easy to define. I had written the entire book about abstract art when Destiny Champion’s work was actually contemporary.
Carrie Stuart Parks, forensic artist and award-winning author of the Gwen Marcey Series, helped me sort out the terms and fix the problems in my book. She and another author from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) gave me valuable input. I am so thankful that the Lord helped me to find my mistake in time and sent art experts who were also writers to help me.
As I was nearly ready to launch I Scream I was sitting in prayer meeting in our sending church in Montana when three words popped in my head. I knew I had the perfect way to celebrate my book launch. Ice Cream Social. This would give local readers a way to taste a bit of writer’s logic.
My foray into contemporary art showed me how classic abstract art influenced contemporary artists today. I gained new appreciation for “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh and “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. I found some interesting Paul Klee’s, but I have to admit, I still don’t get anything out of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings.
I couldn’t stop with merely knowing more about contemporary art, however. I had to produce Destiny’s fictional art. This time I felt only slightly intimidated creating art that was supposedly produced by a very skillful six-year-old.
The first painting by Destiny Champion was a stock photo. For the second I resorted to cutting out another silhouette and pasting it over a stock photo. For the third, however, I started with a blank canvas and a few tubes of acrylic paint. I spent hours ogling Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” blending colors, and trying to figure out how much of what I was doing would be able to be produced by a six-year-old art student. Thankfully, this painting only made it onto the back cover of the book and my Pinterest page. The cover photo, a stock photo altered by a designer, was not intended to reproduce Destiny’s image.
Recently I’ve begun to think about how digital images blur the line between fact and fiction. Today art can be created and displayed without a canvas and paint, paper and ink, or any “real” material you can touch, feel, or smell. In the same way I am witness that some fictional art is real whether it exists only in the mind or it is made of paper or canvas that is created by a real person for fictional purposes. So now I not only write fiction. I paint it as well. And I’m not even an artist!
The writer’s journey gives the author a much deeper experience in the world of her book than the reader will ever get. A writer sometimes sees, touches, smells, hears, and tastes a world before it ever gets passed on to the reader. Some of that book world is real, but an author gets to create some of it herself. It’s one of the joys of writing.
See more about art mentioned in I Scream on this Pinterest board.
Now for the free drawing!
I have randomly picked a winner from my subscribers list to receive the ebook version of A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard. I’ve read the book and found it to be a fun read. Don’t you love her title? Others in this series are: Another Day, Another Dali, and Over Maya Dead Body.
And the winner is (drum roll, please) … Mary van Everbroek!
I plan to give out three more books this year to subscribers of my Book Blast:
June: Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock,
September: A Cry from the Dust by Carrie Stuart Parks
December: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry
In my February blog we talked about finding God’s will through the Bible, positioning ourselves to do His will, getting godly counsel, and rattling doorknobs. I promised to give you some personal examples of how I found God’s will in several areas of my life. Today I’m going to talk about how God led me through various steps in writing for Christian publication. I hope this will help some of you who are searching for God’s will in a similar area.
I enjoyed writing from the first time I had to write an essay for grade school all the way up to Bible college. I didn’t know anything about writing for publication, however, and I didn’t know if I would be “good enough” to do this. Early in my junior year at Faith Baptist Bible College I asked the Lord to show me if this is what he had for me.
God used a godly counsellor, one of my professors, to help me begin to think about this. Mr. Clarence Townsend taught both journalism classes the school offered at that time. He had published at least some articles. He was familiar with my writing. He asked me a scary question: “If you could do anything you wanted with your writing, what would you choose?”
I told him someday I would love to write a series of children’s books like the Chronicles of Narnia. He didn’t laugh! He told me to set that as a long range goal. That took my breath away.
Then he helped me form some short range goals to get to my long range goals. He showed me how to submit an article for a take-home paper with Regular Baptist Press. He showed me the writers’ guidelines and talked about the kind of article they would probably like to see. He helped me dare to actually submit an article. My first article or two were rejected, but I soon established a rapport with the editor and began submitting articles on a regular basis. Getting articles published was a short range goal that also allowed me to have a ministry in the short run.
I also pursued other short range goals: writing kids’ prayer letters, attending writers’ conferences, reading publications on writing, writing plays and puppet shows for ministry. All of these things developed my writing skill, taught me how to work with editors, and help me develop new ideas.
Writing Books and Ministry Materials
In the 1980’s I also wrote my first book. I submitted it to editors, had it critiqued by professionals, rewrote it, retitled it, submitted it to more editors. One editor had showed interest in the first chapter, but when I finished the book he was no longer interested. I spent 4 or 5 hours just printing out that book to send to an editor. I sent it by mail and waited months to hear about it.
At one point, while I was waiting to hear from an editor, I wrote another book. This was a kid’s book about a missionary kid who came from the US to live in Taiwan. This book was easy to write because the protagonist, Amy, dealt with some of the same issues I had to wrestle with as an adult who moved to Taiwan. While the first book has never been published, Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World was published by Bob Jones University Press in 1994. By now It has been printed seven times. It’s part of BJUP’s homeschool curriculum for third grade and has been used by many mission boards to prepare MK’s to go to the mission field.
With my first book in print I figured I could largely leave articles behind and begin to write kids’ books. In time BJUP did publish three more of my books for kids and teens. I also tried to market other manuscripts: a VBS program, Christmas programs, a puppet show book, an ESL Bible study book. I initially wrote these things for our own ministry, but wanted to be able to offer them to others. Some of these I successfully marketed to Christian publishers, some I didn’t.
Finding New Markets and Means of Publication
If you know anything about writing for publication you know that selling work to traditional Christian publishers changed dramatically in the early years of the new millennium. Things that used to be easy to sell, no longer were. Today traditional publishers are much slower to take risks. But now we see the rise of “indie publishing” in which independent authors self-publish or use small independent publishers and maintain complete creative control over their books. Indie publication is the great game changer that opens new doors for authors today.
After traditionally publishing four books, Edges of Truth, carried me into the new world of indie publishing. I felt the Lord leading me to write this true story of Mary Weaver, a godly Christian woman who was convicted of shaking and slamming a baby to death. God worked in amazing ways in the case of this innocent lady, but traditional publishers felt Mary wasn’t well enough known for them to take risks on her story. I self-published this book in 2013 without the need for years of searching for an agent and a publisher. Though self-publishing means I have to find designers to do what I can’t and do my own book promotion, I enjoy writing what I think the Lord wants me to write with the guarantee it can reach publication.
The internet also offers a digital platform to sell or give away writing in a myriad of forms.
In forty years of ministry I’ve written many ministry resources which, while helpful to us, were almost impossible to sell to traditional publishers. Though I wasn’t able to sell some of these puppet shows, programs, and ESL Bible studies to publishers, they created a lot of interest when offered on my website. Having your own website and blog gives you the freedom to write things your way and offer them to others.
Self-publication is becoming easier all the time, but if you are self-publishing you need to make sure you are offering a quality product. You need to be prepared to market that product in a variety of ways. Information about self-publication and marketing is available in many different formats over the internet.
So I still need the Lord’s guidance. I continue to ask him to lead me in the current writing process. I seek advice from Christian writers and groups who know more about publication than I do. I talk to editors and other writers at conferences. I submit manuscripts and pay attention to the reaction from editors and agents. I look for feedback from people I trust. I take the next step and ask God to lock the doors I shouldn’t go through, and open the ones I should.
God uses these things to lead me step by step forward. With each step the Lord shows me enough to take the next step. And we go forward together.
Perhaps you are beginning to write for Christian publication and you don’t know what to do next. Where can you go for answers to questions and suggestions for your next steps?
I have many articles that give tips on starting to write for publication. You might find them helpful.
Here is my article on Christian writer’s conferences and which ones I have attended and recommend.
May the Lord guide you as you work to find his will for you today.
Does God want me to be a missionary? Should I make a career change? How should I treat a new unmarried couple in church who claim to be Christians but are living together? Should I pursue a new interest or join a community group? How often should I go to church if my unsaved husband doesn’t want me to go at all?
These can be tough questions without clear answers. Thankfully, God does want us to know his will, if we want to do it because we love him. I’ve been a Christian for fifty-seven years. I’ve had to find out what God wanted me to do about ministry choices, friends, writing for publication, people problems, and many other things. When I need guidance about a decision these are the things I consider.
What does the Bible say?
The Bible speaks clearly on many issues. It defines morality, forbids stealing, gossip, and using God’s name in vain. I don’t have to pray about whether or not to do something when God commands me to do it or not to do it. I must obey.
Other things are not specifically dealt with in Scripture, but Scriptural principles apply. The Bible doesn’t tell me not to smoke or view pornography. It does, however, tell me that my body belongs to God. It’s a temple of the Holy Spirit. I need to take care of it. Jesus taught that lustful desires in the heart are the root sin of physical immorality. These principles help me to know what God wants me to do in many cases.
Some churches today actually teach that the Bible doesn’t apply to life today! I can’t imagine that, as we have a Bible in about every room of our house. As people come to talk over their problems we are constantly reaching for a Bible. In any decision we make, we need to consult the Bible first. If it tells us what to do, we don’t need to second guess it. We only need to obey.
Position yourself to do God’s will.
Let’s say you want to become a great basketball player. You find out there’s a great team in town that you can join, and the coach is fantastic. You go down to the gym and watch practices, hang out, ask the coach questions. At first the coach answers your questions. Members of the team show you a few tips. But if you keep asking for help, but don’t want to join the team, what will the coach say? “Hey, buddy, if you want me to give you advice, join the team! Let’s see some commitment and then I’ll help you all I can.”
Salvation is the first step to positioning yourself to do God’s will. When you get saved, you “join God’s team.” God wants us to accept his Son Jesus as our Savior and commit to living for him. Why should he give us advice if we won’t even get on the same side as he is and work for the same things? (John 1:12)
We also need to give our lives to God, promising to do whatever he wants us to do. God doesn’t reveal his will so we can vote on it. When we show God we’re serious about doing his will, he will let us know what that is.
Often we ask God to show us his will, and then expect it to be terrible. “Lord, if you really want me to, I’ll be a missionary to reach the hardest tribe with the most difficult language and live in conditions that will cause me to balance on the edge of death even though it is totally opposite to all my spiritual and natural gifts and I know I’ll hate it.” We may be surprised to find that, when we truly find God’s will, it is a place that fits us well and we can enjoy serving in that capacity.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Some people think this means, “he will give me anything I want.” Actually I believe this means that if we delight ourselves in the Lord he will give us the desire to serve him in the way he wants us to serve.
How do we “delight ourselves in the Lord”? The same way we delight ourselves in people we love very much. We listen to him by reading the Bible and learning about it. We talk to him in prayer about the things that matter to us. We hang out with him by talking with him throughout the day’s activities. We grow to know him better and love him more. As we do this, God will make his will clear to us.
Ask for godly counsel.
We can always find friends who will tell us what we want to hear, but we need to search out counsellors who care about pleasing God and finding his best for us. Proverbs 11:14 tells us there is safety in this approach. That doesn’t mean the counsellor makes our decisions for us. It does mean that the counsellor can point out things we might not see on our own. Pros and cons of a certain decision. Helpful hints. Biblical principles we may have missed. The other side to the story.
Rattle some doorknobs.
God can steer us best if we are moving forward. If we truly want God’s will, he will close the doors we should not go through and open doors we should. (Revelation 3:7-8.) Sometimes we need to rattle a doorknob to see if the door is locked.
One way of doing this is to set a long range goal that we want to ultimately achieve, and then set short range goals of activities that will help us reach the long range goals.
Sometimes God wants us to stand still and wait until he leads definitely, but many times we can prayerfully proceed in a certain direction, asking God to lead us in a different direction if that’s what he wants. He won’t speak in an audible voice, but he will lead us through circumstances and giving us peace about certain steps.
Maybe these points all sound good, but you don’t know how to put them into practice. Need to see them spelled out in actual circumstances? In the March and April blogs I’m going to give several personal examples of my search for God’s will in a number of areas. I hope this will give you some ideas that help you search out God’s will for your life.
Part 2 gives an example of how I found God’s will for my life in writing for Christian publication.
Part 3 gives an example of how God led me into missions and to the place we now serve in missions.