Thank you, Father God, for such a great group of friends. Help us to grow in your spirit and our craft so we may glorify you in what we do. Amen.
It's almost Christmas and we're just about out of time, but we can still write a Christmas letter that will get read by our family and friends (instead of set aside). Here are ten steps to make the job quick and easy:
- With modern technology we have several choices of format: A one, two, three or four page newsletter to be sent in the U. S. Mail or emailed in a pdf file, a blog post, or a Face Book post. Use an attention grabbing nameplate, columns and pictures. You can find attractive templates online or popular software.
- It's a good idea to draft an outline to organize your articles and pictures.
- Use common fonts (Times New Roman, Courier New, or Arial), no smaller than 10 pt.
- Make your feature article your Christmas message. It can be devotional, inspirational or humorous. This is our time to share the true meaning of Christmas.
- Family articles highlight special occasions, events and accomplishments. Children and grandchildren like to be remembered here. It's not cool to brag about fancy vacations, but it's nice to share something of interest about the places you visited.
- Current events validate the time of your writing and make your letter a collectible. Stories of loved ones in harms way or what you were doing when a historical event occurred.
- Pictures you collected during the year on your phone, FB or computer will come in handy. Be sure to enter captions with names and dates.
- Keep your letter positive. If you or someone in your family have suffered loss or illness, tell how God was faithful through this period of time.
- Don't be too concerned if you cannot fit everyone in your family in the letter. If it's your tradition, there are more opportunities in future newsletters.
- While style and design are necessary, content is most important. It's fun to share recipes, songs or stories that tell the real meaning of Christmas.
It takes a couple minutes at the most to read a Christmas newsletter, but maybe an afternoon to write it. If you have collected information and pictures during the year, it saves valuable time. After you have crafted your letter, proof it and send it your love and prayers.
You have an opportunity to win a scholarship to the Salvation Army Writers Conference at the Sheraton, St. Louis City Center, 400 S. 14th Street, St. Louis, MO 63103.
October 8-13, 2013 - Five days of learning, sharing, inspiration and recreation for the advancement of the Salvation Army's publishing ministry. Look for announcements about special speakers and presenters in the months ahead.
Contest Categories: Fiction and Non Fiction
First Prize - Full scholarship for conference and airfare
Second Prize - Full scholarship to conference
Third Prize - Half scholarship to conference
Submit your original work, up to 1,200 words in length, by March 31, 2013. Submissions will be judged on creativity, plot and character development (fiction), and message, structure, style, substance, and related criteria.
Visit www.publications.salvationarmyusa.org for the contest submission form. Submissions are to be sent electronically.
Conference Cost: $650, includes all meals and a Riverboat Cruise on the Mississippi.
As Christians we want our writing to shine as a beacon into our world. That means if we have a blog ministry, we want it to be the best. Here are twelve ways to provide your readers with God glorifying copy:
- Use compelling content--stories from your own life or retold Bible stories with life application.
- Insert scripture with or without Bible address. God's word does not return to Him void.
- Use good grammar and spelling. Nothing stops my reading faster than poor writing.
- Avoid purple prose (adverbs). Use active verbs (Try not to use helper verbs like "is, was, were, have, had, has, to be, would, could, should. . .")
- Use pictures. The Internet offers many free graphics and photos. I use Plus! Image or my own photos.
- Keep posts short. Aim for less than 300 words. No more than 500 words.
- Engage your readers by asking questions or opinions.
- Read and comment on other blogs. Link to other blogs or websites.
- Use labels that are likely to be used in searches (i.e. God's love, God's grace, Jesus loves me, Bible story titles)
- Choose topics that appeal to readers. A good example today is how to find joy in a troubled world.
- Use Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and Linked In to publicize your posts.
- Use compassion when responding to comments on your blog.
When Hanani came to the citadel of Susa to visit his brother, Nehemiah, he announced, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province, are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." What would you do if you heard that your hometown sat in ruins ninety years after it's destruction? Nehemiah sat down and wept. He mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.
I teach my Sunday school students that Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and they can remember his name by thinking "Knee-high-miah," because he was on his knees about everything that concerned him or his people. The day Hanani told him about his people living in the ruins of Jerusalem, Nehemiah began four months of fasting and praying for a solution.
What follows is not only great leadership training but includes nuggets we can use in our writing to inspire. Here are four things to remember as you hone your craft to serve our Lord:
- Realize our limitations. Only God can change a man's heart. Although Nehemiah was one of Israel's captives in Syria, he had a great job as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. A strange law in the land prohibited anyone from showing sadness before the king. So Nehemiah was careful not to show his grieving for Jerusalem. Yet, the king knew something was wrong and because God's hand was on Nehemiah, the opportunity he prayed for arose. As Christian writers, we know our limitations. Even though we write to change hearts for God, it is He alone who is able, not us.
- Turn to God by praying and waiting. Four months Nehemiah prayed and fasted. Praying over our projects is essential as we use our writing to speak of God's love and grace. As we submit to God in prayer, we might find, like Nehemiah, that the answers are not immediate. We might have to wait.
- Organize a plan of action while waiting for the right opportunities. Do you have a plan to accomplish your goals? A book a year? twenty-five articles? Determine what it will take. How many words to you have to write each day to accomplish your goal? How much research is involved? How many queries or submissions do you have to make? Nehemiah developed a detailed plan of what he needed for his building project. So when the opportunity came, he knew what to request of the king. Amazingly the king not only supplied what Nehemiah requested, he sent him with an army.
- Recognize the opposition. We each have a stinker who doesn't want us to accomplish any good thing for God. His name is Satan and he will use whatever people, circumstances, lies and discouragement are necessary to throw us off track. Nehemiah faced the opposition of the surrounding nations' leaders. They heckled him and used several obstacles to keep him from his work. Praise God, they didn't win. The people of Israel under Nehemiah's leadership finished the project in fifty-two days. Incredible, isn't it?
How do you stay focused? How do you meet your goals and deadlines? How do you thwart discouragement? It would be great if you could share some encouragement with our writers.