~ Tangled Motivation


I was talking to a writer the other day who said this, “I’ll have to see if I can find some motivation.”

I wanted to scream. I have news for those who are still in the dream world of “finding motivation.”

Motivation can’t be found. Unlike lost keys, or even the coin of great worth, motivation can’t be found. It’s not lost. Motivation is made.

It’s not made from feelings, or emotions, or delivered by a muse, or even from on high. Motivation can only be formed by rational, deliberate, intentional decisions.

God Himself can’t and won’t motivate you. Not that He’s not all-powerful, but because His first priority is to give us the complete freedom of CHOICE. He made a plan before time began. Every nuance of history and the future was woven before the first man was formed. There are no tangled threads in God’s tapestry.

We, however, are overwhelmed with choices and decisions to make. Therein lies the problem. We let the overwhelmingness of our days keep us from being intentional. We take the easy and lazy way out. We deceive ourselves into believing that it’s all too much. But it’s not too much. God doesn’t leave us hopeless and helpless. He put within every believer His Spirit to guide us into all wisdom.

We make thousands of decisions every single day. What percentage of them do we make after asking for His help? “Pray without ceasing” takes on a whole new light, doesn’t it?

Do you want to get things accomplished? Reach your goals? Work on the real priorities, instead of being sabotaged by the subterfuge of instant gratification?

Make some real decisions! Motivation will follow.


God Glimpses #24 – Am I an Artist, or a Cow?

Leather Jackets

God made me with artistic talent. God made me to write.

I am not a plumber. I am not an electrician. I cannot repair cars.

I am not a cow. Cows have a multitude of uses, and most of those uses come after the cow stops giving milk. Dog food, glue, belts and gloves and purses and shoes and jackets.

Book covers.

I am not a cow. I don’t have to wait until I’m dead to be useful. I may never look at a leather book cover the same way. God made me to fulfill a purpose.

I’m so glad I get to do it while I’m alive!

No more guilt because God made me to be something awesome, something I enjoy. Whoever heard of a car mechanic complaining that he hates working on cars, that it takes up his every thought? Who ever heard of a car mechanic caring whether people thought he should be paid to do his job? Really, where does this guilt come from?

Do people need leather book covers? Leather jackets? Leather gloves or purses? No, they want.

My job is to be so good at what God called me to be that people think they need what I have to offer. Because what I have to offer is a glimpse into what God can do with someone with a little talent and a lot of baggage, someone who is submitted to the process of God’s refinery. Someone who’s not going to let what I’m not stop me from becoming what He IS.

Because He’s called me into His likeness.

God Glimpses #23 – Indecision vs. God’s Design

coffee table apron
my coffee table

Do you love design? I know I do. No mid-century modern for me. No thanks! Oh, I know those of you who love those sleek lines will claim that is what makes it design.

To me that’s like saying a single note is the equivalent of a symphony.

Give me ornate carvings, layered paintings, embellished quilts. Oh, yes, I agree that the eye needs a place to rest. I understand that, and plan for that. Even my walls have blank expanses, and I’m an artist.

The point of sensory overload is different for everyone.

At this moment, I’m so overwhelmed I’m not capable of much more than running screaming into the sunset. When I’m overwhelmed, I’m incapable of making good decisions, incapable of true creativity, incapable of being the person I want people to see, or hear. I seek a hole to hide in until the input stops. And that doesn’t work all that well, because I take me in there. Never mind all the outside influences, I’m too complex.

I’m so grateful that the God who created everything–in layers, with ornate design, with embellishments that serve no purpose but to delight the eye–is not overwhelmed, does not suffer from sensory overload.

“Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways. ”   James 1:5-8

These are perhaps the most complex verses in the Bible. An intertwining mass of circular reasoning to those who don’t get it. Most of us don’t get it. I don’t get it. Too often.

The verses before make it clear that the topic is the testing of our faith through trials, and that testing leads to endurance, maturity, completeness. I suppose it’s no wonder that God doesn’t make that wisdom we’re asking for clear every time. Would it be a test of faith if we knew the answer for sure?

So the test is this–can we believe that he’s given us wisdom–have the guts to act on what we think is the answer? Sometimes that still, small voice is teeny. Sometimes we know we’re hearing God say, “You know what to do” but we doubt ourselves and our ability to hear God, because we’ve ignored him too often, hidden in our holes too easily, delayed the inevitable.

So we don’t trust ourselves, and we float on the sea of indecision, in a boat named “Unanswered Prayers.”

I don’t know about you, but I suffer from motion-sickness.

God Glimpses #21 – Why can’t Artists Read?


How many of you hate it when the book cover is all wrong? Two pages into the book and the main character is described as freckled with brown hair. You flip back to the cover and she’s blonde, What’s with that?

The children’s lesson today was on Lazarus. You know, the guy Jesus raised from the dead by shouting–from outside the tomb. And Lazarus came out. He was bound hand and feet, wrapped in grave clothes and had a napkin over his face. Says it right there in the Bible.

Could I find one correct picture out of hundreds that artists have painted over the centuries? Noooooo. Apparently, they all thought that the comedic thought of Lazarus doing the bunny hop out of that tomb was a tad too lighthearted for their serious talent.

I dunno, I suppose the correct cartoon versions were thrown in the trash by overzealous moms.

So, what’s a teacher to do? We played “What’s wrong with this picture” after reading the story. The kids got it right.

Those of us old enough to know better keep wanting to change God’s story, to make it meld with our sensibilities. We don’t want to think about the maggots in the grave clothes. We don’t want to let the Word stand on its own.

God Glimpses #18 – Hope Deferred

snow on flower pots

The Bible says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” All winter long I’ve been ignoring these flower pots on my back porch, pretending the watering can doesn’t exist, pushing down dreams of spring green.

This morning, (after not one flake of predicted snow fell from the so-called snow storm earlier in the week,) I woke to find this not-so-sugar coating still falling from a sky that should have been blue.

(Shoot the weather men and women, please!)

We have no control over the weather. We can justifiably feel sick at the thought of another cold day with even the emerging crocuses looking frozen and miserable.

But do we defer our own hope? What dreams and goals do you have that could be achieved if you would just DO instead of dream . . . or wish . . . or pretend to hope. I don’t know about you, but I’m great at setting goals, not so great at remembering to look at them by mid-week.

DOers get things done. It’s that simple. Spend less time planning, and more time DOing. That’s my God Glimpse for today, folks. He sprinkled frosting on my misery and reminded me to look up (. . . and then go DO.)

God Glimpses #14 – Lined paper

ray bradbury quote - when they give you lined paper, write the other way

Ray Bradbury used this as the epigraph at the beginning of Fahrenheit 451: “When they give you lined paper, write the other way.”

That is one reason I love the creative life. It allows me a glimpse of the One who created it all. Knowing the Creator of Life allows me to ignore stupid man-made rules . . . while I hold onto my true identity without fear.

Here I go a NaNo’ing . . .

Writing a book in a month . . . I highly recommend it! Especially when the month starts out with a hurricane and no internet access for days on end now. There’s nothing like a good challenge to help you know what kind of stuff you’re made of.

I’m pleased so far. The writing is going well, the plot is thickening in all the right places, and I’m learning just how fast I really can write. Finishing my first book helped me come to grips with the idea that I can no longer think of myself as a quitter, but now have to consider myself a winner (so difficult for the phlegmatic/melancholy fractions of my personality.) Writing this well and fast at the same time is changing my perception of my capabilities. Now I know, in just one short week so far, that I can indeed sit my behind in the chair and come up with something that’s not half bad. For the half that is bad, there’s EditMo in January, when I get to throw out the bad and keep the good. What a great way to start a year!

Why writers write

It’s been just a two weeks since the writer’s conference, and a few things have happened in this writer’s world, besides working diligently to submit requests from editors and agents.


  • Living through an earthquake, hurricane Irene and several tornadoes.
  • Two deaths; a good friend and my uncle.
  • Both daughters were sick–twice, and both have poison ivy.

Ah, the agonies of bodies out of sync and the excitement of weather events as seen through drama-teen eyes–the whine of the hurricane was nothing by comparison! And they had no real connection to the people who passed away, both named Jim, both on the same day. My grief was nothing compared to their agony.

So, why do writers write? Escapism is a big factor. It takes solitude to be a writer, certainly. For some this is a necessary evil, for others it is solace. I fall into the latter group. Let me escape from the voices and the activity and I will turn events into words. Which means I should be overwhelmed with possible stories to make out of the past few weeks experiences.

Right now, I’m just overwhelmed.

I need to escape.



The writer’s conference was humbling–in a good way!

The writer’s conference was humbling–in a good way!

What a lesson in humility! Was I humbled? Yes, but not in the sense that we usually say it. I was uplifted, and because of that I was humbled.

Just one year ago I attended my first-ever writer’s conference. This year I was on the faculty. What an amazing year of open doors and possibilities! I owe so much to Marlene Bagnall, the founder of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference. In the past year we have gotten to know each other because her writer’s fellowship meets monthly not far from my home, and I jumped at the opportunity to attend. During this past year she was able to see and critique my writing, and I had the privilege to get to know her, and learn from her.

What an amazing group of writers she leads. The humility runs from the top down in that group. There is an amazing variety of writers, and an even more amazing variety of life stories, many of real pain, of lives brought through the fire of loss, sickness, and more. It is a place of being real, of sharing God’s amazing provision, grace and promotion.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this group of writers were writers  because they had to write, and they were no different than myself. What do you do with that kind of trauma in your life? You can drink, or you can write it down. We chose to write, and in the writing, sought answers from our Heavenly Father, who preciously answered those hard questions, sometimes with equally hard answers, but always in love.

So, here I am, the newbie in the group, and learning so much from these successful writers, and then Marlene asked me to teach one of the segments of Teens Write, based on what she has seen of my writing and because of my experience as editor of J.A.M. magazine. It took me a while to come to grips with that, but once the shock settled in, I realized that to say no to such an opportunity would be a slap in God’s face. When He opens a door, we need to walk through! To do less would be the height of ingratitude.

Even though I struggle with self-esteem, He doesn’t. He has prepared me and opened doors so many times before. My failure is in seeing those things that don’t work out in my life as failures. But He doesn’t see my failures as failures, He sees them as lessons, and advancement. In preparing my bio for the many proposals and manuscripts that were requested by editors and agents at the conference, it finally clicked.

I have a pretty impressive bio! And that’s when I finally saw it. I would never have done so much, met so many wonderful people, without those ‘failures.’ I would still be doing the first thing I ever tried, because it worked. My artwork would never have made it to the White House, I would not have watched my proteges interview people so famous that the kids and I were both shaking with fear during the interview. I would not have been able to expand my knowledge in so many areas and enjoyed so much! God is good!

The teaching part of my conference was fun, and my daughter even said she enjoyed my part the best. (Brownie points, I’m sure.) Thank you, Pam Halter, for the how you lead the way.

At the closing ceremony I listened as Marlene announced two prizes that are given annually, one for a published author and one for an unpublished author. She started telling all about this wonderful unpublished author with so much potential, and I sat dreaming of the day when I might be worthy of receiving such a prize . . . and then she announced the authors name and it was . . . Joy Kieffer!

As I walked down that long isle to receive my award, all I could think of was how many people in that room deserved it more, had worked longer and harder (did I mention that my book was ten years in the making?) and paid more to come. Yes, I’ve been studying the art and business of writing diligently for years on end, and done everything within my power to do the best job possible, but still, I’m a newbie! I heard the story of one writer who came all the way from Australia to attend–didn’t she deserve it just for coming? But, no, this was my prize, one that God saw fit to give me at this moment in time. God opened a door; it was my job to walk through and accept His challenge to go farther, see more and be more.

I was able to schedule a lunch meeting to speak to Ted Baehr, the founder of Movie Guide magazine and the Christian Film and Television Commission about a film project I am working on. I also attended two of his classes. What a lesson in humility and listening to the Spirit of the Lord as he ministered. We were interrupted several times during our lunch meeting, and he was gracious and thoughtful with each person. During the class times he stopped to pray several times, sensing the need for divine intervention in the lives of people in the room. He invited me to attend his screen-writers camp, (clear across the country) saying that my film project was a great script idea. Who knows, God may provide a way. (Thank you, Dr. Ted, for listening to and obeying God.) If you want to see what a person can become who walks through God’s open doors, read up on this amazing servant of God.

Wherever I went throughout the conference, I was constantly met with hearts of humility and encouragement; prayers and tears and joy were shared with faculty and attendees. I ministered and was ministered to. So many names of new friends are burned into my heart, and friendships with ‘old friends’ deepened. There may have been a faculty member there who thought they were hot stuff, but I didn’t meet them. What I have found out in this past year is this–God promotes the humble.

Oh, wait, that’s in the Bible, isn’t it?