By Susan G. Mathis

I hate conflict. I don’t like getting into disagreements with my husband. I don’t like having a spat with a friend. As a parent, I hated the constant conflict-resolution needed when my two kids didn’t get along.

As a teacher, I didn’t enjoy being the one to break up tiffs between pubescent girls. And as a Grandma? Well, let’s just say I sometimes choose to become an ostrich. You get the idea.

So when I began writing fiction, I had a problem. Conflict is a main ingredient of a good story, and to write compelling fiction, I had to have compelling conflict that would hold the reader’s attention. But how was I going to address the very thing I was tempted to run from? I had to settle that question—and quick!

Although conflict is often present in daily life, we may overlook or ignore it. Hubby doesn’t want cereal for breakfast. Son wants to play before doing his homework. Daughter doesn’t like the way you did her hair. Colleague disagrees with a decision you made. Neighbor dislikes your dog’s barking. The list goes on and on.

When confronted with conflict, I tend to self-talk, fret, stew, worry, and struggle with sleepless nights. But those ways of dealing with conflict don’t make a good story.

Conflict is uncomfortable and most conflict just plain hurts. But that’s what keeps readers reading. Like you and me, readers want to know how others deal with conflict—how characters try, fail, try again, and finally succeed.

For advice I turned to my first two non-fiction books that deal with preparing for marriage and applied what my counselor-husband and I wrote. We had great tips and guidelines, personality types, and ways to solve difficult conflict. I applied those ideas to my characters’ lives. Bingo!

Because it’s hard for me to invent conflict when I want to avoid it, I had to be aware of this weakness. So while doing rewrites and editing, I often had to add an element of conflict or deepen it. I realized I was, indeed, running from conflict even as I wrote. Recognizing this helps me be cognizant to include the very thing I hate.

As I grow in my craft, though, I trust I will grow in this area as well.

Susan Mathis is the author of Countdown for Couples, The Re-Marriage Adventure, and three other books. She is vice president of Christian Authors Network, founding editor of Thriving Family magazine, and former editor of twelve Focus on the Family publications. She has written hundreds of articles and also serves as a writing coach and consultant. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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Bob Hostetler here, offering another prayer for writers:

Father God Almighty,
you inspired Moses, Samuel, and others
to write when their best tools
were papyrus and parchment,
reed styli and ink made from crushed berries and plants.

For millennia,
your servants have recorded
stirring and soaring works

Read More →

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What item in your closet should probably be thrown out? If somebody rummaged through my clothes, they’d most likely choose the ratty ol’ black sweater. It’s faded, a bit threadbare, and stretched out of shape. But it still hangs in my closet…for a reason.

When my mother passed away, my sisters and I packed up her clothes. We each took a few as mementos. I chose the black sweater, already worn with age.

If I feel a bit down, I slip my arms through the sleeves. It is almost as if my mom is hugging me once again. My mother was a deep believer even though she suffered the death of two children and my father becoming a POW in WWII. Through it all, she used her experiences to God’s glory and comforted many during her eighty-plus years on earth. When I wrap myself in that sweater, I feel her God-endowed wisdom and comfort.

Paul spoke of the comfort God gives us to pass on to others. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 13:3-4).

One day, after I am gone, maybe a family member will go through my clothes and wonder why I kept that old thing. If she feels the urge to slip her arms through its sleeves, I hope she’ll realize why.

Julie Cosgrove

Julie Cosgrove is an editor and writer for Cru Canada’s internet ministry, Power to Change. Her income, like any missionary’s, is dependent upon prayer and financial partners. She is also a professional speaker and a multiple award-winning author of ten novels with four more under contract.

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The Bible’s Faith Hall of Fame is full of people with unimpressive resumes. God seems to specialize in using unlikely people to accomplish His will. Often, in fact, the least likely people demonstrate even greater faith than those who’ve witnessed God’s biggest miracles.

Rahab was a female Canaanite (Israel’s mortal enemy) with a disreputable occupation. She lived in Jericho, the first city slated for annihilation as Israel came to conquer the land. Jericho was an evil place. Yet spies who’d seen miracles listened as Rahab was the one giving the testimony about what their God had done—starting with a story about the Red Sea parting forty years earlier.

A priest (Zechariah) who knew of Sarah and Abraham’s conception in their old age still couldn’t believe God would allow his own elderly wife to conceive; yet a young teen who had never even heard of such a thing as a virgin birth said to the angel, “Let it be to me as you say” (Luke 1:38).

The Book of Esther is about a Jewish orphan girl who, with God’s help, outsmarted the racist advisors of a misogynistic king, thus saving an entire nation from genocide.

Abraham was a liar and Moses, a murderer. David abused his power with a woman and had her husband killed when he learned she had conceived. Zaccheus ripped off people as a tax-collector.

But all these people experienced the transforming power of God.

Some were powerless; some abused their power. We find both kinds on God’s varied list of lives transformed. Indeed, no matter what kind of people we are—maybe a bit of both—God can change us and use us. So let us come to him with palms open and say with the prophet Isaiah, “Here am I! Send me!”

Dr. Sandra Glahn is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. In her new book, Vindicating the Vixens:Revisiting the Sexualized, Vilified, Marginalized Women of the Bible (Kregel Academic), sixteen male and female scholars help readers see God’s heart for the marginalized. Dr. Glahn blogs for bible.org and at aspire2.com.

 

 

 

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When my youngest daughter was about four years old, I took down the Christmas tree during her nap.

Later in the day, I saw her looking out the window toward the tree, which lay on the curb awaiting the garbage collector. She whispered, “Christmas tree, come back, come back.”

That made me sad, but I often feel blue after the holidays. The world goes from lively carols, flashing lights, and sparkling tinsel to the grayness of January’s cold weather.

Everyone has wrapped and stored the magic. Even the trees extend bare branches to gloomy skies. For weeks, I’ll discover wadded bits of Christmas paper and smashed bows and vacuum up shiny flecks.

However, the angel’s message of good tidings to all people endures even when our holiday decorations sit in the attic.

I am learning to allow the good news to penetrate my soul and realize God loves me even though I’m not perfect.

Absorbing his grace shifts my focus to eternity. Mundane moments can become opportunities to minister as I care about those around me. Because Jesus came to earth, we can share his love.

“How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news” (Romans 10:15).

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She served as past president of Christian Authors Guild, directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference, and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio. Her author website is www.clsimmons.com.

 

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