These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
Thanks for the homework! Personally, I really appreciated your devotional, "In One Unspeakable Minute..." very much!
Although I've had a problem with using cliches and so forth and need to really watch that more, I really appreciate when I see writings that don't. I feel like the author might really be able to understand reality rather than just knowing "the right, pat answers" to my struggles.
I don't have any devotionals that I've written right now but I hope to and then want to see if I can get a quick critique from you so I can learn as much as possible!
Thanks so much!!
Goal: To make beauty happen
How: Through Jesus Christ the source of all true beauty
By: Planned and random acts of kindness in many variety of ways
Where: Where He has me this moment
When: Every chance I get
All of your instructions and information on writing devotionals has rekindled my enthusiasm. I write mostly non-fiction with a tendency to be on the dry side at times. The following is a devotional I wrote a few years back. I know it's a bit quirky and so I'll be holding my breath when I hit the submit button. Here goes anyway. Any comments are appreciated. God Bless.
Lessons from a Labrador
The one thing I can say for sure about Jack is he loves to eat. He’s like an eating machine with a ravenous appetite like I’ve never seen. He’ll take on just about anything he can get his teeth around: anything growing on a stem, shoes, glass, paper… you name it… and of course, his beloved dog food. Jack is a yellow lab, and a rambunctious seven- month old puppy, when God used him as a surprising example which I will never forget.
My sister Joan often boasted about her dog Jack and his intelligence. She always kept me apprised of the most recent trick he had mastered. Along with following the commands to sit, stay, lie down, go get your leash, Jack was eager to please and do just about anything he was told, if he knew how.
During one of my visits to Joan’s house one day, it became feeding time for her two dogs.
“Hey you want to see what Jack can do now? C’mon,” Joan said as she started across the living room with Jack at her heels. I followed them out into the garage and onto the cool cement floor. Joan stopped and looked down at Jack, standing at her side. “Hey Jack,” she said excitedly, “You want some food?”
In an explosion of energy, Jack began bucking and rearing like a wild horse, while Joan grabbed a metal bowl off the floor, dipped it in a bag, and scooped out about a cups worth of dry dog food. Apparently encouraged by this, Jack changed his dance to jumping and spinning around in circles. However, as Joan calmly leaned over to place the bowl on the floor, Jack suddenly stopped, and when the bowl touched the floor, so did Jack’s rump.
He sat intensely staring at the bowl, then looked at Joan, then longingly back at the bowl, then again at Joan, like a spectator at a tennis match. Quivering at first, he soon became calm as he fixed his focus solely on Joan. He watched her closely, waiting for her command. Without a single glance at the food, he waited…..and waited, without a twitch.
He was steady and focused while I was getting antsy and impatient. How long will this last? Sensing his agony, I wanted to say,“Okay, enough already, let the poor dog EAT.“
But this was what Joan was waiting for…Jack’s undivided attention. Finally, the moment Jack and I had been waiting for arrived. Breaking the tense silence, Joan announced, “OK!”
In one fell swoop, Jack plunged onto the food bowl like a starving maniac, consuming the hard brown nuggets like a vacuume. Down his throat without a single crunch. I don’t believe his teeth were in any way involved in the process. No chewing motion. One gulp and the bowl was clean.
I was amazed by the self-control this dog displayed. Even in his impetuous puppyhood, he managed to stay still, waiting for his master’s signal. I could see why Joan wanted me to see that. It was truly impressive.
Then something occurred to me: Could this be the same kind of obedience the Lord desires from me?
The question caused me to reflect back to past opportunities I perceived, at the time, as given to me by God. The right direction in these matters seemed so clear to me, and the choices to make, so obvious - to me anyway. So, impulsively, I’d set out to partake in what I thought were God’s provision for me, assuming God was in agreement. With naive’ cavalier I’d think Thanks Lord, now I’ll take it from here.
It wouldn’t occur to me until later that I had sorely missed something. Perhaps it was that still small voice of God’s spirit, or the peaceful feeling affirming my thinking and actions were according to His will. I never was good at waiting, so let’s just say some things didn’t pan out the way I hoped; because so often I ran ahead of Him, in my own energy and understanding, only to fall on my face in a muddy puddle of good intentions.
These days I’m finally starting to appreciate the sheer luxury of not trying to figure things out on my own. I can rest in the fact that God will show me His will, in His time, when I search through His love letter the Bible.
It might take some time. I might have to wait. And it might not be the answer I want. Even so, I’ll strive to keep my focus on the Master.
Psalm 123:2 As the eyes of the slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us His mercy. NIV
Francie, this is wonderful.
Your descriptions of Jack's behavior were very compelling reading. Your writing was rich in imagery, and anyone who's ever had a big dog like Jack would surely be able to relate. You tied the narrative of Jack's mealtime very well with the lesson about our focus on God. This was precisely the kind of devotional that I described in the lesson, and I'm glad that you shared it.
If I were giving this a full-fledged edit, there are some minor things that I'd tweak, but they aren't particularly important. If you were to look to publish this, I'd recommend that you have a proofreader or editor give it a once-over. But you've done a fine job here.
Thank you so much Jan. Your feedback is such an encouragement. I woke up today with a new quest in my heart to revisit my early devotionals and see where I need to revise and nurture them. I plan to be a regular in your classroom.
Love and Blessings,
No, that's not a general rule--but it may be the rule for specific publications. Our Daily Bread, for example, publishes very short devotionals, and they may have such a word length in their guidelines. Your best bet is to ask the specific publication that you're writing for about their required lengths, and whether or not the scripture verses you use are included in that number.
If you write a devotional for the Weekly Writing Challenge here at FaithWriters, you can go up to 750 words. The scripture verses can be outside those 750 words if they are at the beginning or the end of the devo--if they are incorporated into the body, they'll be included in the 750-word requirement.
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