Friday, December 28, 2012

My Prince of Peace

1st Writes recently published an Advent Devotional for our church. Here is one of those devotions.
My Prince of Peace
by Dawn M. Hamsher

Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

When I read this scripture, I see the women at the well scene in the Walk Through Bethlehem play. Anne Hill, in her cranberry-colored gown, leans in to gossip. She whispers, “My husband says…” and then she tells the other women what she knows of the coming messiah. As the scene progresses, the audience learns that the women expect a messiah who will free the Jewish people from Roman Oppression. They, like many of us, do not fully understand Jesus’ name, “Prince of Peace”.

As I meditate on that name, I picture Jesus stepping down from his throne, giving up his power, and becoming mortal. I see him hanging on the cross, bearing the weight of all our sin, and then dying. My eyes well up with tears and I am humbled.

John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was and is the peace offering. His death made a way for all people to be with God. And now, after his resurrection, Jesus lives and waits in heaven for us to join him. For his love and sacrifice, I will be eternally grateful to my “Prince of Peace”.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me fully understand the peace you have offered through your son, Jesus.

Here a a few more from our Advent Devotional booklet:
Jesus Comes in the Night by Allen Ewing 
Peace with God by Jeffrey Phillips
Supersized Portions by Dick Williams

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Writing Prompt: Carved Wooden Box

Writing Prompt: You find a beautiful wooden box in a dusty old attic. The lid has a Nativity carved in it. What's in it? Who did it belong to? Write for 15 minutes. 

I hope you write along with me! Post your writing in the Comments Section.

This prompt was inspired by "The Christmas Box" by Richard Paul Evans. I also did a post about it over at The Write Soil.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Candle and the Snowman by David Clugston

Mr. Snow the Snowman by doogewalah
Every year around the same time, when a chill was in the air, Snowman would come to visit. He loved playing with the children in the front yard. He often dreamed of making a snow angel but sadly, his arms were too short. His heart was filled with so much joy in the winter that everything he heard and everything he would see was like a miracle to him. Every day was a brand new chance at making new friends and playing a new game.

However, there was something Snowman didn't like—night time. Everything would go quiet. The light in the sky would fade and the air would grow colder.

Now it wasn't the darkness that bothered Snowman, and it most certainly wasn't the cold. It was the loneliness. You see, when the darkness came, all the children had to go inside. But Snowman didn't need to sleep. Instead, every night he would stand in the yard thinking about the day. He would get very excited, but he didn't have anyone to share his thoughts with. That made him very sad.

One day a bad storm hit, which was really cool because all the kids got to stay home from school. They played for hours and it was so much fun! But when night time came there weren't any lights on anywhere. The whole town was dark and eerily quiet. Snowman wasn't sure what happened but something wasn't right. Since there were no lights on in the house, he couldn't watch his family eat dinner and he couldn't see the children running through the house still filled with energy. Snowman was a little worried until he noticed something different. He saw a small flicker almost like a sparkle. Then the flicker turned into a glow. This was strange--he had never seen anything like it. It was a light but it had a relaxing movement to it and such a soft way of filling the room with life.

He noticed the children coming close to it with their noses and how they seemed to enjoy this light more than other lights. He saw them reach out to touch it, but for some reason their mother scolded them and pushed their hands away. This was confusing to Snowman. Why would mom not want the children to touch something so beautiful? Snowman tried to think of a way that he could get closer to the flickering light.

 AP Photographie
He remembered every year about this time his family would go away for a couple days. He wasn't sure why, but they would always pack the car with beautifully wrapped boxes and off they would go. Maybe he could sneak into the house and figure out what the strange light was. Oh! He was so excited! Usually when his family left he would become sad--but this year was going to be different!

Night after night he would work on his plan It was going to be perfect! No one would ever know. All he could think about was the light. When the day finally came, he watched and waited, trying not to move too soon. He was nervous and excited at the same time. “Come on! Hurry up and leave!” Snowman thought to himself. The family packed the car, jumped in, and off they went.

Snowman was ready! As soon as the light in the sky went out he would make his move. It seemed to take forever. Snowman started his trek around to the back of the house. He crept up the steps and slid in the back door. The air was very warm so he knew he had to hurry.

Cleaning up his melting snow as he went, he made his way to the room with the big window. There it was, sitting on the table—a candle! For some reason, it wasn't as beautiful as it seemed from outside. The top was all black and ugly blobs of wax clung to the sides. “Well, maybe if I light the candle, it will be pretty like before.”

Knowing he was starting to melt, Snowman quickly found some matches. He had seen his family use these to light the candle. He watched the flame come to life, but still the beauty was not there. What was missing? Why wasn't he feeling the joy he had felt before when it was burning?

Suddenly, his tummy felt funny. He wasn't excited anymore and the water dripping from him wasn't from the melting snow; it came from his eyes. Snowman knew how it felt to be sad, but he had never cried.

He realized at that moment that the beauty wasn't from the candle itself but was from what the candle allowed him to see—the radiant faces of the children laughing, mom making hot chocolate, and dad reading the kids a bedtime story. The joy he felt inside wasn't from the glow of a candle it was from the love he felt for his family.

Snowman knew it was time for him to get back outside. He blew out the candle, cleaned up his mess, and quietly crept out to the yard filled with excitement that his family would soon be home. “Come on! Hurry up and come home!” he thought.

It seemed to take forever, but finally his family arrived. Snowman's happiness returned. Never had he missed them this much.

The End

Monday, December 10, 2012

When Will You Write?

What hats do you wear?
A new blogger and member of 1st Writes, Carol Isbister has posted a piece on "So When Will You Write" on her new blog His Glory Shines. Check it out! It might just prompt you to add "Writer" to you hat collection, along with your "Reader" hat.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Song Lyrics

My co-worker rushed to my side and said, "I just heard the most amazing song!" It was CeeLo Green's version of "Mary Did You Know". She had never heard the song before and the words had a profound impact.

Because of her declaration, I find myself listening closely to familiar Christmas songs, so that I fully grasp the message that God has through the lyrics. I believe God inspired many of the lovely Christmas songs and I don't want to take them for granted. I want to take the words into my heart.

What Christmas song is speaking to you and why?  

Here is CeeLo Green's version of "Mary Did You Know" [Official Audio]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

1st Writes (Teen Edition) - Description

Tonight our teen writers discussed using description in writing. I hope you enjoy the lesson and will join in on the writing prompt!

Tips on Description:                                 

1. Take your time. Don’t rush through description.

2. If you are describing something that really exists, observe it and take notes. The little details do matter!

3. Use your imagination to fill in the gaps.

4. Use more description at the opening of your story. You are the eyes for the reader and you need to set the stage.

5. Keep descriptions simple and true to yourself. You don’t need complicated words.

6. If you use juicy adjectives be careful not to go overboard. You don’t want to take away from the characters and action of the story.

7. “Rule of Three” can sometimes be used to describe things (putting three descriptions together).
Example – Ellen had frizzy, red hair, wore blue sneakers, and hummed constantly, even in class.

8. Use the five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, sound).
Smells that are in the air (the aroma of freshly brewed coffee)
Sounds (traffic, honking horns)
Sights (“The sun scattered tiny diamonds across dew-covered grass as it peeked out from beyond the horizon.”)
Touch (“The texture of the adobe hut’s walls resembled coarse sandpaper.”)
Taste: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, tart (“Goose bumps formed on my tongue when I accidently bit into the lemon sliver.”)

9. Don’t use vague words or generalities (such as good, pretty, bad, or nice). Instead, be specific.
Example – I ate a good meal. VS. I devoured the piping hot pepperoni pizza.

10. Consider your feelings and spiritual awareness when describing things. As a Christian, you see the world differently (there is hope, truth, and light b/c of Jesus). That should affect your outlook on life and it will come through in your writing.

(Tips 1-8 from Spilling Ink, A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter.
Tip 8-9 from
Tip 10 by Dawn Hamsher.)

Expand your vocabulary by looking up synonyms! But remember Tip #5 & #6!
I like to use (just click on “Find Synonyms”)

Writing Prompt: Write about "heaven" or "Santa's workshop". Think about the description tips when you write.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

1st Writes (Teen Edition) - Why Write?

I had the wonderful privilege of leading some great teen writers this past week. I'd like to share our lesson and ask you to share your thoughts about the lesson's questions or participate in the writing prompt.

1st Prays (Teen Edition) Lesson: Why Write?

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for this time together to talk and to write. We ask for your blessing and guidance for our writing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

What types of things do you write (diary/journal, school papers, fiction stories, etc.)?


Why do you write?


Some famous authors tell why they write:
Judy Blume - “Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being,” As a child she couldn’t find books that she could identify with. She wanted to read about families like her family, ones that weren’t perfect, ones that had secrets, but were still loving. She wanted to write the truth about families like in Ramona the Pest.

J.K. Rowling - All she wanted to do was to write novels. She was in her twenties. Her marriage failed. She had a young daughter. She had no money. All she had was a big idea and she focused everything into it. "I knew I wanted to get published. And, in truth, writing novels is something you have to believe in to keep going. It's tough…to get published, so I persevered. I loved writing it and I felt that I just had to try." 

What do you think about this scripture? “We write this to make our joy complete” (NIV)  (1 John 1:4)

Why do you think you like to write or have a passion to write? 


1 Corinthians 12:11  “But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.”

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

God made you. Did God give you a gift? How do you know?

Why should you write? 


Habakkuk 2:2 – Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” 

Revelation 1:19 Jesus tells John, “Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be.” 

You may not ever hear God telling you to write something, but he I do believe that He does give people callings.

What should you write? 


The written word has power. You’ve heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you”, well, that’s a lie. Words can hurt. 

If writing is a gift from God, how should you use it? 

By proclaiming the truth and speaking sound doctrine (Titus 1:9, Titus 2:10) to each other “we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,”.

Romans 15:5-6 -May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV -Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 


Writing Prompt: Open a magazine (Nat'l Geographic is a good one) and find a photo. Don't read anything about the photo. Write for 8 minutes. Stop. Share. 


Next week's "Teen Edition" will be about using
descriptive words and synonyms in writing.


New Bloggers for Jesus

Source: via Amanda on Pinterest

Have you noticed the new additions to our blog list? God has led four more people to begin blogging for Jesus! We are excited about this tool God is using to carry His Word far and wide. We are just in the beginning stages so be patient with us as we learn together on this journey into the blogosphere!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from 1st Writes!  
We are thankful for you!

My personal focus for this Thanksgiving is 
Hebrews 12:28-29. My post, Offering up Thanksgiving
is over at The Write Soil.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why I Write by Carol Isbister

Paul O'Rear

Writing is a unique gift from God. Although it is not specifically mentioned as a definite gift, it can easily facilitate all of the listed gifts of the Spirit in a very special and personal way.  God's inspired word, the Bible, was given to us through the operation of the Holy Spirit, using the written word and the personalities of many authors over centuries.
There is a permanency to the written word which seems to defy time.  Once a thought is put on paper, it is there for the world to see and digest for generations.  Just as the Holy Spirit gave us revelation through the Bible, so also the Holy Spirit can illuminate the truths in God's word to our hearts.  Through writing, we can share the nuggets God has opened up to us and bless the body of Christ.
In my own life, I have felt the calling to minister to Christ's body through writing.  Many times thoughts and lesson outlines will "hit me" in some unusual places, and I realize these insights are meant to be shared with others.  I am constantly challenged to be a faithful and obedient writer in whatever avenues become available.  May His name ever be glorified through this precious gift. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Message to Newbie Bloggers

Learning new things can be scary. Learning to blog, like anything else, has a learning curve. My best recommendation is to take is slow. Take baby steps. And know…You will NOT blow up the Internet if you click on the wrong thing. I have not heard of a single case where this happened, but if you become the first, please let me know. ;0)

Why am I posting about newbie bloggers? Well, last night 1st Writes hosted a class to help newbies get started. We had five wonderful ladies come, laptops in tow. We started off by asking them some questions. (Paraphrased answers below)

What do you already know about blogging?

  • It’s like journaling.
  • It is a form of publishing with a wide audience.
  • There are different blog themes (writing, cooking, mothering, etc.).

Why do you want to blog?
  • I want to be published.
  • I want to use blogging to organize myself (my photos, my mothering atedotes, my scrapbooking)
  • I want to share how God has worked in my life.
  • I want to minister to other grieving widows.

What do you want to learn how to do?
  • How to set up a blog?
  • How do I post?
  • How do I find photos for my blog? What about copyright?

Then, we walked them through setting up blogs through Blogger.
  • Go to Follow Blogger’s step-by-step instructions on how to create Google account and Blogger blog.
  • Choose your blog title and blog web address. What is your blog going to be about? Carol wanted hers to be about God. The address she wanted, “forhisglory”, was taken, so she choose a similar one, “hisgloryshines”, instead. Note: You can change your blog web address in the future, but it is best to do so soon because once you start getting followers, that complicates things. Also, if you are a writer, many sites suggest that you use your name as the Blog title and address (example I know some that do and some that don’t. It’s up to you.
  • Choose your template and layout. How do you want your blog to look? What background do you want? There are tons of pictures in Blogger to choose from. What font to you want? Tip: Use a white or cream background for your actual posts and use a dark font color (white with black font is always easy to read.). Do you want a sidebar (for followers, for search box, for photo of you, etc.)? 
  • Practice clicking on everything. Slowly. Find out what everything does. 
  • When you are somewhat happy with how things look, try doing a post. Give your post a title and then write your post. On right hand side is “Label” – this is also know as “tag” and it is used to give labels to your posts so search engines can help people find it. For example, if your post is about mountain biking trails, you might give it labels like: “mountain biking, bicycling, trails in Pennsylvania state parks”. You might also want to use “Schedule” – this allows you to set date and time for post to schedule. Click “Publish” to publish your post. Click “View” to see your published post.

We are going to have a follow up session for our newbie bloggers. What are some suggestions or tips that we could share with them?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Enjoyable Stormy Night by Carol Isbister

Peter Cruikshank

One of the 1st Writes in class assignments was to write a story that begins like all of Snoopy's stories--"It was a dark and stormy night."

It was a dark and stormy night.  The rain pounded against the window panes tapping out a strange song for all to hear.  Inside the warm log cabin where we were staying, the fireplace crackled its warmth and flickered dancing shadows on the walls.  A feeling of peace and contentment pervaded our hearts, even as the wind howled like a lone wolf around the corners of the cabin.

We huddled together in colorful blankets and watched the fire dance in our faces. Without words, we united together as one, sharing this unique experience.  A sweet bonding took place and we felt gratitude for the storm outside and the protection and warmth within.  We had each other and were content as we laughed and teased each other playfully.

My granddaughter Rachael discovered an old deck of cards in a dark closet, and under the blankets, drinking hot cocoa, we played crazy eights, old maid, and fish until our eyelids began to droop.  What a fun time we had.  At last we had to crawl under the bed covers and get some much needed rest.  The sleep was sweet and we awoke refreshed.

The dark and stormy night was long forgotten as the sun smiled brightly and the birds sang us a special good morning.  The night was past and it was bright and happy day!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Scripture and Writing: Week 8


For those of you who can't join us in person, we offer the next best thing -- a blog version of our lesson, so that you can do it at home. This series is called: Scripture & Writing.

This week's lesson prepared by Dawn M. Hamsher


Prayer: Lord, help us to see the world around us as you would have us see it. Let us use the senses you gave us to record experiences and then share them with others. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Scripture Reading: Revelation 1:19 
Now write down everything you see: things that are, things about to be.


In context, Jesus is telling John to write down everything he sees in his spirit-visit. He is being given an assignment to write down prophecy. Out of context, the message is observe and record everything. 

1. Why would you want to observe and record everything as a writer? How can this help your writing?

2. Give examples of spiritual observations and secular ones.

3. Read these scriptures. Why is description important?
    Revelation 21:10-12, 1 Kings 7:2-3, Ezekiel 27:24
4What senses should be used when observing?
5. How could you incorporate observing and recording into your daily life?

Tips for Observing and Recording – for Writing:

1. Be Prepared – Take a notebook and pen with you wherever you go. You never know when you will see something you want to capture.

2. Sit and Focus – Find a place you can sit comfortably. Focus on the object or situation.

3. Use all your senses - What do you see and hear? Is there a smell*? What does it feel like (touch or emotions)?
*Smell can be a powerful sense that often gets overlooked in writing. See bottom of page for all the memories that came to me from smelling just one smell.

4. Record – Jot down notes quickly because the moment might pass and you want to get as much information as possible. Then add date, location, time of year, scenery, etc.

5. Reflect and Expand – When you have time, reflect on what you’ve observed and expand on it. Does it make you think of something from your past? Could you use it for a current piece of writing? If not, save it. Consider a filing system of observations that you could pull from at a later date.

One Wonderful Smell 
by Dawn M. Hamsher

There was a smell. It was like rotten cheese mixed with garbage. I caught a whiff of it as I walked past an alley in downtown Charleston (S.C.), heading back to my college campus. I backed up so I could continue breathing it in. Memories flooded back from Italy, where I had lived in the fourth grade. 

Trying to eat hard Panini roll hamburgers. Adopting the stray Italian dog, only to find out he already had an Italian family. Laughing to see a goat wander into my friend’s house and then go up their stairs. Being chased by a cow. Living in hotels for months. Eating rum cake every night. Taking the ferry boat to school. Seeing the rocky coast line and scraggy cork trees. Snorkeling in the crystal clear water while watching out for sea urchins. Dipping ants in chocolate and eating them in the school yard. Learning what a Bidet was. Watching my mom carry all the American conveniences in her purse like toilet paper, ketchup, and salad dressing. Having to go to Spain to get my braces and headgear put on. Helping my dad develop photos in his darkroom. Riding in the Riley with its steering wheel on the wrong side. Buying leather and blown glass in the market. Playing Italian Monopoly with my dad every night after the power went off at seven o’clock.
All those memories --from one wonderful smell.