Writing Words of Influence

IMG_20180213_094228625 (2)Our theme for this semester in Equip Her is “bold words.” While it often takes a lot of courage to share our spoken words, I’ve found sharing my written words can be equally as daunting. This past Tuesday Morning, I was privileged to interview a few of our newest writers to the blog. Jeanne Johnson and Mary Wenzl were contributors during our Advent Series in December, and Bethany Bettenhausen helped us out last summer during our Thrive Series. Here’s what they had to say about writing bold words of influence:

Kathy: What prompted you to use your words in this way? Was it difficult for you to make that decision?

Jeanne: I had written a monthly blog for several years for the church I attended while living in Omaha, and I enjoyed doing that. I also did a lot of writing for my job with LAMP, a mission organization located in Canada. All of my writing came to a stop when I moved to Lincoln. I quit my job and left my church. I know God has given me the ability to write, and I want to continue to use that gift to bring Him glory.

Bethany: I was interested in writing for the blog because as a mom of a five year old, three year old and one year old, I am limited in some areas of service, but this was something I could do. I have always enjoyed writing so this seemed like potentially a good fit.  It wasn’t too difficult to decide to give it a try because it was something I prayed about, and I wrote in the summer which was a one-time commitment. Also, Kathy is so helpful and patient!

Mary: I was intrigued by the idea of writing a blog.  I have taught some in the ministry Celebrate Recovery, and have enjoyed getting up in front of people speaking on different subjects. I found out that I can be an effective speaker with God’s help, so I wondered if I could also write. It was difficult to make the decision to write my first blog.  I thought about it for over a year before I agreed to do the first one, and actually followed through with the writing!  The subject, Jesus as the Prince of Peace, has special meaning for me, so I was hoping the blog would “write itself.”

Kathy: How did God’s Word direct you as you wrote for the blog?

Jeanne: My topic was Mighty God. I have seen God do so many amazing things in my life and the lives of others, which is why I wanted to blog on this theme. However, I can blog all of the eloquent, meaningful words in the world, but if I don’t have God’s Word to give credence to my testimony, then my blogging is pointless. I see His Word coming alive in my life, and I want to share that with others, and help them think about things that He has been doing in their lives as well.

Bethany: I prayed a lot as I thought about what God might have me say. I feel like as I prayed over the blog, God brought His Word to my mind. God’s Word is so important in directing what we say because without it, it’s just our thoughts and opinions.

Mary: I started out by praying for God’s direction in my writing and my research.  I wanted to be a vehicle God could use for His voice, and it was my intent to give encouragement to at least one person who would read my blog.  I took several days to write the blog, and, whenever I sat down to work on it I prayed for guidance and inspiration.

Kathy: What would you say are the differences between influencing others through writing as opposed to influencing face-to-face? Any similarities?

Jeanne: One of the major differences about influencing others when writing is you should strive to present a well-written, grammatically correct article. While it seems like a minor thing to some, many people are turned off by a difficult-to-read article, or even one that contains simple errors. If you write without having done proper research and editing, the things you are trying to share are not taken seriously. When speaking face-to-face, you don’t really have the ability to research (except if you google) or edit, which can be a downfall. When writing, you can more fully think about your subject, and possibly be led to write something you would never have thought of saying. You can’t take words back when speaking–there is no delete button–nor can you add in words you wish you had spoken. (You can tell I’m a writer and not a speaker.)

With speaking, there is a greater opportunity for you to establish a relationship with the person or people you are speaking to. You also have the advantage of using facial expressions and other movements to emphasize your point. Speaking is immediate; writing takes time. But, the ability to influence people can happen both through writing and by speaking with someone.

Bethany: In some ways, writing feels a lot “safer” than speaking in front of everyone because you can carefully plan out what you want to “say” and then it is what it is; whereas, speaking up front includes a less certain delivery. However, one downside would be that you don’t get as much feedback with your writing, so it’s hard to know who actually read what you wrote and if it made any difference.

Mary: Writing out my thoughts gives the potential to reach more people than just talking face-to-face. Face-to-Face is very personal, and I get immediate feedback from people from their reactions, and can mold what I say next.  Both writing and speech require the same intensity of research and thought processing, but writing allows me more time to review and change how and what I express.

Kathy: What was the hardest part about writing for the blog?

Jeanne: Getting started. That blank page of paper is the worst!

Bethany: The hardest part about writing for the blog was refining all my thoughts and the Bible verses that came to mind and trying to condense them into a short piece that might resonate with someone else. I prayed a lot about my post.

Mary: GETTING STARTED was the hardest part.  Once I finally started working on it, the words flowed.  I had hoped they would flow easily, but sometimes I did struggle with how to phrase a thought.  Prayer was the answer to allow me to write my thoughts down in the way I hoped would be meaningful to others.

Kathy: What advice would you give others who would like to use their written words to influence others but don’t know where to start?

Jeanne: There are so many different ways to get started. I began writing by journaling. I never thought that I would be a writer, but I have a passionate desire to help others know God and want more of Him in their lives. (I also have a lot of stories of things I’ve seen God do.) My first writing was in 6th grade, when I wrote on the Life of Jesus. These days, you can have a blog of your own (I’ve had a couple). You can keep your thoughts private if you would like while you get started, but if you feel you have something to say, you should share it. And then listen for feedback. It’s important, especially when getting started, to have a person or two whom you know have some writing or editing skills look over your paper, just for another set of eyes to double-check for things. This has saved me (and been my downfall when I skipped this stage) a few times!  Just do it!

Bethany: I’d say pray about it, and if you feel God leading you to write, give it a try. We are fortunate to have great resources like Kathy and the other members of the women’s ministry team. You never know how God might choose to use your words, spoken or written, to touch someone else.

Mary: Start by praying about it. Let God speak to you, because writing a blog gives God an opportunity to speak through you in the form of written words that can reach people who are outside of your normal circle of influence. You have something to say that will help others in their journey of life. Maybe the person who would most benefit by reading what you have to say isn’t in your circle of influence, so you need to cast a wider net by writing down your thoughts, opinions and life experiences. BE BOLD, and willing to share your own experiences in life because it will make other people feel less alone in whatever they are struggling with in life.

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