Friday, June 24, 2011

Winner of Benevolence by Teena M. Stewart

Winner of the book, Benevolence: Ministering to the Poor and Needy by Teena M. Stewart, is Lorlynn! And I also drew a second winner whom I will send a copy of the book to, as well, is Christa! Look for my email asking for your addresses.

Do go check out Teena's book and do consider donating to or visiting Java Journey. Find ways to be benevolent in your life!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Benevolence: Ministering to the Poor and Needy--Do You Have the Tools Necessary?

Teena has been my long time friend and critique partner, as well as someone who has co-authored columns with me. We have been in a group of friends/writers for many years and know each other's secrets, pains and joys. Not only is she gifted in many areas of writing and art, but she and her pastor husband, Jeff, have been involved with ministries their whole married life and now are running the innovative Java Journey, a coffee house ministry in Hickory, North Carolina full of life, art, music and people. If you're in the neighborhood, do stop by! (Tell 'em Crystal sent you!) 
She just published another book with Beacon Hill Press called Benevolence: Ministering to the Poor and Needy, and she also will give away a copy to one commentator here, which I will draw from on this blog. Leave your questions and comments below and your contact email and this weekend I'll draw one name to give to Teena (she will send it out early next month.) If you have trouble posting, email me at crystal.mrsinewaATgmailDOTcom with your email and comment and I'll enter you and send your comment to Teena. YOU MUST sign your comment if sent by email. Please leave your email on comments below.

Many people want to help others, but do not always have the know-how of what to do. Ministry or benevolence teams go through many starts and stutters, burning out in the process, and Teena has much experience in how to avoid pitfalls and well-intentioned mishaps. This book will help you, your church or group to find ways to minister in effective and healthy ways. I asked her some questions to help us to understand just what it's all about.
Author and My Friend, Teena M. Stewart

In Benevolence, Teena Stewart shows us how to start a benevolence reserve in a church, helps us recognize charity opportunities, considers how different ministries can work together, and gives us ideas on how to manage those benevolence opportunities and ministries. With this book, learn everything you need to know about starting and keeping a ministry going.

Teena realizes, and points out in this book, that benevolence is a practiced, harnessed skill and one that needs accountability, and will change our lives. The truth is that we do have the capabilities, organization, and passion to start a benevolence ministry; it's just a matter of keeping it.

Crystal:  What motivated you to write this book?

Teena: At the time this book was conceived I was on staff at Northgate Christian Fellowship Church in the San Francisco Bay area. I saw the needs of the hurting and broken as they came in or called in and how they were handled.  I also helped organize a special event where we coordinated multiple opportunities for our church members to get involved in area charities and service projects. I learned volumes.

People often want to help the needy or local charities but do not know who to help, or how to go about it in a healthy way. Individuals might give money to someone in need in order to cleanse their conscience but without thought to whether it will truly help them or not. I am a natural encourager and equipper and I wanted to share my knowledge regarding how individuals and churches could have a positive impact on helping hurting people.

CLM:  Why should we care about the poor and needy?

TMS:  Many people claim to follow the teachings of Christ. A sign of Christian maturity is our willingness to look beyond our own needs to care for the needs of others. Scripture references more than 2,000 passages regarding the poor and needy.  Giving back is clearly important to God.  
Teena (third from left) has been a part of service and ministry since she was small. This is Teena's Baptist GA group as a young girl

CLM:  What has your present work for a women’s rescue mission taught you about helping the needy?

TMS:  I have worked in a number of capacities at Safe Harbor Rescue Mission in Hickory, NC, most currently as their Resource Warehouse and Gallery Director. The experience has been amazing. I’ve learned so many things. First, that sometimes people have landed in difficult life circumstances because they had no choice. Some have had really difficult upbringings. In other cases it is because of poor choices. Sometimes they remain broken or in need because of emotional illness or physical disabilities. It has taught me to look at the underprivileged and hurting with new eyes. It used to be I would see a homeless person and think, “why don’t you just get a job?” Now I look at them and consider the myriad of things that may have brought them to that point.  I’ve also learned how many hands it takes to turn one life around.

CLM:  Tell us a little more about your book.

TMS:  I spent a lot of time interviewing different people involved in benevolence ministry for this book. So you will find those accounts in the book. The book also includes advice for developing benevolence teams and boards, sample mission statements of charitable ministries, guidelines, policies and procedures for handling benevolence needs, resources, outreach ideas, promotional ideas. It also has an appendix of benevolence resources, and chapter questions to help readers reflect on best benevolence practices related to benevolence ministry.

CLM What is the exact book title and where can people purchase it?

Benevolence: Ministering to the Poor and Needy by Teena M. Stewart
TMS:  It is called Benevolence: Ministering to the Poor and Needy by Teena M. Stewart (Beacon Hill, 2011) and you can find it at most book stores including online entities such as or on the Nazarene Press website .( It is available after June 1, 2011.)

 TEENA M. STEWART has served in ministry leadership for years, most recently at Northgate Christian Fellowship in Benicia, California and at Java Journey Coffee Shop Ministry in Hickory, North Carolina  where she and her husband, Jeff, an ordained minister, currently serve in market place ministry. Stop in for discussions on all of life's issues and a good cup of coffee your way!
Teena's published articles have appeared in Leadership, Discipleship Journal, Ministry Magazine and many other publications. Book credits include Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice (Beacon Hill), co-authoring The World's Easiest Pocket Guide to Money and Marriage with Jeff Stewart and Larry Burkett and contributions to several anthologies, most recently Follow Your Dreams (Thomas Nelson.)

For more info on Teena's writing visit where she has also designed logos for writers, web sites and can do any writing services.

Teena is also an artist and jewelry designer. Visit her art website at I happen to own several of her jewelry pieces, which are beautiful! Do go check this out and do contact Teena if you'd like to commission a piece of jewelry or art.

In addition, she has used her administrative and creative skills to oversee and launch Safe Harbor Rescue Mission's Resource Warehouse and Gallery.

The Java Journey 2011 from Jeff Stewart on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

First Lines and How They Get Your Readers

My latest WIP and opening line

First lines. Who loves them? Sometimes we've been told to wait until you've written the whole book before writing that opening.And yes, it could mean the difference between a rejection from an editor or agent, or a request for a whole manuscript. So, I think about this often for not just my manuscripts, but also anyone's manuscript that comes across my desk.

Noah Lukeman has a whole chapter about adjectives/adverbs in his book, The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.He talks about overuse and how you do not want to pepper your manuscript with them. He says just cut them. But he also says to replace common ones with unusual ones. Get ones that draw attention. Strengthen your nouns and verbs. Or substitute a comparison, analogy or metaphor. Use this advice for your opening lines, too.

I decided to look at some books I pulled off my shelf. Try it with your favorite authors, too. Mary Connealy is one of my favorite authors and here are some openings of her books:

Montana Rose: "Cassie wanted to scream, Put down that shovel!"

Petticoat Ranch: "Sophie heard God in every explosion of thunder as she listened to the awesome power of the approaching storm."

Petticoat Ranch was one of her early books. Montana Rose came later. Can you see a difference in the openings?

This is from Gingham Mountain: "Martha had an iron rod where most people had a backbone."

She sure can tell a story and she pulls me in every time. I'm anxious to get into some I haven't been able to read yet because I've been doing a lot of judging and book reviews for magazines.

Can you choose a book to share from the opening? I think writers often choose books differently than just straight readers. We have a whole set of criteria that intrudes into our selection process. So tell me, does a first line or opening scene clench the choice? Or is it something else? Here are some others I pulled from the shelf. Do any of these grab you or would it be the author or genre that would be your first criteria?

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson (Blood of Kings Book 1):
"Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic."

Missing Max by Karen Young:
" They say people have a premonition about calamity before it strikes. But Jane Madison felt only irritation when her cell phone rang as she waited in the Mardi Gras crowd to order shrimp po' boys."

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell:
"'Get dressed, Clara. In your visiting costume. We are going out.' My aunt's words were at once both commanding and precise--as precise as her posture: a series of ninety-degree angles, seated upon one of my bedroom chairs."

Almost Forever by Deborah Raney:
"Bryn drew the queen of diamonds from the stack of playing cards on the wobbly table between her and Charlie Branson. The grizzled Vietnam vet eyed her from his wheelchair as she discarded an ace."

A Woman Called Sage by DiAnn Mills:
"Life didn't get any better than having the love of a good man and his baby kicking against her ribs. Add a summer breeze to cool the heart of a southern Colorado sun and a bed of soft green grass tickling her feet, and Sage felt a slice of heaven had come to earth."

Lukeman points out these things that could draw a rejection for your manuscript: (And realize that he is speaking about the first five pages:)
1. A weak opening hook.
2. Overuse of adjectives and adverbs.
3. Flat or forced metaphors or similes.
4. Melodramatic, commonplace or confusing dialogue.
5. Uneven pacing and lack of progression.

While openings are only one portion of the entire manuscript, you usually only get one shot at the first few pages to attract attention. Here's the other thing we didn't talk about yet--sometimes the opening which caught the agent/editor's eye to start will get changed before it's published. (Yeah, it happens. Go figure!)

All this isn't written in stone, but seeing many openings of published books shows you how it has been done by those who are published. When you pick up a book in the bookstore, Steve Laube, a bookstore manager-turned-editor-turned agent, says you only have a scant few seconds to capture that reader before he puts down your book and picks up the next one. There is something to writing that opening paragraph. Once you've written your book, go back and look over your opening with fresh eyes before sending it out. Get Lukeman's book and work on his exercises. Run your opening past a few people who know nothing about your book to test it.

Are you trying to pick your next book to read? Want to entice us with your own book (published or unpublished?) Throw out a few sentences to let us pick!Throw us the opening sentence or especially if you're trying to decide.

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman is a book for every writer's shelf, so be sure to get a copy.

See my posts at Hoosier Ink, along with other Hoosier Writers.

Those Opening Lines