by Suzie Eller
Over the past five years COMPEL has hosted several devotional challenges. Our in-box is flooded with entries and we love reading them. However, our team noticed that many of our writers started strong. They hooked us! They shared an interesting tie-in to scripture. Then it fell flat at the end.
Some ended abruptly and it felt like riding down a nice road only to slam into a brick wall. Others ended vaguely or rabbit-trailed. Some ended with a scripture references or a nice, inspirational bow, but it felt tacked on.
In this Tuesday Tip (and next week’s), we are going to explore several ways to end your devotion, article, or essay strong.
For reference, I’m going to use actuals samples of Encouragement for Today devotions that have been published over the years. I’ll share a weak ending and then the actual strong ending.
Strong Ending #1: Tie it back to your hook
Begin the article or devotion with an anecdote and tie it up at the end.
Example Devo: Other People Might Think I’m Crazy by Tracie Miles
BEGINNING HOOK: It was a record-setting day, with the temperature reaching three digits. I was on the verge of whining when I saw a frail, exhausted and obviously pregnant woman at the edge of the busy highway, wearing long sleeves and pants that hung from her tiny body.
WEAK ENDING: You should always listen to what God is telling you. Maybe people will think you are crazy, but that could be a good thing for someone else.
ACTUAL STRONG ENDING: How different might the world be today if we allowed God’s whispers to drown out the opinions of naysayers, instead of filling our heads with excuses for not helping? Or if, when God calls us out of our comfort zones, we would put aside our inhibitions and commit to being His hands and feet anyway?
After dropping off this sweet lady at her car with a tank full of gas, she waved at me with a big, thankful smile and quietly uttered the words, “God bless you.”
But in my heart, I knew He already had as His joy swelled within me.
After returning this sweet lady back to her car with a tank full of gas, she waved at me with a big, thankful smile and quietly uttered the words, “God bless you.”
But in my heart, I knew He already had.
Strong Ending #2: Offer a challenge
End with a gentle challenge and doable action steps.
Example Devo: The Dangerous Familiar by Karen Ehman
HOOK: “Aw, come on Mom and Dad, pleeeeease!”
During an afternoon drive, our kids spied a “free kittens” sign and begged for their first real pet. My husband and I caved and pulled into the farmhouse. After weeks of pestering, our offspring had won. We would get a kitten, and they would get the chance to prove they could handle the responsibility.
WEAK ENDING: We’re stronger than cats. We have someone watching out for us. Don’t be a cat. Don’t climb into that familiar place and get all mangled.
STRONG ENDING: And that is just what returning to old habits makes us — weak and miserable.
Determine today to stop hiding out in old destructive habits. Instead, come out into the light of His glorious grace and learn a new method of coping. Race to Him instead of running back to your old ways. His Word is alive and active. It can help us break horrible habits and form new, Jesus-pleasing ones as we reply with a resounding “No” to returning to the dangerous familiar.
Take a look at your current work-in-progress and figure out how you can implement one of Suzie’s tips to create a stronger ending. Leave a comment and let us know which tip you’re going to use: tying the ending back to your hook or offering a challenge. Post an example of your previous sentence and show how you’ve changed it!
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I need to practice and become better at both, but my beginnings are always terrible and my endings, while the usually tie back to the beginning are probably much weaker than I realize. That’s the thing about being new. You don’t know what you don’t know.
[…] Previous ArticleHow to End Strong (Part 1) […]
I tried my hand at this lesson this morning and am open to feedback. Mine is a loop back to the main point.
LOST AND FOUND
January 21, 2019
Have you ever frantically raced to leave the house for an appointment only to be stopped by a missing purse, keys, or set of gloves? Yesterday as I set out to walk to my eye appointment in the cold winter morning, I bundled up with coat, hat, scarf and boots and then reached for my gloves, but they were no where to be found. The more I looked, the more frustrated I got, mumbling unkind words to myself.
This crazy morning brought to mind another time when we were camping with our daughter and grandsons at a Mossy Rock Lake in Washington State. The boys, ages 2 and 6 had been playing in the tent and our daughter was making breakfast in the kitchen of our trailer, when suddenly it seemed too quiet and we realized our 2 year old was no where to be found. Our hearts were panicked and we immediately thought the worst and imagined him in the lake or lost in the woods. We frantically searched and soon the entire park of campers left what they were doing to join the search. And yet, we found no little boy. Trembling and praying that he would be found, we returned to camp and heard a small sweet voice inside the closed bathroom door, gleefully playing and oblivious to our distress. He was there all along, we just did not know where to look.
Our Lord seeks us as earnestly. When we stray, He cares intimately and will seek us at great cost. He knows exactly where to look. How much we are like lost sheep gone astray, oblivious to our error, not even knowing we are lost.
(Matthew 18:12-14) If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
He cares so much for us that He bought us with great price so we could be reconciled to Him. (Isaiah 53:6) We all, like sheep have gone astray, each for us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Sometimes we are like my grandson, oblivious to the furtive seeking of the Lord, other times hopelessly lost like a pair of missing gloves. Or we can be simply lost, afraid, and crying out to Him for help. In all these circumstances the Lord still calls us patiently, lovingly, tenaciously. We can trust that He is there to guide us home, to heal our hurts, to direct our paths. We simply need to seek Him and He is there. (Jeremiah 29:13) You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Yes God will seek us when we our lost, and yet he wants us to seek him with fervor as well, more fervently than we seek a missing glove, more fervently than we seek a missing child.
Lord, help me remember to stay near you always, to not wander in my own folly but to seek you as my Good Shepherd; I know then that I am never lost. In your precious Name, Amen.
Postscript: Oh yes, I found my gloves two days later, hidden in a carrying bag, right where I left them last. How like me this is, sometimes hiding away from the Lord while He lovingly seeks me and draws me back to Him.
I Peter 2:25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
The weaker endings weren’t necessarily bad, but I felt they lacked that personal touch the stronger endings possessed. They were more generic and they seemed, to me, almost like an afterthought. It’s important to open ourselves up the reader. We can connect with them on a deeper level. Unfortunately, and this includes myself, this can be hard sometimes.
While the weaker ending may seem made up, these are similar to endings that were submitted in the devotion challenges. Those same devotions had strong hooks and powerful application. They just fizzled at the end.
I think a lot of times it may be easier for some writers to write that weak ending because it gives the reader what they want to hear so to speak. They want to feel warm and fuzzy. But those stronger endings in many ways challenges the reader to look deeper into their own situations. As writers, we should feel comfortable challenging and getting the reader to open up. To do this, we have to take an internal look on if we are comfortable being challenged and opening up in our own lives. I look at it as stretching outside of our comfort zone.