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Sunday, August 09, 2015


by Cynthia Ruchti

On the hunt for a new fold-up lawn chair, all I found were school supplies. The aisles of the store had been stripped of summer and in its place--back-to-school.

As it is for most novelists, seeing school supplies fill the aisles isn't an entirely unpleasant experience. It's a candy shop of notebooks, journals, folders, pens, pencils... A nod to our insatiable cravings for learning and office supplies.

Even though it's been a number of years since I filled my children's backpacks with school supplies--Just a number, okay?--and decades longer ago when it was me drooling over new pencils and erasers and 64-pack Crayons, I still feel my pulse increase at the thought of fresh supplies.

But this is the picture that had the strongest impact on me when I left the store and raided my desk drawer for pencils for a recent let's-do-longhand-on-legal-paper-for-brainstorming session.

Why did it speak to me?

Most of the pencil options were unable to be put into service for their intended purpose. Two had never been sharpened. Brand new, beautiful, wood-and-graphite smelling pencils--useless unless sharpened.

Four others had once had a point now dulled. They could make smudges rather than crisp lines, and using them meant risking tears in the paper.

Another had enough of a point to write a few words, but a short lifespan. And it was harder to hold.

Only the mechanical pencil could meet the need both long-term and short-term, useful immediately, and promising a nice long brainstorming session. As long as it was filled, it would always have a point.

I think you see my point. As long as I am filled, I'll have a point.

Jesus expressed it this way: "You can't produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can't do anything," John 15:4-5 Common English Bible.

Technology and tablets (the electronic kind) and laptops aside, we see ourselves in that array of pencils, don't we? Some of us have a gift for writing, but have failed to sharpen it. So it sits--looking nice, new, shiny--in the drawer. It has a pencil's worth of potential. It can prop up a limp houseplant. But it will never realize its intended potential unless it's sharpened by education, training, mentoring, study, critique, contests...

Some of us were once sharp. The fact that we're worn down is a testament to our earlier usefulness. But we haven't been resharpened, our point fine-tuned, for too long. Is it time for a writers' retreat? A conference? Or a Jesus-and-the-writer getaway?

Some of us are the ever-sharp pencils, but hollow. Empty. In desperate need of refilling so we can accomplish our intended purpose and honor God with the words that come out of us. Then we'll produce much fruit, the Bible says--if we remain in Him and He remains in us. Abiding.

With which pencil do you most closely identify? Did you read the fine print on the flyleaf of the Bible? "Also serves as a great pencil sharpener."

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. Her current releases are the novel As Waters Gone By, nonfiction Tattered and Mended: The Art of Healing the Wounded Soul, and the soon-to-release An Endless Christmas. Let her know how you're being sharpened for your designed purpose in the comments section or by contacting her through


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