Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Committed to the Call - Tracy Krauss

I am always amused when I hear people say, “Oh, I’d like to write a book someday,” as if writing a book is something they can just decide to do when the mood strikes. My question is, “Do you write right now?” If the answer is ‘No’ then their chances of actually writing that book are slim.

You see, in my experience, writing isn’t something you glibly pick up because you have nothing better to do. Writers write – they can’t help themselves. It’s like asking a fish not to swim or a dog not to wag its tail. It's just something we do.

When I considered this month’s prompt on commitment, it got me thinking about committing to writing as a ministry. First and foremost, as Christians we must be committed to God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38

But what about using our writing as a way to love and serve God with our whole hearts, souls and minds?

There are many who feel that Christians who write have a calling on their lives much like that of a missionary or a pastor. I whole-heartedly agree. Our words can minister, encourage, teach and exhort - even if we're not writing devotional books. I am primarily a fiction author, and I've been blessed to receive reader feedback telling me how one book or another met a need, or encouraged someone. I’ve had readers tell me that they lent or gave copies of a book to a friend because they felt the intrinsic message would be just what that person needed to hear. What a blessing! I thank God that He has seen fit to use my humble offerings in this way.

This kind of feedback has often come at just the right time in my life, as well. It's easy to get discouraged about low book sales or a bad review. Sometimes the negative voices in my head tell me my words are meaningless and shallow, and it's pointless to continue. Then God sends a little word of encouragement in the form of an email, note, or comment online. Someone's words encourage the crafter of words and I remember that I'm not in this writing thing for the short term. I'll be writing to an audience of one with or without sales or reviews.

God has called each of us to serve Him in our own unique way. Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing. Instead, commit yourself to the writing work that God has given you to do and let Him do the rest. 

Tracy Krauss writes from her home in British Columbia. She has been blessed to see several plays, novels, short stories, and other work in print. http://tracykrauss.com




Saturday, May 23, 2015

Three Reasons I Keep Coming Back to Write Canada



The Teaching

I don’t have a university degree in English. I don’t have the time or resources to go back to school right now. In fact, for the most part I guess you could say I’m self-taught writer—no pun intended. But one thing I do is attend Write Canada. Every year I embrace the opportunity to learn from some of the best writing teachers in North America. I’ve learned about writing, self-editing, promotion, professionalism, and career building—all in small, comfortable classes where faculty take the time to answer my questions and learn my name. And through the mentoring I’ve received as a Write Canada volunteer I have gained skills and experience I would never have managed on my own.




The Networking

By nature I’m a shy person. Write Canada has given me a safe place to grow. At Write Canada I’ve learned how to approach and connect with industry professionals and grow a career. The confidence I’ve built through this process has positively impacted all areas of my life. Never, never would I have imagined that one day I would dare speak to, let alone stand and laugh with such Christian writing greats as Ted Dekker.








The Support

Writing can be lonely. But at Write Canada I have made friends—the kind of friends that will last a lifetime. They’re fellow writers who understand my struggles. They celebrate my successes and mourn my disappointments with me. They pray for me. And I am honoured to do the same for them. Because of the community I joined by attending Write Canada, I know I am truly never alone.






God has used Write Canada to make me the person I am today. Let Him use Write Canada to shape your life, too.

Don't wait. If you haven't already--Register Today! Write Canada 2015.




Jayne E. Self is Director Write Canada 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

She Laughs in the Face of Fear-by Heidi McLaughlin


The nausea was relentless. As if that wasn’t enough; my heart was pounding like a jack hammer and I felt light headed and disoriented. Claws of fear clutched at my throat and heart. This ugly fear was determined to stop me dead in my tracks and sabotage my first big speaking engagement. I believed with all my heart that God had prepared me and orchestrated this weekend Conference for me to inspire hundreds of women to become the women of influence that God had created them to be. Yet, here I was the one disabled and fearful and not able to step into this divine God appointed opportunity.

I decided to take a long, hot shower; perhaps that would stop my beating heart. As the searing hot water hit me from all angles it became glaringly clear to me; fear was the invisible enemy determined to stop me from bringing messages of love and hope and cross our wonderful nation of Canada. Then I got angry and declared out loud, “Fear, you are not going to steal my joy. I declare in the powerful name of Jesus that I will not give in to this fear but instead I will boldly go into the Conference and speak with a Godly confidence, and joy. I will not let the enemy of fear sabotage my God given appointment.” My heart stopped its persistent beating, and with a new resolve I dressed in a snappy outfit and stepped out into the world with confidence and joy.  


That shower monologue was a defining, hallmark moment for me. I saw fear for what it was; an invisible rehearsal of a negative future trying to stop me from fulfilling my God given purpose. Fear is a deceitful, enemy that can make us feel powerless. If we don’t recognize it and learn to “walk through it”; it can stop us from fulfilling our purpose in life and all those wonderful things God has available to us for our pleasure and fulfillment.

If you and I are going to be God influencers we need to learn to identify fear. Yes, there is good fear; the kind that tells us to look both ways before crossing the street; but there is a slavish fear that the bible says, “that spirit is not given us of God.”[1] Slavish fear is the kind that paralyzes our imagination, robs us of our self-respect and swallows up our purpose in life. I choose to be a woman of influence as described in the bible: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” (Prov. 31:25 NLT).

What are you afraid of? It is very empowering and healthy to write down all our fears; look them in the eye and tell them that they will no longer have any power over you. Beyond our fear lies our greatest power. Instead, look to God and ask Him to give you the strength to push through that fear, so that you can move into becoming that beautiful woman of influence I believe you were designed to be.


Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends. You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca


[1] Heidi McLaughlin, Sand to Pearls: Making BOLD Choices to Enrich Your Life (Sisters, Oregon: Deep River Books, 2010), 149.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SING, SOUL, AND WRITE by Susan Harris


To what would we have turned in our low times had David had not written about his experiences?

When he was down, David created songs and poems to encourage himself, to take his soul back to that place of quiet in God. In Psalm 43:5 he speaks to his soul: "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (NIV)

David's words, the Psalms, have taken gazillions to the highest place of worship they have experienced. The Psalms comfort, lead and offer hope.

A few days ago I was feeling discouraged. I could hardly wait for my husband to get home so I could recount in detail the unfairness that had befallen me, and absorb more of the sympathy that had already travelled through his text messages and brief phone calls. Until then, I had hours to lie on my bed and rehash the goings-on of the day.  
But the Lord had plans other than self-pity, so He brought Psalm 32:3 to my mind. "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long" (NIV).

I was surrounded by silence. And contemplation. If silence ate at David's bones and rendered him desolate, would it not do the same to mine? Crush my energy and zeal to powder so that I'd become weak and bitter? Silence was my enemy, and doing nothing was its right-hand man.


The nudge was gentle but I was as convicted as if I had done the most heinous crime. I must combat this silence and encourage my soul. I went into my bathroom with its three-way mirror where there was no hiding. “Lord, restore my joy. I don't want to replay anything that’s past, in my mind.” Then I watched my reflection, hair slightly tousled from lying down, makeup still intact from dressing for the said episode that had induced the injustice, and I spoke to myself, “Soul, let’s sing to the Lord.”

Literally, in about five seconds energy burst within me and the listlessness evaporated. I turned to YouTube and searched for the worship songs that were bubbling in my spirit. My themes that evening were on Alpha and Omega, He Who Is And Is To Come, my Heavenly Father and Omnipotent Saviour, God My Creator. While the songs played, I opened my computer and typed the details of the incident, then transcribed a story about my cat that I had recorded as a voice memo on my phone on the same day the incident occurred.

The themes that revived me may not mean a fig to you, and the timeframe may be longer. But the songs of YOUR heart will combat discouragement that threatens to steal your peace, your confidence in yourself, God and in people around you. Be like David and create your psalms. And write. For as his words were health to his bones and ours, your words will heal both you and another.
(Background photo credit above - Free Digital Photos)

SUSAN HARRIS is the author of six books and her work has appeared in several other publications.

http://susanharris.ca

http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Harris/e/B007XMP4QS/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/1-Minute-Prayer/368981386624849

https://www.facebook.com/SusanHarrisCanadianAuthor

https://twitter.com/SusanHarris20

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Great Day—Thirty Years in the Making

At the close of the day as I am settling into bed, I like to review the events of the day. I enjoy recalling all that has taken place. Usually there are many things to thank God for. I ask myself what I have accomplished. If the list of completed tasks is long, I feel particularly gratified. If the list is short and I feel overwhelmed with unfinished work, rest may not come as easily.
                Last night as I lay my head on the pillow I had a lot to be thankful for. The day had been full of accomplishments. The work day began with a twenty minute taxi ride from our former home in Nagakute, Japan to Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya. Arriving early, my wife and I had time for a relaxed prayer time in the Bible Garden and a short stroll about campus in the morning sunshine.

                Soon enough it was time to deliver my ‘guest lecture’ to about thirty students in Professor Kawahara’s translation class. What a lot of fun that was! It began with me doing a storytelling of my book, Little Froggy Explores the BIG World. That’s always loads of fun with lots of actions and amusing sounds to make. That was followed by an explanation of how Little Froggy was born in Japan, raised in Canada and was turned into a picture book there. Finally, there was a question and answer session. The university students had many fascinating questions about how to translate this book into Japanese. My wife, Karen, was able to help when I was stumped by a few questions.
After thirty years Little Froggy had returned home to Japan at last where his story was being translated into Japanese. What an honour!

                The entire visit to Kinjo Gakuin University was a superb experience. Visiting with Professor Kawahara and two of his graduate students after class was a special treat. Later we caught a ride home with Matthew Taylor, who I had led to the Lord as a young man more than thirty years ago while we were living here in Japan. It was great to see him and listen to his heart and his struggles as he has remained faithful to the Lord while living in Japan ever since that time. The Lord has kept him through thick and thin.
                We spent the evening in worship at the Christian Life midweek service. A guest speaker from Israel gave a praise report about how the Japanese church is building bridges between Christians and Jewish immigrants to Israel. What an amazing example of the gospel at work in the world across cultures!

                At the close of the service a woman approached me to say I had been the reason she came to Christian Life Church thirty years ago. She heard of me due to a one-time visit to an English class. Later she tried to search me out, but I had already returned to Canada. In a small way I had been instrumental in her coming to faith and I had no knowledge of her story until last night. 
                As I closed my eyes, I had so much to be thankful for. Sometimes a great day is thirty years in the making. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Commitment Rewarded Ruth Smith Meyer


“It’s so nice to hear you read again,” Irene whispered after my bi-weekly reading at the Seniors Day Centre.  That comment warms my heart and verifies the value of my hour spent with five to eight participants.  Several of the faithful ones are extra thankful for my readings because they can no longer see well enough to read. They all enjoy the expression of my reading voice and the enthusiasm I portray.
Usually I start off with an inspirational clip I’ve gleaned from magazines or from the internet, or perhaps a few jokes or humourous stories. At first I used only short stories, pieces from old readers or whatever I could find that would be of interest to them.  I included some of my own writings and articles.  When they found out I had written books, they asked if I would read those to them too.  I was concerned that with reading only every other week, they wouldn’t remember where I left off. They soon nixed that misconception!  When I asked if they remembered where we left off, they were quite able to tell me. In fact when I lost my book mark one week, and by mistake started where I had read the time before, they soon let me know they had heard that before. 
Two or three chapters at a time, we read the entire book of Not Easily Broken.  They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the life of Ellie and her offspring.  I was going to give them a break and use other materials for a while, but they begged to start on the sequel right away.  Now we’re almost half way through Not Far from the Tree.
The whole experience is not only rewarding to me, but it teaches me over and over again that committing to a few minutes out of our busy schedules can bring such pleasure and satisfaction to others.
This past month has been busy!  With Out of the Ordinary off the press, I have had appearances scheduled over quite a large territory with several large audiences.  Probably the most satisfying one was at the Whitchurch-Stouffville Library.  Since it was close to where I spent the first thirty years of my life, I asked if they would like to host an author’s night to introduce my book to those in my home area.  I had no idea how many people would show up even though I had put the information on my website, facebook page and emailed some friends. Even an hour or two before the time to start, I wondered if many people would show up.  The librarian said she had set up thirty chairs which would be more than ample for the crowds they usually got for that kind of event. People started coming more than a half hour early and they kept coming, and coming.  More, then more chairs were brought in. At least eighty came —school friends from the primary grades to high school chums, neighbours, friends, church friends, relatives, people I knew and some I didn’t—it was almost overwhelming, but oh so gratifying and joyous!  The commitment to writing and going through the publishing process began to be worth it. 
That’s the way it is with commitment.  There’s usually some giving up of  other things we have done with our time, there’s some hard slugging, sometimes we’d like to quit, but if we keep on keeping on, continue the task through the hard or busy times, it comes rolling back with waves of blessing. 


www.ruthsmithmeyer







FEEDBACK—NO BETTER WAY TO GROW



Write Canada is more than a professional networking conference. It’s a safe place where beginning and intermediate writers can learn and grow.

Write Canada provides a number of opportunities where writers can receive honest, constructive positive feedback on their writing. Here are four.


Blue Pencil Manuscript Review
This is a free service we recommend to all beginning and intermediate writers. Bring three pages of your best work to share with a writing professional. During a 15 minute one-on-one session this professional will read your piece and give you honest feedback. This is not meant to be an in-depth critique or a manuscript edit. Fifteen minutes is simply not enough time to offer that. But it will be constructive, verbal feedback based on what you have given them to read. Their comments will be encouraging because their goal is to help you grow as a writer. But they will also be honest because you cannot learn without that.


Intensive Workshops
Designed for intermediate writers—those who have a project completed or close to completion—an intensive workshop is an invaluable learning experience. It ensures you will receive an in-depth, personal critique by the instructor, and from every other participant in your workshop. Everyone will submit a portion of their work ahead of time and everyone—not just the instructor—will review each submission prior to the conference. So when you arrive at Write Canada you will have already gone through the submitted manuscripts, seen what works well & what doesn’t, and noted common strengths & mistakes. In class the instructor will review what’s been submitted and discuss writing techniques that will help each of you strengthen your manuscript.

Although the Fiction Intensive is closed, there’s still time to register for the Creative Non-Fiction Intensive.
https://thewordguild.com/write-canada-reg-part-2/


Open Mic
Thursday and Friday evening there’s an opportunity to read five minutes worth of your writing to an attentive, positive audience of fellow writers. It’s a great way to connect with and support writers just like you, and to build your personal network. Only positive comments are allowed so no need to be shy.


Faculty Appointments & Speed Dating with an Editor
Pitch an idea, pitch a project, or just ask questions. A big part of becoming a successful writer is learning how to present yourself & your ideas, and how to connect with members of your profession. Write Canada brings together writers, editors, publishers and agents so that you can meet them face to face. And new this year: virtual appointments.

So plan ahead, study the faculty bios and websites. Use your appointment times wisely because although these professionals are here to meet you, you will only get one chance to make a first impression. Be sure editors, publishers and agents remember you for the right reasons.

To help you make the most of Speed dating with an Editor, there is a free pre-conference webinar, May 20, 2015, at 2 pm – 3 pm EDT. Sign up today! 
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5677285773863729410


Jayne E. Self is Director Write Canada 2015





Monday, May 11, 2015

We Were So Far Away—Carolyn R. Wilker







On April 7th, I received a message from Kairos, an ecumenical organization dedicated to social justice, from whom I get occasional email updates. The email told me that the formal Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process is coming to a close in Ottawa from May 31 to June 3, 2015. The celebration is to be a legacy for aboriginal and Inuit children who were taken from their homes and placed in residential schools.

I had not known that Inuit children were also involved, but I knew that aboriginal children had been. Children's author Jennifer Maruno addresses the residential school issues in her book Totem, and how some children ran away to go back home. That hurtful initial step of placing the children in the residential schools, and all that followed, goes deep in aboriginal history. 

The Heart Garden
Kairos invited individuals and churches across Canada to plant ‘heart gardens’ and send one to Ottawa for the special ceremony. Kairos intends TRC and the garden as a healing action.

As Christians, we are not separated from issues around us. Rather it is our faith that calls us to be aware of injustice in our world—to show that we care. The title of one set of resources* spoke to me particularly and I chose its title for my post today. That’s also where I found this quote:
“We were far away from home, very far away; emotionally, geographically and spiritually.”
-Marius Tungilik

I felt this project was something even our small Sunday School group could do. We set aside two Sunday mornings—one to decorate the hearts, and the second, to ‘plant’ them into our church garden. Even if we cannot be in Ottawa in person, working on the project is a way to talk about what happened and show love.

The first Sunday was Mother’s Day, and because families were away celebrating the day, those children who usually attend were not present. I laid out markers and pencil crayons on the tables at coffee hour and passed out the hearts to the adults, along with an information sheet about the project. 

One parishioner named Marion said, “There are no children here today, so you’re enlisiting us.”  She grinned.

“Colouring is not just for the children,” I said.

Marion went on, “We’re in our second childhood anyway,” and she laughed and took a heart to colour.

Members made decorative lines and patterns on their heart and others watched and engaged in conversation while they drank their coffee or tea. People read the information and passed it along. Even if only a few decorated hearts, they all learned what the project was about.

I invited others to take home a heart, colour it, and bring it back next week for our garden, and I hope that the children can still make one before the planting. This week, I will select one heart and mail it to Ottawa.

At the reconciliation gathering, Kairos has planned for children of that region to carry hearts in the final ceremony. Even if members of our church do not attend, we will be represented along with other churches across the country.

We will attach the heart flowers to wooden stakes that teachers and children will plant in our church garden beds on the second last Sunday of May. In the act, we will remember that some acts cannot be undone, but we can show empathy for others and strive to do to one another what we want people to do for us.


Note: if you plan to be in Ottawa for the Reconciliation Kairos ceremony or just want to follow the event, you can go here.  If you want to build  your own heart garden, go here.

* from Legacy of Hope Foundation, Aboriginal Healing Foundation and Library and Archives Canada)

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