Friday, November 27, 2015

The Appeal of Hibernation - Tracy Krauss

The notion of hibernation appeals to me, especially when I'm suffering from a lack of sleep, an overload of responsibilities, or looming deadlines. I could learn a thing or two from those species that curl up for the winter in a nice cozy cave. Instead, I tend to take on more and more during the winter months. Teaching full time, an upcoming drama show, making my own Christmas presents, church responsibilities... oh, did I mention I signed up for nanowrimo again this year? Call me crazy, but I'm near the finish line with another 3000 words to go in order to make my 50,000 word deadline in one month. I'm ready for a rest, but that's not going to happen until after the Christmas rush of concerts, dinners, decorating and the like. I feel a little bit like a bear that is waiting for winter.

Interestingly, we had a few real life examples of just such a phenomenon this fall. The weather was unusually mild for an extended period of time in northern BC. This is not something that the residents of the small mountain town where I live would normally complain about. However, Tumbler Ridge had to contend with more than one black bear hanging around waiting for colder weather to hit. Signs were posted around town for at least three weeks straight and bear sightings were a daily occurrence. People were told to keep their small pets indoors, children only played outside in groups, and it was a rare and brave individual who walked alone, especially after dark.

One friend took pictures of the bear tracks in her garden and the scratch marks on her fence. Somehow the bear got into her yard, even though it is enclosed on all sides by a six foot wooden fence. My neighbor two doors down saw a mother and cub in the vacant yard next to theirs. Residents were getting frustrated. They just didn't feel safe.

No measures were taken to trap or relocate the bears, however. It wasn't an isolated incident or just one rogue bear. When you build a town in the middle of a forest, you can expect to share it with the wildlife. A few years ago, a bear had to be shot just five houses down from us because it was hiding under someone's deck and wouldn't come out. Perhaps he thought he'd found the perfect place for his winter's nap. Fortunately, there were no casualties this year and the town is now bear free for several months until springtime.

I'm hoping for some of that same rest and relaxation to hit somewhere around December 26 - just in time for my next contribution to this blog on December 27. 

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published author, artist, playwright, teacher, pastor, worship leader, blogger, speaker, wife, mother, grandmother ...(takes a breath) who is planning to hibernate for exactly one week after Christmas before jumping back into the fray called life. Visit her website at: 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Flying High by Glynis M. Belec

“A wise woman will always let her husband have her way”

      Don’t misunderstand me. Happy Hubby is as red blooded and fearless as the next guy. Im certain he has what it takes to slay any dragon at the drop of his cloak and come to the rescue of his damsel in distress.
      But my dearly beloved is not so fearless when it comes to heights. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s always maintained that we’d have been issued wings with our other appendages if we were meant to defy the force of gravity. The thought of flying does not thrill him. Even climbing a ladder higher than a storey and a half puts the poor guy into a tizzy.
      Imagine my surprise last weekend when that darling man I married suggested we take a helicopter ride. We were behaving like typical tourists at Niagara Falls, seeing the sights and doing a lot of pointing. As we approached the heliport, the van slowed down and we turned into the parking lot. Like hot buttered popcorn, the kids jumped up and down with noisy anticipation.
      “Calm down, guys!” I ordered, noticing Happy Hubby’s smirk. “We’re just going to watch the helicopters for a while.”
      Not for one moment did I suspect my gravity conscious sweetheart would ever suggest taking off.
      “Let’s go for a helicopter ride. We’ll see lots more from up there.”
      “What? Are you sure?” I asked, mouth agape.
      “Close your mouth and bring the kids.”
      By this time the children were ecstatic. I still couldn’t believe it. After all, it was not that long ago, at Santa’s Village, when we went for a ride in the (small, not very scary) Christmas Ball Ferris Wheel. There Poppa Bear sat – the blood slowly draining from his face; perspiration dripping from his brow, and the ride hadn’t even started at that point. But we did appreciate his efforts.
      Flying over the magnificent Falls was going to be an experience for us all (in more ways than one, we later discovered). The kids were thrilled. We waited in line for a few minutes. When our turn came up I will admit that my stomach did a slight flip as we ducked under the great whirling blades.
      Happy Hubby took the front seat while the kids and I slid into the back. A young fellow helped us buckle in and the bearded pilot smiled, welcomed us aboard and instructed us to don our headphones. That was our last verbal communication with the pilot for there was a taped, tour recording playing in our headsets.
      The lift-off was not too bad. We all huddled a little closer in the back seat. I noticed my hubby inching slightly closer to the pilot.
      The view was incredible. The cars looked like Dinky toys and the built-up areas were so vast. Not sure how much of the view my dearly beloved had. He seemed to be staring straight ahead; trance-like.
      Then, without warning, the helicopter tipped; actually it turned but it sure felt like it was tipping – right over the Falls, too. For a brief moment I felt queasy. But I soon forgot about it when I noticed that old familiar sight – the blood draining from his face; perspiration trickling from his brow; white knuckles clinging to the seat. I started to giggle. Then we tipped the other way. Happy Hubby looked like he was going to grab the pilot. Although he didn’t move an inch, I knew exactly what he was feeling. I could read his body language. It was screaming, “Get me outa’ here! Stop this thing! Never, ever, ever, ever am I taking my feet off the ground again!”
      The ride lasted for about 15 minutes. I am sure my hubby thought it more like 15 hours. Poor guy. That was pretty brave of him to make that sacrifice for his family. He obviously did that because he loves us.

   Reminds me of Someone else who loved us so much that He made the supreme sacrifice.
The Good Shepherd did not have to do that for our sake. But He did. He made

that choice. He knew the ramifications of His decision. He understood the

abuse, the suffering, the sorrow; he realized the  cross was imminent.  
      Sacrifice always involves giving up something. My sweet hubby gave up his need for sure-footedness for the love of his family.
      Jesus gave up His life because he so loved the World. Can’t get much better than that!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Our "Holy" Sins - Carolyn Arends

Recently, TCW asked me to write an article exploring the temptations that come to us in respectable clothing. I share that piece here with their permission.

It was a sun-dappled afternoon at the ballpark, and I was strolling hand-in-hand with my then-three-year-old daughter. Adorably, she began singing “Jesus Loves Me,” melting my heart. But when I joined her on the chorus, the mood changed.
“I sing it myself!” she stormed, batting away my hand. And then she resumed the song, shouting it in defiance. “YES, JESUS LOVES ME. THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO!”
From defiance to deception, varieties of sin abound. If we took the number of living humans and multiplied it by the number of minutes there are in a day, we might have a rough estimate of the number of different ways there are to sin. Some sins come with neon signs—adultery, theft, murder—and are easy to spot, if not always easy to resist. But there are also more subtle temptations. Jerry Bridges writes about the “respectable sins” we tolerate and sometimes even encourage: heart conditions like ingratitude, frustration, selfishness, impatience, and discontentment. The symptoms usually slip under the radar—gossip, irritability, dodgy tax returns, chronic overeating or overspending, private thought lives of lust, distrust, envy, or contempt.

Respectable Sins

In compiling a list of “respectable sins,” we might include a subset of temptations specific to life as a Christian. Eugene Peterson, in his book Tell It Slant, calls these sins “eusebeigenic,” a phrase he coined after picking up a staphylococcus infection in the hospital while recovering from knee surgery. The doctor told him he had an “iatrogenic illness”—a disease contracted in the course of being healed of something else. Peterson’s pastoral mind linked that concept to spiritual health, and he suggested that “eusebeigenic sins” (from eusebeia—the Greek word for “godly reverence”) are those sins that only beset people who have decided to follow Jesus.
Where other sins might rear their ugly heads in barrooms or brothels, eusebeigenic sins crop up in pews and prayer meetings. Often, they are rooted in self-righteousness, a stubborn weed that will plant itself in the soil of our desire for holiness any time we aren’t looking. For example:
  • A concern over a fellow believer’s poor choices morphs into impatience and judgment, eventually flowering in gossip or contempt.
  • A longing for meaningful worship shifts into frustration with the music team, until bitterness and cynicism make the heart resistant to any worship at all.
  • A motivation to live as a witness for the gospel distorts into an obsession with image management, plunging the heart into hypocrisy and self-deception.
  • A desire to reach out through a well-executed evangelism event subtly overtakes the planners until they begin to treat the people serving behind the scenes as nothing more than tools in their project.
It’s very possible, and very tragic, to be doing “Jesus things,” but not in the “Jesus way.” Much like my daughter as a toddler, we march forward on our fiercely independent missions. YES, JESUS LOVES ME . . . SO THERE!
Jesus really does love us, and he’s truly paid the price for our sins—be they glaring, respectable, or eusebeigenic. There’s nothing we can do to make him love us more, and there’s nothing we can do to make him love us less. But that doesn’t mean that the way we live is of no consequence. God’s love is unconditional and transforming, and it calls you and me to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22–24).
When we say yes to Jesus, we accept his invitation not only to eternal life after death but also to abundant life now (John 10:10). We should expect progressive emancipation from distortions, appetites, and egos so that we become increasingly free to love and to live well.
So why, then, is there even such a thing as “eusebeigenic sin”? Why does the “putting on” of our new selves so often feel like a journey of two steps forward, three steps back?

The Next Opportune Time

We must remember, first, that walking in the Jesus way doesn’t mean the absence of temptation. Even after Jesus rebuffed temptation in the wilderness, Satan left him only until the next “opportune time” (Luke 4:13). If Jesus experienced temptation throughout his years on earth (culminating the night before his death), we should expect—and plan for—temptation in our own lives as well. This is important because we are most vulnerable to temptation when we think we are impervious to it.
We must recognize, second, that while we can only be renewed through God’s sheer gift of grace, we are invited to actively participate in receiving that gift. Early Christian writers ask us to picture ourselves as the rods of iron that blacksmiths hold in a furnace until they begin to glow—cold metal taking on the properties of fire. The staggering idea is that, if we dwell in the fire of God’s love, it’s actually possible for our character to increasingly “become by grace what he is by nature” as Athanasius of Alexandria explained. It is the fire alone that changes us. But there are some practical things we can do to place ourselves within that fire long enough for transformation to take place.

Get Examen-ed

One of these spiritual disciplines available to us is the Daily Examen, a regular time of prayer in which we ask God to help us review both the events of our day and the attitudes of our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts,” we pray with the psalmist. “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalms 139:23–24).
A regular practice of Examen helps us detect encouraging growth, and it also roots out the sin we might otherwise overlook. Even better, it helps us catch problematic tendencies before they become fully ingrained habits. Many fitness apps ask us to log our daily food and exercise, and then calculate what we’d weigh in a month if we lived the same way every day. In a similar manner, Examen shows us the trajectory of our hearts—who we might become (good or bad) if we continue to think and act as we have in the last 24 hours.
It’s important to remember that a thought is not a temptation, and a temptation is not a sin—but unchecked each one can lead to the next. Martin Luther was attributed with observing, “You cannot prevent a bird from flying over your head, but you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair.” The Prayer of Examen gives us an opportunity to detect and disrupt potentially destructive thought patterns early.

Get Indirect

But what do we do if Examen reveals that a sin pattern has already become entrenched? Many Christians throughout history recommend the Principle of Indirection: Rather than trying to attack a vice directly, we can focus on a virtue that might replace it.
In his introduction to The Life with God Bible, Richard Foster offers the example of a struggle with pride as an opportunity for indirection. If we try to work directly on humility, he says, we’ll just become proud of our efforts to be humble. But what we can do is focus on the discipline of service by looking for opportunities to serve other people.
“This indirect action places us . . . before God as a living sacrifice,” writes Foster. “God then takes this little offering of ourselves and in his time and in his way produces in us things far greater than we could ever ask for or think of—in this case a life growing in and overflowing with the grace of humility.”

Get Lost

The Prayer of Examen and the Principle of Indirection are wonderful means of grace. But we might easily distort them into our own independent program for improvement (and another cycle of self-righteous eusebeigenic sin) if we do not practice what Peterson calls the “Spirituality of Lostness.” We must, Peterson urges, cultivate “an acute awareness of our lost condition in which we so desperately and at all times need a Savior.”
Our transformation and renewal will always be utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit. As we mature in life with God, our great need for Jesus is something we never outgrow. In fact, our awareness of that need should only deepen so that with ever-increasing clarity we see ourselves for who we are: lost sheep who have been found, lumps of iron who now glow in a holy fire, and, yes, children whom Jesus loves.
Carolyn Arends is the Director of Education for Renovaré USA, an organization that exists to promote personal and spiritual renewal. To learn more about Renovaré resources and initiatives, including the Renovaré Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation, please visit Carolyn is also a singer/songwriter who is celebrating 20 years in music. You can get to know her at

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Have We Seen Too Much? - by Heidi McLaughlin

A sharp reality hit me this week.  A certain image shifted in my spirit and I became disturbed as I took the time to read the article on CNN. It is called “I’m just worried” written by Benazir Wehelie, and photographed by Alex Majoli during their time in Paris on Friday. [i] My perplexed spirit wasn’t so much about the horrors of the attacks, but the superficial and conflicting reactions of our present culture.

            Have we seen so many school shootings, beheadings, terrorist attacks and refugees that we have become desensitized? Alex, the photographer, states that in the site of the attacks people were taking selfies. Why?  To post on Instagram or Facebook to say that “I was there?” Perhaps we have become self absorbed about being part of the biggest adventure, or the most prestigious event, or seen with the most famous people?   Perhaps for some people it is a need for them to capture the spotlight and give them some historic and notorious recognition. Social media has lured us into believing that in order to have self worth and prestige we have to display a brilliant cutting edge life that no one else has. It hurts my heart to think that we have become so numb to tragedies that we grab tragic moments to glamorize ourselves.

            I remember the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado. It devastated our seemingly ideal existence and marked our country’s sadness for years. Our hearts broke for young people’s lost lives and we were horrified that someone could execute such loathsome acts.  Now when CNN reports another school shooting we shake our head, sigh and move on because there will probably be another travesty next week.

            But I can’t point a finger. I am aware that I no longer weep when I see a T.V. ad pleading for the support of a child that is under nourished, sad and hopeless.  There is so much anger, terrorism, violence and hopelessness these days that it seems easier to focus on our survival and happiness.  After all, I can’t do anything to change the world so I’ll look out for number one.

            That is not how we were designed to live. When Jesus walked on this earth he: “…saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34 NIV).

            We are not hopeless. We are not lost.  We have a shepherd whose heart must be breaking for mankind.  We have been given the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NIV).

            So we can’t tune out. We can’t ignore. We are all connected. Even though we have a global view and at times it all seems too much, we must follow Jesus’ example and allow our hearts to feel the pain and sorrow of mankind.  Then to do what we can to help one another in our areas of influence.  Whether we like it or not, we are all God’s creations and until Jesus returns we are His hands and feet to bear one another’s burdens. “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).

            “Heavenly Father forgive us for our selfish hearts. Help us to look at the crowds with hearts of compassion and mercy and to do our part wherever we can. Thank You. Amen.”

 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:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bear with Me by Ruth Smith Meyer

Me? Hibernate like an animal?  There may be some advantages.
As a child, author Thornton W. Burgess provided a delightful door to the world around me. I often sat, 15 or 20 feet from the ground, in the fork of a big maple tree in front of our home and entered the animal kingdom through his pages. Living with Reddy Fox, Jerry Muskrat, Jimmy Skunk, Cubby Bear and other creatures gave me the sense that I was sharing this planet with many other species. These stories helped me understand challenges that animals face, gave me a glimpse of their homes, the things that threaten their lives and the joy they find in the every day.
I thought of Burgess when our blog moderator asked the question “Hibernation – how come only bears get to hibernate? What would you do if you could go into hibernation?”
There are times when hibernation sounds like a mighty good idea.  Life gets hectic, when the days aren’t long enough to get everything done, or conversely, our attention is so focused on one thing that the other parts of life fade into the background. At such times, to have a season-long snooze becomes quite appealing. 
With my husband in the hospital and in rehab fifty minutes from our house, the past three months have been such a period in my life. There have been nights when I went to bed and thought I could sleep for a month or two, and mornings when I just wanted to burrow further into my bed and ignore the sun that shone through my window.
So if I were to hibernate, what would I like to do?  Starting around the beginning of November, I’d like to let my mind and body rest. The delta sleep with its deep slow brain waves could last for the first month or so.  
Over the years, I have found that I often come up with my best ideas for writing while I am partially asleep. After a time of that delta sleep, I would progress to the REM stage (Rapid Eye Movement) also known as active sleep or paradoxical sleep. I could wake up momentarily to jot down some of the ideas that spring up.  I could then alternate between the two stages. 
Recently, I’ve awakened in the dark of night, already praying for a person or a situation, some of which have been on my mind and others seemingly out of the blue.  During my hibernation it would be nice to have that happen frequently in those REM stages with brief moments of consciousness before falling asleep again.

Sometime, from the end of February to the middle of March, I’d like to emerge from my state of dormancy having had my body burn up most of the excess fat I’ve stored for too long, feeling fit as a fiddle, fired up and ready to get my mid-hibernation jottings in a more complete form on my computer.  Then I could look for places that would be glad to publish my wonderful articles and books.

Ahhh! Cubby Bear move over!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Beyond our resources—Carolyn R. Wilker

It’s rare that I go to the movies or even watch one on television, but recently I went to see one at the theatre with a friend, 3-D glasses, giant screen—the whole deal except for the popcorn.
The Martian opens with a group of astronauts on the planet of Mars. The captain decides to abort the mission when a sandstorm comes up and the team is in agreementexcept that one of the six was hit with flying debris, and they believe him to be dead. The remaining crew members leave the planet without him. 
On their return to Earth, the chief scientist at NASA announces sombrely that the crew has returned from the mission to Sol except for the sixth member, Watney (played by Mark Damon). They hold a funeral service for him back home and the other members of the crew go back to their duties. Sometime later, as NASA explores the planet by satellite, they discover movement at Sol and discover that Watney is very much alive, proven when he begins sending messages back to Earth.
The movie is essentially about whether or how NASA can bring him home, and Watney on Mars, figuring out how to survive as an inhabitant of the planet until such a time as he can return home. The astronaut understandably goes through many emotions, from fearing he’ll die there to figuring how he can stretch the resources in the hubble to keep himself alive until the next mission. He uses all the astrophysics laws he knows and all the resources left behind from the failed mission and a previous one too.
My friend Doris said she liked how the different countries worked together to try solve the problem. I appreciated that too, but also that the astronaut team was a mix of men and women and the women had as much input as the men. Another place that stood out for me was the time when all their possible solutions might still fail and one of the men at Mission Control says, “My Mom was a Baptist and my father was a Buddhist,” suggesting that they pray. The head of NASA said essentially, “Whatever works.”
The movie shows how it often works, that we, too, often leave prayer as a ‘last ditch’ effort. It’s good to use our brain for problem solving, as well as the resources available to us, and to accept the assistance of others.
We may not go on a mission as complicated as that fictional one to Mars, but we can pray ‘along the way’ for wisdom and direction as King Solomon did when he began his reign over Israel in Old Testament times (1 Kings 3:7). It might seem that Solomon had as much to manage, in terms of people, complicated relationships, property and conflict, in his time, as astronauts do in our time in a real mission to outer space. Solomon looked over his new kingdom and declared his need of help in governing it.
You need to go and see the movie for yourself. Just remember that, day to day, you don’t have to wait until all your physical resources have been exhausted to pray about a situation.  Pray as you go, asking for wisdom and direction, whatever the challenges might be, ‘cause we all have them.

Carolyn Wilker is a writer and editor from Ontario, Canada.

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