Saturday, 1 November 2014

Crazy Busy and Loving It - Eleanor Shepherd

There are so many things going on right now, I am not sure where to start.  It is Friday.  I have to post a blog tonight to appear first thing tomorrow morning and my mind feels empty.  There will be a wedding at the church tomorrow and while I am not officiating at this one, I do have to prepare a prayer of blessing to offer at the end of the ceremony.  I hoped to do it last evening, but had to tend to some other tasks that cropped up after the wedding rehearsal and dinner.  
Since my husband, Glen and I are both involved in the wedding with him playing the music and being the Master of Ceremonies for the reception, we will not be able to attend the launch of our daughter’s new jazz CD, The Signal on Saturday.  We would love to be there, but she assures us there will be other shows here in Montreal, that we can attend.
                  This morning I made the final changes in my sermon for Sunday and sent it out to the translators so they can have a chance to look at it and are able to prepare their Spanish translation before Sunday morning.  I sent the last revision to our Administrative Assistant who is preparing the Power Point to go with the sermon for Sunday morning.  This week we are going to have the Pastoral Prayer done in Spanish by my Associate and we will have the English translation available on the Power Point.  It looks like most of the rest of the service is ready.
                  Along with these things I am trying to prepare for our denominational annual review of the ministry of our church.  There has not been a complete one since 2009.  Most of the records need to be updated and I working to get that ready as well as complete the necessary information about our strategic plan, before we meet on Monday.  In addition, I have been trying to work out the funding and administration for an exciting new program that will enable us to more fully engage with our community, called Economic Cooking Workshops. 
                  How I long for an hour or so, just to do some fun reading, something more than emails that need an immediate answer or suggest more ways that I would be effective in what I do.  I know that as a writer, social media plays an important role in getting my messages out, but sometimes I just want to get lost.  Speaking of writing, I feel guilty when I realize that I have done nothing on my next book since August.  Where has the time gone?       
Is life crazy busy?  Yes, sometimes it is.  Although I have passed the normal age of retirement, I am still trying to sort out all my roles as pastor, wife, mother of adult children, grandmother, writer, friend, counsellor, etc.  I wonder if I will ever find balance and yet I still love all I do. Why?  I find that my life is enriched by all of these activities but mostly by the people.  This morning at a breakfast meeting, a volunteer again reminded me that what I need to do is focus on the things I can do, and not fret about what I cannot.  I do try to remember that.

When I take a few minutes and step back, I realize how many opportunities are mine and how many things I have to be grateful for and my perspective changes.  Yes there are myriad things to do.  There always will be.  Will I get it all done?  Not likely.  Some days I only manage to accomplish one thing on my To Do list.  Occasionally, or should I say rarely, I get through most or all of them.  I know deep in my heart that this is not what matters most.  What is really important is the give and take that I have with the people around me.  A quick smile, a word of thanks, making a coffee for someone on the Keurig can make all the difference.  Thank you Lord for those who surround me and remind me of the gift we are to each other.                
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Finding Ways To Care/MANN

Caring for people is not new. Finding different ways to care for people according to their needs may be new. When I was ministering in a pastoral charge, ‘elder’s districts’ was a term that people understood and knew what to expect. And it worked for me as it’s such a simple and efficient way of staying in touch with people and walking with them through different seasons of life. Keeping in mind that  care teams need to understand that  different age groups see pastoral care from their particular perspective and need to honour that. Oh what a fine line all of this may seem and yet, as we continue to learn how important it is for people to feel in the loop, regardless of how wide it is, it’s worth working at it.

Since retiring from active pastoral charge ministry, I’ve had to find a different way to continue my need to care for people. I write letters to Amnesty International, knit prayer shawls, lead volunteer story-telling groups, make soup and casseroles and serve on a few committees.

Recently I visited with someone starting her chemotherapy and asked if she’d like a hand knit beanie. She accepted my gesture and shortly after I visited to give her the gift. She immediately removed it from the gift bag and placed it on her head.  We laughed together about how cute it looked and I asked if she would like socks to match. (You can see I was very sure of her response and I had already knit the cuff).

Yesterday I delivered the socks, slipped them on her feet and asked her if she wanted a scarf to match her beanie. When I came home I put the stitches on a needle to begin the scarf.

So what was the lesson here for me? I don’t think it’s about knitting these items as much as it is about three visits of caring. In our conversation, she asked about church and yes, since next week is sacrament of communion, she thought she’d like to attend.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care and it’s out of that care they respond to other areas of interest around them. That concept was proven to me through several clinical summers in Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy (CPE) and it has been a constant aid through thirty years of ministry.

The importance of this concept is captured in David Oliphant's thesis, A Philosophy of Pastoral Care, "Intentional Friendship" David says, "It is gaining a unique place within our secular society alongside other caring modalities such as social work, community work, and general counselling, specifically to help meet the religious, spiritual, emotional and pastoral needs of the general community."

We can’t all knit and many people don’t have a desire or time to spend in that manner. Other ways to let people know they are not forgotten such as a phone call is important, a greeting card is welcome and email is great to inquire but they are too easy and people soon figure that out.

I think we in the digital world can easily forget that there are many people who are not, either by choice or lifestyle. Face-to-face in whatever way is comfortable is still the best way to go.

Happy caring, folks.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Top Up Your Tank - Tracy Krauss

Amidst the rush of edits, rewrites, blogging and promotional activities, today’s writer can sometimes get so caught up in the 'business' of writing that they neglect the real heart of the matter – writing for pleasure. I often find that my time is so full with the aforementioned tasks, that I miss the thing that brought me to this juncture in the first place. This is why authors must set aside time for writing that has no other outward purpose than to inspire. Deadlines aside, we must continually connect with that inner muse; otherwise our efforts may come across as mechanical and uninspired. 

I liken it to running on an empty tank. Sure, you could probably get out and push your vehicle to the next gas station, but a lot of unnecessary time and effort are expended while doing so. How much easier and smarter to keep that gas tank topped up! When you feel inspired, the journey is effortless, the scenery inspiring, and the final goal a reward. 

How can an author keep that proverbial gas tank full? One way is to allow yourself the luxury of writing. Period. This might seem like a no-brainer, but believe me, it can be tougher than it sounds. The internet is calling, that manuscript needs editing – there is always something (albeit worthy and necessary) that wants attention. I must make a purposeful effort to ignore my email inbox, turn off the internet, and set aside the WIP for another day.

For those with self-discipline, this can take place on any afternoon. For those that need a little more accountability, a writers' group might be the answer. I also look forward to nanowrimo each year - that crazy frenzied month long writing extravaganza that turns normal people into writing machines. (If you aren't familiar with 'nano', click the link. It is my favourite time of year and coming up in just four days!!!) 

However you manage to do it, allow yourself to reconnect with your passion on occasion. It will make your currant work come alive, and just might inspire something new.

Tracy Krauss lives and writes in British Columbia. Visit her website to see her many published novels and plays.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Holy Spirit Whispers - Gibson

Inez the Mexican, God-lover and Jesus-follower, stands before me. Red plaid shirt, graying hair, beard. A burly man, with gentle mannerisms and eyes like dark pools. We have not met before, but those eyes tell me something: this man has a story.

I want to hear it. Even more, I feel I’ll want to tell it.
We have a common acquaintance, Inez and I. A man named Doug. Almost every time we meet, Doug brings me a story, and sometimes the people they belong to. True stories. Hard stories. Sad, sad, happy. Happy sad, sad. Like life. This one spins out long. Moisture gathers in the big man’s eyes as he tells it.

Inez and Veronica own a nursery business in Mexico. It makes a little; but not enough. To supplement  their income, Inez works as a long haul trucker.  They have four children, or did until a few years ago.
“God told us,” Inez says. “He told us our son would die two weeks before he did.” On that day Adrian, three-and-a-half years old, the youngest, attended a funeral with his family. At the cemetery, he asked an unusual question. “Mama, do they only bury adults here?”

Shocked, she responded, “No, children are buried here too.”
“Good,” he said. “Because I’m going to be here soon.”

I wait for the main character to enter the story. God. He always has a part in the stories Doug brings me. I don’t have to wait long.
In the next weeks, little Adrian often climbed onto his mother’s knee. “Hug me, Mama,” he whispered each time. “I will not be long with you. “

We’re on holy ground now. The hurt, the heart, the humanity, and yes, the hope bleeds through his words. One by one, Inez continues to list God’s gentle nudges; the things he used to prepare Adrian’s family for the ending of his short life on earth.
“I recognized the premonitions,” he told me. He begged. Prayed. Agonized. Pled with God, “Please, do not take away my son.” But when the end came, in the form of a horrific vehicle accident, Inez looked back and realized that the Holy Spirit, in love, had repeatedly assured them that God would take care of their beloved Adrian from that point on.

After the accident, Inez, who had not been nearby at the time, had the difficult task of shopping for clothes in which to bury his son. With heavy heart, he selected a checkered shirt and pants.
After the family re-united, his eleven-year-old daughter showed him her latest artwork, inspired by the reassuring words of Psalm 23, which she had copied beside the picture. “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

“Jesus watches over us when we rest,” she had titled it. The picture showed her beloved brother, sleeping. Flowers and loveliness surrounded him.  A blanket covered him. A checkered blanket, very like the fabric in the shirt his Papa bought.
But she had drawn the picture days before her brother died.

God knows. God cares. Adrian is safe, and Inez has peace.



Among other places, author, newspaper columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson ponders faith and life in her newspaper column, Sunny Side Up. The above Sunny Side Up column ran in various Western newspapers earlier this month.

Saturday, 18 October 2014


Someone sneezes and we quickly respond with a vague “God bless you”. We sign our e-mails and greetings cards with “Blessings” and it sounds nice and Christian and friendly. When we don’t know the full power and potential of this age old cliché, we throw it around like a meaningless penny.But I came to realize that speaking blessings has unparalleled power.
 I discovered this power of blessings two years ago when I was privileged to write devotionals for “THE STORY” for Scripture Union Canada.  I was given the task of writing in Genesis and one of the first eye opening and starting revelations about blessings was the story of Jacob and Esau. “When (Esau) heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me-me too, my father! “(Genesis 27:34 NIV). Why was a blessing so powerful that a mother and son would conspire to manipulate and steal a blessing from its rightful owner? I set out to find out why.
I discovered that when we speak blessings into each other’s lives, we are, by faith, imparting God’s image into their being. Blessing is God’s primary mechanism of imparting deep into the heart of a person His help that person understand his identity (Who am I?) and purpose (Why am I here?).
The Hebrew word to “bless” is “baruch”, which means to kneel. So picture this: When you and I bless someone, we kneel before them in humility, speak God’s words over them and literally empower that person to prosper. If you and I bless our children, we empower them to prosper in every area of their lives-spiritual life with God, physical health, emotional well-being, marriage, children, finances, careers, ministry... every area. And when I read this last part: “Children who were blessed by their parents tend to prosper in their adult lives, and children who were never blessed by their parents tend to languish and not prosper”…it stopped me dead in my tracks.
I had never done this with my own children, but I had a plan for all of our grandchildren.  As Jack and I were preparing for a family reunion in the summer of 2012, we orchestrated a family “Blessing Evening.” To begin writing a blessing for each grandchild, we started with the meaning of their name.  For example: Mya meant “Great One” and Breanna meant “Strong, virtuous and honourable”. From the meaning of their names we saw how God had already prepared their character through their names. Then we began to list all their beautiful qualities, gifts and strengths and ended the blessing with a bible verse and prayer.  It went something like this:
It is said that the name MYA means “great one.”  You have already shown your family and friends what “great” things you can do…..
You are one of God’s great little girls. He sent you down from Heaven just at the right time to bring so much joy into this family. God has great plans for you Mya. He has given you beauty, a radiant smile, a loving heart, a creative mind, a tender but bold and courageous spirit.  God has wrapped many wonderful things up in a great and package called “Mya.”
There is nothing more beautiful than a girl that knows she is loved. Mya…you are Loved! God has blessed you with a family that loves and adores you. May God’s love always strengthen you and give you courage.  God has great plans for you and let Him help you discover all that life has for you on this earth. Do not be afraid!  Even in your young years may you learn to trust God in such a way that you know that there is nothing in this world that can stop you from fulfilling the purposes God has called you to.  You are great…and you are greatly loved. We bless you in the name of Jesus”.
 “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Phil. 4:13 NLT).
We wrote a blessing for each of our nine grandchildren and read it to them on the evening of our family “Blessing Night.”  There was not a dry eye on family deck that beautiful summer evening.  As we heard the words of blessings spoken it evoked and stirred our souls in their most vulnerable and deepest places; those places of longing that only God’s words can fill.
I have actually seen the power of God’s blessings at work, and I can never again say, ‘Bless you” with a cavalier attitude.  I know that when we speak God’s words over our lives, it changes is from the inside out and causes our souls to prosper. 
In the name of Jesus, I bless YOU! 
 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, 17 October 2014

Could the Parable of the Sower be key to Reviews? SUSAN HARRIS

We've known them exclusively as responses to the gospel. Ground and fruit. Soil and words.

Words can fall on many kinds of soil (or lack of soil). In Matthew 13, Jesus identifies four types of ground on which seeds can fall. By the way side refers to hard ground that prevents the seed from even taking roots. Birds swoop and eat the seeds before anything can happen. Stony ground provides a tiny bit of soil that actually allows the seeds to germinate and begin to grow, but because the roots cannot penetrate the stones to get into the earth they wither and die. The thorny ground allows the seed to grow, but the thorns choke the life out of the little plants. Finally, there is the good ground. The conditions for germination are rich and present, and a harvest is predicted. The seed grow into plants that produce much fruit.

Yet is there a connection between sowing seeds of the gospel and sowing seeds through your writing?

Could the hard ground be the reader who hears about your work, does not understand the content but  chooses to plaster 1-star reviews complete with atrocious and defamatory claims? Like Satan who plucks the message away from the could-be-believer, keeping the heart unenlightened and discouraging others who may benefit from the book from reading it?

What if the stony ground portrays the avid reader who delights in words, but she pledges no allegiance to your authorship and when negative remarks comes to the fore, her so-called love for your work rapidly evaporates?

The thorny ground may be the audience that receive your books, but whose minds are full of other distractions and pleasures. Not that they dislike your work, but their attention is elsewhere and thus have no time for your words. (How many books can a person read during the time she takes to browse social media?)

The good ground depicts the one who buys, borrows, reads, receives and is affected positively by your words. Your writing changes his life and he is on a high with rave reviews and enthusiastic accolades. His words ringing out to the world bear much fruit - draw more readers and 4-star and 5-star reviews. The reader described by the “good ground” is the only one of the four types who is truly supportive of your work, because as with the gospel, the proof is fruit.

In Matthew 13:9, Jesus remarks, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" A person's reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. A reader's reception of your words is determined by the state of his heart. Your prayer can shape the heart. Be blessed today.

Find Susan at:

BIO: Susan Harris is a speaker and former teacher, and the author of Golden Apples in Silver Settings, Remarkably Ordinary, Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids. Her first submission to Chicken Soup for the Soul is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? edition as Smokey's Lockout, and was released August 19, 2014. Remarkably Ordinary will be released in print on November 1, 2014. Her upcoming children's picture book, Alphabet on The Farm will be released in both English and French. Susan was born in exotic Trinidad but now lives on the Saskatchewan prairies with her husband, daughter and the gregarious cats.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Thanks Giving—Carolyn R. Wilker

When was the last time you were told to give thanks? Could you do it when you’re going through some challenging times?
            I’ve struggled with this countless times, because, being human, I can always think of the negative and struggle to find the positive.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, I read, “Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances.”  I struggle with that, even when there’s good stuff happening in the middle of overwhelming tension, and I anticipate and await the outcome or the next big thing, just as in our recent experience.
Recently, my husband had surgery in Toronto. It’s not my favourite place to drive. There are so many cars and people to watch for. Streetcars picking up and letting off passengers.  Construction and too many one-way streets. Driving in a city often does make it more familiar, not that I want to do it frequently. Then the interweaving of highways to get there that my husband calls ‘spaghetti junctions.’ He couldn’t have phrased it better.
One needs to have wits about them to drive there. A carefully programmed GPS helps a great deal. My head filled with directions and I still had to pay heed to everything around me. Focus, focus. It’s just like my mother often said of parenting young children, “You need eyes in the back of your head.” I agree.
We made it, with the help of our GPS, Matilda, and my husband checked in for his surgery the next morning, with me there holding the bag of items he would need after surgery. The wait during surgery seemed long, and fortunately, with no undue surprises—always longer because it’s waiting time. And it’s not just the bag of stuff I was carrying; it was also the collection of hopes and concerns of how the surgery would help.
Post-surgery, my husband faced discomfort of grafts, stitches and swelling, and for me, it included anticipating the healing and the arms-length of instructions and details for recovery—read, high maintenance—for the next week.
Having made it through the surgery, two drives there and back in a short week and a half, and in spite of anxiety, there were good things: plenty of prayers, my trusty GPS to guide me safely through the maze of highways that surprisingly was now becoming more familiar, not meaning I want to drive it often.
Because this is Thanksgiving weekend, I will offer my thanks in the middle of all this commotion and the medical procedures.
For a large hospital, with a solid record
For medical specialists, whose education is used to heal and help, and the assurance that we’re in the best of hands
For nurses with a sense of humour as they go about their work
For the taxi driver who cared about what’s happened in my day
For the bed and breakfast owner who cared about our journey and provided a hearty breakfast for me
For a safe place to lay my head at night, even when my sleep is restless
For conversation with others who are also waiting while a loved one is in surgery
For such things as a GPS that helps us to get safely from one place to another
For a progressing recovery and antibiotics that support healing
For innovations that help patients to better handle conditions

And here I give thanks for the gifts God gives to us: friends and family, grace, forgiveness and the chance to start over each new day because of our hope in Jesus, our Saviour.

 Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, or at least a grateful one in whatever you face today.

Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox