Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Wonder of It All - Tracy Krauss


Ever wonder why God doesn't just fix all the problems in the world? He could, you know. But for some reason He has chosen to work through frail human beings like you and me.

He also chose to sacrifice His own son to make atonement for our sins. Ever wonder why that was even necessary? Oh, I know, I know... theologians among us will point to the Old Testament and the necessity for blood sacrifice.

But why? 

God is God. I'm sure He could have come up with another plan. Some other way. He's the one who instituted the laws in the first place. In His infinite creativity, He could have thought of something that didn't involve bloodshed.

Fortunately, I don't have to try to make sense of everything God does. I accept the fact that His understanding of the universe and how things work goes far beyond anything I could possibly conceive. Perhaps someday I'll understand the whys and hows - or maybe I won't. It seems arrogant to think that I could ever truly grasp all the finer details, even in eternity. It's kind of like a toddler asking why the sky is blue. I could give a scientific explanation which would probably sound like a foreign language, or I could just say, "Because God wanted it to look pretty." I think I prefer the latter.

I am happy to let God be who He is - the Almighty. Willing to use a flawed vessel like me to do His work here on earth. Now that is pretty wonderful.

Tracy Krauss writes fiction, non-fiction and stage plays from her home in British Columbia. http://tracykrauss.com

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In the Shadow of Your Wings

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you just want to pull the covers over your head and hide away from the world? David was having one of those days when he composed Psalm 57. But in David's case, he wasn't just trying to avoid a snarly boss. His boss, King Saul, was hunting David down to kill him. Needless to say, there must have been some fervour in David's plea for help. “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." 

The phrase 'take refuge in the shadow of your wings' reminds me of a story etched on my mind from my childhood. My dog, Champ, absolutely loved any newborn creature on the farm. He instantly became the newborn's defender. Generally, this worked out very well and we appreciated his hovering affection. All was fine until one day our pet bantam hen brought her newly hatched chicks to our backyard.

Champ was thrilled at the sight of these tiny fluff balls.  He greeted them with a bark and vigorously wagged his tail to welcome these new arrivals. Mother hen misunderstood his intentions. She hastily gathered her chicks under her wings to defend them from this wild beast. Champ was outraged. Surely this hen had swallowed up these defenseless chicks. He began to bark at her fiercely, trying to get her off her brood. The hen simply tightened her wings down on the chicks. Laughing at the sight of this, we called off our well-intentioned dog.


Our heavenly Father is our well-intentioned protector. Do we refuse His help? We are eternally safe in the shelter of His wings. Let Him draw you close today.    

Response: LORD God, you are my defender. Help me daily to appreciate your love and protection. Amen.


Your Turn: Do we sometimes push away from our secure place near the heart of God?

For more thoughts on the psalms visit: http://www.davidkitz.ca/psalms.php

Monday, August 17, 2015

SHY ABOUT PROMOTING YOURSELF? by Susan Harris

Have you written a resume? Have you been interviewed for a job? Then you've promoted yourself. Is that tooting your own horn? Not if you are stating facts.
Insight - Learn early what your strengths are and practice talking about you so that it can appear natural and easy.
“Tooting your horn” is a maxim that carries a negative connotation, boastful and exaggerated. As a writer, I've struggled with being modest versus appearing boastful. Publishing is a world where authors create bios about themselves that are required to be compelling and interesting. It's part of the pitch. How else would someone learn about me and use that information to decide if he wants to buy my book? Just as I would not be drawn to an insipid artist or writer, I must not come across as insipid or irrelevant. (Photo credit: Loud Megaphone by digital art)
Sitting across from prospective job candidates, I've said to many, "This is not the time to be modest. Tell me why you are better than the rest. Tell me why I should hire you."
I reminded myself of the expectations of promoting myself when I started writing. Uncomfortable as it was at first, I caught on quickly and learned that if I was to show I was competent, I needed to publicize myself concisely and confidently.
Insight: If you've studied, you've done the work and you have achieved, no one can tell the world about it better than you can.
There is however, a grey area between self-promotion and bragging. No one likes a bragger but everyone wants someone who has confidence.
Insight: Bragging is accompanied by arrogance. Self-promotion offers evidence that allows others to conclude that one is capable, and is accompanied by humility.
It is a fact that we are born with gifts, whether of music, art or plain ol' gab.  Regardless of what we are born with, I've discovered that most things can be learned.
Insight: Success is not about being gifted. Anyone can learn strategies to aid in success.
Howard Gardner, an American psychologist, recognized Multiple Intelligences. The theory holds that people possess different kinds of intellectual strengths and that these strengths are critical in how we learn, understand and express ourselves. 
… ( some lines from original are removed here)
What do you aspire to? What holds you back? What education or training will help you overcome the drawbacks? Anyone can be trained to be effective. Don't be discouraged if someone else can do something better than you can. There is enough space in the world for all of us to fill and fit, so prepare to claim your spot.
The work you do is more important than the title you hold. You don't have to be a marketer to get your books out there. You don't have to be the chief chef in order for others to enjoy the sandwich you’ve made. You don't have to belong to Maid Services to clean an office. But you can use marketing strategies and preparation tips to get word of your book, sandwich or cleaning abilities out there to others.
Get yourself noticed by taking a strong stand. Don't be afraid to be opinionated. Make others talk about you. You may not be liked by everyone but you will not get lost in the crowd either. 
(... some lines from original are removed here)
A voice that belonged to the one described as the Beginning and the End. The Alpha and the Omega. And He gave instructions throughout the process of idea to publication. He opened doors to the media and the market. He taught me how to promote myself, to become a specialist at me, to learn from His school with me as the only student. Private tutelage from Heaven. And I succeeded from every cardinal point on earth, all the time recognizing that the true promotion came from above.
But I must do my part, knowing that it's in quietness and in confidence that I draw my strength. My books were picked up by a larger publisher within a year of hitting the market. The Lord placed the right combination of learning abilities in me. He trained me for His glory, through both formal classes in theology and from whispers to my spirit when I was alone with Him. And for this I say:
TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR THE GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE FOR ME.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10

(An excerpt from 10 ½ Sketches: Insights On Being Successful Right Where You Are. Contains over 85 insights to build success http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RNV3P10 )


Susan Harris owes her successes to the Lord. On breezy islands or freezing prairies, she has thrived because of the insights she lays out in her latest book, 10 ½ Sketches. She is the author of six books and has also contributed articles to blogs, magazines and anthologies.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bumps in an Author's Road Ruth Smith Meyer

"Life is full of unexpected
          and certainly unwanted twists and turns, 
but what makes us who we are 
      is determined 
           by the way we handle those situations." 
                                                         - Jennifer Cruz


After breakfast, Paul, my beloved husband went with his walker to the back yard where he has filled any available space in our flowerbeds with pole beans, tomatoes and lettuce. The farmer in him loves the out-of-doors watching things grow. He picked the beans and brought them with a few of the first ripe tomatoes into the house.  It was Monday morning, July 30


The next morning, he asked for help to get out to the verandah where he loves to sit. “My legs feel really weak this morning and I don’t want to fall.”  I called for help in evaluating him and for more equipment to manage this newest disability.  We were waiting on results of an MRI taken the week before, because of increasing back pain. But the surgeon who was to give us a report was on holiday.


By Thursday, I borrowed a wheel chair, for his legs were so wobbly, neither of us felt comfortable to have him use the walker. By Saturday, he was barely able to stand long enough to transfer.  Both of us began to wonder how long I could manage caring for him at home.  Finding each other after the deaths of our spouses, has been such a blessing.  We hated to think the time of living together may be over.  It felt like a big curve coming in our lives. By Saturday, he was barely able to stand long enough to transfer. 


Monday the surgeon was back, but the establishment still worked slow.  Finally, on Tuesday, because other parts of his body began to give out too and the pain was excruciating, I took him to emergency with the backing of the cancer clinic that has almost been our second home over the last eight years. Then things began to move quickly.
Wednesday it was decided to operate to remove a tumor from his spine. He was bumped twice, but finally had his surgery early Thursday morning. 

 The pain is gone, he looks well, feels well and eats well, but his legs are still rubbery when he tries to stand. We’re hoping he can get into a rehab hospital and that eventually they will be strong enough for him to come home.  But it’s a time of uncertainty. 


We had anticipated spending a lot of time this fall working on selling my latest book, speaking engagements, sales and other avenues.  I was excited about my next writing project that I hoped I could work at in between those scheduled appearances. 

But there is a definite curve in the road ahead, and as the quote at the beginning says—now it’s up to us to determine how we’ll handle this and let it become a part of our lives and who we are.  By God’s grace we shall “.. enjoy, endure, survive each moment as it comes to (us) in its proper sequence -- a surprise.”   Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shock and Sudden Loss—Carolyn R. Wilker



Recently a young teen died.  When I got the news, I found it hard to believe. No, it couldn’t be. The message bearer gave me no reason to disbelieve, but the shock came as disbelief as it often does.  

It still feels unreal, even though I’ve seen Samantha’s photo on the funeral site, then at visitation when we talked with her parents about what her life meant to us. Her family had spread out precious photos, her beautiful artwork and played a video of photos of her alone and with family. School friends, classmates, her extended family and people from our church attended that day at a celebration of her life.

I taught Samantha in Sunday School when she came as a 7- or 8-year-old with her great-aunt Darlene. Samantha brought with her the usual child-like energy and willingness to learn and she seemed to enjoy the stories we shared each Sunday, acting some of them out in the sanctuary after our initial worship time. Her brother came along sometimes too.

One Sunday stands out for me, when we talked about the baptism of Jesus. The writer of the curriculum reminded us that some children might not be baptized and to assure them that God loves them, regardless. Samantha may have seen a baby baptized in our church and was learning what it meant. I was quite sure that she probably had not been baptized, but I learned soon after that she’d been asking her parents for permission. Her Dad relented and a date was set.

Sunday School Fun Day, May 2008. We looked around for Samantha and found she had climbed a tree
I remembered, too, her delight and joy on her baptism day, wearing a brand new dress that her great aunt had bought for the occasion. I was there to celebrate with her and her family who came that day, and then later also for her confirmation. Our congregation, who had been welcoming from the start, celebrated with her.

Some time passed when she began high school and was involved in other activities, however, the seed planted earlier had not withered. Her aunt waited patiently, praying for her and that she might return, and it happened. Samantha started coming to church again with her great aunt, as she was able, and I noticed that she had become a confident and competent young woman. 

The last I saw Samantha was the end of June, and in late July her Aunt Dar shared the news with us, with much sadness. Samantha died after a short illness that turned out to be an undiagnosed medical condition.


 Her illness and ensuing death must feel like a bad dream or nightmare to her parents and her brother, one they hope will end and their girl will come walking in the door saying, “Hi Mom, hi Dad.” 

It seems contrary to nature to bury one’s child, and it must be devastating. Even for others who know her, it's difficult to say good-bye to one we've known and loved, especially one so young. And yet Jesus knows Samantha as his child and will have already welcomed her home. 

This week on a long drive, I pictured Samantha meeting with my friends Kathy, Annie and others who have already gone on ahead. And here I picture Jesus wiping the tears from our eyes with the largest handkerchief ever, for there have been many tears already.



Carolyn R. Wilker, author, editor and storyteller


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