Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ten Books that Changed Me - Kathleen Gibson

For better or for worse, Facebook connects people. On the better side, it provides valuable insights into others. Understandings we didn’t have before: what people are up to, who they love, things they enjoy, even what (and who) influences them.  
Facebook “tag” helps with that. One friend tags some friends with a request. If agreeable, the friends follow through by taking the challenge or making the requested post before passing it on to their friends.

I’m not usually agreeable. So when an avid reader tagged me to post a list of ten books that have impacted my life, I didn’t respond. Honestly, the books listed by others intimidated me. Unlike some, I haven’t read the complete works of Max Lucado, Charles Spurgeon or Leonard Sweet. Not even the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And most modern literary giants don’t interest me a fig.

Nevertheless, the invitation niggled. As an author myself, I pray to impact people with my words, just as other writers have inspired me with theirs. It seemed only fair to acknowledge those whose works have, over my five decades of reading, contributed to who I am today. But rather than on Facebook, I'm placing my list here. In no particular order of importance (except for the top one) here are ten books that changed (are still changing) me. Check them out – they may change yours too.
1. The Holy Bible – my anchor and life manual, the core of my hope and Christian belief.

2. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) – Charlotte inspired me, as a primary school student, to live a life that matters even after death.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) – This allegorical series stood my spiritual synapses on end. I’m still learning from it.

4. Experiencing God (Henry Blackaby) – gave me a deeper understanding of what it really means to live out my faith.

5. The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare) – as a child, this book showed me the hazards of making ignorance-based judgments of others.
6. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) – exposed me to the raw beauty and horror of India. Along with other beckonings, God used this book to bring me to India in person.

7. Something More (Catherine Marshall) – broadened my understanding of the Holy Spirit, and enriched my relationship with God.
8. Open Heart, Open Home (Karen Burton Mains) – as a young bride, this book convinced me of the vital role hospitality plays in living out one’s faith.

9. How Then Shall We Live (Francis Schaeffer) – taught me to continually examine my worldview and line it up with my beliefs.
10. Bonhoeffer (Eric Metaxas) – made me realize how far I have to go in my faith, concerning boldness of conviction.

More books belong up there, but I'll stop at ten, with gratitude to God for authors past and present who obeyed their calling to spread good words. They changed my life and because they did, I like to believe the world is different somehow.
Your turn. Got ten?

Kathleen's books, columns, essays, and radio spots have found homes in hearts and media outlets worldwide. She prays some of those words have made a difference. Find a few at her website, on Facebook, and in other places.
This Sunny Side Up column was previously published in various Western newspapers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Another Year ... and I’m Older by Marcia Lee Laycock

One of the negative things about getting older is that you begin to realize there just may not be enough time for you to accomplish all the things you had planned.

That “bucket list” begins to look like a long list of impossibilities. There are so many places in the world you want to see and just not enough time, let alone resources, to allow you to get to them. That house you’ve always dreamed of right on the ocean, that sizeable nest egg tucked away, that perfect health and perfectly situated family, and oh, that breakthrough novel, well ...

Sometimes the dreams come crashing into the brick wall of reality and all we can do is sigh.
But when the future looks all too short it can also be wonderfully focused. Suddenly you don’t want to travel the world, you’d just like to make it to that one special place. The house by the sea might not be possible but a satisfying reno to the one you live in overlooking that little pond will do just nicely. The nest egg tucked away might seem small but then you realize your wants aren’t really needs after all. Your health is allowing you to live well for your age, your family will never be perfect but they are all connected and involved in your life and that novel ... well ...

There is that new tool you’ve just learned to use that will help a lot and there’s that email you just received from someone who read your latest effort. And suddenly there’s that peace that God is not just in His heaven, but right here beside you, involved in your life, teaching, guiding, drawing you close.

And suddenly the sigh turns to a smile because it is enough. No, not just enough, it is all gift, all joy, all reasons to be thankful for the time, the place, the people and purpose He has given you.

Yes, another New Year is under way. And I am older. So I’m humming a simple old chorus - “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). 

Marcia Lee Laycock is the author of three novels and three devotional books. Find her on the web:
Website, Amazon , twitter, Pinterest and Smashwords

Sunday, January 18, 2015


It happened sixteen years ago. A young woman came to me and with tears in her eyes asked me if I would mentor her. I was startled. I didn’t know how to respond because I had never officially mentored anyone. Even though I said yes, I had no idea how this “mentoring thing” would evolve. Over the next two years I experienced a journey of discovery and excitement in my spirit that I did not even know existed. I found that as men and women who have godly influence, we are called to mentor. For the women it clearly states in the bible that: “These older women must train the younger women to live quietly, to love their husbands and their children, and to be sensible and clean minded…(Titus 2:4 NLT). I have discovered that when I am obedient to this command, I also grow spiritually and my own life is enriched and fulfilled.
Here are 10 reasons why I am passionate about mentoring.

1.                  Our great God is a creator and we are made in His image. We are fulfilled when we are also creating.  Mentoring gives me an opportunity to partner with God and create new life in another woman.
2.                  God is a God of order and He has a reason for asking us to do something. In the book of Titus it says that: “older women are to teach the younger women.” When I am part of God’s plan for the way He intended this world to work, my own life is enriched,
3.                  As I interact and minister to other women, I realize that the pain, confusion and failures I have experienced in my life, have given me wisdom that I must pass on to younger women.
4.                  I “get to” have an intimate relationship with another women.  We are created for intimacy and this type of close relationship fills that void in my own life.
5.                  I watch life transformation before my very eyes.
6.                  Younger women ask me questions for which I have no answers. This propels me to seek God more by intentionally digging deeper into scriptures, praying more and asking God for wisdom.
7.                  It teaches me to become honest and authentic.
8.                  Mentoring is a mirror for my own life.  When I realize that the woman I am mentoring watches me, it causes me to look at myself through the eyes of God and the other woman.
9.                  Mentoring teaches me what it means to become a godly woman of influence.
10.              Mentoring gives hope, encouragement, love, and wisdom to other women in every stage of their lives. I am in awe that God wants to use me to be his hands, feet and voice that will accomplish His plans and purposes in other women.
Mentoring for me is like skiing free-style. Each woman is unique in her request for me to mentor her and I need to listen to her heart and her need. I have mentored women to help them with their marriages, to teach them out to grow in their spiritual life, how to overcome being a “child of divorce”, how to live a Christian life after being in a cult, how to survive with 5 small children. And so on and so on. Each woman’s story is precious and distinctive. As Christian writers we have powerful wisdom and insights into helping younger writers craft their words and stories.

As women of influence it is up to us to look a younger woman in the eye and say, “How can I best help you in your journey?” Then let God help you forge the path.
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:

Saturday, January 17, 2015


A writer must be a thinker. Many, myself included at one time, naïvely concur that thinking occurs naturally, but thinking is a process that can be taught, and often must be taught. You can broaden your thinking, and hence enhance your writing, by stretching the horizons of your thoughts. Below is a short excerpt about my experience in holistic thinking from my new book "10½ Sketches: INSIGHTS ON BEING SUCCESSFUL RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE which was released on Jan 1.

"In his book, Six Thinking Hats, de Bono describes the tool that is effective for both group discussion and individual thinking, using six differently colored "hats". Our brains think in a number of ways and we learn in a variety of ways, thus de Bono identifies six directions in which our brain can be challenged.

Insight : One can mentally switch hats for every decision, conversation or meeting to redirect thoughts more productively.

The Blue hat manages the thinking process. When wearing this hat, one asks questions like: What is the topic at hand? What are we thinking? What are the goals?

The White hat focuses on information: What are the facts? What information do we have right now?

The Red hat represents emotions: What are the gut feelings, the loves and hates, the fears?

The Black hat symbolizes judgment: What are the cautions and difficulties?

The Yellow hat shows the bright side: What are the positive aspects, the benefits?

The Green hat signifies creativity: Where's the growth? What are the possibilities, options and new ideas?

The six hats are associated with parallel thinking, that is, there is no overlap of thought.
Insight: Regular use of the hats makes it an unconscious process. Engaging in the symbolic act of removing a hat and putting on a different one while naming the color aloud helps one switch focus.
You can generate holistic thinking in a group or individual setting by use of the hats. You can become a more effective writer as you deepen your thinking.

Insight: Caution - Since an individual does not think one way all the time, it is important to keep in mind that each hat must be used for a limited time only. In the natural way of thinking, one can easily overlook certain important considerations, and wearing the hats allows that person to ensure that he has given conscious thought to areas that may have been overlooked."

An excerpt from "10½ Sketches: INSIGHTS ON BEING SUCCESSFUL RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE" released on Jan 1, 2015. Available at Amazon worldwide.
Susan Harris is a former teacher and the author of six books.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Start with Words

           I don't know about you, but for me words have power. An unspoken word or thought nestled away in my mind has one level of power. When that word or thought is spoken, its power is amplified. When the word is spoken and then written, it is amplified yet again. It has more weight. In a court of law, written words carry great weight. The whole field of contractual law rests on this principle.
        As a writer you are working with weighty words—words that have the power to transport and transform the reader. Choose your words carefully. They have the power to take your reader to a destination. This is true of both fiction and nonfiction writing. We have all been transported by the written word. It's what makes reading so enjoyable.
         Over the Christmas holidays for the second consecutive year my family took up the challenge of solving the Globe and Mail's 1000 word crossword puzzle. None of us do crosswords during the year, but Globe and Mail's 1000 word Christmas crossword lands in our home like a bombshell. It's too big to be ignored. So with all the collective urgency we can muster, the Kitz family tackles this monster. Each family member brings different skills and areas of expertise to the table, so what would be impossible for an individual becomes doable for the family.

          The same principle applies to any group endeavor, and trust me in this, writing and marketing a book is a group endeavor. At our family gathering on New Year's Day we had only ten words left in that 1000 word puzzle. My midafternoon we declared victory. Hallelujah!  We slew that monster.

              Great things are possible for you in the year ahead. Just like a crossword it all starts with words—choosing the right words.
             When we bring our words before God in prayer, that's when words become alive. God spoke our world into existence. When He breathes life into your words—your prayer words—look out. Great things become a living reality.
             It starts with words. Creation itself started with words. You were created in God's image, so just like your Maker start the year with words.

David Kitz is an award-winning author of several books who lives in Ottawa, ON. Information on his book and drama ministry can be found at

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