Monday, June 29, 2015

FINDING WAYS TO BE THANKFUL: DONNA MANN

Last year as part of a small committee, we choose June 28th, 2015 for a public rededication of a pioneer cemetery on a green road in Queen's Bush country (Grey County). All was in order. We knew the road conditions would be a challenge, even though the township had worked diligently on the site. As well, unless people donned a sunhat,  a sunny day without shade would be difficult to bear.  Plans for refreshments, horse-drawn shuttle into the location from the main road, porti-pottie tied to a tree, guest book, piper, preacher, etc. We had taken everything into account – even the weather, or so we thought. If the Farmer’s Almanac means anything, it was supposed to be sunny all weekend.


After a rainy week, we began to doubt that we could bring people to the bush for this event and after checking the forecast and learning that between down-pours, there would be heavy cloud cover. This promised to be damp and soggy in the bush. Plans were changed and the nearest church opened its door for us. While dry, safe and warm, we enjoyed the worship with prayer, a men’s quartet, a cappella singing and speakers. When the piper played 'Amazing Grace', tears gathered in our eyes, in appreciation of being in this holy place while sharing in spirit with those pioneers.


We shake our heads in awe as in our disappointment of not being able to be in the bush, we are now thankful for the rain. We had expected a few relatives and local neighbours, and yet the church was filled with people: some attending as far away as from New York city, northern Michigan, London, Toronto and other places. To top off the day, the church extended their hospitality in serving us a meal at the end of the day in their fellowship hall.

 

My friend hosted a family reunion nearby and didn’t have the privilege of having a ‘in-case-of-rain’ location arranged – it was a wet day for them, but the indoor games were awesome. Another friend attended a cottage with family and everyone was limited to the fireplace area, it was so raw and windy outside. But, the conversation and story telling was amazing.  A Facebook friend posted pictures of a family wedding standing in a sheltered area . . . all smiling. It is what it is! Make the best of it. The best well-laid plans can go array. Find something for which to be grateful.


And while other provinces and countries cry for rain, the lesson learned for me was to be thankful for small mercies and be open to surprises.

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). To be thankful is God’s will for us. I can remember when I first understood that I wasn’t expected to be thankful ‘for’ but ‘in’ all circumstances. 


Blessings on you!

Donna



 www.donnamann.org
Check out iTunes for Little Red Barn Children's Stories.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

When Opportunity Knocks - Tracy Krauss


It's a bit of a cliche, but when opportunity knocks, make sure you at least answer the door. Fear of criticism or fear of failure keep many would be authors from reaching their potential, never mind an audience.  

Writing opportunities come in many shapes and sizes. Some writers mistakenly wait for the 'big break', but I've got news. The road to success is often paved with individual cobblestones. “Do not despise the day of small things.” In the Bible, Elijah prayed for rain and kept asking his servant to see if there was anything on the horizon. Finally, there was a cloud in the distance the size of a man’s fist. This small cloud turned into a storm that flooded the land.

Like that small cloud, seize each opportunity, no matter how small. Take whatever opportunities come your way, paid or not. You never know what might come of it.  As long as the offer is decent and morally sound, say, “Yes I can!” Even if you are afraid or feel inadequate, do it!  You just never know when a small beginning will lead to something bigger.

Murray Pura, successful author and friend, shared a wonderful example of this at a conference a few years ago. He told about the time he wrote a short story for a professor who then asked for permission to publish it in a magazine. Awesome, you might be thinking. Except, the request was for FREE. Some writers may have refused, wanting some kind of remuneration. But Murray graciously said yes. It was an opportunity for exposure. Readers seemed to enjoy the story and the magazine requested more free stories. Unknown to Murray, the magazine was picked up by a well know author who then recommended him to a publishing house. The snowball effect continued and Murray attributes this small beginning to his breakthrough into the American market and several book deals with well know publishing houses.  

I've had similar, though somewhat less dramatic, experiences. I've made it a habit to say, "Yes!" to most writing opportunities that come my way. I've been blessed to work collaboratively on various projects from devotionals to Science fiction series. If I am physically able to do it and it doesn't cross any moral boundaries, I want to be available for each opportunity that is put in my path. 

Be faithful in the small things for you never know what God’s bigger picture might look like. It may be the smallest and seemingly most insignificant offer that brings the biggest gain.

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published, award winning and best selling author and playwright living and working in British Columbia. http://tracykrauss.com

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who Gampa USED to be - Kathleen Gibson



Ah, fresh air. Standing outside the house with then six-year-old Dinah Jane one pleasant evening, I took a deep breath. And inhaled at least three mosquitoes.
“Oh, brother,” said I, “let’s get back in the house before we catch West Nile!”

“What’s West Nile, Nana? Can we still play with that when we catch it?” she asked.
Her questions startled me. Not until then did I realize that our grandbeans, as we call our grandchildren, have little understanding of my husband's ongoing struggle with neurological West Nile Disease. In many ways, we’ve moved past the 2007 invasion of what we called “the pirates.” We seldom name it in their presence. Life is full, God keeps sending daily strength and our blessings far outnumber our troubles.

But perhaps it’s time to explain to the little ones just why their grandfather can’t run and play like many other men his age. Why he uses a walker, a cane or a scooter. Not even the eldest, four years older than Dinah, can remember when Gampa could chase a ball, shingle a roof, swim a hundred lengths, climb down into a cave or slam a shuttlecock over a net. If he could suddenly do those things, they'd welcome them – but perhaps they’d also miss the grandfather they know and love now. 
To them, Gampa's the grey-haired, bearded mountain of a man who gives them rides on his walker, and lets them drive his scooter. The gentle giant who quietly slips from the room when they get too noisy. The Candy-man who adores giving gifts and watching kids’ shows. The man who takes frequent naps, and stays home while Nana goes to work.

Of course, he does far more than that. That’s the kid’s eye view. And that’s how they love him. How we all love him.
Every summer, the media reports West Nile statistics, along with the usual warnings: Eliminate standing water. Stay inside between dusk and dawn. Wear repellant. (And no, certain well-known linaments, mouthwashes, and body oils cannot substitute for Deet). But nothing warns better than a personal story.

Rick, then 54, contracted WND in 2007. He spent six months in hospital and rehab centre, battling his way back from not knowing his own name or the names of his vegetables to remembering both. From paralysis in three limbs to limited mobility. Except for our faith in God and supportive family and community, we could not have endured the upheaval the mosquito injected into our lives.
My book, West Nile Diary, One Couple's Triumph over a Deadly Disease, details our journey. It's a journey that carries on today, as WND-related complications spiral Rick's health slowly downward, just as the long-term research indicated it would. We grab the happy moments and the opportunities to share God's faithfulness -- in spite of our particular pirate.

As we've watched the reporting on West Nile Disease, we've noted that a greater percentage of people – almost half – who become ill from WND, contract the more serious neurological form. In 2007, it afflicted only a small minority. This means there's even greater reason to take mosquitoes seriously. Worldwide, the bug still kills more people than anything else.

We thank God for what remains. We count our blessings. We swat mosquitoes. And sometimes, we still tell our story.

Kathleen Gibson is a writer, broadcaster and newspaper columnist. She and her clergyman Rick Gibson, have shared their story widely. This Sunny Side Up column was previously published in various Western newspapers.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

“ONE” DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A LONELY NUMBER-Heidi McLaughlin


Being a writer can be lonely. But writers are privileged to have the passion and purpose for creating picturesque and compelling words that we hope will leave the reader with: “Wow, that was a great article.” However, being alone is not always good.

Even though this generation is better connected through social media and technology, it is ironic that today we are a society that is adrift and lonely.  In fact, many people after they spend time on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram come away saying: “Why is everyone living the life except for me?

In an article written on November 23, 2013 in the Globe and Mail, Elizabeth Renzetti writes: “In Vancouver, residents recently listed social isolation as their most pressing concern. More Canadians than ever live alone, and almost one quarter describe themselves as lonely.” She goes on to say: “A study last year from the University of California at San Francisco showed a clear link between loneliness and serious heart problems and early death in the elderly. Seniors in the study who identified themselves as lonely had a 59-per-cent greater chance of health problems, and a 45-per-cent greater chance of early death.”[1]

Loneliness is such an ugly word. It reminds me of sitting in the cafeteria eating my boring lunch and hoping some popular or cool person would come and sit beside me.  If I sat alone, I felt like a looser, unwanted and rejected by society. It is only human nature to wonder: What is wrong with me?  Strangely enough, it is soldiers who really suffer and feel alone when they come back from
battlefield.

Extensive research has been done in the past decade to establish that humans feel safe and are joyful and fulfilled when they are in community or intimately connected to each other. In an article in June 2015 of VANITY FAIR, called The Bonds of Battle, the author Sebastian Junger gives us startling facts about soldiers returning from war with PTSD.  Yes, the atrocities of war do cause anxiety, trauma and depression. However they are now discovering is that part of the PTSD trauma is perpetuated because the soldier is lo longer in the safety and reliance of community and camaraderie. The author says this: “Our society is alienating, technical, cold and mystifying. Our fundamental desire, as human beings, is to be close to others, and our society does not allow for that.”[2]

Yes, some days I am alone, but I do not feel lonely. There is a huge difference. Sitting at my computer all day is a choice and for the most part I find it rewarding. It is up to you and me to make that determined effort to get up and go out to interact with other people. God designed us to be lovingly connected to each other. In the Bible there are thirty-six “one another” principles that guide us as to how we can be connected:  Here are just a few to show us how we can help each other and find fulfillment:

1.              Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
2.              Serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
3.              Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
4.              Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9).
5.              Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
6.              Greet one another (Romans 16:16).
7.              Pray for one another (James 5:16).
8.              Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).

Being lonely may seem crippling at times and just saying: “Get out there and connect with other people” may seem daunting to some people.  The first step is to admit to the loneliness and be determined to change it. Take small steps to smile at other people. Make eye contact, greet someone and ask: “Are you having a good day?” Do something kind. Ask a question. Put an arm around someone. Drop off a cup of coffee. Pick a flower and pass it along. Sit on a bench and start talking to someone. Join a book club. Have someone over for a cup of soup.

“One” doesn’t have to be a lonely number if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and reach out. Ask God to help you. I know He will.



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] www.theglobeandmail.com/life/life-of-solitude-a-loneless-crisis-is-looming/article
[2] VANITY FAIR, The Bonds of Battle, Sebastian Junger, June, 2015, p. 142

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