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Monday, 21 April 2014

Some Stories Bear Repeating - M. Laycock


 
“I will come again, tomorrow,” Iya repeated. I nodded once again and told him we would continue his English lesson then. We chatted for another few moments, then he repeated the same words again, pronouncing the Melanesian pidgin slowly to make sure I understood. Again I acknowledged that I did. But just before going out the door, Iya turned and said, again, “I will come again tomorrow.”

Later that afternoon I spoke with my neighbour, who had lived in Papua New Guinea for some time. I mentioned the fact that I was sure Iya thought I was a little slow. “He repeats everything at least once, sometimes more, even when I tell him I understand.”

Donna smiled and nodded. “Don’t take it personally,” she said, “it’s the way they speak. Remember, this is an oral culture, and the language lessons are very important to Iya. To him, anything that is important bears repeating several times.”   

I thought of that conversation as I sat listening to a preacher on Good Friday. Though I came to Christ late in life, I realized I have heard this same story over and over again many times. The facts never change, the characters are always the same and the climax of the story is well known.

So why do we keep repeating it?

The answer of course, is that it is one of the most important stories we will ever hear. The details of Easter outline the salvation of the world, as well as our personal way to eternal life. It’s a story that bears repeating, a story that resonates deeply in the heart of every believer no matter how old it is, no matter how many times we hear it.

Perhaps that’s why, on that Good Friday morning, I found myself moved to tears once again by the mercy of a sinless God who took my sin on Himself so that I could stand before His Father, clothed with the righteousness of Christ. That’s the only way I can stand before Him, because my sin cannot be blotted out any other way.

Yes, it’s a story that bears repeating, in those same words and in any other words we can think of that will illustrate it. Because it’s important. Because it’s life-changing. Because it’s life-giving.

“Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more peo;le may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (2Cor. 4:13 -15).
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Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was recently short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia’s Website
 

 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

My Name is Carolyn, and I'm a Wordaholic by Carolyn Arends

You may have noticed that many of the Canadian Writers Bloggers this month have been offering (rather delightful) glimpses of their pathways to the writerly life. I have resonated with so many of their stories. It seems appropriate to share here my most recent Christianity Today column ... all about the power of words, the need for silence, and the relationship between the two.

Listen. Write. Rinse. Repeat!
Carolyn

Knowing God Means More Than Describing Him

Sometimes, our spiritual experiences can't be put into words

the-ocean-4In the April, 2014 issue of Christianity Today

 I tackled my first English essay in college with enthusiasm, a thesaurus, and a naive disregard for page limits. The paper came back with the following comment: "Carolyn, you've made some fine points, but unfortunately they are lost in a sea of circumlocutious wordiness."

 I've always loved words. A well-turned phrase can replace chaos with cosmos. Solomon likened words aptly spoken to apples of gold in frames of silver (Prov. 25:11). When a preacher parses some Greek or Hebrew, I'm astonished at the vistas of meaning that hide within a bit of syntax. Words are teachers, Swiss Army knives, and painters' palettes. Given the right choreographer, they dance.

Yet, for all my love of language, I've been troubled by a growing sense that I need to pay more attention to wordless things. I don't mean simply that "actions speak louder than words"—although they often do, and we should all be required to balance each use of "compassion" with at least ten compassionate acts. Lately I've been wondering: Have I reduced the scope of what I can know to what I can articulate?

Occasionally, something—a strain of music, a friend's touch, a sunset, or simply a sudden sense of Presence—will "speak" to me. When that occurs, I have an overwhelming urge to put whatever's happening into language. Otherwise, it doesn't seem real. This impulse is particularly noticeable in my devotional life. Give me a prayer list or a passage to study, and I'm there. But ask me to sit silently in God's presence, and I get anxious.

Ronald Rolheiser, a Catholic writer, distinguishes between meditative and contemplative prayer. In the former, he argues, we are active and verbal. In the latter, we are passively inarticulate. When we try to perceive God, Rolheiser suggests, we're often like a fish who asks his mother, "Where is this water we hear so much about?" First, the mother might set up a projector at the bottom of the ocean to show pictures of the sea. Then, she might say, "Now that you have some idea of what water is, I want you to sit in it and let it flow through you." That difference—between thinking about water and actually attending to it—is like the difference between meditation and contemplation.

Epistemology (the study of how we know what we know) often emphasizes knowledge rendered in propositional statements: I "know" that 2 + 2 = 4. But there is also "acquaintance-knowledge," gained through direct encounter with another person, place, or thing. Many non-English languages have a distinct vocabulary to signify the profound differences between these ways of knowing. For example, the verb for knowing something factually is wissen in German and sapere in Latin, while "acquaintance-knowledge" is designated kennen (German) and cognoscere(Latin). The first kind of knowledge is general, abstract, and easily put into words. The second is individual, particular, and often hard to articulate. You find wissenin textbooks and creeds; kennen comes through relationships and experience.

One of my favourite preachers says that, by Tuesday, he must "break the back" of whatever passage he's going to teach on Sunday. In this mode he's seeking wissen—knowledge of the text that he can codify, control, and explain to his congregation.

Alternatively, one of my favorite contemplatives says that his faith only flourishes when he lets a passage break him. He uses the practice of lectio divina ("sacred reading," or dwelling on a text to listen for the Holy Spirit) in order to pursue a more direct encounter.

I believe both modes are essential. God indeed invites us to "come . . . reason together" (Isa. 1:18, ESV). He also implores us to "be still, and know" that he is God (Ps. 46:10). In the earliest Latin Bible translation, the verb for "know" in this passage appears as cognoscere—acquaintance-knowledge—not sapere.

Perhaps it's fitting that I devote my final Wrestling with Angels column to exploring the power and limits of words. We've exchanged a lot of them over the past five years, and I'm deeply grateful. Rest assured, I'm not giving up on language—you can count on my circumlocutious wordiness in future pieces for ct and, Lord willing, in songs and books to come.

Yet I hope to write without the assum­ption that everything knowable can be named in words. Our God is both the Word who became flesh (John 1) and the Spirit who "himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26, ESV). Let's swim not only in the sea of our own words and ideas about him, but also in his fathomless ocean of love.

300x250 Arends - high res
 

Friday, 18 April 2014

A GLORIOUS SPLASH OF TIME-by Heidi McLaughlin

                                                                        

An unrelenting knot in my stomach signals the beginning of my Easter week. My emotions become tender and anxious because Good Friday is approaching-again. 
This tension started ten years ago on a Good Friday, when I heard the whispered, gut wrenching words, “Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?”  In that divine, hushed moment I became that mother gazing upon her own son hanging on a cross. I tried to envision my son in that scene-Donovan, the apple of my eye, with his wistful lopsided grin and dimples. The one who makes me double over in laughter, creates gourmet recipes, shops with me, and makes my buttons burst with pride.  My whole life has been devoted to nurturing, loving and protecting him.
So I am overcome with emotion when I place myself in that moment in time, where Mary stands, looking up at her son’s bloody, nail pierced hands as He hung upon the cross. To a mother, her son is always her cherished boy. We never forget the soft, warm cuddles, or long nights watching him toss with fever. How do we fathom being a mother who raises a son knowing he is appointed to die? How do we fathom the Son, freely giving himself for the world? That is what we have to grapple with-knowing Jesus has such a radical love, it disrupts our world.
 Just before Jesus went to the cross He had an intensely intimate conversation with His Heavenly Father. He said, “I have given them the glory you gave me-the glorious unity of being one, as we are” John 17:22(TLB).  It is unmistakably clear; Jesus was leaving you and me to continue on this radical mission to wash out a dark world full of selfishness, confusion and hatred with His Glory-a reflection of His essence-Love.
 It is glaringly obvious. I have this moment in history-a Glorious splash of time-to reflect God’s glory.  Most moments in time I don’t feel one bit glorious. As I tap my fingers in traffic or look at my watch in cashier lines, I know I cannot muster up any glory.  But Glory comes from the one who died for me, the Lord, whose spirit splashes through me. If I stop myself in the moment, wherever I am, I know that Spirit lovingly spills into me.
 My knot finally dissipates on Easter Sunday. My eyes shift from the excruciating horror of the cross to the magnificent beauty of a love beyond reason. I move from emotion to mission.  I have been asked to disrupt the darkness of this world with the Glory of this radical love. I am ready.
 “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18b NIV).
 How do we reflect God’s glory?
1.         Realize that God has given us this Glorious Splash of Time to reflect His Glory.
2.         Seek to know God’s love.
3.         Keep a pure heart – forgive freely.
4.         Ask the Holy Spirit to be the Glory in us.
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



   


Thursday, 17 April 2014

MODEL ANSWERS by Susan Harris


I'm a dreamer. Forgot walking through woods with bluebells that I copiously described from the works of my favourite author, Enid Blyton. When I decided to write it was not because of the castles and trips I took in books during my school-aged years, nor the encouragement of teachers, or the generous praise of friends. Quite the contrary.  I was determined to create a resource that would fulfil the dreams of another. Of several others, as a matter of fact. 

My book would be called, Model Answers for Management of Business. In the competitive world of education in Trinidad, any book touting ready responses to prepare pupils to pass the challenging, rigorous Advanced Level exams issued by the University of Cambridge, were coveted. Model Answers were essays and calculations to the questions asked in past exams, and to anticipated ones in the future. Internet was not available thus resources were scarce and revered - veritable bibles for the young who took the two additional years of high school. The exams were set and marked by foreign professors who knew the students only as numbers. Paper 1 and Paper 11 declared the results. The results decided university entry and occupational mobility.

When I was placed at the secondary school at which I taught prior to immigrating to Canada, I was flabbergasted when the Head informed me I'd be teaching Bookkeeping and Office Procedures. I countered, and reasoned. One did not need a university degree to teach those courses. Then I refused. I'd go back to my old school even though I had spent over 47 24-hour days commuting the year before. At least I was using my tertiary knowledge to teach Accounts and Principles of Business there. But I had one last plan to stay in the school in my hometown before executing my dare.

"I'd like to pioneer an Advanced Level subject," I requested to the Head of my department. "Management of Business (MOB)". 

The short of it is that I visited other schools where the new curriculum had found favour, and armed with advice, past papers, syllabi and textbook lists, I stood at 5'5" (three inches were from shoes) and promised the somewhat dubious Head and an even more dubious Principal that I'd make the school proud. They had only known me for a week but I knew me for over two decades. I'll deliver.

Fast forward two years later and the first MOB results. 13 out of 14 full passes. The 14th student received an Ordinary level grade. 93% pass rate was historical. The school's name was proudly mentioned, and the Head and Principal were elated. Meritocracy undergirds the reputation of teachers and mine was made. The results over the ensuing years reinforced my subject matter competence, and I was recognized as an expert in my field.

Thus I started the manuscript for model answers. But like the MBA in Human Resources which I left at registration when I moved to Canada, the books, too, took another focus. The Certified Human Resource Professional designation replaced the MBA, and Golden Apples in Silver Settings, Little Copper Pennies series, and Remarkably Ordinary replaced Model Answers for MOB.

I've found that dreams never die. They evolve. I aspire to inspire and educate, and to never cease to dream.

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Newly released, Remarkably Ordinary - 20 Reflections on Living Intentionally Right Where You Are is only US$0.99 for the rest of April. Find it at your Favourite Amazon site.

Find Susan at:

http://susanharris.ca

https://www.facebook.com/SusanHarrisCanadianAuthor

https://twitter.com/SusanHarris20

Susan Harris is a speaker and former teacher, and the author of Remarkably Ordinary, Golden Apples in Silver Settings, Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids. Susan loves making new friends and answers all her mail. She was born on the tropical island of Trinidad but now lives on the Canadian prairies with her husband, daughter and the gregarious cats.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

THE LORD’S PRESCIENCE


Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I was named after a literary character. My mother asked my older siblings what she should name me. So they decided on “Sally” – the baby of the Dick and Jane series.

I loved to read and write when I was a little girl. I am blessed that my mother kept and scrapbooked a number of my stories and artwork. I enjoy going through them once in a while, and am amazed how prescient they have been for my future life.


When I was seven years old, I was the Chief Editor (and reporter/writer) of our classroom newspaper. One time I wrote about my mother accidentally setting the dinner on fire.  I told her that it was my lead story and she made me erase the whole thing and find an alternate topic before the newspaper went to print!

Interesting that my first professional job was as a scientific Editor.

When I was eight years old, I wrote a short piece called When I Grow Up:

“When I grow up I will be a traveller, writing and illustrating things I see. I’ll collect coins and speak all the languages. I’ll make dresses, and eat gourmet meals. I have decided to do this so I can be able to learn about countries.”

I may not have travelled to a lot of countries (England where I was born; Germany when I was a baby; United States), but I have always been drawn to people of other cultures. I have lived in every Canadian province stretching from Alberta to Quebec. When I was in my early teens I wanted to be an interpreter with the United Nations, so I took (and excelled at) French and German. I collect stamps (not coins, but close enough). I am an accomplished seamstress. My husband makes me gourmet meals (LOL). And one of my favourite things to do is to travel and take photographs to capture what I’ve seen.

Before I graduated high school, I decided on a career as a science writer. I debated for a long time whether I would go into journalism or science; the latter won out. I have a Bachelor and Masters in Science, and have written a number of research papers.

American writer George Plimpton (of all people) heavily influenced the overall path of my life. He tried out a wide range of careers and then wrote or made documentaries about his experiences.

As for me, I have worked as a scientific editor, chemist/geologist, children’s science entertainer, teacher, science outreach educator, and technical (engineering) editor. I have had the opportunity to write a wide range of pieces about my experiences, many published.

My love for singing started when I was very young. Playing the piano was also a passion of mine. In my late teens I started to put the two together. Then my parents moved away and took the piano with them. Sigh.

It wasn’t until 1995 that I started singing in church. In 2001, a worship leader spoke over me that I would use my hands to write music for the Lord. I have been writing music ever since, although rarely sharing publicly. That is, up until two years ago, when through the Lord’s divine intervention, I wrote and released my first (official) CD, Turn the Page. That was followed in 2013 by my Christmas album Red & White.



In January 2013 I left the corporate/academic world to focus full-time on my writing and music ministry. I have a number of writing projects I am currently working on, including a short story for an upcoming anthology, a children’s picture book, and a devotional based on the songs from my CD Turn the Page.  This fall I hope to tour with my CD Red & White. After two years of praying about it, I am delighted to announce that I have recently entered in partnership as an Artist-Ambassador with Compassion Canada.

Two years ago, just after I released my first CD, health issues forced limitations where life had always seemed to be full of possibilities. Thankfully, the Lord brought me through that season, and the hope and promise of a new season is expressed in my song This New Year (link below). Be blessed and encouraged in your own journey!

This New Year:          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psz10ElkvYo

Website:                     http://sallymeadows.com

YouTube Channel:    http://www.youtube.com/SallyMeadowsMusic

Facebook:                   https://www.facebook.com/SallyMeadowsMusic

Twitter:                      @SallyMeadows


Monday, 14 April 2014

A Different Springboard




I confess I'm a little different. In my mind I can hear my wife saying, "No kidding. You got that right!"

But who says that you have to go through life the conventional way? Why not break the mold? Why not be bold and try something different?
Most writers take up writing because of their profound love of reading. They are voracious readers and quite naturally their writing and love of writing springs from the deep well of literature from which they have freely imbibed. They have drunk deeply from the creative juices of others and their writing craft reflects the influences of other authors that they have read. There is nothing wrong in this. It is the natural outcome or by-product of a love for books.
I'm a little different. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy reading, somewhat. I usually have a book on the go. But am I a voracious reader? No. Not unless you consider reading three or four books over the course of a year voracious. My wife will read that many books in a week. She's a voracious reader. I'm a literary dabbler.

Having authored eight books does however put me firmly into the writer's camp. So where does my urge and inspiration for writing come from? It comes from my love of drama. It comes from my role as an actor and a storyteller. 

Almost twenty years ago I was captivated by the story of the centurion, who at the cross made that startling confession, "Truly, he is the Son of God!" I produced and told his crucifixion account in a one-man play called The Centurion's Report. After developing this drama and doing this play for six years, I realized I had the basis of novel. I began writing that novel and through a coincidence of Divine timing it was released at the same time as Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ. I promptly sold all 2,000 copies. Another 2,000+ have sold since then and later this month a US publishing house is taking The Soldier, the Terrorist & the Donkey King to committee. Of course I'm praying for that big breakthrough into the American market.

My other top seller is Psalms Alive! This devotional study is based on thirteen Psalms that I do at dramatic presentations all across Canada. I also do a full dramatization of the Book of James. I am currently working on a book based on the life of James. So you see acting and drama is at the heart of what I write.  
 
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to finalize packing for tomorrow's trip to Charleston, SC. I'll be doing The Centurion's Report at a large Baptist church there on Wednesday.
Sometimes it pays to be a little different.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Making of This Writer by Ruth Smith Meyer


     As long as I can remember, reading and writing have been a central part of who I am. The reading part came very early in life, hearing my mother read stories to us—Bible accounts and tales from the Busy Bee series. Although Dad never read other than the Bible to us, he often had a book in his hand and shared historic and current happenings which inspired me to have an inquiring mind.

      For a Mennonite minister, he had quite an extensive library and encouraged us all to read. We soon learned that he couldn’t be persuaded to buy us toys, but if we asked for a book, he would find a way to get it for us. The teachers in the one-room school I attended added to the fascination for the written word. One chose interesting books from which to read a chapter every day after lunch. The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Secret Garden and Little Men, for example, were read with such enlivening expression it wasn’t hard to imagine the settings, and live along with the characters. My best friend and I shared books for the local library and read well over a hundred in any given year.

     Another teacher in my upper grades was such a vivid story-teller that many lessons were absorbed when we thought she was just talking and had forgotten to teach us our assignments for the day. She even attended readings by Stephen Leacock which left us awe-stricken after reading some of his writings. Imagine meeting a real live author in person! 

 My first attempt at poetry came from her suggestion to write a poem about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. In my teenage years, my writing was mostly in the form of letters to 35 pen pals to whom I sent monthly missives. I enjoyed making my letters so interesting that these friends could enter my world through what I wrote to them. My dad was the editor of a monthly newsletter that went out to probably about 500 addresses. I helped with editing, typing them on to stencils, and drawing illustrations with a stylus before running them off on a Gestetner. Occasionally he’d let me write an editorial and a few of my poems were published. I’ll never forget the thrill it gave me to see my first one in black and white. In my early twenties, a bi-national magazine called Christian Living published one of my poems on their back cover. It’s funny to me now, but I was absolutely shocked to receive a cheque for that contribution. I didn’t know much about the publishing world. I would have gladly paid them for the honour and satisfaction of having my poem included! 

      Over the years I had many letters to the editor in newspapers, small articles in others and I wrote columns for different organizations and clubs for weekly newspapers. At the Seniors Day Center where I worked, I wrote a bi-monthly column Keenager’s Korner which was published in four different weeklies so had quite a large circulation. I also interviewed each of the seniors and wrote a short life-story and along with a picture inserted it in a binder called This is Your Life. Often those dear people remarked how interesting their life sounded when I got finished writing about it. I know it pleased them and I like to think it was an encouragement to them. I didn’t think of myself as a writer—I was just doing what I enjoyed. Still, I had dreams of someday becoming a writer and author.

     My husband promised when he retired, he’d do the bulk of the house work so I could pursue my writing. Meantime, I took college writing and English courses. When he died of colon cancer at 63, I thought I may never achieve my goal. Had it not been for Brenda Lundy inviting me to God Uses Ink, I may have dreamed forever.

      I waited a year and then attended what had become WRITE! Canada. I didn’t know a soul, for Brenda had succumbed to cancer by then. I was welcomed and nurtured and took in so much information my head was full and my heart was light by the time I came home.

      For months, I had dreaded wakening to another day without my beloved, but the morning after that conference, I awoke with the realization that I could scarcely wait to get up and begin writing. I literally sat up in bed and said aloud, “Hello, the rest of my life! I want this day to begin.” It was nice to have new purpose in life. My first writing after that was a week’s assignment for REJOICE! a daily devotional. When that was well-received, I had several ideas of what to pursue. I had in mind a book I could write, but all the advice I got at the conference was toward writing articles first. However the book idea wouldn’t go away, so I thought I’d just begin to get it on paper while working at other articles. But when I got started I typed from 9 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. day after day as fast as my fingers could type. Even at night I often awoke with an idea of what should come next. Of course it took a lot of editing and reworking after the initial writing but there was a lot of pleasure in that first draft. Not Easily Broken wasn’t published for a few years, but the sequel, Not Far from the Tree came a year later after that.

     Tyson’s Sad Bad Day was another project that grew out of a poem that came to me in the middle of the night, following the death of my daughter’s best friend and the need of her young niece and nephew to have an understanding of death as part of life. When I couldn’t find an illustrator, my horizons were stretched again as I drew the pictures to illustrate that children’s book. I’ve also had the joy of being part of three different anthologies—Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, Grandmothers’ Necklace and Fifty Shades of Grace, and have had several personal experience articles in a variety of magazines.

     Another marriage, learning to know and love another whole family, another long journey with cancer and continuing medical appointments, have slowed the process on my next big project—my life story, Out of the Ordinary. But it is well on its way. I began the task mainly for my family, but as I share chapters with my writer’s group, I am affirmed time and again that it is worth sharing with a larger audience. I hope some of you will think so too. Coming from a conservative Mennonite heritage perhaps is a different existence than most to begin with, but there have been many parts of and incidents in my life that fit the title. Much as we all are similar, each one of us is unique and out of the ordinary—but this will be my story.