Friday, June 29, 2007
This question resonated with my heart. Christians don't need to hear the gospel message--they're already saved, but the unbeliever is desperate for the Good News, even if he's unaware of this need. And so I craft my stories of love and romance, staying well within the boundary of God's Word, and endeavor to show the love and grace of our Savior no matter what issues my characters face.
While I know writing is my ministry, I'm always awed and humbled at the reaction from the secular world of publishing. While I couldn't garner a review from Christian reviewers, Romance Junkies gave Full Circle a 5-Ribbon rating and Coffee Time Romance gave Appointment With Destiny a 4 out of 5 rating. The CEO of All Romance Ebooks, knowing I write Inspirational Romance, sought me out, requesting I write a short story for their readers, with a 1-flame rating. (A 1-flame rating is a sweet, clean, no sex, no profanity. All the submissions they were receiving was a 5-flame, which is extremely explicit.)
According to the Romance Writers of America statistics, the Christian romance is one of the fastest growing sub-genre of romance. Secular publishers, if they can't purchase an already-existing Christian publisher, create one of their own. The demand for Christian fiction is that strong.
Is it possible the secular world, dissatisfied, yet not fully comprehending this dissatisfaction, are searching for something more? Are they realizing and appreciating the something more found in Christian fiction, where we have the pull between sin and doing the right thing; we have the struggle in the character's mind, heart, spirit, and body and God eventually winning; we have the desire without being graphic and explicit?
"I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." John 4:35 (NIV)
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
We've all heard versions of the proverbial story about the Christian woman or man who gushes out a manuscript on coffee stained three-hole binder paper, and through providential circumstances, the novel or true life story gets published and ends up being a best seller.
"It is was all God," they say, teary-eyed. "I give Him all the glory."
Those of us who have spent years honing our craft, going through many rewrites, the pain of rejection, the sometimes brutal critiquing process, and more rewrites say, huh?
And the less gracious among us might mutter to ourselves, well, if God wrote that, don't you think He'd do a better job?
Which is not to say, however, that God might not be totally behind some of these publishing phenomena and use them to bear fruit for the Kingdom. The book that brought me to Christ was a simple testimony by an Italian American man about the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of his Momma and their family. Nothing grand or eloquent about it. In fact, sometimes I wish I could say it was C.S. Lewis who brought me to Christ. There's more "intellectual cachet" in that! But God uses the simple things to confound the "wise," right?
Frank Foglio's book Hey! God is still in print and, I imagine, still touching lives for Jesus. I thank God that he wrote the book and that someone published it and someone cared enough to give it to a drug dealer, who left it lying around for me to find when I was left alone on a bad drug trip.
So, what do we do, those of us who have to work really hard and wonder whether God is in our work, too? Whether our lack of worldly success is a sign of God's lack of favor?
Yet I look around me and many of the people who I firmly know in my spirit are sacrificially following God are laboring in obscurity and they seldom know when or how God is going to finance their ministry, whether it involves writing or the arts or other God-inspired ventures. But when I am around them, I sense the sweet fragrance of Christ. I have no doubt God is in them, inspiring them, guiding them, despite their lack of renown or worldly success.
I would encourage them to keep on keeping on, to continue their work.
Another thing for us writers to remember when we look at some beautiful writing that seems to flow so easily on the page. Sometimes, something that looks effortless and easy is the product of hours of rewriting.
Yesterday I had a conversation with an award winning journalist who writes for the local daily. She and I covered the same event and her story was so good, and seemingly turned around so quickly, I wondered how she did it. She writes beautifully.
Well, turns out she had started working on this story days in advance, and had spent she said 12 hours on it prior to the event, so that once she got there she only had a few details to add.
We both confessed that as we grow as writers we find it gets harder, not easier, maybe because our standards are higher.
My message today is this: put God first. Give over your writing to Him and everything else in your life. If He blesses you with the publication of a coffee-stained, hand-written first draft on your first try, then praise Him and may your work bear much fruit for the Kingdom. For those of us who have to work hard, who have to rewrite, let us find God in the work, in the joy of beautiful craftmanship, as an offering to Him. The suffering and rejection we experience is all part of our character-building so that we can become vessels for Him. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and not worry about what He's doing with other writers, only whether our daily offering of work is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
And then there were a couple of scenes that brought God’s truth to the wide screen.
Like the scene at a restaurant, when God shows up as the waiter. He chats with the wife of the man who would be Noah, and tells her (I’m relying on my memory here, so the words may not be exact) – “If a person prayed for patience, do you think God would just go “poof” and give her patience? Or do you think God would give her the circumstances in which to develop patience? And say a person had prayed that her family would draw closer together – do you think God would just magically make that happen or would He put that family in circumstances that gave them the opportunity to be closer?” The woman sees the wisdom of his words and goes back to her husband.
I’ve been thinking about the truth in that scene, in light of my own prayer requests lately. For instance, in light of my prayers for my writing, specifically my new book, One Smooth Stone. It’s not likely that God will go “poof” and make it an instant overnight success. But He will create the circumstances around that work that will lead me and teach me much. It will be an opportunity to learn and grow both in terms of the world of publishing, and in terms of my relationship with Him. It’s another example of how God is often not so much concerned with the end result as with the process.
And that brings me to the difference in our perspectives and the need for me to adjust mine. I want to see my book on the best seller’s list. God wants to see it change lives. I think it would be nice if those two went together but God may have other plans. I want to become known as a writer. God wants me to know Him more.
I’m thankful for the reminder. And I’m thankful that I know God well enough to trust Him with the process. As he said to Evan – and to me through that crazy comedy – “I’m doing it because I love you.”
Monday, June 25, 2007
Let me rephrase that. I have absolutely nothing to say that anyone would want to hear.
In fact, everything I might say at the moment would be totally depressing and negative.
It’s been one of those weeks.
I find when I’ve been busy for a while (read “overdone it”) and I get tired (read “absolutely exhausted”), I tend to move into a state of semi-depression (read “burnout”). All of a sudden, the liquid in the glass, which is normally neither half-full nor half-empty, but just enough, moves definitely to the meagre side, and the rose-tinted glasses have a decidedly blue cast.
Some of it is the afore-mentioned overdoing it and tiredness; but part, I think, is the confusion of this busy world and a lack of control on my part. And the inability to be doing what I really want to do – write a great book.
Top ten things that are out of control for me this week and explain why I can’t write anything:
10. We’ve discovered the company we thought was going to help us develop a great marketing plan for my book this fall doesn’t seem to have one. Not one that we can put our hearts behind, anyway. Maybe we were expecting too much. Not sure. Anyway, it’s depressing since we still need to find a way to move these books!
9. Son number 3 is camping in
8. Son number 4 got back at 4:30 AM this morning from
6. Then I started a really well-written book, and went, “Why bother trying to write anything when there are already writers like this?”
5. I’m on several listservs, which I try to read, though I don’t often post. What I want to know is this: How come everyone else has editors, agents and contracts just falling out of the blue for them? What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I know the right people?
4. I emailed another writer and asked it she wanted to talk. She replied that she was wondering why she ever tried to write in the first place. I totally agreed with her (meaning me, not her.) We decided we need to talk. Maybe two negatives can make one positive?
3. Son number 2 just told me he’s going to
2. Last Monday, my new book was actually up in the 100,000s on Amazon. Why, I don’t know. They must have sold a few copies. Excitement. But since then, every day it’s dropped, and is now at 600,000 something. Oh well. Maybe someday I’ll get one in the 10,000s. Can’t imagine being in the top 100 sellers. Okay, that’s really depressing. I can’t imagine how one would do that without a big-time publishing house behind you. And for that you need the agent, the editor, the whole bit. Or at least a plan for marketing. See number 10.
1. And the top reason I have nothing to write about? Every morning, I wake up with a different idea buzzing through my mind. Every newspaper I read, every song I hear, every person I talk to, every email I get…gives me more ideas until my brain is overwhelmed. Every idea is screaming “Me, Me, Me!” until I have to cover my ears and my mind and either fall asleep or escape into a really good book (see reasons 7 and 8).
Hmm. the really good book I want to escape into is the one I'm supposed to be writing. Except I’m having trouble finding anything to write about just now…
Friday, June 22, 2007
As a follower of Christ, I do look to Someone for direction. I pray each day that He will guide me to make the right choices in my work day.
Sometimes, though, I fret. I worry. And on occasion, it could more accurately be described as full blown panic.
I prayerfully plan out the day, the week, the year. I set goals and march bravely towards them. But things don’t always go as planned.
There is one manuscript that I have been longing to see in print for five years now. I have prayed earnestly that Deep Waters would be published as I believe it will be an encouragement and help to many people. Why doesn’t the Lord answer my prayer?
As I reflect on the past five years, I see that was has happened has been very good. It hasn’t been anything like what I would have planned or even dreamed of. But it has been very good.
Recently, the Lord has been assuring me that: “Everything is going according to plan.” His plan of course; not mine.
If Deep Waters had been published five years ago, I might not have pursued journalism. If it had been published four years ago, I likely never would have taken the time to teach writing classes. If Deep Waters had been published three years ago, I wouldn’t have worked at getting my young adult novel, Colin’s Choice, published. If I'd had a contract to publish Deep Waters two years ago, I would probably not have taken a position as editor of Indian Life or published my children’s book, Get Lost! If Deep Waters had been published a year ago, I would not have continued to teach writing and would have missed out on the wonderful opportunity of meeting all those great people and editing three anthologies of Winnipeg authors. I would have missed out on so much!
The past two weeks have been filled with wonderful things that I could never have imagined five years ago. I had a book signing at Book Expo, an interview with Drew Marshall and I received my second book award from The Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards. I was on faculty at Write! Canada and on a writer’s panel at The Family Christian Bookstore, sitting alongside authors: Keith Clemons, N. J. Lindquist, Denyse O’Leary and Ray Wiseman.
Will Deep Waters be published this year – or does God have yet something else for me that I could not even begin to imagine?
One thing I do know – things will continue to go according to plan.
Jer 29:11 (NIV) "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."
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I opened my bedroom curtains today at 6:41 a.m. to experience the brilliance of a radiant summer sun. It felt very warm, peaceful, and invigorating. I love the sun. My moods, thoughts, and attitudes can be significantly impacted by the "presence" or "absence" of that strange dwarf star that we call "SUN".
Most of us are sun worshippers at heart (even with the threat of skin cancer, or worse). I remember lying on the beach at Waikiki, reading Paradise Lost for an upcoming exam, and desperately trying to get a tan before the flight back to Vancouver. All I got for my troubles that day was a soggy book from the tropical rain showers.
Everyone loves the Summer Sunshine! We love it so much that we have even named a day of the week after it (Sun Day, from the latin dies solis: day of the sun). The sun is vital to virtually everyone's well-being and career. Imagine the summer without a single day of sunshine. It would almost feet immoral.
Deep Cove/Seymour residents may be willing to accept liquid sunshine throughout the rest of the year, but this time of year genuine summer sunshine is a must. Even one day of experiencing the beauty of Panorama or Cates Park on a sunny summer day is enough to make you forget a dozen rainy days.
Why this love affair, this fascination with the sun? Perhaps because of its mysterious nature and its overwhelming size. The sun's volume is 1,300,000 times that of the earth. If the sun were a skyscraper, the earth would be the size of a person. The moon would be the size of a cocker spaniel standing next to the person.
Scientists tell us that the centre of the sun is about 27,000,000°F (1 5,000,000°C). If we were any closer to the sun, we'd be burned to a crisp. Being at a healthy 93 million miles away, we merely toast on a summer day rather than roast. Fortunately for us, only about one two-billionth of the sun's light and heat reaches the earth. The rest is lost in space.
The Egyptians, Greeks and many other ancient people thought that the sun was a God. They literally worshiped the sun, made offerings to it, and built massive temples. The ancient Jewish people, in contrast, pointed to the One behind the Sun.
The Old Testament predicted that some day "the sun of righteousness will come with healing in its wings" That sun came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible often described Jesus as being "like the sun shining in all its brilliance" Jesus said, "I am the light of the world ... Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become children of light" My prayer for each reader is that as you experience the SUN SHINE this summer, you may also experience the SON LIGHT of the eternal Son. Have a sunny day!
The Rev. Ed Hird, Rector St. Simon's Church, North Vancouver, BC
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Reviewers have a lot of power over readers’ buying decisions. With so many books out there and only so much money to spend on them, the decision of whether or not to buy the reviewed book may rest totally on the reviewer’s opinions of that book and how the opinions were given.
Reviewers also have a lot of power over how an author will feel for the rest of the day after a review has been seen and read. When I saw the familiar cover of my little poetry book on the computer screen, I gave out an involuntary oh sound. Within that small sound were many feelings—joyous anticipation, hope of a good review, gratitude that Charlene Martel had found my newly published books on-line, approached me and offered to do a review on each book.
The opening paragraph of her review quieted my anxious spirit and left me in awe and wonder of God’s goodness to me through Charlene Martel’s generous gift.
Grapes from the Vine, I read, is a collection of poetry, written by Judith Lawrence, during times of meditation and contemplation of God. Contained within the pages, are 35 beautiful, heartfelt, descriptive poems which are just so filled with awe, love and positivity that this book is truly a joy to read.
We, as Christian authors, are called by God to write and we have a responsibility to fulfill that calling. Reviewers are called by a Higher Power, whether they know it or not, to write book reviews. They are given an awesome responsibility, which can result in an author’s continued commitment to writing, a stalled career, or just a good or bad day.
Thank you, Charlene Martel, for a review that resulted in a good day and my continued joy of writing.
Monday, June 18, 2007
In the Scriptures the Lord offers us many promises. His credibility is such we know that He will always honour them.
What are these promises of Jesus? They can probably be summarized under two categories. There are promises that offer us security, a sense of place and there promises that offer us significance, a sense of purpose.
In John 14, is an example of a promise of a place Jesus offers. He is preparing us a place in His presence. We have the promise from Jesus in John 16 that His Spirit comes, not only to be with us, but to live in us. Since we have the presence of Jesus in us now, like Paul and many others we can say, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Wherever we are, we can depend upon Him. There is nothing that we cannot handle in relying upon the strength of the One who indwells us. That is security.
The promise of John 14 also gives us a sense of purpose. Living with Jesus gives our lives meaning. As His followers, He entrusts us, with His help, to do His work. He has promised not only to be with us, but also to do whatever we ask Him to do, bringing glory to God.
We all have a deep seated need for something meaningful to do. In a management course I studied, the facilitator reminded us that young people today would rather have jobs that provide them with something meaningful to do that to have a lot of benefits. God knows that is what we need.
The promises of Jesus offer us both security that enables us to face whatever comes our way, and significance so our lives have meaning.
Many Christians have what we call a life verse. It is often a promise from the Bible that seems to have a particular significance for us. My life verse is Joshua 1: 9. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go."
This verse came to my attention when I was twelve years old. I was reading my Bible through, a chapter every evening. When I read the verse, it spoke to me in a special way. It seemed tailor made for my temperament.
It took into account how I responded to God. At that age, I had discovered personally that God answered prayer. At times when I found myself in difficulty, I would pray and I knew that the solution came from Him. However, my basic attitude to God was fear. In fact, my basic response to life was fear.
Then the Lord came to me in this verse and said, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified..." He promised, "The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." As I learned to put my trust and confidence in Him, my fears ceased to control me. I found the security He promises.
Another emotion with which I struggled was discouragement. One incident where this came to a head for me, occurred in my mid twenties. The charismatic movement was at its height. I was reading all kinds of books on the subject of tongues. Not only that, I tried to put into practice all the formulas suggested for receiving this gift. I felt I was a second class Christian without the gift of tongues. Despite my best efforts, I did not receive the gift. The result for me was discouragement.
Finally, I heard advice coming to me from several sources. Stop thinking so much about what you do not have and rejoice in what you have. That was the key for me, in overcoming discouragement. What did my life verse say? "...do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." If I had Him, what else did I need? He knew my deepest needs. If the gift of tongues was necessary to meet them, He would give it to me. He fulfilled His promise to me. He was with me. Knowing that He would always supply my needs, as He promised, gave me security to trust Him, whether or not I ever spoke in tongues.
This verse had greater fulfillment in my life, when we served in France for four years. There we operated in a different language, in a different culture. My first months, before I learned the language, were very lonely ones for me. Yet I remembered again the promise of Jesus to me, "The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
In France or Canada, or anywhere else in the world, I could depend on His word that He would be with me. His promise was my security. This promise of Jesus sustains me wherever I am, not only anywhere on this globe, but both in this world and the next.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I know I'm not alone in this experience. Many of my favourite authors have referred to this moment of disappointment. The only cure is to just keep writing, and make the story as good as it can be.
How many things in this earthly life are like this? We envision the perfect holiday, only to have the experience lack that unnamable "something". Oh, the holiday is a wonderful experience, but it's missing something we can't define.
Or we have the sense that if we can just ________ (insert activity or goal of your choice) life will be without flaw. Yet when we achieve or experience whatever it was, we find it's less than what we hoped for.
I call this the "taste of heaven". Our hearts, and our souls, long for Heaven. We know it will be perfect. It will be beyond what we can even imagine. I Corinthians 2:9, 10 "No eye has seen nor ear has heard, no man has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him--but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit."
In other words, pure logic can't figure this one out. Yet, deep within, God's Spirit has whispered to us what we can expect to experience when we see God face to face. It will be amazing. It will satisfy every longing we ever had for companionship, for beauty, for joy.
These thoughts are particularly poignant to me as I consider Ruth Bell Graham, who lies at the threshold of Heaven, if she hasn't already crossed over. I've admired her from afar since I was a teenager. My heart aches for her family as they face her absence from their earthly lives.
My soul envies her. She's on the verge of experiencing the undiluted, uninterrupted Presence of God, on the cusp of tasting that for which we all long.
Ruth, thank you for what your earthly life showed us of God's grace, for letting us watch you serve your God with faithfulness and complete devotion. We'll miss you.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul, by Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and myself, got a great review at Publishers Weekly. I am so glad they thought the book is lively, which it is, and controversial, which it also is, but the main thing is ... we show that you are not just a bunch of chemicals running around in a bag.
So these stories might interest you:
Evolutionary psychology: Why Clan of the Cave Bear makes more sense as a novel than as a science.
Atheist gives millions to Catholic schools
Quantum weirdness and consciousness
New neuroscience blog questions pop science media's neuro-this and neuro-that.
Monday, June 11, 2007
The free magazine provides small business owners tips on improving productivity, managing your workload, networking, developing good habits, and easing stress. One article that caught me by surprise is titled “The Humility Advantage” and it highlights the importance of not letting your expertise and knowledge make you arrogant or insensitive.
If people in the business world are expected to be good managers — no matter what their rank or position is — how much more should we as Christians be good stewards of the things God has made us responsible for?
People usually think of stewardship as managing one’s finances well or, more specifically, tithing. That is certainly an important area of our lives that God wants us to honour Him with. However, there are many other aspects of our lives that we need to manage well and I think we often either forget that we are accountable to God for those things… or we consciously neglect those areas.
At a recent women’s meeting I spoke at, we discussed how we need to be good stewards, not only of our money, but also of our time, our talents and skills, our spiritual gifts, our relationships, our health, our minds, the environment, and so much more.
A lot of these things fall into place nicely if we first determine what our priorities are. When we are certain that we’ve put God first in our lives, it’s easier to then determine what to schedule into our calendars, where to spend our money, where to go, how to use our talents, and what to do with all our “stuff”.
I think many of us experience stress because our to-do lists are too long, our finances are squeezed tight, we don’t get enough sleep or exercise, our relationships are strained, and we know deep in our hearts we’re not spending enough time in God’s Word, in prayer, in service and even in church.
So where do we start? How do we become better managers or stewards? It may seem obvious, but I believe the first thing we must do is courageously take a chunk of time out of our busy schedules and spend it in prayer, asking God for guidance and a sincere change of heart.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
-an article for the June 2007 Deep Cove Crier
This Father’s Day, I am so grateful to both have a father and be a father. I have had a father for 52 years and been a father for 26 years.
My first Deep Cove Crier Father’s Day article was 18 years ago in 1989. I had only been a father for six years at that point. In 1910 a special Sunday to pay tribute to fathers was set aside by the Ministerial Society of Spokane, Washington at the suggestion of Mrs. John Bruce Dodd. This was just 3 years after the kickoff of the enormously popular Mother's Day. In 1911, Miss Jane Addams of Chicago, the well-known social worker of Hull House, stirred up Chicago with the same idea. "Poor father has been left out in the cold:' she said. "He doesn't get much recognition".
There seems to be few people who cheer for fathers. In the 1990 Deep Cove Crier, I commented that “too often, today's fathers are portrayed as absent, ineffective, inconsistent, abusive, or weak. It’s time to build up our fathers, not tear them down. Fathers, we honour and appreciate you. We respect your hard work and your commitment to your wife and children. We value your desire to make time for your family, and to nourish your wife. Your steadfastness and dedication are a real source of security and joy to the families of our community.”
Why are fathers so significant in each of our lives? As I mentioned in the 1991 Deep Cove Crier, fathers are significant, because they represent the world beyond, the unknown beyond the mother's arms, the halfway house from childhood to adulthood. When there is no father to serve as a bridge into adulthood, adolescence can be a turbulent time.
What do I particularly value about my father? It is his gift of stability. As I said in the 1994 Deep Cove Crier, my father is "a rock". Whenever I need help, he is always there for me.
I love my father. My best friend Jesus loves his Father. I love my father because he first loved me. Jesus said: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hands.” (John 3:35). My father has generously poured his life into me over many years. Jesus said: “The Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, his very first words were ‘Our Father’. He called God ‘Father’ 191 times in the Good Book, more than anyone had ever done before. This Father’s Day, may the Son show you how much the Father really loves you.
The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, BC
Anglican Coalition in Canada
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Watching the game last night reminded me of the importance of making use of our talents. Here are all these guys who worked tirelessly for years to hone their hockey skills. I looked up Matthew 25 after the game – the parable where three servants are given 5, 2, and 1 talent. It makes the point that it’s not so much what we’ve been given, but what we do with what we’ve been given that makes the difference.
So it begs us to ask the question, are we truly using our talents to the very best of our ability for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom and to the building of His Church? To whom much has been given, much is expected. Or do we have ‘latent’ talent sitting in a closet left there for whatever excuse we might have, not unlike the lame excuse the one-talent individual gave in the story.
Similar to how hockey players of the winning team are awarded the cup at the end of the successful season, so those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus Chris will be given a crown when we reach eternity. Between now and then, we should be encouraged to go all out and be focused on our goal, much the way hockey players are in the playoffs.
Now if only we could find a way to get the cup back in Canada…
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Seems there was an old seaman who was sharing the story of the early days of learning his trade. He told of how he would head out to sea and invariably get lost. Time after time folks would have to get in their boats, search for and rescue him. In frustration one of them asked, “Why don’t you use a compass?”
Wisely, he took the advice and set the instrument on the bridge as he piloted his boat into open water. Alas, and in spite of their counsel, this novice sailer lost his way again and spent the night afloat. The next day his friends piled into their boats and headed out to find him.“Didn’t you take the compass?” they queried, now nearly choking with frustration.
“Yes,” he assured them, “but no matter how hard I tried to make it point north it would always land on southeast.”
As “duh” as we may label the fellow, I’ve done that in my writing journey. In my efforts to generate income I’ve unwisely taken on certain projects. Though completing them, I found myself nearly too discouraged to try again. Other times I’ve worn myself out knocking on doors that simply wouldn’t open. In every phase of this journey and in too many ways, I’ve pointed my compass (i.e. prayed for wisdom, for strength and for direction) but failed to trust its accuracy.
The two most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a writer are first, that God is interested in my work, even when I was ready to throw up my hands and look for other work (any work, as long as it didn't involve words) and second, that without Christ, I can do nothing. The good news is that with Him I can do all things. Hallelujah!
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts,” God told his people. My determined goal is to keep my eyes on Christ, paddle with all my might, and trust Him to chart the course.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Consider how so many writers in the canon of English Literature wrote from a Christian world view — whether they were men of faith or not. The purpose of literature, as seen in centuries past, was to instruct and improve the audience. You can easily see this from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens.
Beyond this backdrop you’ll see that many significant poets would boldly proclaim themselves to be followers of Christ. Listen to these lines from a John Donne sonnet, and imagine a professor trying to talk about anything but faith!
Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
Poets always read poets. I doubt there is an English-speaking poet anywhere, of significant skill, who is not at least a little familiar with poets such as John Donne, John Milton, William Blake, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and T.S. Eliot.
Since poets always seek to write about things that matter, how can the big questions of our mysterious existence, about good and evil, about suffering, or about the after-life not crowd into our verses? Is it too much to say that there is no secular poetry? Poets seem the most susceptible to the spread of God questions into their writing.
Literary minded unbelievers have been primed for God’s truth to come their way through poetry. Our generation needs to make our Christian voices heard, reminding the world that intelligent faith is still alive and vibrant, building upon our poetic heritage.
D.S. Martin is the author of So The Moon Would Not be Swallowed, which is available through his web site: www.dsmartin.ca
Monday, June 4, 2007
I could sure use this device since I am so not good at finding my way around and can get lost with no trouble at all. In fact, if getting lost were an Olympic event, I'd be a gold medal winner. When I should veer to the right, I inevitably turn to the left.
But much as this would be a valuable instrument, what I need even more than a GPS, is an SPS--a Spritual Positioning System. This equipment, operating on the four satellites of Scripture, prayer, sound counsel from Christians, and the details of my immedicate situation, would give me directions to my desired destination.
What is my desired destination?
I want to please the Lord. I want to live out my life, victoriously, to the glory of God. With His guidance, leadership, wisdom, and discernment, I want to be a blessing to all I come into contact with, whether I am aware, or not, of having crossed paths with them.
When we buy that car with the GPS--the price for the GPS has been included in the grand total. We've paid for it.
The SPS--it's free!
Saturday, June 2, 2007
There's an oft-heard saying in the recovery community: “We're as sick as our secrets.”
Over the years, I have met many people in abusive situations who have paid a great price to eventually extricate themselves from the vicious cycle of manipulation and recrimination. Only the truth, however painful, can really set us free. Secrecy keeps us chained to our abusers.
At the heart of the ‘twelve steps’,[ii] in Step Four and Five, is the willingness to break the power of secrecy by admitting to God, yourself, and another person the exact nature of how you have wronged other people. I have done many ‘Fifth Steps’ for others over the past twenty-four years. It is always such a privilege. I feel like I grow so much through this opportunity. I notice, however, that ‘Fifth Steps’ are very difficult in our secretive, victim-based culture. Many people want to come to me and admit the exact nature of how they have been wronged, but not how they have wronged other people. Until we can open up and get such things off our chest, we are still stuck with guilt, recrimination, and self-doubt. We really are as sick as our secrets.
The Bible tells us:
Cast our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
I have found that sharing deeply my heart with another caring, listening person can be profoundly liberating. That is why we are encouraged by James, Jesus’ brother:
confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
I have a number of friends who have recently had the courage to go see Bonnie Chatwin, a North Shore Pastoral & Clinical Counselor.[iii] It was not at all easy for them to do this, but I was amazed by the breakthroughs that they have achieved. How much do we want to be well? Often the price of being well is giving up our obsessive need for independence and secrecy, and beginning to trust another person with our life story.
We as Canadians live in a culture that has become more secretive and private. The vast majority of Canadians still believe in God, prayer, and Jesus’ resurrection, but such faith concerns have largely gone into the closet. There is a widespread perception that faith is so personal and private that it cannot be mentioned publicly.
The recent Da Vinci Code fad fits totally into that way of thinking. It implicitly teaches that true spirituality is about dark hidden secrets that only the elite may know about: secrets allegedly hidden in Da Vinci’s paintings, secrets covered by an alleged secret society named the Priory of Sion, secrets about Mary Magdalene and Mother Eve in the Garden of Eden. Over one hundred million North Americans have either read the Da Vinci Code book or seen the movie. There is something in us that is drawn to secret knowledge and secret passageways. But is secrecy really the way to health and life? Is secrecy really the key to genuine spirituality?
Paul taught Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4:
The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
The false elders that Timothy was replacing in Ephesus had been drawn back into the secret, occult ways of the Temple of Diana/Artemis (1 Timothy 1:3-4). People are sometimes shocked by the word ‘occult’, but all it means, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary[iv], is ‘concealed, kept secret’. ‘Occult’ comes from the Latin root ‘celare’ (to hide).
The most famous person in the world once said:
I have spoken openly to the world...I said nothing in secret. (John 18:20)
Jesus also said:
Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed or secret is meant to be brought out into the open. (Matthew 4:22)
Rabbi Saul/Paul, who was Jesus’ most famous disciple, commented:
We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, we set forth the truth plainly...(2 Corinthians 4:2)
Contrary to the claims of the Da Vinci Code, Christianity has no secret codes, no secret initiation rites, no secret vows. Jesus said nothing in secret. Jesus brought everything out in the open. We really are as sick as our secrets. As we battle for the soul of our nation, may God bring us out of the hidden darkness and into his visible light.
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
[ii] “Twelve-Step Program”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program
[iii] Bonnie Chatwin Counselling and Consultation, http://www.bc-cc.ca/