Pages

Monday, 30 November 2009

Good King Wenceslas -HIRD


by Rev Ed Hird

One of the best loved Christmas Carols is the 146-year-old carol: Good King Wenceslas. In 1853, John Mason Neale chose Wenceslas as the subject for a children’s song to exemplify generosity. It quickly became a Christmas favorite, even though its words clearly indicate that Wenceslas ‘looked out’ on St. Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas. So Good King Wenceslas is actually a Boxing Day carol! For a tune, Neale picked up a spring carol, originally sung with the Latin text ‘Tempus adest floridum’ or ‘Spring has unwrapped her flowers’. This original spring tune was first published in 1582 in a collection of Swedish church and school songs.

Jolly Old St. Wenceslas
Who was King Wenceslas anyway? Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia who was murdered in 929 AD by his wicked younger brother, Boleslav. As the song indicates, he was a good, honest, and strongly principled man. The song expresses his high moral character in describing King Wenceslas braving a fierce storm in order to help feed a poor neighbour. Wenceslas believed that his Christian faith needed to be put into action in practical ways. Wenceslas was brought up with a strong Christian faith by his grandmother St. Ludmila. Wenceslas’ own mother Drahomira, however, joined forces with an anti-Christian group that murdered Wenceslas’ grandmother, and seized power in Bohemia. Two years later in 922 AD, the evil Drahomira was deposed, and Good King Wenceslas became the ruler. He became Bohemia’s most famous martyr and patron saint. His picture appeared on Bohemian coins, and the Crown of Wenceslas became the symbol of Czech independence.

Intergenerational Appeal
Even as a young child, I remember feeling moved as I sung this unusual carol. Why does Good King Wenceslas have such a deep and lasting impact on its hearers? Perhaps it is because there are so many levels of meaning to this carol. A child may hear one thing, an adult may hear another. I find that I can sing it again and again, and new meaning continues to pour forth from the carol. Recently the phrase ‘Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer’ really spoke to me. It reminded me that sometimes there are times in our lives when life and its stresses seem to overwhelm us, and we feel that ‘we can go no longer.’ The response of Good King Wenceslas was most interesting. He said: ‘Mark my footsteps, my good page, Tread thou in them boldly: Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.’ Wenceslas reminds us that when we are all alone, life can feel very bleak. It is at such times that solidarity with another human being can help ‘our blood freeze less coldly’. Wenceslas affirms that we are not alone, and subtly points to the basic Christmas message that Jesus our Master will never leave us in the cold.

In His Master’s Steps
In the last verse are the memorable words: ‘In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted.’ The author John Neale, an Anglican priest, shows us here that the essence of true living is learning to walk in our Master’s steps. All of us need a Higher Power to help guide us along our journey. Jesus said: "If anyone would come after me (and tread in my steps), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Our challenge each Christmas is to look beyond the toys and tinsel, to see ‘the Master’s steps.’


The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon's Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
http://stsimonschurch.ca/
-award-winning author of Battle for the Soul of Canada
http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com





-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Babe of Christmas - Lindquist

I know it's only the 27th of November, but judging from the abundant lights in my neighbourhood, the holiday programs on TV, the parades and office parties, and of course the numerous stack of sales flyers in my newspaper, it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas. I'm even playing Johnny Reid's fabulous new CD "Christmas" as I write this.

Ah, Christmas. We think of the lovely pastoral setting with stable, animals, tongue-tied shepherds, priceless gifts delivered by mysterious magi, a smiling Mary, a sturdy Joseph, and the babe, cozy on a sweet-smelling bed of fresh hay. The scene touches us in a unique way.

We delight in Mary's innocence and charming simplicity as she allowed God's child to irrevocably alter the fabric of her life. We nod in approval at Joseph’s resolution to see this through at any cost. We rejoice in the gift God gave us by sending His only Son.

But, too often, we leave it there, forgetting that the God who came as a small babe is the same God who caused deluges of water to pour upon the land, destroying everything except those gathered in the ark; the One who sent plagues upon the land of Egypt and fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah; the One who destroyed the army of Sennacherib, gave the laws and commandments to Moses, reasoned with Job, and wept with David.

At Christmas, we think of love. God’s love for us. Mary’s love for God. Joseph’s love for Mary. Our love for our families. But there was no love in the heart of Herod.

We speak of joy. Yes, there was joy in both Joseph's and Mary's hearts. There was joy in the eyes of the amazed shepherds and the songs of the ecstatic angels. But the magi brought the ointment of death, and Mary's heart was afraid even as she held her baby.

We feel the peacefulness of the stable, with the contented baby, born without blemish, lovingly cared for by his gentle mother in the presence of tiny white lambs happily munching their hay. But a lamb was the Jewish symbol of sacrifice.

Love? Joy? Peace? Yes. But disrupted by the smells of dung, the pricks of straw, the cold of the dirt floor, the distant threat of an army of sword-carrying soldiers who would swoop upon Bethlehem, bringing with them the sounds of women and men weeping as their sons bled to death.

We've made Christmas into a celebration of light and warmth. We think of family and friends, of tables spread with abundance, of brightly wrapped gifts, of giving and good cheer. But how does God think of Christmas? Does He perhaps see it as a time of unprecedented sacrifice—a time of wrenching Himself away from all that was truly wonderful and allowing Himself to become a helpless human being—taking the first step along a road that would end in unspeakable agony and pain?

Love? God's love. Loving us so much that He became one of us.

Joy? Our joy, as we realize that the almighty God was willing to suffer so much for us.

Peace? The ability for us to return to the relationship Adam and Eve once knew—to be in harmony with our Creator, simply by accepting the gift of God's Son.

Christmas is a wonderful time. But instead of getting carried away with the glitter or the sentiment of the season, let’s remember that the small babe held so gently in Mary's arms was the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and earth, that same Jesus who would one day say:

"No one comes to the Father but by ME"

"I AM the Resurrection and the Life"

"I AM the Bread of Life"

"I AM the Light of the World"

"I AM the Living Water"

"I AM the Door"

"I AM the Good Shepherd"

"I AM the True Vine"

"I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life"

“Before Abraham was, I AM."

This year, as we sit in comfort in front of sweet-smelling, glittering Christmas trees with their piles of brightly wrapped presents, let’s remember that the Christmas tree of the Babe who gave us our reason to celebrate was a rough-hewn cross.


N. J. Lindquist

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Beauty and Goodness of Romance Novels - Hall

By Linda Hall

In the past few weeks, romance novels have taken a hit. Entire blogs have been devoted to the fact that Christian romance novels are a) unimportant, (i.e. not leading to a worship of God) b) formulaic (i.e. they’re all the same) or c) rules driven (i.e. – puritanical and just plain weird). The implication is that Christian women shouldn't “waste their time” reading romance, especially Steeple Hill romance, because they are the simplest of all romances.

People read romance novels. These days it’s what’s keeping bookstores open, publishing companies in business, and the Toronto Star from going under. But still there is s stigma, especially for Christian women. Some time ago a judge in a romance novel competition wrote along the bottom of her judge’s sheet: "I don’t believe Christian women shouldn't read romance novels." To this day I don’t know how she got to be chosen to be the judge of that competition. Some Christian women I know actually apologize when seen in public with a romance novel in their laps.

I have written 'both' kinds of novels - important 'issues based' novels and I am now writing romantic suspense for Steeple Hill/Harlequin. I am perfectly honest when I say that writing for Steeple Hill is some of the most difficult writing I have ever done. It's way harder than my issues based novels where I could ramble this way and that. (If there IS a formula for writing a romance, could someone please send it to me?)

But more importantly, to me romance novels have to do with God. Yes. God. Some Christian romance writers say that we write romance because God gives us love and romance for us to enjoy. I don’t believe this for a minute. God didn't give us romance. It’s not for our benefit. It's for God's benefit. God IS romance. And we who are made in God’s image and know God are involved in the greatest romance of all time. Our romantic hero is Jesus, himself - the Great Romantic.

Go back and re-read the story of Ruth and Boaz (Boaz was the 'kinsmen redeemer' foreshadowing the Great Kinsmen Redeemer - Jesus Christ). If you enjoy poetry, read the epic poem, The Hound of Heaven, which tells the story of how Christ pursued us across eternity "with unperturbed pace," His love, His bride.

Therefore, every time I write a romance I am involved in an allegory, a parable which points to the GREAT romance. I am, in effect, re-writing again and again and again the story of how much God loves us, pursues us and eventually finds us.

One day we shall participate in the biggest and grandest wedding feast of all – the wedding feast of the Lamb. And talk about good food – our finest meals and most wonderful wines will have nothing on that banquet. So, until that time I will write that story over and over and over again in many different ways.

An excellent book that spells this out is The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. Have a look at: http://www.ransomedheart.com

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Book review: Duet for Wings and Earth by Barbara Colebrook Peace - Nesdoly


Title: Duet for Wings and Earth
Publisher: Sono Nis Press, September 2008, paperback, 64 pages
ISBN-10: 155039164X
ISBN-13: 978-1550391640

Duet for Wings and Earth is no ordinary collection of carol-derived rhymes or Christmas acrostics. In fact these modern Advent, Christmas and Epiphany poems by Barbara Colebrook Peace may permanently alter the lens through which you view the incarnation.

Begun in 2001 as a contribution to an annual concert, the collection of 21 poems explores Christmas from the viewpoints of God, the sheep, the moon, the Magi and more. Using poetic styles from free verse to pantoum and glosa, Peace gives us much to ponder.

In the first of three seven-poem sections, she sets incarnation’s stage. She imagines God’s song from before creation in mind-bending, cosmological thoughts of a time before time. Through Joseph’s and Mary’s songs we experience Jesus’ rich Jewish heritage.

Section two deals with events just prior to Jesus’ birth. “Song of Bethlehem” explains how Bethlehem is much more than “a circle / on a map.” “Song of the Inn,” a pantoum with repeating lines, echoes the innkeeper’s glib apologies.

Section three muses over the meaning of Christ’s birth. The poignant “Song of God: For Judas not yet born“ is followed by the final “Song of Mary: Light falls in parables” with lines that are a perfect sum-up of the book’s impact:

“… the song
I’ve been singing all my life
is a song about stretching

to enlarge my idea of you, and even
my idea of me…”

That’s what these mythical yet real, simple yet complex, accessible yet deep poems do. They retell the familiar story in a way that charms and woos us into a richer experience of the incarnation and its meaning.

Peace’s first book, Kyrie, was published in 2001. In June 2009, Duet for Wings and Earth won (tied with D. S. Martin’s Poiema) The Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Award 2009 for Book - Special category.

Duet for Wings and Earth would make a fabulous gift for the lover of poetry on your Christmas list. Or purchase a copy as a resource for the person who plans the Christmas services at your church. Of course you'll also want one of your own.

Order through Amazon or Sono Nis press.

(This review was first published in the November/December issue of Faith Today.)

******************

Website: www.violetnesdoly.com
Personal blog promptings
Writerly blog Line upon line
Kids' daily devotions Bible Drive-Thru
A poem portfolio

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Come, Lord Jesus - Carolyn Arends

This is from my newest Christianity Today column, which was recently posted on their website.

Come, Lord Jesus
Oh wait, He's already here.
From the October issue of Christianity Today


I was a guest musician at a church in Winnipeg, engaged in the familiar liturgies of a pre-service prayer huddle. One person prayed for the congregation's safety in inclement weather, another for the technical aspects of the service, and a third kindly remembered my family back home.

When my turn came, I must have used a phrase like, "God, we invite you here among us." I clearly recall the minister's prayer, which followed mine: "We know we do not have to request your presence, because there is nowhere you are not. So we celebrate the fact you are already here with us now."

My head stayed bowed, but my face burned. This guy is correcting my theology with his prayer!

The service went as planned. But throughout the evening, I was mentally defending my choice of words. Of course I know God is everywhere—I've read Psalm 139! I was requesting an extra measure of his presence, an outpouring of his Spirit. Or, if you want to be more precise (and clearly you do), I was praying that God would help us to be open to him. Aren't we just arguing semantics?

I never articulated any of these thoughts to the minister. But the dialogue I've had with him in my head ever since has gradually refined my thinking—a case of iron sharpening particularly dull iron. I now believe that pastor's gentle correction was necessary.

If the psalmist is right—that there truly is nowhere we can go to flee God's presence—why do we act like his attendance is intermittent? And why do we assume it's dependent on us?

"Halfway through the retreat, God showed up," we say. As if he wasn't there before we were, drawing us to that time and place.

"Lord, we welcome you to come," we pray. As if he needs us to usher him into the world he created. As if we do not "live and move and have our being" in him alone (Acts 17:28).

In the Gospels, Jesus makes a simple proclamation with seismic implications: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matt. 4:17). For those of us who grew up in the hot, scary shadows of brimstone pulpits, the command to repent causes an involuntary shudder. But the Greek word is metanoeite,* which is more invitation than threat. It means "change your mind" or "reconsider."

Reconsider what? According to Jesus, everything you thought you knew about reality. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is near.

Most of us think of heaven as somewhere out there, the place where God watches from a distance and we will one day join him. But for the biblical writers, heaven is close. In fact, the "first heavens" is a term used to describe the earth's atmosphere. So when Jesus describes the invisible (but very real) realm that God inhabits, he lets us know it's not only out there, but also as near as the atmosphere surrounding our bodies and the air we breathe.

That Winnipeg minister was calling me to repent—to reconsider what I thought I knew about reality and the way God pervades it. I don't have to invoke God's presence. I only have to attend to it.

This change of heart and mind alters the way I approach discipleship. I suspect I have sometimes unconsciously used spiritual disciplines as smoke signals to get God's attention. Now I am learning that they are simply ways of letting him capture mine.

A similar change has occurred in my orientation toward evangelism. I don't have to give a nonbeliever something I have that she doesn't. I need only invite her to open herself up to what God is already doing all around her.

The other day I was trying to describe this shift in my understanding to my friend Roy Salmond. He ran to pull out an article he'd read in Time magazine more than a decade ago. It's an eloquent piece called "The Game of Catch," by Roger Rosenblatt, about baseball, parenthood, and the wordless communication between a father and son tossing the ball around. While the article is in no way religious, one thought in particular has permanently changed Roy's view of life with God.

"They do not call it a game of throw," Roy quoted, grinning. "They call it catch."

Monday, 23 November 2009

GOD IS WITH US - Bob Scott


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

For many, this coming Sunday, November 29th, will mark the beginning of Advent, the season during which the anticipated birth of the Christ Child is celebrated.

We always get excited at the prospect of a new little life coming among us. I’m a grandparent, now. When a grandchild was on the way, I was as excited as when my own children were born. We always celebrate a new birth in our church congregation.

I suspect that, for many, the birth of the baby in Bethlehem it is the sole reason for their seasonal joy. It is the celebration of a new baby and nothing more. For others, it is only one of two occasions when their thoughts turn to spiritual matters. It’s what we do at Christmas and Easter. For either group, that falls far short of the real reason for the happiness we should all experience.

We are not just celebrating the birth of a child. If we were, all we would be doing is holding a sanctified baby shower.

We are fortunate that we can know this child’s destiny. Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah spoke of his purpose in coming. He came to teach us about God’s love. He also came to die for us.

While he was among us he gave us the message of God’s amazing love and forgiveness for those who would put their faith in him. He came to call us to repentance and commitment. He instructed that we should follow his example.

He said that, if we would put our faith in him, we would begin to experience eternal life here and now. The question we should be asking is not “What if you died today?" Instead, it is “What is tomorrow looking like, and would you like some help and blessing in living it?” That’s really what Jesus was talking about.

I like the statement the late Charles Schultz puts in the mouth of his cartoon character, Charlie Brown. He says, “Eternity is a very long time, but not as long as it was yesterday.”

Why wait for the blessings that can start now and go on for all eternity? Why wait another day to understand the love of God for you. This season is about far more than a little baby born in a foreign country twenty centuries ago.

This Christmas, may we discover that there is much more to celebrate. Let’s seek direction from the Wonderful Counsellor, give our devotion to our Mighty God who is the everlasting example of a loving Father, and find time to contemplate the calm that only the Prince of Peace can give.


======

Robert Scott is a pastor and the author of ADVERTISING MURDER, LOST YOUTH, and MURDER EXPRESS, titles in the Jack Elton Mystery series, Published by AVALON Books, New York

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Giving Season - Smith Meyer


It’s that time of year again! Most of my life, it was a delight to take note of my family’s yearnings, needs and wishes and by Christmas time, find some way to make at least a few of them come to pass. Most of that time I also had to be creative rather than lavish because of the limitations of my bank account. That accomplished a few things. It taught my children that you didn’t always need to spend a lot of money to fulfill wishes and or even needs, and it entailed giving more of myself--so much that I felt more joy at watching them open their gifts than I did opening mine. However, when they were old enough to begin putting that same kind of thought and creativity into their giving, I received double joy.

As the children left home and I had less opportunity to secretly take note of what was of interest to them, it became more difficult. Then the grandchildren came along. It seemed any time I thought of the perfect gift, say in June or even August or September, they already had it before Christmas. Then they got old enough that their interest was in electronic gadgets of which I had no knowledge. I often feel myself caught on a tight wire with that old desire to find the perfect gift that fulfills a wish and is a meaningful expression of my love and care on one end and the fear that my old-fashioned need of creativity in my gifts won’t come through as such to the younger generation. The last few years, I’ve resorted to a cheque in their home-made card. I wanted to do more.

A large portion of my family’s birthdays come over the end of the year and the beginning of the next. They are kicked off by a grandson’s at the end of October. I walked back and forth on that tight wire as we neared the crucial date this year. The closer it got, the more tense I became. At the last minute, I devised a gift certificate for dinner out with Grandpa and Grandma. Imagine my surprise, when it was received with great joy and what seemed high honour.

Tonight he redeemed that certificate. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant, but it was a blessed time where a 13 year-old shared the concerns and joys of his life and some dreams for his future. It wasn’t electronic, it wasn’t expensive, but it was giving of myself and my time and it definitely was precious.

Holy Way – Lawrence


(This was first published on my website as a meditation in October 2007 under the title Wilderness Highway.)

A highway shall be there [in the wilderness], and it shall be called the Holy Way; …it shall be for God’s people, no traveler…shall go astray. Isaiah 35:8

For the last few days, I have been thinking about this wilderness highway that Isaiah speaks of and wondering what it means for us. When we (God’s people) are in a wilderness or difficult situation, a highway appears for us. This highway is called the Holy Way and Isaiah tells us that no traveler on this road shall go astray.

This highway is owned by God and is a way of spiritual pilgrimage where we grow to spiritual maturity and holiness as we go through life’s difficulties and joys. As long as we keep to this path that is provided we will not go astray.

The Holy Way is a free way for God’s people. There are no tolls to be paid to walk on this road; it is an open highway for all who call themselves God’s people and who desire to walk in God’s way and grow in God’s Spirit.

The Holy Way may come under attack and into disrepair but it is continually being defended and repaired by the prayers of God’s people and the Word of God. We, who are God’s people, help to keep this road in good repair by keeping in daily prayer and communication with God; by reading God’s word and listening to God’s voice.

In the Old Testament, we read of the prophet, Elisha, being surrounded by an enemy army. His assistant saw the enemy and was afraid. Elisha saw the enemy but also saw God’s army on the surrounding hillside. Those who are with us are more than are with them, Elisha told his assistant. He asked God to open the assistant’s eyes so that he could see what Elisha saw and trust in God.

The army of God’s love surrounds us. We have to learn to trust in that surrounding presence in order to overcome our fear and walk the Holy Way in safety. In partnership with God and God’s people we keep the road in good repair, mending the rough spots on the road as we go. The materials for the repairs are given to us in our daily time with God—our prayers, our Bible reading, our devotional reading, our contrition and forgiveness.

This is the spiritual way that we travel day by day on the journey of life. We face each joy and each danger with open eyes upon the Lord and listening ears upon God’s word. We walk the Holy Way in faithfulness so that we do not go astray.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Duke The Chihuahua On Editing - Dawson


(The following is a guest post by Donna Fawcett writing as Donna Dawson. Donna is a writing instructor at Fanshawe College, London, Ontario, an author of two-category award winning novel, Vengeance, and four other books. You can find her at her website, www.authordonnadawson.com )

I realize that it is an unusual practice to post on a literary blog with the aid of a dog but Duke the Chihuahua is no ordinary canine. He is an astute pooch and has saved me unnecessary grief on a number of occasions. There are, no doubt, those who, upon reading this, might have an overwhelming urge to dial 911 and ask for assistance for a delusional wordsmith but I assure you that I am completely in my right mind. And Duke would be quite miffed at the implication that he was nothing more than a figment of my imagination. So what can a pampered and slightly overweight Chihuahua add to a writer’s web site? Plenty.

For example, Duke has just, in the past few days, pointed out to me the folly of his retaining the services of an ‘editor’ without doing a background check first. I must say, as you might have read on my website blog, that I did warn the little fluff ball but Duke is a rather independent sort and paid no heed whatsoever.

“Does the editor have some sort of certificate or credential to verify an education in editing? Is there a list of references? A track record of employment at a publishing house?” All of these queries and more I put before my canine friend and he merely flicked a foxy ear, popped that button nose into the air and continued to seal and stamp his envelope.

It is quite tempting to remind poor Duke of those questions now as he sits and stares at his online bank balance. It is very low I assure you. That editor didn’t come cheap and when I read the final draft from Duke’s purchase my eyes just about bugged out as much as his do on a normal day. My fuzzy friend had been had. The manuscript was a mess. And suddenly he had a burning desire to check into credentials—which didn’t exist. Duke has since continued to grumble about the expense of an editor that didn’t do his job and I am quick to remind him.

“Ah Duke, my champion of the writing industry, you remember what I’ve said in the past? That an editor is worth their weight in gold?” He could see it coming. “You’ve paid the weight in gold but have foregone the editing.” What could he say? Duke will be the first to tell you that a qualified editor is a must in writing. He simply had a lapse in common sense in the excitement of having finished that first book.

“So Duke, what piece of advice would you offer the readers from your store of experience?”

Mournful eyes relay the answer with eloquence. Don’t trust the phrase ‘I’m an editor’ without checking it out first?

Yes, wise advice. Whoever told you that must have been smart indeed Duke and you can stop growling at me now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

My Beginning as a Writer - Shepherd


Kimberly asked yesterday, “How did you get your start as a writer?” For me, it began in school. In the sixth grade, I had an English teacher who insisted that we write an essay each week. Every Friday we were to bring our essay to class. It was a great discipline. Her positive responses to my essays, made me believe that I might be able to write.

One of my passions, even at that age was reading. I always had a book nearby, so that I could escape into the adventures they provided. I am not sure when the shift took place, but at some time, I became more intrigued by non-fiction than fiction writing. I think it was tied to the development of my faith. Books nurtured my faith. Not only the Bible but also the writings of Christians who were authentic helped me realize the value of my faith in shaping who I am.

As a young adult, I read the books of Catherin Marshall, specifically Beyond Ourselves and Something More. She introduced me to ideas that were more powerful than fiction. They changed me from within, as I began to understand more about trusting God and living the adventure of learning to walk in obedience to Him. I discovered the opportunities He provides each day for interactions with others, in His presence. Reading such powerful writing stirred within me, the desire to touch the hearts of people with God’s love in the same way. Slowly my dream of writing was born. I wanted to write to make a difference in the lives of others, to help and encourage them the way that my mentor, Catherine Marshall had done for me.

The opportunity came after I had begun to work in full time ministry. I was required to complete a course of my choice in my first year of ministry and I chose a course on creative writing. During a visit to our town of the editor of one of our denominational publications, we talked about my writing and she suggested that I submit some of my pieces to specific denominational periodicals. I did so, and to my amazement, they chose to publish them. It grew from there, and as I continue to write the fire still burns within me, to make a difference in the lives of others, by encouraging them to see God at work in their lives and in our world. In doing so for them, my own faith is strengthened, as I know that the source of my creativity is the Great Creator.

Monday, 16 November 2009

My Writing Testimony - Kimberley Payne

In the year 2000 God called my husband and me to Orillia, Ontario. I sold my home and my business and Bob left his job and sold his cottage. We bought a home in a town where we had no family and no friends and started a new life.

This was the first time that I ever stayed home with my children full-time. I worked when they were young and then started my own business when my oldest child started school. But in Orillia, I was home all day, everyday.

Being a social person, I sought out other women and ended up attending a Women’s CARE Group at the Christian Reform Church. It was there that I gave my heart to Jesus and began my personal relationship with the Lord.

At home, I took to reading and studying Christian books. I enjoyed such classics as Hannah Whitall Smith’s “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”, Josh McDowell’s “More than a Carpenter”, Catherine Marshall’s “Something More” and “The Sacred Romance” by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.

By following the advice of Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, I began to journal a minimum of three pages each morning. They were called, quite appropriately, “Morning Pages”. Through this process, I wrote about my fears, anxieties, observations and lessons learned as a new Christian. At first, my writing was between God and me. He revealed things to me that I never would have been open to receiving any other way. I remember the day when I was having a “discussion” with God about what my call in life was and He responded, “to write”. He told me to write to bring people closer to Him.

Since that day I try very hard not to miss a day without writing my morning pages. I share my walk of faith with others through my weekly column, Today’s Faith, in the Millbrook Times. God has done so much for me in my life, writing a book – Fit for Faith, and writing regular Christian articles are just some ways I can be obedient to His call in my life and bring others closer to Him.

How did you get your start as a writer?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Grounded! - Belec

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:19

Being a parent demands the ingenuity of a clinical psychologist combined with the patience of a saint. I am the first to admit that my own halo required an adjustment periodically.
All the psychology texts and childcare manuals in the world could not aptly predict the mind of my daughter when she was a precarious preschooler.

Amanda was four years old. The acquisition of a wonderful ever-expanding vocabulary coupled with the assertion of her independence had given her a whole new outlook on life.
She was catching on. She discovered it was not always necessary to hold mother’s sweaty hand each time she left the house. Mother had tricked her. She did not blow away after all.
Difficult as it seemed at the time, I had to start giving her a little slack. Friends would come to call – sometimes great big five year olds.
“Please, mommy, please can I go over and play in David’s yard? Please?”

I could not persist in denying her the opportunity to fellowship. She needed friends, I convinced myself. The time had come to allow her the freedom to go play in David’s back yard.
Things went well for a while. Then, one day, she decided to put me to the test.

Amanda had been playing two doors down with David. It was time for her to come home. She had not arrived so I stepped outside to attract her attention. I called - just a gentle reminder. She tossed a fleeting glance my way and uttered something about “…in a little while.” I called again. The sweetness in my voice was dissipating rapidly.

Her refusal to acknowledge my request to come home ignited my wrath ever so slightly. I kept my cool, though. Her disobedience persisted.
I marched over to where she was playing and scooped her out of the sandbox, ignoring her protests. David quickly disappeared. Finally, she realized I meant business, and she calmed down.

“I’m sorry, Amanda,” I announced, “but I am going to have to ground you for the rest of the day.” She inhaled deeply and held her breath.

Suddenly, fearful screams echoed throughout the quiet neighborhood and the tears began to fall as I hustled her home. “Aha!” I thought. I had found a punishment that really works.
There was something wrong, though. Amanda’s cries escalated. She sounded terrified. I began to feel dreadful. I knew she liked playing with her friends but why was she making such a fuss, I wondered?

I could not stand it any longer. I took Amanda into my arms and hugged her.
“Whatever is wrong?”
I rocked my little girl as if she was an infant. In-between hysterical sobs and a runny nose I found out what had caused the traumatic outburst.

Amanda’s concept of my new disciplinary tactic – grounded – was unfortunately quite literal. As I had sternly announced to her that she was grounded, she envisioned herself being buried between the carrots and the potatoes. How would she ever breathe? What about the worms? She hated worms. I had dished out a punishment that I had deemed appropriate, assuming she knew what I meant. Eventually she calmed down and I was able to cast a different light on the term, grounded.

As I reflect on my daughter’s disobedience, I think about the many times God has carried me kicking and screaming out of a situation. On more than one occasion He has grounded me and made me think twice about a foolish decision or a thoughtless comment I have made.

What did I learn through it all? I have learned that God is compassion and grace. He is understanding, merciful and patient – a perfect parent. I was not.
God grounding is therapeutic. It causes me to reflect. It forces me to listen to that still small voice that tells me to quit procrastinating and send that card, make that telephone call, pay that visit. It urges me to be still, and know that He is God.

Writer ... Are you leaving cash sitting on the table? - Denyse O'Leary

I just got my yearly Access Copyright fee, and it was for over $600.

These payments cover the use of your work by MUSH institutions (= Municipalities, Universities, Schools, and Hospitals).

Basically, many of these institutions do not have the staff or the interest to try to chase you down to ask for permission. So they just use your work and never tell you - or you can belong to Access Copyright.

Now, to qualify, you really need to be a published periodical writer, not just an aspirant. But if "writer" is who you are, why leave the cash sitting on the table? Your family would probably prefer you didn't.

Note: I teach business at Write! Canada, so if you see me there in 2010, chances are I am teaching some business thing. Ask me about writing as a business.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembering Today and Forever - MANN

Today is November 11th and at 11:00 o'clock a.m. people will gather in cities, towns and at country crossroads to remember and pray for peace. In our busy world, let's be one of those people who pause to give thanks for the men and women who dedicated their life to freedom and peace.

And may we echo the words of Ed McCurdy in the last verse of his lyrics, "I Had the Strangest Dream":

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever had before,
I dreamed mankind had all agreed
To put an end to war.
- by Ed McCurdy

Whether you're at your computer, out in the field bringing in corn, doing dishes at the sink - pause, remember the fallen and their families, pray for those serving at this time and those who wait at home, and ask God to work in all our hearts to bring peace to this beloved world. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Donna Mann

Nothing Ventured - Nothing Gained - MANN


So how does one go about beginning a new venture? Wouldn’t it be nice to pray about it and then sit back and just wait for God’s leading? Although the leading will definitely come, I have never thought it wise to count on achievement by only ‘sitting back and waiting’.
I believe that solitude and waiting on God is very important even in the smallest venture. At the same time, I know from past experience that God’s nudges often come in messages of encouragement for me to use my God-given gifts and make the very thing happen that I’d prayed for God to do. In other words, God often used me to answer my own prayer.

Beginning a new venture is risky. There seems to be no guarantee that starting something in a particular way promises to be the key to success. Sometimes it’s trial and error. While other times, we say that practice makes perfect. And then, there are the times when it feels like it’s all there—waiting to come down the pipe, or just hanging out in the back stages of our mind to be discovered. To use a line of clich├ęs—until we take the plunge, get our feet wet, we’re not going to know if we will sink or swim.

In August, a writing friend and I were spending a much earned afternoon, drinking Cranberry juice, reading and talking about the publishing industry. We tossed around questions about self-publishing and we both contributed to the conversation from our individual experiences which were positive and uplifting. We weighed that with the dream of being published by a Publishing House and becoming a famous author—of course that would be an overnight success. Isn’t that the way it happens? I admitted that when Aggie’s Storms was accepted by a publisher, I was elated. Now, with the sequel, written and waiting in line, I am equally excited about its possibilities.

Even as I discussed options, memories of a past conversation with another friend reminded me about publishing opportunities in eBooks and audio book format. Because I’m very loyal to the printed word and I like to hold a book in my hand to enjoy the texture and colour, published material is definitely my favourite format for literature.

However, having said that—in this era of technology I like to think there’s room for both hard copy and other sources of literature. Yet, there would be those who say that the Internet is killing story in the varied way it is used. While the rest of the world is working this out, I think I’ll continue my learning curve in technology and add to my options for sharing story.

Donna Mann
- Take Time to Make Memories (1996)
- WinterGrief (2003)
- Aggie's Storms (2007)


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tip of the Rose - Black

Some years ago, my sitting in a city church boardroom candidating as support pastor wasn’t as intimidating to me as it was almost sixteen years earlier, when I sat in the same room, surrounded by another set of individuals, as an interviewee for the role of assistant pastor. The circumstances were entirely different. Since then, I’d served in two senior roles and had staff myself, and this time I was a good acquaintance and peer of the incumbent senior minister, who was eager for my appointment.

Among those deacons on the latter occasion was a black brother who seldom spoke, and seemed rather mysterious. I couldn’t see his eyes, since he wore dark glasses, and when he did speak, he articulated his thoughts with great precision and deliberation. Who is this guy? I wondered. I soon learned that there was nothing sinister about Earl or his shaded eyes. Simply, he had to wear sunglasses for a while to aid his recovery from a medical problem affecting his eyes.

During my time in that role (yes, I did get the appointment), Earl and his wife became a special part of our ministry circle, and were supportive inspirations to my wife and me. He had a unique ability to communicate, and conducted a very stimulating and popular adult Bible class. Let me share with you just one little snippet that somewhat explains Earl and his communicative ability, which so inspired me.

Many years ago, he taught himself to concentrate and maintain focus. He would get alone, and sit facing a vase with a single, red rose. He looked at that rose, focusing not only eyes, but also his attention to its every detail – not for five minutes, or ten, or even thirty minutes, but for two hours at a time.

Presumably, Earl obtained a fresh rose when necessary, for over a period of several months he reduced the field of his mental focus in his mind-training exercise, until at last, his focus wasn’t on the whole rose, or even a single petal – but on the tip of one petal of the rose! This wasn’t just a matter of staring blankly, but an intense examination and consideration of the rose’s every feature.

Two hours of that at a time? Crazy! some may say. Yet, in our bustling, frenetic, always-on-the-go society, in which short attention spans are so often the norm, the discipline and training of the mind is so much a forgotten art, or an art never learned. This man’s speech and ability to say what he intended to say indicates its benefit.

Is Jesus the ‘Rose of Sharon’ to your soul? Yes? To me, too. Let us focus our minds on Him. Narrowing our focus by gazing on His loveliness – His love, His compassion, His grace, and so much more – enlarges our spiritual vision. Taking just the tip of the Rose – one aspect of His person – can occupy us at great length.

Two verses (NIV): Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God . . .
Hebrews 12:2, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Emphases added)

A Prayer:
Heavenly Father:
Thank You that as our gaze is focused on Your grace as revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son of Your love, our minds become disciplined and our hearts delighted. May our lives articulate Your grace so that others will come to appreciate and enjoy the fragrance of the Rose of Sharon.

Amen.

Peter writes a weekly community newpaper column, and is the author of "Parables from the Pond" ("written for children, enjoyed by all ages.")
He can be contacted at raisegaze@execulink.com

Monday, 9 November 2009

Why I Like Facebook — den Boer

When facebook first came out I knew it wasn’t for me. I heard much about facebook—as a time waster, and place for gossip, hate mongering and spying. Besides facebook was for young people who would probably grow up and leave it behind.

When I became the author of a book, I was told facebook was an excellent networking tool, a necessity and well worth the time spent. I joined thinking I could always un-join.

I’ve been a member for several months now and have 194 facebook friends. I like facebook. I’ve connected with friends from high school, and from previous churches in previous communities. I’ve connected with writer friends, and toastmaster friends.
Facebook is a great place to throw out ideas for immediate response.
Facebook is also good as a YouTube filter. YouTube postings by my friends are usually worth watching.
I know I don’t use facebook to its full capability. I don’t even know enough about facebook to get upset when the format changes. I didn’t join the 75,570 members of the I hate the new facebook site, or the 642,390 members of the Please give us our old news feed back, because I hardly recognize the difference.
I have noticed facebook is best suited to either the one-faced or the superficial. Two-facedness is next to impossible. A facebook profile gives all your friends the same picture. Some people handle this by only posting the mundane. Some major in a single area. Some never post. And some say whatever occurs to them, whenever they feel like it. Transparent honesty works best for me.

If you have sentiments about facebook, you might enjoy this YouTube goody posted by one of my facebook friends.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bringing in the Harvest = Austin


My wife is a dedicated gardener and I’m a dedicated eater. For some reason, she thinks that should earn help in that earthy enterprise every once in a while. Truth to tell, I actually enjoy it once I’m at it, and can pull weeds quite happily. My back complains after a while, but we’ll usually come in then and put the coffee pot on. And somehow, when I’m enjoying a salad that night with lettuce from our own garden, and the rhubarb crisp that makes me think for a while that maybe apple pie is not my favorite dessert – there is something wholesome and good about the dirt under my fingernails.

We’ve raised a lot of different vegetables and fruits in that small patch of soil. Most things we have to plant yearly, though a few find a way to reemerge without any help from us. There always seem to be a few potatoes that come up in strange places. They start early, but seem to be rooted extra deep, so out-produce anything we plant that spring. But there is one crop we have never planted, yet have harvested by the truck-load. I don’t know the reproductive cycle of stones and boulders. I don’t know their feeding patterns or growth rate. But somehow, after 26 years on that same garden patch, we’re still harvesting them. And this year, if there had been a category at the fall fair (there is one for almost anything else you can get out of your garden) we’d have had the winner and the runner-up.

I’m wondering if it’s the rabbit manure. The pile behind the barn has shrunk in the years since we last raised rabbits. It is unquestionably one of the best fertilizers available. Does it stimulate the reproductive system of stones? Or does it work like a steroid and cause rapid growth and greater muscle mass? It’s one area I have never researched.

On one of those days when my wife managed to get me out there, the garden fork made a distinct ringing sound that a skillful writer like me should be able to describe with great precision. Quite unlike the dull cutting noise of biting deeply into black loam, this sound came from a circle almost two feet around (60 cm for you poor indoctrinated metric readers). Much of the garden produce had already been brought in. My usual excuse of not wanting to dig up any plants just wouldn’t work. So I traded the fork for a shovel.

Now there is a process for unearthing boulders. They are very reluctant to leave their beds in the soil. Though they don’t argue out loud, their body language is expressive. When the shovel hits them they spit sparks. When a bar probes beneath them they actually groan, then settle back with a dull “whump” as soon as the bar is removed. They cling to the soil. They will twist and turn, but stubbornly refuse to leave their beds.

If your spouse is a physiotherapists, there are approved ways of lifting, but you have a suspicion they are approved for someone younger who isn’t named in her will. So now you dig a ramp. You move a lot of dirt. Then you send her to bring the wheelbarrow and with her back turned you get down in the hole and you grunt and groan and gasp. And she comes back and you are dirtier than before – but the boulder is still there.

You bring another pry-bar from the barn, and a steel pipe and a couple blocks of wood. And you wedge and pry and groan and gasp and the thing is up an inch. And you wedge and pry and groan and gasp and it’s up four inches. And you get down in the hole again. You’ve managed so far without swearing even once, but somehow your spouse knows now is not a good time to remind you of the approved way of lifting. And you get your hands around that beast and grit your teeth – and you groan and gasp and this time it surrenders – for one half turn. Kissing it hadn’t been on your mind, or any other romantic thoughts toward it, but somehow you have mud in your mouth. You spit it out and step down into the hole and you get your whole body behind it. And stubborn as that boulder is, you’re even more stubborn, and one half turn, then two, then three – and you’re wishing you’d made the ramp longer, less slope, but the thing is out. And your head is pounding and your arms feel like rubber and your spouse is somewhere between calling you a fool, calling you a hunk and calling 911.

Your pride makes you keep going so you roll it to the edge of the garden, because you’ll never move the wheelbarrow in the soft soil. It’s another day’s workout to get it there, but pride is a brutal taskmaster, so you lay the wheelbarrow beside it, roll the boulder in and then reluctantly accept your spouses help to tip the wheelbarrow back onto its wheel. It only half flattens the tire and you almost tip the wheelbarrow when you get hold of the handles. Still, somehow you make it back behind the barn without losing the thing. And you tip it out and step back and you feel like A MAN! But as you take the wheelbarrow back to the barn, your back reminds you there are approved ways of lifting. You’re tempted to tell a certain physiotherapist your back is killing you, but you’re not sure you can duck fast enough right now.

It may have been the mate my wife found just two days later. This one proved even bigger, and sat deeper in the soil. If they have produced offspring I may suggest we sell.

Just a note to other harvesters of strange garden produce: It is easier to get around “approved ways of lifting” during the hours when physiotherapists are at work. However, it doesn’t make the actual lifting easier. Complaining of backaches is not recommended for at least three days after.

Remembrance — Martin

How do we remember what occurred long before we were born? Why should we? To me remembrance of the two world wars, is not necessarily synonymous with supporting our government’s involvement in Afghanistan, nor necessarily opposed to it. It is a consciousness of what happened, an attempt to understand why it happened, and an appreciation of those who risked their lives, and those who lost their lives.

Part of my remembrance is reflecting on the involvement of my father in WWII and my grandfather in WWI. Here is a poem which I wrote from the letters my grandfather wrote home to Canada during the 1914-1918 war. He was writing to a girl with whom a friendship was ripening into a romance. I am writing from the perspective of one who knows how the story ends. This poem comes from my collection, Poiema.

Censorship



She is so far away that his words take more than a month
to span the gap Based on this equation I am more than
800 times further away down a one-way street
holding his words in their guarded plastic sleeves



He must be careful what he says Even an orderly
in the ambulance corps needs to be censored
so he speaks in generalities of their destination
& their activities & of her brother with trench fever



The moon moving through the clouds
sings of his loneliness & of the girl on Princess Avenue
down whose sidewalk his mind freely moves
even though an ocean & a war block his way



He censors himself for the blind ping pong of their
relationship is like the image of a horse-drawn ambulance
moving beyond a line of trees though perhaps
as unnerving & unpredictable as “Fritzy’s big guns”



Her most recent response is to something distant
& preliminary She doesn’t know
that after eighteen months he’s finally advanced
through dangerous terrain to the word love



A quarter of my genetic makeup is in the hand
that pens the words & a quarter in the hand
that eagerly opens the envelope & so I know
in my bones what he can only hope



D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Line Drawing - M. Laycock

Our art instructor pushed a desk to the middle of the room and sat on it. “I’m your model today,” he said, and explained a technique called line drawing. The idea was to look only at the figure being drawn, never at the paper. Without lifting the pencil, we were to draw the subject with a single continuous line. My first attempt was pitiful, but the instructor encouraged us to keep trying. Sheets of paper fell to the floor all over the studio as the students attempted to copy what was before them.

As I worked, I began to realize how staring at an object for that long, with that much concentration, helps you see things you would not have otherwise noticed. Trying to make that continuous line look like the man on the desk was a challenge, but the more I tried, the more I realized it wasn’t impossible.

Later that evening, while watching T.V. with my father, he fell asleep in his chair. I quietly pulled out paper and pencil and did a line drawing of him. It was, in a way, a moment of enlightenment. The more I tried to copy him, the more I saw things I had never noticed before – how long his fingers were, how crooked the leg broken when he was a teenager. As I concentrated on him, I began to see the real man, not just a superficial impression of him. I began to realize too, the benefit of not looking at what my hand was drawing. The point was not to achieve perfection, but to capture the essence of the subject.

Concentrating on Jesus will have the same result. When we focus entirely on Him, as He really is, rather than on what we are doing, we will find the real Christ, the very essence of God. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, the apostle Paul says – “For God ... made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” As we study him, and copy him, we will discover more and more of Him. Like the first efforts of my fellow art students, our attempts will be flawed, but if we keep at it we will reach that point of enlightenment. We will begin to see what had remained veiled, to understand what had been hidden. And we will become that copy, flawed, yet somehow revealing the essence of the One who created us.

God does not expect perfection. He knows we cannot achieve it on our own. But He has given us a way to copy Him that will give us what we need, day by day, moment by moment. Pick up a Bible and open it to any page. His image is there, waiting to be studied, waiting to be understood.
Don’t concentrate on what you can or can’t do. Just focus on Jesus.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Unforgettable Benjamin Franklin- HIRD

By Rev Ed Hird

I remember as a young child being taught Benjamin Franklin’s proverb: ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise.’ As my father and I were both early to bed, early to rise, I have a lot of happy memories of time spent together around the breakfast table together at 6am.

Benjamin Franklin had the common touch. As a brilliant philosopher, he shared wisdom through short pithy sayings like ‘He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.’ Many of Franklin’s sayings are so well known that people confuse them as coming from the Bible. ‘God helps those who help themselves’ is from Franklin, not from Jesus.

Many of his sayings were published in Poor Richard’s Almanack, a book series that has had a profound impact on North American culture and identity. Some would say that the middle class dreams and ideals can be traced back directly to Benjamin Franklin’s homespun philosophy. Many of us unknowingly quote Benjamin Franklin on a regular basis: haste makes waste; no pain, no gain; and nothing is certain but death and taxes. Most of Franklin’s sayings were about encouraging diligence, honesty, industry and temperance. Franklin saw the Judeo-Christian ethic as “the best the world ever saw or is likely to see.”

Not everyone liked Benjamin Franklin. DH Lawrence said: “I do not like him….that barbed wire moral enclosure that Poor Richard rigged up….Benjamin Franklin tried to take away my wholeness and my dark forest, my freedom.”

Benjamin Franklin’s father had intended that his son Benjamin train to be a clergyman, but lacked the resources to do so. Instead Benjamin became a printer and an inventor. Benjamin Franklin is world-famous for his kite experiments with lightning, proving that lightning was made up of electricity. Some see him as the world’s first electrician. While visiting England, he attached his latest invention, the lightning rod, to St Paul’s Cathedral. He also created hot-water pipes to warm up the chilly British House of Commons. Other significant Franklin inventions were bifocals and the Franklin stove.

Benjamin Franklin was far ahead of his time in terms of understanding workplace toxicity. As a printer, he discovered that newspaper workers were being poisoned through handling hot lead type, causing stiffness and paralysis. Franklin found out that this lead poisoning was also affecting glazers, type-founders, plumbers, potters, white-lead makers and painters.

Benjamin Franklin was so successful in business that he retired at age 42 and devoted the rest of his life to public service. He moved to England twice in order to help the relationship between England and its American colonies. While in England, Franklin wrote most of his autobiography at the home of the Bishop of St. Asaph, Jonathan Shipley. His book became the world’s most popular autobiography, and has been translated into most major languages. Franklin’s autobiography was the one book which Davy Crockett had when slaughtered at the Alamo.

Despite his being a strong Royalist, Benjamin Franklin ended up being resented by the British House of Lords who publicly humiliated him for his efforts to bring reconciliation between England and its American colonies. This was Franklin’s tipping point where he became a strong advocate for Independence. As America’s first postmaster general, Franklin was also put in charge of establishing the first US currency. In the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, Franklin recommended that Americans give up tea drinking as a way to fund their new government. The constitution’s phrase ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’ was the direct result of Franklin’s editing. Franklin was the only one to sign all four of the USA’s founding papers: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France, the peace accord with Britain, and the Constitution. His unsuccessful proposal for the American Great Seal was to have Pharaoh being swallowed by the Red Sea, along with the words ‘Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.’

Franklin’s greatest popularity was among the French who lined the streets when he entered Paris as the USA’s first foreign diplomat. The French saw him as a simple frontier sage, and promptly put his likeness everywhere, causing the French King to become very jealous. Without Franklin’s winning the moral and financial support of the French, it is doubtful that the United States would have survived.

Franklin was a very complicated, even tragic individual with strong approach/avoidance tendencies. He loved the United States but spent most of his last years in England and then France. His relations with the opposite sex were muddled and confused. He loved his wife and family but was away more than at home and suffered a painful split with his son William over politics.

Despite Franklin’s reputation as a religious skeptic, he went out of his way in his newspaper to promote the Rev George Whitfield who led North America’s first Great Awakening in 1739-1741. As a scientist, he was amazed that Whitfield’s voice could be heard without amplification by over 30,000 people at one time. Franklin published all of Whitfield’s books and posted his sermons on the front page of his Philadelphia Gazette. Whitfield wrote to Franklin, saying: “As you have made a pretty considerable progress in the mysteries of electricity, I would now humbly recommend to your diligent unprejudiced pursuit and study the mystery of the new-birth. It is a most important, interesting study, and when mastered, will richly answer and repay you for all your pains.”

After jealous clergy closed their pulpits to Whitfield, Franklin and other trustees built a large hall where Whitfield could preach. Franklin commented: “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants.” After the revival ended, Franklin converted the hall into the Academy of Philadelphia which later became the University of Pennsylvania.

As Governor of Pennsylvania, Franklin in 1748 proposed a day of fasting and prayer. In 1778, Franklin wrote to the French Government, saying: “Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principals of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.”, recommending that every French home have a Bible and newspaper, and a good school in every district.

At the 1787 American Constitutional Convention, Franklin commented: “the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” On that basis, Franklin arranged that prayers led by local clergy would be held each morning before Assembly business. Franklin said: “If I had ever before been an atheist, I should now have been convinced of the Being and government of a Deity!”

Franklin memorably commented: “Think of three things: Whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must give account.” May each of us, like Benjamin Franklin, be willing to be accountable to God in the midst of life’s challenges.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
http://www3.telus.net/st_simons
-author of the award-winning ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
http://www.battleforthesoulofcanada.blogspot.com/
-published in the Dec 2009 Deep Cove Crier

Monday, 2 November 2009

The movement to re-engineer writers - Lindquist

Writers—especially those who aspire to write books—are currently being told that the publishing industry is undergoing a massive change. That they need to take control of their destinies. That publishers expect them to sell up to 65% of the print run of their books. That it's only going to get worse.

As if it wasn't already difficult enough for us poor struggling writers who mostly just want to know that someone out there somewhere enjoys or benefits from our words!

I've watched enough CSI to know what it's like to be buried alive, and I feel somewhat like that. Terrified. Gasping for air. Hoping for someone to save me, but not sure there's any reasonable hope. Wondering if the joys of writing, and the delight of being read, are worth the agony of trying to be published.

I made a list of key things the typical aspiring author needs to do these days. I may be missing a few.

1. Be aware of all of the market trends (current topics, genres that are popular, etc.).

2. Know which agents and publishers are looking for what.

3. Stay current on new ways to publish. Should you give away your internet rights… look for a publisher who does ebooks... decide whether to go with one who does POD... go along with the Google settlement or not....

4. Read the work of others writing in your genre or niche and be able to tell your agent or publisher how your work compares to theirs.

5. Write several books each year that are not only unique and current, but also so well-written that they will barely need any editing by the publisher.

6. Create a “platform” by becoming known as an expert in your area of choice by writing articles or short stories for magazines, blogging, appearing on radio and TV programs, speaking to groups all over North America, actively appearing on the internet in relevant or popular social media sites, and doing everything else you possibly can to ensure that when your book actually comes out, it will sell lots and lots of copies.

What do I think of these expectations? Well, let's just go with "unrealistic."

I see four primary issues:

1. Psychology. The majority of the authors I know (and I know a lot of authors) are the very last people you’d want to hire to do publicity. Sure, there are exceptions, but a whole lot of them are sensitive, shy, introspective introverts. Being with people for a long period of time exhausts them. Talking about themselves and their writing terrifies them. “Selling” themselves or their books embarrasses them. Yes, they believe in what they do. And they think their work is good. But they don’t want to have to tell people it’s good. They need other people to tell them! They thrive on being told that someone wants to read their work.

I've been at mystery conventions and other conferences where authors were in the washroom literally throwing up out of nervousness because they had to be on a panel in a few minutes. A panel set up to help them become better known to readers who wanted to know about them. Not a difficult venue.

2. Finances. Most writers barely make any money at all. What's the average? $5,000 a year or something? Which means they either have an inheritance, a spouse with a real job, or another job themselves. Even in the best case, assuming you're an author who's able to focus on writing without having to starve—where do you find the money to do all the marketing you're supposed to do? Do you know what an ad costs in a magazine? What a really good website designer charges? The cost of traveling to do booksignings or attend conventions around the country? Sure, you can do things on the cheap, and hire your second cousin's son to do your website, or do it yourself, but the truth is that you usually do get what you pay for.

3. Time. If you want to write well, you have to focus on writing. And rewriting. And reading. And thinking. And writing some more. You can’t write well if your mind is spinning with all the other things you “should" be doing, like tweeting and posting on all the social media sites and keeping your website up-to-date and writing blogs and reading other people’s blogs so you can write comments so someone else will see your comment and check our your blog....

Unless you're writing something that meshes with the blogging and tweeting, doing all those things is going to make it ten times harder for you to write—especially if you’re writing a novel or a complex nonfiction book.

Plus you likely have other responsibilities, such as a family, parents, friends, etc. There simply aren’t enough hours in the week to do everything that authors are currently being expected to do. It defies logic.

4. Skillset. Not one of us has all of the skills that are needed to write, market and publicize a book. Sure, most of us can do a little bit here and thee. But no one will ever do everything well. Or, if we force ourselves to work at getting good at it all, the chances are excellent that we’ll become so exhausted we’ll simply burn out. Writers need to understand that this is a business, yes. But trying to be a one-man or one-woman business isn't going to make you successful. And the bottom line is that in order to do quality work, writers need to be able to focus on writing.

So where do we go?

As the publishing industry goes through major changes (see WriteWithExcellence.com), I believe writers need to work together to take on the responsibility of forging new paths for themselves. I don't think the answer lies in trying to become one-person publishing machines. But neither do I believe writers can afford to be as naive and dependent as many have been in the past—taking whatever contract is offered and being thankful just to get our work in print. Instead, I believe we need to seek out a new model that will help us all achieve our primary goal: to write something worthwhile that will be enjoyed by or benefit other people.

It's a new day. Let's talk to one other and throw out ideas and then work together to find a new model that works.

N. J. Lindquist
WriteWithExcellence.com

http://twitter.com/WriteExcellence