Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Searching for God- Carolyn R. Wilker


 

Malachi writes in chapter 3:1 of his Old Testament book: “Look, I’m sending my messenger on ahead to clear the way for me. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Leader you’ve been looking for will enter his Temple…” (The Message)

Malachi may as well have been shouting from a rooftop with one of those megaphones we hear more than see at an outdoor baseball game. Further in the chapter we read that even though the descendants of Jacob have not listened well to God, he hasn’t destroyed them. He’s got something big coming that he believes will help them understand.

 In the revised common lectionary, Malachi’s text shows up in The Presentation of the Lord alongside the reference for Jesus’s baptism in Luke 2. A fitting pair. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus. God had a plan. We learn that it’s not just for the descendants of Jacob, but all people. Put that thought on hold for a moment.

If you’ve been in the big bookstore, you know where to find most things based on the signs above the rows of shelves. There’s fiction, books for children, texts on spirituality, music, art, religion, and poetry. Then all those gift items. If you’re looking for self-help, there’s a big section. Find just about anything there — how to manage your finances, how to sew, how to plant your garden. Seeking something deeper? It’s there too. If the store doesn’t have what you’re looking for, it can be ordered.

Back to looking for God, if you’re having trouble finding him. Where do you search? Do you find him in the mail-order catalog? On the bookstore shelves? A Little Library shelf? Just because you can order or pick up a print copy, or recording, of the Bible and sacred texts, doesn’t mean you automatically understand it.  

Read it, learn about it, and keep on learning. Sermons you’ve been hearing in worship services, or online, can help to understand context. You can also do a study of scripture, such as lectio divina. Is there someone you can study with?

The good news is that God can be found in the stories and teachings. You may feel him near you on a bad day. It could be that a person, acting as God’s hands or feet, may just help you get back up when you’ve fallen. Keep looking. You’ll find him.


 

 www.carolynwilker.ca

 

Thursday, January 04, 2024

The Gift of Poetry by Eleanor Shepherd

         Recently, as an experienced writer, I was asked to participate in the evaluation of poetry. I felt ill equipped for the job but promised to at least read over the poems and offer my reflections on them.

            In my personal writing history, I have never made a serious attempt to create poetry, although I have been aware at times that when I am engrossed in writing about something about which I feel passionate, I can begin to sound poetic in the choice of metaphors and descriptors that I use to try to adequately relate the concepts that are so dear to me.

            I have always had an appreciate for the poetry written by others. My father encouraged this in me, as he often quoted poetry that he learned in school and wrote books of poetry. I remember one book of his that sold out quickly was a book of poetry that chronicled the life of the Apostle Peter, called Memoirs of Peter. He wrote another one that told the story of the life of the Apostle Paul in poetry. It was his influence that inspired me to take courses on Shakespeare at University and I loved the lectures and learning about the writing of one of the best loved poets in the English language. 


            My older brother also developed a love for poetry, and he wrote some of his own poems, but one of my significant childhood memories is him reading to me one of the poems of Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” If I remember correctly, he had to memorize the poem, so I listening to it frequently and knew it quite well before I got to his grade. I thought it was beautiful.

            One of the poems that I was obliged to memorize in school was Trees by Joyce Kilmer. The lines I loved the most were his first and last stanzas:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.” …

“Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

            I totally agreed with his sentiment that trees were far more beautiful than poetry, but they did furnish subjects about which a poet could expound. I also loved the humility of his final stanza, recognizing that even our most beautiful creative expressions cannot compare with the gifts that God offers us.

            It is all about the words. Words are wonderful and I love them. It seems to me that there are two kinds of people. There are the people who love numbers and the people who love words. At least that is the way that it is in our house. My husband loves numbers. He amazes me with the way that he can handle them. I can ask him any question, however complicated about numbers and in a few seconds of mental gymnastics he can offer me an answer.

For me, I can’t even remember the simplest telephone number unless I write it down. However, words stick in my mind. I enjoy rolling them off my tongue or putting them together in new ways, just for the joy of hearing or reading them. To me they are magical. However, I usually create an order for them according to some logical progression that I envision. That is why I continue to read fiction, to feed my creative imagination. Otherwise, my writing would risk becoming too rigid and not allow enough room for the fluid movement and ambiguity that encourages readers to reflect as they read.

            My own efforts at poetry have been at best some rhyming lines created to be linked with simple melodies to try to express some of my feelings in worship. These I have kept to myself, as I know the quality would not make them useful for others, thus distracting rather than enhancing their worship. I leave the writing of song lyrics to my professional jazz musician daughter.

          


  What thrills me is the way that people like the Anglican priest poet Malcolm Guite can take words and make them magical by weaving them together in poetry that touches something deep inside us and connects us with eternity. Ironically, both my husband, the number lover and I the word lover find his poetry inspirational. It is poetry that comes close to measuring up to those beautiful natural wonders that God has made. I am so thankful for those who have received and honed this gift and offer it to us more mundane writers to encourage us to appreciate our words and use them creatively in our own endeavors. The God who makes the trees also bestows the gift of words.






Tuesday, November 21, 2023

On Telling a Story


Robert Béla Wilhelm, founder of the School of Sacred Storytelling, writes in The Tell Tale Handbook, about techniques of sacred storytelling. He addresses the way a storyteller opens the story and how that teller gathers the listeners in and keeps them engaged. A single storyline is the key.

There have been times I wondered more about what took place in a scene, for example, the blind man who called out to Jesus. The “fixed point” is that the man wants to be healed and Jesus does that for him. In storytelling, we call this “the most important thing.” We don’t know what he wears or how he looks, but the storyteller gets the point across.

A hero, or heroine, once on a journey, will encounter obstacles to reaching their goal, and we follow them to that point. We can follow an oral story as long as there are not too many diversions. In a book we can go back and reread something we miss, but in oral storytelling, the storyteller needs to tell in a way that helps everyone listening to keep track of the characters and main happenings. A clear narrative line is the key.

Consider the story of the birth of Jesus. The fixed point of that story is that the star draws people to the stable to pay homage to the new baby, who is the new king of Israel (whether Herod likes it or not. We don’t hear about Herod in this part of the narrative). Think of the gospel story being read to an audience, or a storyteller delivering a story orally.

All eyes are drawn to Bethlehem where the birth takes place. Nothing else matters to that story, not how many angels were in the sky to announce the birth, not how many shepherds trekked to the stable or how long it took to get there, or even what animals were in the stable. All those things are left for the listener to imagine as the story unfolds. Only the fact that those people were part of the story.

An artist, poet, or screen writer, can decide what and how to illustrate characters and scenes, but in oral storytelling, the storyteller (and the gospel writer), strive to relay “the most important thing.”

Back to the story of Jesus’ birth, each listener will take in the story with their senses, by listening, seeing, and maybe even hearing their own version of the angel’s song, but the main point is “watch for the baby Jesus.”

Reread the story in Luke and imagine your own details as you follow the fixed point of the story.

 

Carolyn R. Wilker is an author, editor, and storyteller from southwestern Ontario

https://www.carolynwilker.ca/

 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Dr. Steve Brown: The ethics of leadership

 By Drs. Ed Hird and Gordon Dirks

-originally published in the Light Magazine



Over the last two decades serving with Arrow Leadership, Steve Brown has walked alongside, equipped and encouraged thousands of leaders across Canada, USA and the world. A gifted story-teller, Brown ‘s heartbeat is developing Jesus-centered leaders. This means being led more by Jesus, leading more like Jesus, and leading more to Jesus. 

After twelve years as President of Arrow Leadership, Brown ‘s new role as Arrow Ambassador focuses his time speaking, writing, coaching and creating resources to support leaders in North America and beyond. He helps leaders find clarity and courage on their “what’s next” life questions. 

Founded by Leighton Ford, the Arrow name comes from Isaiah 49:2 “He polished me like an arrow and concealed me in his quiver.” With over 1,200 Arrow graduates, its impact has been felt in church, non-profit, and marketplace.

Brown is the author of Jesus Centered – Focusing on Jesus in a Distracted World, Leading Me: Eight Key Principles for a Christian Leader’s Most Important Assignment, Great Questions for Leading Well and free e-resources at www.sharpeningleaders.com.

With experience in local church, denominational, parachurch and marketplace roles, Brown has earned three degrees: Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (Wilfrid Laurier University), Master of Divinity (Tyndale Seminary) and Doctor of Ministry (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary). 

Brown is based in Abbotsford, has been married for twenty-five years to Lea and he’s a grateful dad of three young adults. Like his mentor Josh McDowell, serving his family is his first priority.

You will not want to miss hearing Brown speak at the 38th White Rock/South Surrey Leadership Prayer Breakfast.  It will be held on Oct 27, 2023 Friday, 7 to 9am at Peace Portal Alliance Church. 

Brown commented: I am honoured to be invited to be part of the gathering of community leaders. Community leaders have had a very difficult last few years, trying to navigate increasing complexity in leadership issues, and trying to lead well in the midst of chaotic change and crisis. One of my heartfelt passions is simply to thank leaders in the community who have been seeking the best for the community and may not hear the word ‘thank you’ enough. 

Psalm 78:72 inspires Brown to lead with integrity and skilfulness of heart. He will help you navigate through the difficult challenges of making tough decisions with integrity.  

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