Thursday, January 11, 2018

Are Leaders Born or Made?—Carolyn R. Wilker

I read a message in our writer’s group forum this week in which a member posed the question, “Are leaders born that way or are they made?” I had to respond. God-fearing or not, I think leaders are made. It’s true that some individuals who are outgoing may seem to be natural leader material, and they might, indeed, be asked first. But it doesn’t mean they’ll do the job any better.
Allow me, for a moment to share an experience of my own. When I was a new writer, someone in leadership of The Word Guild said we ought to get ready to speak—to offer a workshop, talk about being a writer (“on account of curious people”) and promote a book. At the time a book was the furthest thing from my mind since I’d only written short pieces such as book reviews and articles. How many would it take to make a book? Nevertheless, as nervous as I was just thinking about speaking in public, I spoke about my fear to a fellow writer. She told me about Toastmasters. I said I’d think about it. I had many commitments with daughters still at home and put it off. At least three months. 
Then, in September, I got a call that put more urgency to the matter. After writing a column for our city newspaper, I was called on for an interview by the editor of my hometown Gazette. This is getting serious. I got some coaching from said leader of our writers’ organization and right away made plans to check out Toastmasters. Long story short, after thirteen years of practice in speaking and taking on executive positions in the club, speaking in the community and book promotion, I look in the mirror at the leader I’ve become. In that time, I’d promoted not one book, but three or four, and taught seniors at the community centre for most of those years. At the beginning, I wasn’t running out there saying, “Pick me.” I started because someone else believed in me. Oh, my! Looking back, I see where it's taken me. Looking ahead, I wonder, What else?
Participating in the Toastmasters area speech contest a year ago

In June, I said ‘yes’ to a district leadership position in District 86 Toastmasters for the coming year. That never would have happened otherwise. In fact a lot of things I’ve done could be attributed to that experience, including storytelling.

 Promoting my latest book

Giving a workshop for Write Kitchener in 2013

Thus my answer to the question: Are leaders born or are they made? I answered positively, “They’re made.” Citing biblical leaders who were afraid of the challenge put before them, they didn’t beg for the position, but they were promised help along the way, that they’d be given the words and tools. Just think how much more prepared Moses would have been had he received leadership training in advance, or that Jonah ran the other way and still ended up going where God told him. And a man in our time who saw possibilities that seemed impossible—Nelson Mandela, a man we see as a true leader.
I take on my role, sometimes still anxious, but less afraid than before because of other leaders who could point the way and answer questions. When people say they will pray for me for a particular challenge, I accept it and believe it will help. The Toastmasters training has helped me be more professional in my presentations, such as not clinging to the lectern, avoiding 'ums' and 'ahs' and all manner of distracting mannerisms, but instead knowing how to prepare my notes, or not use them, and calm those butterflies in my stomach. The strength from God is a great asset. And so I affirm that leaders are made. That’s my truth and I’m sticking with it!

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Whistler Experience - HIRD

by the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Why do so many people from around the world love to hang out at Whistler, BC? For some, it is the skiing, others the bike riding, and some the water sports.  There seems to be something for everyone’s interests.  Since the building of the Sea to Sky Highway for the 2010 Olympics, Whistler has been transformed into a year-round recreational experience.   We recently spent a week in Whistler that we were given for free as part of trading our car in two years ago at the North Shore Auto Mall.  All of our three adult children, their spouses, and grandchildren joined us for part of that relaxing week.   We particularly enjoyed the relaxing walks through Whistler Village, the delicious restaurants, and the creative playgrounds for our grandchildren. 
Whistler was originally called London Mountain, a name later dropped because of its associations with dreary weather in London England.  It was given the name ‘Whistler’ in the 1960s because of the whistling, chirping sounds of the local marmot squirrels.  While at Whistler, I celebrated my sixty-third birthday.  As a Whistler birthday present, my wife fittingly bought me John Grisham’s new book The Whistler.  Ken Follett has called Grisham ‘the best thriller writer alive.’  Reading Grisham’s Whistler renewed my long-term enjoyment of Grisham’s twenty-nine legal thrillers.  Whistler takes us into the life of a corrupt judge who is making a killing, literally, off casino corruption in Florida.  The Whistler in this story is not a chirping marmot, but rather an undercover whistle-blower who forces a reluctant bureaucracy to finally do the right thing.  Grisham, who has a strong Judeo-Christian faith, is passionate about the rule of law and the protection of justice, all which are key values for any healthy society.  Without an impartial judiciary, everyone suffers.  Without consequences for breaking the law, anarchy rules.  Janet Maslin, in a New York Times review, commented that Grisham “is at heart an optimist who believes that wrongs can be ferreted out and righted.” Grisham, said Maslin, has fought harder for truth and justice than anyone this side of Superman.  The most important event in his life, says Grisham, was when he accepted Jesus into his life.  Grisham’s personal faith has led him to do mission service in Brazil to those who often suffer from injustice.
The preamble in our Canadian constitution expresses our commitment as Canadians to the rule of law and the supremacy of God.  If anyone can function above the law, no one is safe.  The supremacy of God reminds us that everyone of us needs to be accountable for our actions.  Every one of us needs to do the right thing.  The Ten Commandments were summarized by Jesus as essentially about loving God and loving our neighbour.  Love is about doing the right thing, the Christ-like thing, even when it may be hard.  The Whistler in Grisham’s novel paid a huge price to do the right thing.  May we too have the courage to do the right thing, no matter the cost.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
-an article for the Deep Cove Crier

Monday, January 08, 2018

New Year New Focus by Steph Beth Nickel

Resolutions. Goals. Objectives. Whatever we call them, if we don't have focus, we won't achieve what we desire in the year ahead.

My word of the year is determination. But no matter how determined I am to achieve certain things, it won't happen unless I narrow my focus.

Are you like me? Eclectically interested and eclectically involved? 

Do you suffer from what I refer to as the Butterfly Syndrome? Do you flit from one beautiful, shiny project to the next to the next?

While we've often heard of trying to juggle too many responsibilities, I think of it more as plate-spinning. And I've come to realize recently that if I try to keep too many plates spinning at once, soon some of them will end up on the floor, shattered beyond repair.

So how am I approaching things this year, in particular, with regard to writing and publishing?

First, I'm determined to launch the first three books in my Nurture and Inspire series of ebooks.

I don't want a month to go by that I don't take a significant step in that direction. So far, I have decided on the topic of my first book and secured my new domain name.

In January, I plan to set up my first self-hosted website. I'll give myself until the end of March to get my first book together. By the end of May, the second should be ready. And by the end of July, the third.

This involves determining which blog posts to include, compiling and reworking them as necessary. It also includes formatting each ebook and purchasing book covers. 

Can I meet my self-imposed September deadline? That remains to be seen. But I am determined to work toward that goal.

How about you? What is your focus this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018?

After you've set that goal, it's best to break it down into manageable chunks. Set realistic time limits for each.

If you hit your first deadline, great! If not, don't get discouraged. (Life happens.) Simply set a new deadline and take the next step.

As believers in Christ, it is vital that we are prayerful each step of the way, asking Him what His plans and purposes are for us this year.

May He lead each of us on the path He'd have us walk. And may He enable us to keep our focus where it ought to be.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

New Nancy Pearcey book: Does naturalism drive the scandals in tech culture? - Denyse O'Leary

From Soul of Science co-author (with Charles Thaxton) Nancy R. Pearcey at Fox News,
Silicon Valley's drug-fueled, secret sex parties -- One more reason to hate the hookup culture
Before reaching campus, students are primed by high school sex education courses that typically focus on the physical: on the mechanics of sex and the avoidance of disease and pregnancy.
These courses reduce the meaning of sex to a how-to manual. Many students even say the programs make them feel pressured into having sex. In one study, teens reported that they felt more pressure from their sex education classes than from their girlfriends or boyfriends.
Other segments of adult culture are complicit in sexualizing children at ever-younger ages. Dolls for little girls have morphed into “tramps” wearing fishnet stockings and red-hot lingerie. Corporations produce slut-style fashions all the way down to infant clothing that says “I’m Too Sexy for My Diaper.” Advertisers use sex to sell, filmmakers use sex to entice viewers, musicians film raunchy videos.
As I put it in my book “Love Thy Body,” at the root of moral issues is the question: What kind of cosmos do we live in? Are we products of blind material forces? Or does the natural world reflect some kind of purpose – and behind it, a Person who loves us and has a purpose for our lives? More.
At one time, sexualizing young children was considered a form of child abuse. That wasn’t even very long ago.
The op-ed introduces Pearcey’s new book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality
See also: Podcasts: Nancy Pearcey on humans as robots, freeloading from religion

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

What it Means to be a Writer by Rose McCormick Brandon

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you,” Paul said to his protégé, Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6). This is God’s message to me and other writers. Stir up the gift of writing. Use it to bless Him. Consider what it means to write.

Writing means coming to the task trustingly. If it’s true that God has called me to write, and I believe it is, then I have a duty to use the gift He’s given.

Trusting means I present my writing to the Father by faith not looking for positive feedback or needing it for courage. This has been a major thing in the past. I longed for words of encouragement. Precious little feedback came save a tidbit here or there. I’ve learned to need positive feedback less yet my heart sings when it comes. Perhaps I’ll always be on a learning curve in this regard. Maybe everyone is. But, I’m coming closer to my goal of presenting my gifts of writing to the Father, by submitting them, saving them for submission or adding them to my book in progress, then forgetting them and going on to craft the next gift.

Writing means coping with criticism. Once a friend from church read an article I wrote for a Christian magazine. I thought he might congratulate me, or at least say he appreciated it. Instead he said, “I guess they’ll publish anything.” Why Christians utter discouraging words like this is a mystery. Then there are those who read my articles and said, “I’m going to write too,” as if it’s the easiest thing on earth and anyone can do it.

This reminds me of the famous writer who was approached by a surgeon at a dinner party. He said, “When I retire I’m going to write a book.” The writer replied, “What a coincidence, when I retire I plan to take up surgery.” Writing is more difficult than it looks. Sometimes going to my desk, sitting in the chair and facing a blank document, or one that needs extensive editing, is a daunting task. When I settle in it comes easier and time passes unnoticed because I’m fulfilling my calling. There’s contentment in that. For this reason alone I consider myself extremely blessed with God’s favour.

On the subject of getting positive feedback from one’s church circle, some who read this will be members of stingy congregations who seldom compliment or encourage from the pew or the pulpit. Take heart. And keep writing. This isn’t an isolated problem. Some churches are inward, meaning they reserve praise for in-house operations. The lack of support from my church troubled me in the beginning, not only in writing but in other outreach ventures. I prayed much about this and God helped me to accept it and not to let it hinder me. And He’ll help you too.

Writing means having courage to face the consequences. Someone might not like what I write. Maybe they’ll say, “What is she talking about anyway?” Perhaps some will be offended by my views or disagree with my conclusions. Writers have opinions. When they stop having them there won’t be anything to write about. It’s good exercise for the little gray cells to form strong opinions. I like Ravi Zacharias’ watchword, Let my People Think. There’s room for more strong biblical thinkers in the Christian community, lots of room.

Facing consequences also means accepting rejection. Every writer who submits their work gets rejections. It’s the nature of the business. Rejections come for many reasons. Bad writing is only one possible reason. We should always seek to improve our craft and not become overly discouraged by rejections.

Writing means giving it everything I’ve got. This can be a problem. Laziness gets in the way. Other projects, like painting the kitchen or sewing new curtains get in the way. Kids schedules, work, worthy missions – so many obstructions. Writing time is easier to find now that my children are grown and work days are behind. In busier days I used lunch hours, coffee breaks, late nights and other smidgens of time to write. There’s always a way.

Interruptions slice the threads of twining thoughts. Freakish diatribes about politics and the ugly state of the world. Ranting. Television. These can create a cloud of doom that ruins glorious moments of thought and prevents the writer from giving it everything. 

In all of life's disappointments, struggles and interruptions we must be mindful to use the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given, including the gift of writing.
Rose McCormick Brandon is author of One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. Her articles and devotionals are published in many Christian magazines and in collections of inspiring stories like Chicken Soup for the Soul. She writes two blogs: Promises of Home and Listening to my Hair Grow. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Christmas Cheer—And Our New Year

Steps to our deck, Jan. 2014.
Jan. 1, 2018 scene isn't quite as snowy.
Now that we’ve crossed the divide into 2018 perhaps we might risk a personal glance through the rear-view mirror to 2017.

What kind of year was it for you?
How would you characterize it? 
Was yours a dazzling year crowned with so many positive outcomes and joys that you can hardly wait for more of the same, so you eagerly lean into each new day? 
Or, did the year bring you inconvenient troubles, severe trials and deep losses; a year you’d rather forget but can’t? 
Does it seem that consequences continue to dog your path and you know that you’ll have to live with and through them day by day with foreboding and trepidation?

Let us reflect back on the central theme of Christmas that, in the coming into the world of Jesus ­—the Christ Child, God has come to humanity—has come to you, me and us.
Jesus, meaning, the “Lord is Saviour” or “. . . salvation” for He saves “his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:11), is also called Emmanuel, meaning, “God with us” (Mat. 1:23).
Personally, I don’t know what 2018 may bring or whether I’ll even live to see all of its days (although I hope I do). Likewise, nobody knows that score regarding their own lifenot with absolute assurance, anyway.

It’s wonderful and a great comfort for me to know that my sins have been dealt with by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; I’m forgiven—reconciled to God. I have an assurance that I belong to Him and that in Jesus, as Emmanuel, God journeys with me when things seem to be going just great, and also when life’s road is rough and the going is tough.

He’s promised to be with His spiritual children and will never leave them, nor will He forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). Therefore God is with me, even if I happen to feel all alone. These are marvellous gifts of His amazing grace.

Is this also your hope, your experience and relationship with God, because of Jesus? Let us embrace Him and hold fast to these understandings by faith and in trusting Him as Emmanuel—God, who is with us, while we step out and onward day by day.

Thought for Today’s Journey
Christ, who is the Lord of Christmas cheer
Is also Christ the Lord of our New Year.

Peter A. Black is a retired pastor – well, sort of retired – and lives in Southwestern Ontario. He writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column, P-Pep! and is author of Raise Your Gaze ... Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart, and Parables from the Pond -- a children's / family book. ~~+~~

Monday, January 01, 2018

MISSING THE OBVIOUS - by Eleanor Shepherd

 As I began to think about posting a blog again on the first day of the New Year, I wondered how on earth I could find anything interesting or original to say for the occasion. It may be impossible to do so, but my reflections took me to some ideas that had not before been associated with the New Year in my mind.

            Over Christmas, I unfortunately had to spend two days in bed in a hotel, too sick to appreciate the time with family and wanting nothing more than to sleep and find a cure for my out of sorts system. The drive home seemed endless and I was so relieved to crawl into my own bed and as I shivered under the covers, prayed that I would finally feel better in the morning. Amazingly, when I awoke, I knew the illness had passed and my health had returned. I still had a few lingering symptoms, but I knew that I was going to be fine.
            That morning, the words that I had read in an email from someone who sent the answer to a prayer request to our World Guild prayer team seemed to ring true for me. As she recorded how our prayers had contributed to her recoverey she said, “It is amazing how wonderful it feels to be well again. We so often take that for granted until sickness hits us.” I knew what she was talking about. I had whispered to myself, as I stepped out of bed that morning, “It feels so good to have a normally functioning body.”

            That is the way it seems so often for us. When things are going well we take for granted that all the priviledges and opportunities that we have are normal. We expect that we should have the opportunity to review the year that has passed and plan for the year ahead with certain alterations we would like to make to life better for ourselves or for those who are near and dear to us. Yet for many, life is not like that.

My recent illness reminded me that there are those in cannot take a healthy body for granted. Though they might wish for health in the year that lies ahead they will still have to struggle with a precarious existence. What could my wish be for them for this New Year? Perhaps that people like me would be a little more sensitive and take the time to notice and encourage them as we have opportunities, or even make a deliberate effort to go where they are. That might give a lot more meaning to my New Year.

            Then there are so many in our world that are living with an insecurity that I cannot even

imagine, having lost almost all that they held dear and not knowing what tomorrow holds, let alone another year. A safe refuge would be an answer to their prayers. What do I think when I realize these ordinary people like me, just happen to have had their lives turned upside down by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, through no fault of their own. I know that I can do little to offer any kind of Happy New Year wishes to them. However, I can bring their plight to the One who does the impossible and I can make it my business to look for ways to contribute to justice where I am, so their number does not increase. It seems so little, but if I can encourage others too, to respond in mercy and not judgement perhaps eventually we can contribute to at least a less sad, and perhaps even a tolerable year for those brothers and sisters of ours.

  Let’s decide that as we enjoy the many advantages that are ours, we will not only offer God our gratitude but also our personal willingness to find ways to make this a better world in 2018. I am sure He will show us how.

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