Saturday, April 22, 2017

Learning Discipline through Blogging


“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)
Today’s topic is the title of a devotion written by Melony Teague.  It is one of ninety devotions in As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers. The writing prompt asks: “Do you blog? If not, consider creating a blog as a form of self-discipline in your writing life. If you do already have a blog, how can you better use it as a tool to establish the habit of writing daily?”

Mel’s prompt encouraged me, and fellow author Claudia Loopstra, to jot down the benefits of consistent blogging.

We came up with seventeen; can you help us reach twenty?


A blog can:
1.       Honour God
2.       Be a forerunner to a book
3.       Provide personal accountability
4.       Stretch our minds and spirit daily/ weekly
5.       Share our spiritual gifts
6.       Be a witness to others
7.       Hone our writing skills and vocabulary
8.       Improve our ability to write concisely (300-500 words for a topic)
9.       Market our published works
10.   Create a ‘brand’ for our writing
11.   Highlight other authors and their  published works
12.   Share information
13.   Encourage  others to start the habit
14.   Provide conversation starters and comments
15.   Develop our ‘voice’
16.   Build relationships
17.   Become a published article

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

THE POWER OF KINDNESS-by Heidi McLaughlin


The word “kindness” may sound limpid, but I believe it is the strongest expression of love. If you notice a decline in human kindness, you’re not alone.  I was saddened and shocked by research done by the University of Michigan which states: “After the year 2000, College kids today are about forty percent lower in empathy (kindness) than their counterparts of twenty or thirty years ago.”  That was the beginning of the media age and kids grew up with access to games that eventually numb people to the pain of others.  When we become isolated and selfish, we don’t make time to be kind.

I am so grateful for people who still live their lives the way the Jesus taught us in the Bible which says: “…you should practice tender-hearted mercy and kindness to others” (Colossians 3:12 TLB). It takes unselfishness and time to stop our busy lives and make a phone call, deliver a meal, drop off a flower, or invite someone out for dinner.

It’s been five months since the death of my second husband and I am still receiving tender-hearted kindness from many people.  At the end of the third month I hit a wall and needed emotional and physical support.  When I prayed and asked God for help He used kind people to be His hands and feet to help me with every aspect of my life. Throughout my grieving journey, kind people have been my greatest gift. Those who took me in when I could not function on my own. Those who came to stay in my home and support me with meals and daily functions. Those who checked in with me every day to make sure I was O.K. Even the simple things like a card in the mail or in my Inbox, or joining me on a walk or a cup of tea.  Those people who made the time to extend kindness have literally changed my life


Kindness is not being a doormat or acquiescing to uncomfortable or unrealistic demands. Kindness is a sincere desire to allow the Holy Spirit to shape our hearts like Jesus, overflowing with compassion. To follow the example of Jesus, we need to re-adjust our over-abundant, over-complicated and busy lives to make time for a hurting world.

Modelling kindness to our younger generation is the first step to changing the statistics that our next generation is self-centered and uncaring. Through the astounding kindness that I have received in the last five months, I know that when I have the strength and ability, I will make it my life mission to extend kindness wherever I go.  I believe it’s the greatest legacy I can leave.

University of Michigan research: http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases, 7724, September 12, 2015




Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at Amazon.ca; Amazon.com, Goodreads.com or her website: www.heartconnection.ca


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poured Out - by Eleanor Shepherd

                
This is Maundy Thursday and many Christians mark this day as part of the Passion of Christ by remembering Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.  The Bible tells us how He poured the water into a basin and went around to each of His disciples, washed their feet and dried them with a towel.  This has always been one of the most powerful pictures for me of the Leadership style of Jesus and something that I would like to imitate. It also connects with a part of my own story.
                I have recounted to many people how a few years after our son John’s accident that rendered him a quadriplegic, Glen and I were leading a church service in one of our congregations in Ontario.  That Sunday morning, before the service began, the worship team sang a song about the potter.  It talked about how he remade the clay pot into the vessel that he desired it to be. It was that day that I realized that all that many of the things that I experienced as a result of John’s accident were the actions of Jesus as the potter, refashioning the clay pot of my life into the kind of vessel He wanted me to be.  

                The image of the potter was one that was familiar to me and I had always thought that what the Lord was making of my life was some kind of vase.  However, as I reflected on my experiences during this troubled time, I realized that my reshaping by the divine potter was turning that vase into a pitcher. He was refashioning the top of the vase and forming it into a lip useful for pouring.  I knew that for many years, He had continually been pouring His love into my life and somehow through my sharing with others this new journey, I was going to be able to pour that love into their lives. 
                One of my dear friends, who heard me tell this story, gave me a jug and basin that she had found and chose for me for as a special gift.  Whenever I look at that lovely set, it reminds me of the love God continues to pour into my life so I can pour it into the lives of others.  
                When I left Opportunity International, my parting gift from my colleagues there was pottery – a pitcher and basin to encourage me to keep on pouring out God’s love, as I had shared my story with them also.  
                In the daily grind, it is easy for us to forget these important reminders of our calling, until again the Lord sends someone to remind us.  That happened for me again recently when I celebrated a significant birthday.  My daughter had a book made up with photos and letters from people who she thought might want to honour me.  In a sense, I am reluctant to share this, in that it can sound like I am boasting and I do not want to do that, but for me it was another reminder of what God has called me to do, with the empowerment of His Spirit.  


                In her contribution to the book, one of my friends spoke of the appropriateness of my maiden name – Pitcher.  Her comment was, “Now that I have known Eleanor for five years and have seen her in her various roles – among them pastor, writer, mother, wife, grandmother and friend – it strikes me that the Lord could not have chosen a better surname for her.  I have seen few people that, “pour themselves out” so wholeheartedly in word, deed and prayer.”  The kind words of my friend again remind me of the opportunities that the Lord continues to give me to follow His example and pour out the love He has poured into me. 
Word Guild Award
2011
Word Guild Award
2009

Eleanor Shepherd from Pointe Claire, Quebec has more than 90 articles published in Canada,  France,  the U.S.A., Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand. Thirty years with The Salvation Army in Canada and France including ministry in Africa, Europe, Haiti and the Caribbean furnished material for her Award winning book, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening. Eleanor works as a pastor in Montreal with The Salvaton Army.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trusting—Carolyn R. Wilker



In March two of my daughters gave birth, each or them to a baby boy. We are happy for them and my husband is delighted to have grandsons to join the parade of granddaughters we already have and love dearly. We are pleased and thankful, most of all, for healthy babies who are doing well, and that the mothers, though still tired from broken nights of sleep, are steadily recovering from the birth of their babies.
It takes enormous energy to feed a growing fetus throughout pregnancy, giving birth, and then nourishing herself and baby in the post-birth days. Mothers can feel overwhelmed by the expectations and needs too.  And if there’s another child, to include that sibling in the daily routine and share the love. A new mother, or one having a second or third child, makes adjustments along the way. Often many. She appreciates the encouragement and physical support of  her husband, family and others, through lending a hand with tasks or prepared meals, during that time. Opportunities for an extra nap, too, to catch up on some sleep while Grandma or another family member cuddles the new baby and watches over the household for awhile.
I’ve had much opportunity in this past month to cuddle these new little grandchildren, and it made me think again, as I looked at the photos, how relationships build. How a baby needs everything—so much of his parents’ attention, for feeding, changing, comforting and protection. Completely dependent on his mother and father and family for those things, the baby does not yet know that it’s surely coming his way.

my husband and I with Isaac

The baby can only cry to let his family know that he needs something, long before he has the ability, or vocabulary, to tell what he needs. He learns, hopefully, that his care is assured, that someone will feed him when he’s hungry, that someone will rock him when he’s upset, and change him when he is wet. When the needs are met, baby can fall asleep again. In that long time, with steady loving care, a trust is built. Trust takes time. It builds a little at a time.

cousin Evy holds Nolan


I think of my brother, adopted at age 5 and a half, who did not have that same trust of adults in his life. His early life was full of broken relationships. We do not know for certain how many of them, but we know that those hurts take a lot of time to heal. Likely some of them never do.
Jesus asks us to come to him as children. He asks that we trust him with our needs and our life. It’s often hard to accept that trust that he’ll take care of us, maybe especially hard for people who’ve had similar early experiences as my brother. He’s learned some of that unconditional love having been part of our family, and yet trusting God with his life is a place he has not yet attained. I pray that someday it may still happen for him.
This same Jesus who came to us as a baby, whose earthly parents took care of his physical needs—his hunger, his need for comfort and protection from danger as an infant and as a child. He understands that and has experienced it.  He asks us only to trust him with our needs. And I’m here to say, it’s easier some day than others.


Author, editor, Carolyn Wilker





Sunday, April 09, 2017

Rising Life at Easter -HIRD





Rising Life in 2017
By Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

As a teenager, I golfed and skied religiously on Sunday mornings.  But I would never skip Easter Sunday.  For some reason, I always had a soft spot towards Easter.  Perhaps it was all that delicious chocolate.  Maybe it was because my father would attend at Easter, giving up his golfing for one Sunday.  I will never forget when my then agnostic father switched from golfing every Sunday to golfing every other Sunday in order to attend church.  Since taking the Alpha Course four times, my dad has developed a strong personal faith.
My teenage memories of Easter Sunday are connected with a sense of joy.  Unlike my atheist best friend, I never doubted the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But I was emotionally disconnected from its reality.  It was almost as if I did not believe in Easter.  As a teenager, I became convinced that there was no life after death, and that nothing awaited me but extinction and returning to dust.  I began to fear the power of death and the meaninglessness and emptiness of life.  I even began to secretly wonder if life itself was worth living.  When I came to personal faith at age 17, it was almost as if I had never heard of Jesus’ resurrection.  I remember being astounded over the realization that by faith in Christ, I would live forever.  I started wearing a button ‘Have a nice eternity’, something that would have made no sense to me just a few months earlier. 
At the recent Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope, almost 2,000 people gave their lives to Christ after hearing a clear message of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Easter is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian, even more than Christmas, our other favorite festival.  Even in our very complicated Canadian culture, Easter and Christmas are still deeply rooted in our self-identity and history as Canadians.  I will never forget a Capilano University Philosophy professor who, though an atheist, invited me to speak in his class about evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.  While initially skeptical, he became appalled by the religious and historical ignorance of some of his students.  He commented that without reading the bible and literature like Paradise Lost, you could not really understand Canadian culture.  The Easter story is deeply woven into our 150 years of Canadian history, something that we will be celebrating with Voices Together at the Pacific Coliseum on Canada Day.

In the past almost 37 years of ordained ministry, I have been privileged to take many funerals, now often called celebrations of life.  Many people nowadays don’t have any services when they die.  I find that rather sad, as it leaves people with limited ways to grieve.  Others no longer use clergy as in the past.  At most funerals that I take, there are many people sharing their memories of the deceased.  No matter how well I know the deceased, I always learn much at the service and wish that I knew them better.  My main contribution at funerals is to remind people of how Jesus conquered death and offered us rising life that would go on forever.  I am totally convinced that life and love are stronger than death, and that Easter is more than just chocolate.  God has given us in Jesus rising faith, hope, love and Life.
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, Anglican Mission in Canada

-previously published in the April 2017 Light Magazine and the April 2017 Deep Cove Crier

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Surprised by Transformation by Steph Beth Nickel



The following post first appeared on Janet Sketchley's blog, "Tenacity."

Be on the lookout. Transformation can come in ways you never expected.

And that’s exactly what has been happening to me this Lenten season.

While I don’t usually participate in the tradition of giving up something for Lent, this year I became aware of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Bible Study and decided to jump onboard.

The challenge: get rid of 10 things per day for the 40 days of Lent.

Having wanted to declutter our home for years, I thought it was a great way to start.

I had no idea.

I knew I could get rid of most, if not all 400 items, by culling my books and magazines, which I did.

However, I have also kept going, aiming to get rid of 10 items per day not only until Easter but also beyond that, until our home is the way we want it, free of clutter.

You have to understand … I used to have a blog called “Confessions of a Horrible Housekeeper.” That wasn’t one of those cutesy titles created by someone who was actually just shy of receiving The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. No! Horrible was an accurate descriptor.

But that’s changing.

Not because it will make me a better person.

Not because others will think more highly of me.

Not to my credit.

It’s all about the Lord.

What does decluttering have to do with our spiritual life?

In the study, Kathi Lipp addresses the “whys” of clutter. Why do we surround ourselves with things we don’t need and/or love? Why do we hold onto things even when we’ve come to recognize them as clutter?

This is not a one-size-fits-all study. But when you discover yourself in the pages of Clutter Free, it’s powerful.

What are some of the advantages I’ve discovered so far?

I feel lighter emotionally, having gotten rid of so many items.

Because I’ve cleaned out my kitchen cupboards, I’ve found “forever homes” for items that have sat out for years. I’m also motivated to wash up the dishes as we dirty them, leaving our newly discovered counter free of clutter.

I’ve set a good example for my hubby and our daughter. No nagging necessary. They’ve both begun to address their own clutter and we’re enjoying the transformation together.

How do I know this was the right time to take this challenge?

For the sake of peace in our household, I decided years ago not to nag my family members about the condition of the house. Therefore, for the most part, I ignored the ever-increasing piles of stuff that surrounded us.

When I made an effort to tidy up, I became overwhelmed with the immensity of the task and would give up.

I was under the mistaken impression that something new and shiny would either make me happy or motivate me to do what I felt I should (thus, the accumulation of cookbooks and fitness equipment).

But no more.

I’ve found contentment in addressing the clutter in even a small corner of our home.

The Clutter Free Facebook group is a safe place to be open and honest. I’ve been encouraged and had the opportunity to encourage others.

I’ve let go of my defensive attitude. In the past I felt others were judging me because of the condition of our home—and I was determined to defend my choices even if they never knew about it.

Never before have I been so excited to get rid of things.

The most important changes are taking place within me, not the walls of our home.

When has transformation surprised you? 

Friday, April 07, 2017

A tip from our Tip-a-Day service at the Ottawa Christian Writers’ Fellowship blog - Denyse O'Leary

Writing tip of the day: Christian Book finalists 2017

From CBA Online: -- The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) has announced the 59 finalists for the 2017 Christian Book Awards. These titles represent the industry’s best books and
Bibles of the year in 11 categories, including the newly added categories of Faith & Culture, Biography & Memoir, Young People’s Literature, Ministry Resources, and Bible Study.

http://cbaonline.org/2017-christian-book-finalists-named/

[Could your work be entered in one the new categories you did not even know about?]

If you want to be on our Facebook page, contact Denyse O’Leary at denyseoleary@gmail.com

 Also, here are some things I wrote recently:

Are polls scientific? Well, what happens when human complexity foils electoral predictions?

Fake news series: Part I: What is fake news? Do we believe it?

Part II: Does fake news make a difference in politics?

Part III: What can we do about fake news that would not diminish real news?  Critics of 'fake news' should go to China --- only the government has the right to post fake news.

Monday, April 03, 2017

A Missionary with Ink in His Veins by Rose McCormick Brandon


R. A. Jaffray (Rob), born in Canada to Scottish immigrants, entered the New York Missionary training Institute at age 20. There, he came under the influence of A. B. Simpson, founder of the school.
Robert’s father, publisher of The Toronto Globe (forerunner to today’s Globe and Mail), refused to finance his son’s education unless he agreed to attend a Presbyterian school in Canada which could have led to a respectable ministerial position. Rob’s heart was set on becoming a missionary to China and he longed to sit under the tutelage of Simpson, one of the leaders of the missionary revival and a man Rob’s father considered a zealot.
Jaffray who suffered from diabetes and a heart problem, was an unlikely candidate for missionary work in China. But, after working his way through the New York school, he went to China in 1897 where he met and married missionary, Miss Minnie Donor, who had arrived in China two years earlier.
A fervent soul-winner, Jaffray believed that churches should be established in every location where a handful of believers lived. Soon after opening a church, Jaffray would establish a Bible College to educate and train new converts for service. Next to evangelizing and teaching, Jaffray believed in the power of the printed page.
For most of his life he kept the presses rolling, turning out a ton of Christian literature for distribution throughout the Orient. His publishing work was carried on with a zeal amounting to a crusader’s passion. He had been reared in an atmosphere never free of the smell of printer’s ink. The talk around the table had been of newspapers, the power of printed ideas, the influence of the press for good or evil, and he had not forgotten anything. (A. W. Tozer, Let My People Go) 
Jaffray’s Bible Magazine was printed on good paper using a professional layout. Best of all, its content was of the highest quality. It was said of Jaffray that his pen was always moving. His writing style was conversational. He wrote, not to gain a name for himself, but to persuade readers and call them to action. Besides being principle writer, he edited and published articles in many languages always being careful to be true to the scriptures.
For many years, Jaffray served as chairman of the South China field, pastor of the Wuchow church, principle of the Bible School, head of the South China Press, editor of the Bible Magazine and coordinator of mission activity on the field. Jaffray went to Vietnam and Indonesia where he established Bible Schools and printing operations. His goal was to equip Christians so they could work independently of foreign missionaries. Like first century Christians, Jaffray witnessed many miracles in his ministry.
Duringthe depression when money for missions had dwindled, Jaffray received his inheritance which he used to fund the work. At an age when most people retired, God called him to the West Indies. His pen and his presses went with him.

In 1938, with the Second World War looming, Jaffray, nearing the end of a year’s furlough, said, “If I do not go back now, there is little likelihood I can ever go back at all. I must return to the Far East. I want to die out there where my life has been.” His words proved prophetic. The Japanese captured him. He spent a year in a camp with his wife and daughter and then was moved to a men’s camp, a former pig farm. On July 29, 1945, a short time before the war ended, Robert Jaffray died of starvation while lying on a prison cot in the Toradja Mountains of Indonesia.

Four years before his death, R. A. Jaffray, with skilful pen, wrote:

“One day it will all be finished, and the weary feet, all scarred and bleeding will cross the last mountain, tread the last trail, reach the last tribe and win the last soul. Then He Himself will exclaim, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Let us keep our eyes steadily upon the goal. For when we hear the shout from the skies, all else will fade into utter insignificance. Ere long the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”(A. W. Tozer, Let My People Go) 

Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books, including One Good Word Makes all the Difference and Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. She writes personal essays and devotionals for several publications.





             





           

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