Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy 2008 - Grove

A friend tells the story of a beloved, but addled Uncle who took a bus trip to another country. The bus was overtaken by bandits, and everyone on board was robbed. Back home, he told his horrified family the details of his ordeal. He said the lead bandit kicked the door open, leaped onto the bus and hollered, “Anybody don’t move!”

It’s an in-joke now among her family and friends. Whenever someone drops a dish or loses a contact lens they holler “Anybody don’t move!”

But as 2008 dawns, I’m tempted to jump off my chair, wave my arms in “safe-at-home plate” gesture and holler to the heavens “Anybody don’t move!”

You see, 2007 was a lovely year for me and my family. We found “home” (although we were all a bit surprised it was in Saskatchewan), found our church (okay, hubby is the pastor, but we spend years searching for the place God wanted us to settle into), and I found my calling. My children are healthy, happy, and involved in school and with friends. We like our neighbors. We have new friends. We’re happy. See what I mean? If I’ve ever had an “Anybody don’t move!” moment, it’s now.

But time is a continuum. 2008 has arrived, but before I shout out orders to the heavens, I think I’ll take some time to look at the One who brought about all these happy things. The fact is, regardless of what sort of year we’ve had, God is God. He’s worthy of praise. In all times. In all cases. In all things.

And when I look at the joy He has brought to my family in the past year, it pales in comparison beside the knowledge that He loves us, has saved us, and is with us.

I can see Him now, smiling at me in that knowing way. You see, if I tell Him “Anybody don’t move!” He will simply grin at me and say, “I never change. I cannot be moved. So you don’t need to worry.”

The Nature of a Vision - Lindquist

As 2007 is drawing to a close, my mind goes back to June, 2001, when the seeds of the vision that would become The Word Guild were first sown.

I was one of a small group of writers and editors who were part of the faculty and staff for the annual God Uses Ink conference. On the night before the conference began, we were told that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada was unable to continue putting on God Uses Ink, and so this would be the last year.

I’d been coming to the conference since 1988, and it was my only tangible link to other writers and editors. The others in our group felt the same way I did—that we had to find a way to keep it going—but no one knew how to do that, and there were a lot of glum people.

I woke up very early Thursday morning with an idea I felt God had given me. I phoned my husband Les and asked him if he thought our new publishing company, That’s Life! Communications, could somehow provide a way to do banking so that we could continue the conference.

Knowing my goal was to write full-time while Les and I started a church plant in the area we’d just moved into, Les asked me if I was sure this what God wanted me to do.

“Yes,” I said. I can only say I knew in my heart we had to do whatever we could to keep the conference going. No matter what happened, I had peace about it.

“Okay, then,” he said. “Tell them you’ll do it.”

Of course, our plans to keep a little conference going soon expanded into all that The Word Guild encompasses as God kept giving me a larger and larger vision. And our plans to start a church and my plan to write full-time went out the window.

However, in those first months as we struggled to understand exactly what it was God wanted us to do, God spoke to both Les and me in different ways. I dreamed about a map of Canada with little flames popping up all over, first a few and then more and more, until the whole country was engulfed in flame, but the map didn’t burn up. The same week, without knowing about my dream, Les had a dream in which a map of Canada suddenly burst into flame from the center (the way it happened on the TV show Bonanza) and burned up. When we compared notes, we both acknowledged that God was at work, and that he had for some reason entrusted us with something he wanted to happen—something neither of us had foreseen.

Of course, many other people, in particular Wendy Nelles, have also played major roles in making The Word Guild a reality, and Imago allowed us to become a project of theirs, which allowed us to raise money and give tax receipts, which both gave us credibility and helped us stay afloat.

God chose to give me not only a vision of what was needed, but also awareness of the steps that had to be taken, determination to make it happen, and faith that if we just went ahead and did what we had to do, God would look after the results.

God gave Wendy a related vision, and a lot of determination and faith. Even though we barely knew each other before we started The Word Guild, God uniquely prepared us to work closely together. I’ve often referred to her as the quality-control person. She’s been the one ensuring that everything we did was always done to the best of our abilities. So many times we’d do something and she’d say, “Let me see it one more time” and I would give it to her very reluctantly because I just wanted to be finished with it. Other times, she took the rudimentary idea I had and expanded and improved it to make it much stronger.

And many others came on board, taking large and small roles, and growing the vision into reality. We’ve also had a very strong prayer team, without whom we’d have been sunk long ago.

God often chooses to work that way. He lets one or two people see the possibilities in his mind—see what he sees—and then he lets them run with it. And then—sometimes sooner, sometimes later—he brings others to work alongside them and supply all the rest of what’s needed. Because of course a vision is only a beginning, and there is so much more that has to happen to bring that vision to reality. Bringing a vision to life is a lot more like a team relay race than an individual marathon.

And so The Word Guild has grown from a vague hope of keeping a little conference alive to a national organization of over 300 people, and much more. And I feel that God has now told me it’s time to pass my baton on to others.

In four days, I’ll turn 60. No, it doesn’t seem possible. Inside, I feel about 18. But while in some ways, I feel I’ve earned the right to take it a bit easier from now on, at the same time, I’m not retiring from my journey with God, and I actually can’t wait to see what vision God gives me next. I have the glimmerings of one; but not the full picture. Yes, I’ll still be part of The Word Guild—just no longer the driving part. And I will continue to write, speak, and teach.

Thinking about all this has led me to spend some time considering the nature of visions.

I think God wants to give all of us some kind of vision—something to hold on to and strive toward. A vision can give us that sense of purpose and significance that we are all born needing. It may only encompass what he wants us to become, or it may be a larger vision for our family, our community, or our country. It may come gradually, growing larger as we grow older and wiser. Or it may come in an instant, when we suddenly know what we have to do. Some of us may have one vision that grows with us as we grow. Others may have a series of visions that may or may not appear to be related.

Most visions call for us to do something that isn’t easy to do. They may require putting other plans aside for a time, as I did when we started The Word Guild. Or they may require us to leave family and friends behind, as the disciples did when Jesus called on them to follow him, and as Abraham and Sarah did when God called them to go to a new land. They may even lead to suffering—as happened to Joseph, Paul, and many others.

And then there was Noah. What a totally strange vision he was given! Build an enormous boat in the middle of the desert. And the strangest part of it is that the story in Genesis doesn’t even mention his questioning God, as Moses and Gideon and others did. It just says, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Talk about faith! Talk about seeing something God wanted and putting everything else aside and doing it!

When I look back on my life, I really look back on a series of visions from God—from teaching high school to planting churches, homeschooling, leading small groups, working with World Team, writing, The Word Guild… Often, it began with just a vague idea of what God wanted, and then my vision grew and grew as I got into it. Usually, I started with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm because it was new, and then it slowly become less fun and more work, until sometimes it seemed almost drudgery. I recall moments when I felt I had become a slave to this thing I had helped create, and I wanted nothing more than to be released from it. But then a new challenge would appear, and my enthusiasm would come back.

And then there would be a point at which I knew it was time for me to move on, that my part was completed. God’s timing is always right. And there is so much more joy when you know you have run the race, and the baton has been passed on…

For some reason, 60 is feeling like a really good age to me. And God has assured me that he still has exciting things for me to do—a new baton for me to pick up. My prayer is that, like Noah, when God gives me something else to do, I’ll just go and do it.

My prayer for you is that as 2008 begins, God will give you a vision that will make your life worth living, and you will eagerly grab for the baton.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear Jesus

North Shore News ‘Spiritually Speaking’ column
Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus
By the Rev. Ed Hird+

One December morning, a boy came up to me and said "Christmas is coming, and I am going to get lots of presents: a new IPod, a Video Camcorder, and more computer games. He went on and on with his very long list until I said "Doesn't Christmas mean more to you than presents?" He looked at me with a puzzled expression and said "What do you mean?" I said, "Isn't it someone's birthday?" He said, with complete sincerity, "Is it yours?" I responded, "No, it's Jesus' Birthday on December 25th." The boy said, "I didn't know that. That's neat!"

I left that conversation, saddened that a boy could be so excited over Christmas presents, without even knowing whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. When I was a child, even the Public Schools could openly celebrate the beautiful story of the birth of the baby Jesus. Public Schools even used to have Christmas Pageants in which, as little children we would dress up as shepherds, angels, soldiers, or as wise men. I have discovered that there is no better way to learn a story, like Christmas, than to dress up and act it out.

Our society still has a very strong emotional attachment to Christmas. But the busyness and excessive commercialism of the Christmas Season can leave us more exhausted than refreshed. Our family has found that rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas helps us to enjoy Christmas more, without getting so caught up in the frantic pre-Christmas frenzy.

Christmas for our family, first and foremost, is a birthday party. At a birthday party, it's I okay to have fun and celebrate. It's fun to gather the whole family together. It's fun to open presents at a birthday party. But the most important thing at a birthday party is not the balloons, or the cake, or the party bags, or even the presents. The most important thing is the person whose birthday we are celebrating.
When baby Jesus was born at Christmas, wise men came along and celebrated his birthday, by giving Jesus presents (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). But the most important thing at the first Christmas was not these three very expensive presents. The most important thing was that very precious baby, who came to earth to ultimately die for us.
This Christmas, as we open our presents, let us remember whose birthday we are celebrating.
Th Reverend Ed Hird,
Rector, St. Simon's Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Great O Antiphons - Lawrence

Today, December 20th, the Church is in the middle of the "Great O Antiphons." The "Great O’s" are chanted or spoken at evening services in many churches throughout the world from December 17th until December 23rd.

Each of these short prayers begins with the acclamation "O", which precedes one of the Messianic titles from the Old Testament and ends with a request for Christ’s coming.

Thus, we begin on December 17th with O Wisdom, and proceed through the rest of Advent with: O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Day-spring, O King of the Nations, and lastly O Emmanuel, on which John Neale’s hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, is based.

These prayers have been tradition in the church since the 8th and 9th centuries though the tradition’s origin is unknown. The antiphons are beautifully expressed and have a rich meaning; they begin with the creation of the universe, work on through Israel’s messianic prophecies, and culminate in the incarnation and birth of Christ in Bethlehem.

It has been noted that the initials of each Latin title—Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel, combine to form SARCORE, which, when written backwards, gives us the Latin phrase, Ero Cras, which means, Tomorrow, I shall be. This may be just coincidence but, to the Christians of the Middle Ages, it gave them much on which to meditate about Our Lord’s coming.

Today’s antiphon, O Key of David, comes from Isaiah’s prophesy, I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. Isaiah 22:22, NRSV.

There are many versions of today’s antiphon but I like the one out of the Monastic Diurnal that the nuns used when I was in the Convent: O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: Come, and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

As we approach the coming of Christ into our lives and hearts this Advent, may we receive the Key of David and enter into the freedom of Christ’s love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

God of the Impossible: A Christmas Thought - Shepherd

Each Christmas season for the past three or four years, some particular phrase from the familiar Christmas story in the Bible, seems to lodge in my mind and come to focus frequently as I engage in the holiday activities. Last year it was, “and they will call him Immanuel – which means ‘God with us.” (Matthew 1: 23) In many different situations I was reminded that God is with us.

This year the words that have arrested my attention are, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1: 37) Perhaps it is because we are at a transition time and this year has brought us to unexpected places. I never imagined that this Christmas we would be preparing to enter into a completely new phase of life early in the New Year. After thirty years of ministry, largely pastoral and administrative lived out in the developed world, we are taking early retirement and launching out into a whole new area of challenges and responsibilities with a mission that serves mainly the developing world. If you had asked me a year ago if such a scenario were likely, I would probably have considered it impossible. Yet with God, nothing is impossible. He has led us to this place in sure and steady steps, through conversations and coincidences that gently guided us from the impossible to the possible, to the point where the proffered future became desirable.

It happened this way. By divine coincidence, my husband, Glen called up a colleague with whom he had worked at Canadian Pacific in the early seventies, before we went into full time ministry. Throughout the years our paths crossed from time to time. This friend, John, had become involved in a Christian organization that directed the distribution of medicines, vaccines and hospital equipment to the developing world. Glen wanted to cooperate with them to try to obtain desperately needed supplies and equipment for our hospital and clinics in Zimbabwe and Haiti.

Aware that we do not have many more years before reaching retirement age, at the end of one conversation, Glen said, “Do you think there might be a spot for me in your organization, a few years down the line when I retire?” The company is based in Montreal, the city that we consider home and where we wished to retire. John replied that they could discuss it some time.
Now he tells us that at the time his heart leaped. Only the day before the board had met and was talking about finding a replacement for John. Though it is certainly not obvious, he is well past normal retirement age.

As a result, three weeks later, John called Glen back and told him that he had talked to the chairman of the board and that if Glen would consider the possibility of eventually replacing him, they would call off the search and investigate the feasibility of this.

Although Glen was flattered, he assured John that this was impossible. We had both made a covenant to ministry and it did not seem reasonable to consider any other option. We were there until retirement. Strangely enough, our retirement policy was changed a few years ago, to provide the option that we could request early retirement if certain criteria were met. We happened to meet those criteria.

When Glen first mentioned the conversation with John to me, I dismissed it as just another one of those opportunities that come along, but need not be pursued. However, it refused to go away. John asked if we would meet him for lunch and let him tell us about Health Partners International. We agreed and about a week before he asked if I would mind sending him a copy of my CV. His explanation for this was that they felt that I also had skills that would be useful to their organization. Figuring that there was nothing to be lost, I quickly put together my credentials and sent it off to him. What amazed me was that in over thirty years I had never had occasion to prepare a CV, yet it just seemed to take shape with little effort on my part. Even more astonishing to me was the job offer it generated.

Meanwhile, Glen consulted those whom he thought could offer wisdom. He met a retired friend with whom he had worked closely in ministry. “Give me some reason why I should not consider this,” Glen requested. Our friend instead saw no reason to resist it.

Another Christian friend from another denomination helped to clarify our situation. “Your calling to ministry will never be revoked,” he assured us. “What you need to know is if you have been released from a calling to a particular denomination.” This was the issue on which we focused and it became clear to us, through unique, individual experiences within a day of each other.

My concern was a need I felt to have the approval of my aged parents who had also given their lives in ministry to our denomination. Would they understand?

It so happened that one afternoon I was driving my father back to the long term care facility where he and my mother live, when he asked me how long it would be before we retired. I told him that depended on whether we opted for early retirement. Then I explained some aspects of the situation we were facing. He affirmed that in such circumstances early retirement could make sense.

A few weeks later, over lunch, I had the opportunity for further conversation with my parents about our future. I explained the possibility of employment with Health Partners International, in the city where we planned to retire. When I asked what they thought, my father replied, “If you have the health, why wouldn’t you?” Then he sought the opinion of my mother, who at 93 seldom expresses her opinions freely any more. Without hesitation, she said, “Sounds good to me.” It was then that a felt the release from our denomination to enter into a new avenue of ministry.

I never imagined the opportunity would come so soon to be able to make the choices about where I could live and what I could do. These were things that I had to give up as part of my current ministry. But God is faithful. This Christmas I am aware as Mary was that with God nothing is impossible.

What impossible things do you see Him doing this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fighting with the Truth - Gregoire

I was reading in John 18 this morning and I meditated for a while on the passage where Jesus questions his accusers, saying: "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" And at this He was bound and led off.

Jesus was trying to use truth, facts, and logic to argue with them. They were obviously in the wrong, and deep inside they knew it. But rather than dealing with what was right in front of their faces, they started yelling and resorted to violence.

In some ways I think we're facing a similar culture. We don't believe in truth anymore. I've been dismayed by the recent complaint to the federal Human Rights Commission and two provincial counterparts regarding an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book that appeared in Maclean's magazine. While Steyn doesn't write from a Christian point of view, he is very sympathetic to religion, and uses logic to argue that our worldview is all messed up.

The response has not been to argue against his facts. It is to say that he insulted people, and thus violated their human rights. Freedom of speech is at stake in Canada today, and I fear that few realize it. If the Canadian Islamic Council wins this one and Maclean's loses, then magazines will no longer print facts if they may be inconvenient to people. And that will impact us as writers.

We deal in facts that aren't very well liked in our culture. We're looking at the world through a biblical worldview that is not shared, and even reviled. And we have to learn how to make our arguments without emotion, without over-the-top judgmentalism, and just using logic. But even then, we must beware that increasingly our culture will not listen to us. And I think the time will come when we will have to be very careful. When writing itself will become subversive.

Perhaps I'm being melodramatic, but I don't think so. Already Christians have been prosecuted in Canada for publishing Bible verses. This is just the beginning.

Besides writing books I also write a weekly column (you can read some here), and looking back over the last few years, I can see where many of them could be considered "insulting" to certain groups. Will I have to start censoring myself? Or will I have the courage to say, as Jesus did, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong", regardless of what it costs.

Any of us who write about modern social issues are going to have to confront that issue, and soon. I wish Mark Steyn and Maclean's the best of luck, and keep them in my prayers. For where they go, so will the rest of us.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Book Signing Blues - Wright

Book signings create anticipation and agony—in this writer anyway. Will readers line up to acquire your coveted signature on a volume they will treasure? OK, not unless you’re Margaret Atwood or Khalid Husaini. Most likely, you’ll sit behind a table arrayed with copies of your darling while potential readers give you a wide berth. With a smile frozen on your face, you’ll wonder for the umpteenth time why you weren’t called to become a bank teller or lumberjack.

Or, you may stand by your display with an elaborate expression of nonchalance engaging visitors to the bookstore in conversations designed to move them to buy your inspired writing. They’ll ooh and ahh over meeting a real live author, take your leaflet and say, “I’ll give it some thought,” only to avoid you as they leave the store. Who can blame them? In their place I’d probably do the same.

You may leave a book signing having sold not a single volume or leave with the elation of having sold a few dozen. My recent experiences lead me to the following unscientific conclusions:

 I sell few, if any books in venues where a number of writers offer their wares. Since September I’ve been involved in three events in which I either sold zero or one book. Best to consider these events as valuable opportunities to promote writers in general or the Word Guild in particular.
 I sell a good number of books in venues where I am the only author present, for example, bookstores in malls or high traffic areas. Wherever I have an opportunity to describe my book and engage potential customers in conversation I have a much better chance of a sale. By itself—lost as it will be in a bookstore among thousands of other books—my book will have little chance of attracting attention. Anything that creates buzz may help to overcome this handicap.
 I sell a good number of books in venues such as craft shows where the very uniqueness of a book table attracts customers. This is especially true if the book has some local connection.
 Sales are much higher leading up to special days such as Christmas, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
 Saturday evening is the worst time to have a book signing in Chapters.
 Unless there is wide publicity and free food, few sales will result from book signings in individual bookstores with locations distant from high consumer traffic.

All in all, it’s been a good experience and I’m a little smarter, but I do look forward to a few months without book signings.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What Child is This? - Hird

What Child is This?
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

One of the most favorite Christmas Carols is William Chatterton Dix’s “What Child is This?” At the age of twenty-nine, Dix was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bedrest for several months. He went into a deep depression. Out of this near-death experience, Dix wrote many hymns, including ‘What Child is This?”. Written in 1865, Dix made use of powerful word pictures that still speak one hundred and forty-one years later:

"What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?"

What is it about the Christmas story that keeps capturing our hearts year after year? What child is this?

Why does this baby on Mother Mary’s lap win the attention of billions of people every December? Why angels? Why shepherds? What child is this?

One of the strangest things about the Christmas story is the birthplace of the Christmas child in a cattle shed. What kind of place is that to celebrate Christmas? It wasn’t even sanitary.

"Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear,
for sinners here The silent Word is pleading."

There is something about the Christmas Child that will not go away, that cannot be avoided, that is inescapably part of Canadian culture.What Child is this anyways?

William Chatterton Dix’s Carol had this response:
"This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary."

What Child is this? Why do wise men still seek him?

"So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him."

This Christmas, may loving hearts enthrone the Christmas Child. May loving hearts welcome this Child into their homes, their lives, their souls.

The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Friday, December 14, 2007

Emmanuel - Hovsepian

My favourite Christmas-related word is "Emmanuel". What could be more beautiful, more meaningful, more awe-inspiring than the idea — and REALITY — of "God with us"? To me, that is what Christmas is all about. As Christians, we often try to remind people that the holiday isn't about gifts and parties by stating that it's about the birth of Jesus. I don't believe that says enough.

Why was Jesus born? What is so significant about His birth? It's the fact that God chose to dwell among us and to bring salvation through His Son Jesus — by humbling Himself to the point of leaving His glory in heaven to be born in a stable and to walk among us in this broken world. And He came with a purpose: to give up His life as a ransom for our sins because we are powerless to save ourselves.

It takes my breath away when I consider what God has done for us, for me. There is so much hope in the words "God with us". This lonely, despairing world needs that message of hope!

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will experience — and share with others — more than ever before, God with us.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This Gift's for You - Meyer

One of the deep frustrations that I have as an author is that people don’t read my books. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – some people obviously do read them. But I desperately long to get them into the hands of hurting people.

Sometimes, this passion will hit me at the oddest moments. I’ll be in a grocery store and I’ll see a young woman and I’ll just want to run up to her and say, “I wrote this book for you. It’s my love gift for you. I wrote it just for you!”

Recently, I was at a Christmas craft show and I had my table of books there. Some people stopped and bought one and I was overjoyed. But so many passed by and again, I wanted to somehow tell them, “This is for you. This is my love gift to you. I wrote it just for you!”

As Christmas approaches, I see the Father’s arms extended towards a hurting world. In His hands is the gift of His Son who came as a baby in the manger but then lived and died so that we would have the gift of eternal life. And I hear the Father’s voice: This love story I wrote just for you. It’s my love gift to you. I wrote it just for you.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fanny Crosby: The World's Most Prolific Songbird - Hird

Fanny Crosby: The World's Most Prolific Songbird
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by the Rev. Ed Hird

Fanny Crosby was blinded, while only six weeks old, by a quack unlicensed doctor. He permanently scarred her corneas by applying hot mustard poultices to her mildly infected eyes. When her father died while Fanny was only 12 months old, her mother had to become a maid to support little Fanny.Despite these tragedies, Fanny never fell into self-pity. “Don’t waste any sympathy on me”, she said. “I’m the happiest person alive.”

Fanny went on to become one of the best known women in North America. She taught for 23 years at the New York Institute for the Blind, becoming the personal friend and confidante of every sitting American President during her lifetime. As the first woman to ever address the U.S. Congress, Fanny left a lasting impact wherever she went.Fanny had a life-changing spiritual encounter at age 30 in November 1850, which she said ‘flooded her very soul with celestial light’. Fourteen years later at age 44, Fanny wrote her first song.
Over the next 51 years, she wrote over 8,500 songs, often producing six or seven songs per day! She wrote so many songs that you would have to stack 15 hymnbooks on top of each other, just to show how much music she produced. Fanny was so prolific that publishing companies would only sell more of her songs by using over 100 pseudonyms. She literally glutted the market with her incredibly popular music!One of the keys to her becoming so well-known was her partnering with the famous ’DL Moody/Ira Sankey’ team. Sankey (who was also blind for his last five years) would often provide the tune, and Fanny Crosby would write the words.

After the infamous Chicago fire that burned down Moody’s premises, Moody and Sankey went to England, speaking and singing their way into the hearts of the British people. Even Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales came to hear Moody preach and Sankey sing Fanny Crosby’s songs. As one writer commented, Fanny Crosby ‘set more hearts and voices to praising God than any other women who ever lived. Fanny’s approach to life and music was “Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”

Fanny Crosby had a photographic memory, memorizing five chapters of the Bible every week. She knew by heart the first five books of the Old Testament, the four Gospels, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms. Some of her most well-known songs were “To God be the Glory, Great Things He hath Done”, “Draw Me Nearer, Precious Lord”, “Blessed Assurance”, and “Praise Him! Praise Him!”.

Fanny lived until age 95. When she was 83, she said: “I believe myself to still really be in the prime of my life.” When asked about her longevity, she said that her secret was that she guarded her taste, her temper, and her tongue.

Fanny actively supported the Water Street Mission in New York, the first Rescue Mission in North America. It had been founded by Jerry McAuley who himself had recovered from alcohol and prison. She did not focus on pointing out other people's faults. "You can't save a man by telling him of his sins. He knows them already. Tell him there is pardon and love waiting for him. Win his confidence and make him understand that you believe in him, and never give him up!"

One of her best known songs “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour” was written specifically for a prisoner who cried out at her meeting: “O Lord, Do not pass me by!”Fanny was married for 44 years to Alexander Van Alistine, her former student and fellow instructor at the New York Institute for the Blind. With Alexander being a top organist and Fanny an accomplished harpist, they must have been quite a duo. Sadly their only child, Frances, died as a baby. It was this tragedy that inspired the writing of one of Fanny’s most famous songs: “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”.

Her song “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” even reached Uganda in 1885. The Anglican Bishop James Hannington was captured by King Mwanga and put for a week in a filthy rat-infested hut. Bishop Hannington’s last words in his diary were: “Go tell Mwanga that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” As they speared him to death, Hannington was joyfully singing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus”. His courageous death inspired 32 servants of King Mwanga to accept being burnt alive rather than renounce their faith and moral convictions. Such sacrifices have produced the second largest Anglican Church in the world, with over eight million Ugandan Anglicans attending church each Sunday.I thank God for Fanny Crosby, the world’s most prolific songbird, who has shown tens of millions in every continent how to be ‘safe in the arms of Jesus’.

The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver,
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Christmas Thoughts - Hall

Since I won’t be writing in this blog again until the New Year, I’ve decided to share some of my Christmas thoughts and wishes with you.

Every once in a while you live through a year where so much is packed inside of it that you wonder if the calendar will contain it all. And usually the lessons of such a year are long and difficult.

This past year was one such year for me. But as I reflect back, I can see that I have learned things. I’ve seen stronger relationships with family members; my sister and my mother, my husband. I see growing friendships in my small group and among friends. Also, I find myself in a deepening relationship with God.

I find myself on a quest for an understanding of ‘First things.’

C.S. Lewis writes about First Things and Second Things and is quoted by Larry Crabb in Soultalk, a book my small group is working through. First things have to do with our relationship with God. Second things are everything else; family, career, success, health, and even our ministries, the good things we do.

Rev. Tim Keller is another one who talks on these themes, only he calls them Good Things and Ultimate Things. In his sermons he often asks the questions, “What gets you up in the morning? What do you want more than anything? Those are your Ultimate Things.”

My answer usually had something to do with career and publishing success. And of course to see my family successful and happy is way up there, along with health and friends. Yet, this past year so many of the important, good, and ‘second’ things in my life seemed to be yanked out from under me. And all I had left was God.

This Christmas, as we celebrate the coming of a First Thing, I want to share a verse that has been meaningful to me. It’s Psalm 27:4 - ONE THING I ask of the LORD, 
this is what I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD 
all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD 
and to seek him in his temple.

David knew the difference Ultimate Things and Good Things, and he desired the Ultimate Thing.

Have a wonderful Christmas, all!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Canadian Christmas Music - Martin

In the December 1st issue of Christian Week, I have reviewed new Christmas albums by two talented Canadian recording artists: Jacob Moon’s This Christmas, and Kelita’s Heavenly Night. In this blog, I’ve chosen to share with you four of my favourite Canadian Christmas CDs from previous years.

Bruce Cockburn — Christmas — True North Records 1993
Every year, this CD gets heard often around our home. You won’t hear any silly seasonal ditties here, but Cockburn’s renditions of classic carols such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Silent Night”, and the wonderful Sam Phillips minor-key arrangement of “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”. He also sings carols in Spanish, French, and virtually-extinct Huron. Cockburn’s own composition “Shepherds” is a faithful retelling (in more than one way) of the story of the angel choir announcing Christ’s birth. He includes some beautiful lesser-known songs — and bookends the album with brief guitar instrumentals of carols, that leave you wanting more. Cockburn brings his depth of thought and integrity to Christmas music.

Steve Bell — The Feast Of Seasons — Signpost Music 1995
There are only a few well-known carols on Steve Bell’s seasonal CD (originally called The Feast). It isn’t until track five that you’ll recognize “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” which is then followed by a medley of three familiar carols on solo guitar. The album is arranged liturgically, beginning with the Advent song “Ready My Heart” and moving through to Epiphany with the original composition “Old Sage”. One highlight is “Every Stone Shall Cry” — originally a poem by Richard Wilbur — which carries our thoughts beyond, to Easter, and back again. If I could have only one Christmas CD, this would be it.

Lianna Klassen — Once Upon a Time Forever After — Dawntreader Productions 2002
There are even fewer carols on Lianna Klassen’s Christmas album — only two in fact (“O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “The Huron Carol”) and yet she has made a disc that clearly brings the story behind the season to mind. Several of the songs, which she self-penned, are built around characters from the Biblical account. Klassen’s music has an atmospheric, Celtic quality — featuring traditional instruments and subtle synthetic sounds — that complement her strong voice well. My favourite cut is “Gloria Deo”, a soaring, multi-layered angel song of praise that announces the birth of our Lord. Beautiful.

Ali Matthews — On Angels’ Wings — Shake-a-Paw Music 2005
On her album, Ali Matthews sings original songs, traditional carols, and a few fluffy seasonal songs such as “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”. I believe there’s method in such madness; Matthews knows how to disarm an audience that may not think they want to hear “Christian” music. She delights us with Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here”, from the Charlie Brown Christmas special — opening listeners to carols and her own truth-laden songs, which are so honestly written that she can slip from the pleasantly sentimental to the profoundly spiritual virtually unnoticed. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”!

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at

Monday, December 03, 2007

The bookstore - Aarsen

I did a book signing the other day at our local bookstore. I was blessed with visitors and people who wanted to sit and chat. The bookstore owner was giving out free samples of tea which made the sitting and chatting all the more pleasant. The table I sat at held a copious amount of books - and chocolate. At any other bookstore in any other place, that would have made me feel immediately nervous. But this was my town and these were my people and this was my bookstore owner. She's a gem and my biggest cheerleader. Thanks to her I sell more copies of my books locally than anywhere else. I think of her when I'm writing my books. I want to give her a quality product that she can promote to my local and regularly growing readership. Bookstore owners like her are jewels and should be protected and supported. Big stores have their place and I like stopping in to see what's on the shelves, but there are many times I'm overwhelmed by the variety and the sheer volume. Our local bookstore is a haven of comfort and joy. And what's not to like about free tea?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Inescapable Christmas
The Inescapable Christmas
By the Rev Ed Hird+
-an article published in the Dec 2007 Deep Cove Crier

One of the most entertaining book/movies about Christmas commercialization is ‘Skipping Christmas/Christmas with the Cranks’ by John Grisham. As Christmas commercialization will likely always be with us, it is good to have a sense of humour about the silliness that can overtake us. My favorite scene is Luther Crank trying unsuccessfully to drink his tea after an over-the-top Botox session.

For many years, John Grisham has been one of my favorite living authors. Born on February 8, 1955, Grisham is a retired attorney, an ex-politician, and a novelist best known for his works of modern legal drama. Publishers Weekly described Grisham as "the bestselling novelist of the 90s," selling 60,742,289 copies. Grisham is one of few authors, including Tom Clancy, who have sold two million copies on a first printing. His novel The Pelican Brief sold over eleven million copies just in North America. There is no other person who has authored a number one best-selling novel of the year for seven consecutive years (1994-2,000).

Many people do not realize that Grisham is a committed Christian who has spent time in mission service in Brazil. "I started going out in 1993 with a church group from my home church in Oxford, Miss.," he told USA Today. "We went down there for the purpose of constructing a church in this little town sort of in the outback and it was such a rewarding experience that I've done it several times since."

With over 110 million books sold, John Grisham and his wife, Renee, "measure the success of the year on how much we give away," Grisham told USA Today. They have set up a foundation to oversee their giving -- "the bulk of it goes to church and related activities" -- to which "the kids have said, 'Look, don't give it all away.'"

Grisham now wishes "I'd joined the Peace Corps ... for a couple years out of college." He added, "As my years go by I think I'll spend more and more time doing ... mission work, probably in Brazil."

Fittingly, Grisham in his book ‘The Testament’ makes a heroine of an illegitimate daughter Rachel Lane, an unknown missionary in the deepest jungles of Brazil. Troy Phelan, the 10th-richest man in America, outrages all his greedy family by giving Rachel his $11 billion fortune. Ironically, Rachel leads a simple life and couldn't care less about money. The interaction between Nate O’Riley the recovering alcoholic lawyer and Rachel Lane reveals the depth of Grisham’s spiritual convictions. "Nate closed his eyes ... and called God's name. God was waiting. ... In one glorious acknowledgment of failure, he laid himself bare before God. He held nothing back. He unloaded enough baggage to crush any three men. ... 'I'm sorry,' he whispered to God. 'Please help me.' As quickly as the fever had left his body, he felt the baggage leave his soul. With one gentle brush of the hand, his slate had been wiped clean."

Grisham explained to USA Today, "Nate tried power and women and booze and drugs and the fast life and all the good things that money can buy. He's crashed and burned four times in 10 years and it's obvious he can't save himself. I wanted to take a guy like that and sort of follow him on a kind of spiritual journey, his quest for a spiritual cure. ... I was challenged by the goal of seeing if I could make such a spiritual journey work in a popular novel, in commercial fiction."

This Christmas, I encourage each of us to make a spiritual journey that goes far beyond Christmas Commercialization. May this Christmas be an encounter with the humble manger.

The Reverend Ed Hird+
Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Friday, November 30, 2007

Life imitating art

I recently had the pleasure of reading Keith Clemons latest book Angel in the Alley. I found myself looking forward to picking it up every night before bed. This is Keith's fourth book, and I think it's going to be his breakthrough novel. All the usual you can expect from Keith--engaging characters, wonderful sense-laden descriptions, and a great read.

But what has remained with me the the longest is the dystopia he created, a future North America where it is illegal to preach the Gospel.

Keith did an amazing job of speculating about new technology, future squalor for a growing segment of have-nots addicted to instant gratification and violence, a huge police state apparatus to crush religious freedom and the heroic efforts of small groups of Christians to keep the faith alive.

Of course, Keith's vision did not spring from his imagination alone. That's the most disturbing part of the book. The prophetic nature of Keith's vision was confirmed when, yesterday, while visiting some of my favorite blogs, I discovered that a human rights complaint has been leveled against Macleans Magazine for running an excerpt of Mark Steyn's book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

Mark Steyn is one of my favorite columnists. He excels as a satirist, though apparently some people don't like being satirized. He also happens to be a Christian.

There has also been a human rights complaint against a popular conservative message board Free Dominion, run by a couple of Kingston-based evangelicals. Yes, sometimes some of the posters on this message board can be a little over-exuberant or immoderate. Even the hosts of the board don't agree with what they say, but they support their right to say it.

Now various groups and individuals have found they can use the levers of the state--provincial and federal Human Rights Commissions---to lob complaints that don't cost them a thing, but cost the defendant thousands of dollars in legal fees even if the complaint is eventually dropped as it was in the case of Calgary Bishop Henry who faced two complaints for a pastoral letter defending traditional marriage.

I know I cringe sometimes at the language used by some Christians on some issues. I wish sometimes they would be more charitable, or more nuanced, or more wise in a tactical sense.

But I also know that even the most charitable and nuanced and wise Christians can be lied about and demonized in the news media.

Our religious freedom is in danger, my friends. So is our freedom of speech. Keith Clemons does a great job of showing us this as a compelling backdrop to a gripping adventure story. I hope this book gets a wide audience. Buy several copies as Christmas presents. You'll be doing the future a favor.

Now I'm reading Nancy's Glitter of Diamonds and thoroughly enjoying it too!

Way to go! Canadian authors who are Christian!!!!!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Longing for Greatness - M. Laycock

Some time ago I watched a video that I’d heard a lot about. People said it was inspiring. They said I just had to watch it. Sometimes I ignore these kinds of messages, but eventually I gave in and clicked into UTube to see what all the fuss was about.

The small screen showed a rather plumb, unassuming middle aged man with crooked teeth. He stood at a microphone looking decidedly unsure of himself. Then the camera panned to four judges watching him. Their expression seemed to say, “okay, let’s just get this over with.” Finally one of them asked why he was there. “To sing opera,” he said simply. The judges smirked. I think one of them rolled his eyes. But they let him go ahead.

Then the man opened his mouth. The judges’ jaws dropped. The man’s voice boomed out as he sang from his heart and soul. Some in the audience began to weep. So did one of the judges. When he was done the audience was on its feet cheering for the cell phone salesman who had just demonstrated that you can’t always tell a book by its cover.

The man’s name was Paul Potts and he went on to win the competition called Britain’s Got Talent. He’s a star now, singing around the world and recording cd’s. His is a fairytale success story that has captured the imagination of millions around the world. It made me wonder why.

Why have so many, and I count myself among them, responded so strongly to Mr. Potts’ performance? I think it’s because all of us have a part in us that says, “there’s something great in me, if I can just find a way to let it out.” Some might call that ‘delusions of grandeur.’ I think it’s something more. I think it’s a deep belief that we are more than we seem to be.

And we are. When God created the first man he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). He also created him “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). Man is much more than just a bunch of bones, tissue and blood. We were created to house the very spirit of God himself, to be a temple and in a sense a representative of God. And we were created to express that greatness, to the glory of God. I think we all feel that, even long for it to be fulfilled – it’s a longing for the nobility, the beauty, even the glory we were intended to have.

Perhaps that’s why, when we writers finish an article or a book or a poem, we have doubts. We know it can be better. We long for it to be better. Our hope lies in the reality that some day it will be.

Heaven, you say? Well, not exactly. I believe there is a Heaven and we will be there one day, but I also believe, as the scripture tells us, we will return to the earth to “reign with Him for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6)

I don’t think we’ll be floating around with harps in our hands. I think God has a lot in store for us during that time and it will include using the gifts he has given us. I think writers will be diligently sitting at their work, writing. But it won’t be a struggle - it will be the best it can be, no doubts, no longings, no regrets. It will continue to be our method of praise and worship, our “acceptable service.” It will be full of the nobility, beauty and yes glory that God intends us all to exhibit. All to His glory.

That short video of Paul Potts made me weep. Until Jesus returns I will always have that longing in my heart, because I am a child of God yet separated from Him. My encouragement comes from walking the path He has laid out for me now and feeling His presence with me. My hope lies in the reality that one day we will be reunited.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rider Pride, Prairie Oysters, and Canadian Authors Day - Lindquist

Not feeling particularly passionate about any one things, so I thought I’d mention 3 things that are on my mind today:

1. Rider Pride

I grew up in Souris, Manitoba, so in theory, I should be a diehard Winnipeg Blue Bomber fan, but the fact is I also cheered for the Hamilton Tiger Cats in those days. However, after I got married and moved to Regina, I succumbed to the tendency to become a life-long fan of the Roughriders. And so, even after 26 years in Ontario, and having met Mike (Pinball) Clemons and been to some Argo games, my number one team in the CFL is still the Saskatchewan Roughriders!

There’s just something about the little town that could making it big. Yes, I know that most of the players and staff aren’t from Saskatchewan – aren’t even Canadian. But it’s a community-owned team and you just know the whole province is behind them, so you have to have a soft spot for them.

So, no, it wasn’t the greatest game ever, and it’s a shame that Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn (and runner-up to the Saskatchewan quarterback Kerry Joseph for the Outstanding Player Award for the league) was sidelined with a broken arm, but you take them as they come, them’s the breaks (groan), and this time Saskatchewan ended up on top. Go Riders! (BTW, 8,000 people turned up to see them – in -35 snow and ice.

2. Prairie Oysters

We had tickets last night to see Prairie Oyster at the Markham Theatre. The whole time I was there , I was thinking, “Why aren’t they performing in a venue three times this size?” I mean, come on, these people are so good! They are very talented musicians, songwriters, singers, and performers. Why aren’t they household names?

I saw a top US country music talent last fall in a venue more than 10 times as big, and he wasn’t nearly as entertaining. His program had maybe half the content; and I left feeling that I really hadn’t got my money’s worth. Yes, it was more high tech, but it had absolutely nothing over this local group. If they’d stopped at the intermission, I’d have still felt I got my money’s worth!They did a full 2 hour+ program packed with their songs.

If you like some country mixed with blues/folk and a bunch of other things, check out Prairie Oyster. The core of the group has now been together 23 years. They must be doing something right! And yes, I own every one of their CDs and I've gone to see them in person nearly every time they've come to my area.

3. Canadian Author Day

I don’t think anyone else here has mentioned this, so I will. Mitchell Family Books in Ontario has a Canadian Author Day happening on Wednesday, December 12th. They will have two authors at each of their eight locations (Kingston, Oshawa, Whitby, Pickering, Toronto, Etobicoke, St Catherines, and Kitchener) from 1:00 PM until 4:00) PM . There will also be 2 authors at the Willowdale (Toronto) location from 6:00 until 8:30 in the evening of the 12th.

We’d appreciate it if people would come out (and bring their friends) to buy Christmas gifts and support fellow-Canadians who write. This is the first such day Mitchell Family Books has ever had.

And yes, I’m one of the authors. 8 of my books will be available at all Mitchell stores and I’ll be signing with Denyse O’Leary at Pickering in the afternoon and Willowdale in the evening.

For a full list of locations and information about which authors are going to be at each location, please go to the Maranatha News and click on upcoming events. Locations for the Mitchell Family Stores can be found at their website.

Till next time...


Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving Old Stories new Life - Mann

A bereaved family will often call me to plan a funeral service for a beloved member of their circle. As is more common lately, they might not have a connection with the church and I may not know the people. As time goes on and they become comfortable with me, the stories begin to flow. I’ll ask, “Tell me about your mother. What was she like?” They tell me about her wonderful garden soup, the quilts she made for grandchildren or maybe how many years she drove for Meals on Wheels. If I don’t hear any connection to church, prayer or God, I ask, “Was your mother a woman of faith?” Often times they will describe the plaque that hangs in her bedroom or a prayer she taught them when they were young. On another occasion, a family member might list church activities, the years she sang in the choir or headed up a prayer ministry. Sometimes, when I ask the family to write a remembrance or eulogy, they are too emotional to do it. As a result, they often leave me to interpret their mother’s story to others.

Giving an old story new life happened several years ago when many boxes of old magazines, 1900 school records, English journals, dress patterns and bits of yarn and cloth fell through the ceiling of my brother’s driving shed — thanks to some curious raccoons. Obviously, my mother couldn’t bring herself to throw out these treasures and had stored them away. As I sorted through the mess, I began to discover that many of the books were clean and untouched. Now, over the last three years, I have read and reread the accounts that lead me to interpret my mother’s life in an era she didn’t talk much about, but defined it as valuable by her actions.

I wrote my memoirs in 1996 and delighted in the discoveries I made. My brother read it and said, “No, no. it didn’t happen that way.” And as we struggled with our individual perspectives of the same family event, we often began exploring the ‘what if’ question. It’s refreshing to write about one’s own life giving opportunity for new questions and making life-giving discoveries.

According to Collins-Gage Canadian Dictionary, interpretation means (1) to explain the meanings of; (2) bring out the meaning of; (3) understand according to one’s own judgment. This brings me to my thoughts about the Creative Non-Fiction genre. By not exercising my call to write about real people, I could have been free to write works of fiction and poetry, which I did some. However, people’s lives intrigue me. How do they make choices, set priorities in their life and live out goals? What makes them angry, sad or passionate? What is life-giving to them and what robs their emotional energies? And maybe the most intriguing mystery is to see adult lives and wonder what seeds of hope and faith were planted in their hearts as children.

There is much debate around the Creative Nonfiction genre. Some reject it, while others say it has the power to reveal what is already there. Wikipedia, online encyclopedia defines Creative nonfiction “(sometimes known as literary nonfiction) as a type of writing which uses literary skills in the writing of nonfiction. A work of creative nonfiction, if well-written, is factually true and artistically elegant.” The challenge is to set plot, dialogue and setting into nonfiction work through interpretation and perspective, and give the old story new life in ways that it will read like fiction.

This genre gives its writer many gifts and the main ones for me have been humility and gratitude.

Donna Mann

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Knowing When to Say No - Fawcett

It’s so easy these days to get caught up in good causes. With technology to aid us, we are able to accomplish far more in a shorter span of time than we would have done just twenty years ago. Because of this advance in do-ability, it is so easy to get overwhelmed with a multitude of tasks. While human beings have the capacity to multi-task, it isn’t always in our best interests to do so. Too often, the important things in life get shuffled aside by the good but not so important things. Two examples come to mind.

My youngest daughter is single and living on her own but she works with my husband. Every morning like clockwork she arrives at my door for a cheery greeting, a hug and a “have a good day”. Too often, I have found myself so embroiled in updating various websites, checking emails and writing skeleton outlines for articles and books that I have almost missed her daily greetings. All of those things aren’t bad things for me to be doing. But they are dangerous when they interfere with the important relationships in my life.

My second example is a variation of my first. Sometimes I get so bogged down with keeping up with the various websites and blogs and email accounts that I don’t find the time to write what God is leading me to write. How sad! (As I type this, I have a manuscript waiting for a second edit and three other manuscripts waiting to be finished. We’ve already established that I’m ADHD and need to work on several things at once.)

As two contracts came into my inbox this past week, I was forced to step back and look at the busyness of my life. There was a lot of clutter distracting me—and a lot of jobs being done that weren’t necessary. It was time for me to do some housecleaning—and I don’t mean the kind involving a vacuum.

I scanned through my email accounts and unsubscribed to all those e-zines that I never have time to read. It drastically cut down on the number of emails I had to sort through. Some of my extra websites found themselves in the trash can too. While Facebook and Myspace are wonderful social tools, they weren’t the effective marketing tools I had hoped for—so I disengaged. I took a step back and looked at my calendar. There were unnecessary events that I had committed to—programs that I had signed up for—that weren’t as important as my family or my writing. So I shaved them off of my agenda.

So now that my work day has been whittled down to the bare bones, I am far more efficient and far more relaxed. I am back to my writing and proofreading. And my family is happy to see me stepping out of my office for some quality time with them. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing the best in your life for all the good things that come your way.

Donna Fawcett is the author of Thriving in the Homeschool
and the Donna Dawson novels Redeemed & The Adam & Eve Project

The Joy of Grumbling - Hird

When Michelangelo had completed his famous piece of sculpture on King David, The Gonfaloniere Soderini of Florence who had ordered it came to inspect his purchase. Among his many complaints and criticisms of the sculpture, he grumbled the most about the nose. He said, "It's too big. It doesn't fit the statue. David didn't have such a big nose."

So he insisted that Michelangelo do a nose job on the statue and reduce its size. Michelangelo knew that he had no choice, but hated to deface his masterpiece. So he mounted the scaffold of the 12 foot high figure, and giving a few noisy but harmless blows with his hammer on the stone, he let fall a handful of marble dust which he had scraped up from the floor below. "Wonderful", said his critic. "You have given it life indeed". His critic was so excited about the improvement that Michelangelo received a major financial bonus for the improvement.

Grumbling can become so compulsive that we actually begin to get a certain "joy" from it. But grumbling always ends up destroying the very things we most want out of life. That is why the Bible says "Don't grumble against each other, or you will be judged." What is grumbling anyways? The Concise Oxford Dictionary tells us that to grumble is to growl faintly, to murmur, to complain. In essence, a grumble is a dull inarticulate sound.

Grumbling is a very hard addiction to break. It is fed by two very powerful sub addictions: self pity and self righteousness. We grumble because we are convinced that we are being hard done by and that it just isn't fair. The truth is that all of us struggle with grumbling. I know in my own life that I can slip into it far too easily. I just caught myself a while ago slipping into self pity and self righteousness, and I started to laugh at myself, because I realized that all grumbling is self deception. I said to myself "Oh no, the day is ruined." But then I forced myself to apologize and say that I was sorry for my grumbling, and I ended up having a good day."

I am convinced that the cure for grumbling is humbling ... humbling ourselves before our spouse, our children, our friends, our neighbours... confessing our bad attitude and asking their forgiveness. Far too many divorces can be traced to the addiction of grumbling. Paul J. Getty, one of the wealthiest billionaires in the world, was reported in the press to have said "I'd give all my wealth for just one happy marriage." Grumbling is not a harmless pastime. It is a deadly cancer that kills far more people than all other diseases combined.

To grumble about another person is to both judge and condemn them. There is only one person in the world who has it together enough to judge others fairly and that is Jesus. That is why Jesus said "Judge not, lest you be judged." Only Jesus fully knows how to judge without being judgmental, how to judge us without condemning us.

My prayer for each reader is that any tendency to grumbling or judgmentalism in our lives will be replaced by a deepening love of neighbour.
The Joy of Grumbling
by the Rev. Ed Hird+
-Previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Rev. Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon's Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dirt and Wood (The Writing Life) - Arends

God may reduce you
on Judgment Day
To tears of shame,
reciting by heart
The poems you would
have written, had
Your life been good.

- W. H. Auden

There are psychologists in white lab coats who study creativity, and they generally maintain that anything creative happens in 4 stages: Preparation, Incubation, Illumination and Verification. As writers we tend to focus on Illumination (actually writing something) and Verification (rewriting the piece, and rewriting, and rewriting...), but many of us don't think a lot about the Preparation and Incubation stages.

It’s always wonderful when an Idea comes along—whether it’s for a song or a poem, a painting or a novel, a sermon, a new angle to help us explain something to our kids, a way to resolve a working relationship, a joke, whatever. But we must be mindful of the fact that everything we've been until the moment we receive the idea is the soil into which that seed is planted. Every emotion felt, thought processed, book read, movie watched, sunset noticed, mistake made, prayer prayed, Scripture learned, grudge nursed—all of it feeds all we do.

Craft—learning to wield a pen (or any other instrument) with skill and intentionality—is hugely important. But if craft is the tool set, and inspiration the blueprint, I am beginning to understand that our lives are the wood. Ultimately our work is only as deep as our prayer life. Our words are only as sturdy as our character. The clarity of our vision is directly proportional to the time we invest in contemplation and meditation.

My friend Roy is fond of referencing a passage from a Frederick Buechner book. Buechner is staring out the window. His wife enters the room and asks, “What are you doing?” Buechner replies, “Working.”

We are a culture of doers. Better to type than to ponder. Better to plan than to play. Better to run than to walk. But if we are to be fertile ground for ideas to fall upon, we must remember good soil is the product of time (and it involves more decomposing than composing!) If we are to be usable wood for the building of something beautiful, we must accept the fact that solid trees need deep roots, not to mention sun, water and oxygen. And we must never forget that for us, as for both soil and wood, there is sacrifice involved. We must be churned and chopped and dug up if we are to be of any real service.

Still, the fact remains that we can be of real service if we are willing. Where Auden has us weeping at poems unwritten, the Apostle Paul imagines our unveiled faces reflecting the glory of God. That is why it is astonishing to think of the poems we might write should we live our lives well. And it's even more astounding—and rather thrilling—to think God might have a vested interest in our writing them.

Carolyn Arends

Where Do You Belong? - Harris

Niche. Your place in the eco-system. A place no one else can occupy and, if you fail to fill it, something is missing from the environment. Yes, it's a biological term. But I think it applies equally well to us as writers, as Christians, as spouses, parents, in whatever role we fill in life.

It's taken me a long time to figure out where I fit in the world, what church I belong to, what kind of mother I am, and, most of all, what I am supposed to be writing. Try as I might, I couldn't fit into the evangelical church I was raised in. I tried to, really hard. But I was a square peg in a round hole.

I love liturgy. I hear Jesus in classical music. And I love taking wine and bread from the priest who bends low to provide elements to every member of the congregation: rich, poor, white, black, or First Nations. These things remind me of Jesus and his love for me - even me. I guess I was born to be an Anglican.

I had the same issues in my career. My parents thought their bright daughter should become an unmarried professional. My mother had visions of me as a missionary, no kids, no husband, no make-up. My Dad thought law or business - something that made lots of money - would be a good idea. Again, no kids, no husband, no make-up. And the generation ahead of me had decided that 'being a mum' was no longer a 'valid career' option.

But I insisted on being a 'girlie-girl' who just happened to get good marks in school. When a high school guidance counsellor, helping with my university registration, told me I should go to law school and forget about kids and a husband, I froze in fear. Not surprisingly, I never showed up at the U. of C. the following September. Instead, I took a minimum wage job and started dating a totally unsuitable young man who I must confess I really never liked that much. (He won't be offended by this statement because he now admits he never really like me either.)

By the time I was twenty, I was a housewife trying to ignore the fact that my young husband liked to hit me when he drank too much. I still loved learning, though. And I loved being a mum. So, I took my degree juggling distance studies/daycare and diapers. I still love thinking about those days I spent writing papers while dinner cooked on the stove and the kids played on the floor beside me!

But, by my thirties, the marriage was over. And I was trying to find a career.

It was clear that I had a artsy bent, but no gift for making money. And that I wanted to be a writer. But what to write? I started with business and features. Those early articles sold well, but they are devoid of passion. They cover the story, a bit coldly though.

It was only that I accepted that Christ had a plan - better than one I could think up - that I really became able to fill my niche in the world. And, in my opinion, my writing has improved immensely. It's no longer cold. It's no longer uncommitted. It's something God can use. And accepting the 'niche' God has for me has allowed me to settle into a new marriage - this time with both feet inside the door. No need for any more quick escapes. And I have time to make a pot of tea and sit down for a chat when the kids want to talk. And, believe or not, my parents say they are proud of me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Meant to do That- Grove

I saw a magazine headline the other day, “65 ways to simplify your life”. I don’t know about you, but changing 65 things in order to simplify my life sounds way too complicated for me.
The article went on . . . and on . . . and on.

I wouldn’t have thought much about it except for the fact that there are so many of these goofy (yeah, goofy. 65 ways to simplify? Come on) headlines assaulting me from every grocery checkout, e-mail offer, blogsite, and newspaper.

List articles are popular and easy to write. Pumped full of seemingly good advice they list off things you can, should, ought, would, might do or not do in order to change, add, subtract, multiply or divide something in your life. Look closely three or four articles on the same subject and you will find the same recycled ‘advice’ in each of them.

Faith Today published an article that said churches that put sayings up on their outdoor signs are guilty of ‘drive by shootings’. I guess the guy doesn’t like church signs. But why did Faith Today publish the article? (I asked them that in a letter to the editor, you can read it in the most recent edition of Faith Today under the title “Rolls her eyes”) I suspect they published it because it had an ‘edgy air’, an ‘against the grain’ feel that is so popular these days. But if you look beyond the pallor of “controversial” you will, too often, find little substance. ‘Edgy’ can easily become synonymous with ‘subjective opinion without any supporting evidence’. Worse, it adds noise and confusion to a world that is loud and confused enough.

And it got me thinking; what are we writing these days? And why?

I went looking. Magazines, newspapers, secular and religious periodicals. I came away from that experience (too lengthy to detail in a blog) with a feeling that many writers are writing for the sake of writing; jumping on any bandwagon, pounding any drum, touting any topic in an effort to get their name on a byline; and a paycheque.

So here’s the deal as far as I’m concerned: I’m not about to spit into the wind, I’m not here to stand on Superman’s cape. I’m certainly not here to tell anyone else what they should or should not write about. But I’m sitting myself down and giving myself a good talk: Bonnie, write with substance. Be truly original, jump off bandwagons, avoid pop culture jargon, check your facts, smooth out your logic, and tell more than one side of a story. And, above all, only be goofy on purpose!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Soggy Bread - Meyer

I originally wrote this 3 years ago (unpublished) with the title: “Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters.” It is based on the Bible verse Ecclesiastes 11:1.
As I reflect again upon this topic, I read on in the chapter where it says that if we look at the wind, we won’t sow; if we look at the clouds, we won’t reap. We are further told to sow seed in the morning and in the evening for we don’t know which one will prosper – or maybe both sowings will alike reap good things.

During the last few weeks, I have sent out approximately 150 invitations to my book launch and about 50 letters to bookstores and libraries, announcing Deep Waters. Once when my husband asked me about my day, I told him I’d been casting my bread upon the waters – and likely it would just all turn soggy and sink to the bottom. I said the words in jest but later I thought that this was what so often happens. We earnestly embark upon some venture or another only to have it fail abysmally a short time later. This is, of course, not true in every case. Hence the injunction to sow seed (cast bread) even when the wind is blowing, the clouds are overhead; sow in the morning, sow in the evening.

Please enjoy the article written below.
And may all your bread be un-soggy and may all your dreams come true!

* * *
Throw away good bread? What will we eat? How will we survive till the harvest comes in? What will we do if the harvest doesn’t come in?

For five years, I wrote while juggling various responsibilities in and outside of the home. But sometimes, I wondered if what I was doing made any sense at all.
I finished one complete manuscript… Then two… Then three…

Making the move to writing full time was a step of faith but having a supportive family made it seem easier.
But now I worried even more. All this writing. What if it never gets published?
I wrote some articles on the side and they did get published. Then I won a poetry contest and was commissioned to write a play. But I consider myself primarily a novelist and now I have 7 complete manuscripts and then 8 and 9 and 10…

And all the while, the Lord is stretching me. With each new manuscript, I grapple with a new and more challenging issue. And as I live and breathe the characters, their pain becomes, at least temporarily, my own.
I believe that what I am writing will help people to heal and find hope in the Lord. But still there’s that agonizing question rippling through the moments and days and years.
What if it never gets published?
And steady as the falling rain comes the reply.
Let Me worry about that. You just write.
And so I did.

But lately, with 10 manuscripts (and sundry other writings), there’s a new message from the Lord. In some ways, a more alarming one...
Cast your bread upon the waters.
As an “emerging professional” writer, I don’t earn a lot. With maybe $50.00 or $75.00 for an article, it takes a little while to build up the funds.
It’s a big decision to self-publish. But my books are for a specialized market and this will likely be the way I have to go.
It’s a new kind of faith now – but in some ways, the same. The courage that it took to type the first words of the first manuscript, the courage to let someone read what I had written, the courage to dream of someday having it published… It is the same courage that I seek now.

Cast your bread upon the waters.
Offering to teach a course in writing. Am I crazy?
And one week before it’s due to start, there’s only two people signed up! Still I prepare for twelve. I print up sheets, I order materials, I fill up binders.
And seven weeks later, ten inspired writers have completed the course! I’ve covered my cost and have money to put towards my book. And I begin to make plans to teach a second class in a nearby community…

Cast your bread upon the waters.
Is it worth the entry fee to submit work to a contest that I may or may not win? Do I have a chance of getting the grant that I’ve applied for? Should I spend money for a professional membership in a writing guild?

Cast your bread upon the waters.
Bible scholars have long debated the meaning of the words in the 11th chapter and 1st verse of the book of Ecclesiastes. Some suggest that it means shipping grain to foreign ports. Others that it is a type of seed planted during the rainy season.

For me, it is a simple call to faith. Early on in my career, someone encouraged me with the words, “God never wastes the talents of His children.” I believe that.
Our part is to just keep trusting Him and keep taking all those risks! That is what being a writer is all about. And in the larger picture, I suppose that it is also what being a follower of Jesus is all about, too.

My Writing Testimony - Payne

It was in the year 2000 that God called my husband and me to Orillia. We bought a home in a town where we had no family and no friends and started a new life.

It was the first time that I ever stayed home with my children full-time. I was used to working when they were young and then started my own business when my oldest started school. 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 morning without writing my morning pages. I share my walk of faith with others through my weekly column, "Today’s Faith," in the Millbrook Times and Cornwall Seaway News. God has done so much for me in my life, writing a book – Fit for Faith, writing regular Christian articles, and writing this column are just some ways I can be obedient to His call in my life and bring others closer to Him.

Kimberley Payne

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