Monday, July 30, 2007

What Is Poetry? - Martin

When I was asked, a couple years ago, to express my view about what poetry is, I immediately thought about the things I tell the students I teach. For example:
What’s even more important than what a poem says, is how it says it!
but this is not English class...

Poetry is Jacob wrestling with the angel...Not a sermon of theology...Not the literal translation... Not a retelling of something that happened long ago...Not an explanation...Not an application...Not even the words that carry the weight of narrative.

Poetry is the wrestling...the experience...Poetry is having your hip pulled from it’s socket so that you’re never the same again...Poetry is a new creation...Our word poem comes from the Greek “the things that are made”, as in — “We are his workmanship...” — God’s poem.

Dana Gioia has said, “Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning”. Wallace Stevens put it simply, “The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man’s happiness”. I hope the poetry I write brings happiness to readers such as yourself.

I believe God uses poetry in the Bible, because poetry requires a discipline quite similar to that required for spiritual attentiveness. Poetry forces us to slow down and reflect upon truths carefully wrapped in a text. Poetry draws us into understanding beyond what linear thought patterns permit. Poetry opens us to beauty and things of the heart — not just things the head can process.

Poetry is the Spirit of God moving on the face of the waters...The Creator himself walking in the garden in the cool of the evening...Poetry is the valley of the shadow of death...the four horsemen of the Apocalypse...Poetry is the inexplicable in the parables of Jesus...Poetry is even a pharisee swallowing a camel.

Poetry helps me understand this thing called life. I see the world differently because I read and write poetry. One topic that seems to creep into much of my writing is Redemption. I don’t only mean redemption as a spiritual concept, but also how value and beauty come from things previously cast aside. Similar to “the stone the builders rejected”.

Poetry is a search for beauty and truth, which means, of course, a search for the goodness of God.

D.S. Martin is the author of So The Moon Would Not be Swallowed (Rubicon 2007) which is available through his web site:

Friday, July 27, 2007

Reality Cheque - Aarsen

I want to thank Deborah for her post yesterday. She makes an important point. I am on the other side of the literary page, if you will. I write popular fiction for two different houses, Steeple Hill/Love Inspired and Guideposts. I'm happy where I am and I enjoy writing the books I do. They might not have the staying power of some of the more literary books that are out there, but they fill an important niche as well. The many heartfelt letters I get from my readers are my evidence and comfort. They encourage me to stay the course. However, the reality for publishing houses is that while they may want to publish many beautiful and significant books, it's the popular books that carry the company. So a balance must be struck. Publish enough books that sell and sell well and then, in turn, they might have some budgeting room to publish the literary books that won't have stellar sales, but age well and will be meaningful several years down the road. The voices, that Deborah has said, that are crying in the wilderness. So I'm really happy where I am and thankful I can write the stories I do. A part of me would love to write a book that will last through more than a publishing cycle, but I know my limitations and I know my strengths. So I'm glad to be able to write books that might help the company post a profit so that other writing compatriots can publish their books that speak to something deeper in all of us. Books that will enhance the message I bring forward in a safe, comfortable environment of popular fiction.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Prophetic Message or Great Saleable Product? - Gyapong

There's lots of great advice out there for authors who want to find out how to write query letters and land a publishing contract. There's also lots of great advice on how to make your manuscript a saleable product and how to sell yourself as a brand.

There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I've benefited a great deal from much of this advice. But three years ago, when a group of us started The Master's Artist, we felt a need to get away from the barrage of material that was focused on sales and marketing.

We wanted to provide a place of encouragement for writers who 1) want to follow Jesus with all their hearts 2) who want to pursue excellence in their art--without worrying about what the sales folks will say. I believe God may be calling some of us to write but postpone our dreams of publication or popularity. Will we still answer the call?

Today over at The Master's Artist I posted a blog tour interview with Mary E. DeMuth who is promoting her latest book Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture.

I believe Mary, like our own Sheila Wray Gregoire and Keith Clemons and N.J. Lindquist to name just a few, (who have all been profiled over at The Master's Artist), is a prophetic voice. And because of that she runs into snags. When she attended the giant Christian retail show in Atlanta recently, she was told some bookstore owners are balking because they reject the word postmodern in the title. Postmodern means relativist and nothing more. In Mary's book, she admits she used to equate postmodernism with poison. But whether we like it or not, our culture is shifting. It's better we know what's going on and prepare our children for it, she writes.

How do you keep on keeping on when you feel like a voice crying in the wilderness, where you are so ahead of the curve that no one wants to put your book in their stores, or accuses you of things that have nothing to do with the message between the covers.

Mary is also a novelist and her beautifully written stories (Watching the Tree Limbs and Wishing on Dandelions) resemble To Kill a Mockingbird more than they do the bestselling Christian Romances on the wall of my local Christian bookstore. Alas, that means they don't easily fall into a definable, brandable commodity. But they are good. They deserve to be read.

The Master's Artist will be undergoing some changes in the near future. Some key people are leaving to pursue other things. That means we have to re-examine our vision and whether what we have been doing for the past three years is still needed. If you want to know more about the vision that has inspired us, Mark Bertrand and Jeanne Damoff have both written wonderful essays on What is a Master's Artist.

If you've never stopped by The Master's about checking us out...and if you like us, tell us whether you see a need for us to carry on.

I hope we can continue---to encourage writers who are called to be prophetic rather than popular, to encourage keeping an eye on God's calling to create art that may or may not make a great product. As I said starting out, nothing wrong with striving to write a saleable manuscript, keeping your audience in mind. But the audience God has in mind may not be born yet. Do we need to think about that?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Longevity Indeed - Laycock

"What do you want others to remember about you?"

That’s what Cyndy Salzmann asked on her blog this week and it got me thinking. Sometimes, especially at those moments when we think our writing isn’t going anywhere and we’re wasting our time, we can despair about being remembered at all. Most of us will never have the longevity as writers that people like C.S. Lewis or Shakespeare have enjoyed.

I want to be remembered as a writer but I know the lifespan of a book is dismally short. Even if I am fortunate enough to publish several books I know inevitably they will probably end up in a remainders bin somewhere, or tossed out of a church library because they are just too old to be of interest anymore. The chances of writing something that will last forever are few indeed.

But then I glanced at a thank you card my daughter gave me after her recent wedding. (Go here to read more about that). She’s a good writer when it comes to expressing her thoughts and feelings (I like to think she gets that from me :). The card expressed how much she has appreciated what my husband and I have given her – not in material things but in things like encouragement, trust and above all, love. Sometimes I wondered if we were passing on enough of all of those things to our children. It warms my heart and soul to know my daughter thinks we did.

Her bit of writing makes me agree with what Cyndy said about scrapbooking -
"A scrapbook is one way to chronicle these memories… but I also want to encourage you not to stop with cute photos and kitschy souvenirs. Take time to record the feelings, blessings, and lessons connected to these events."

I think that’s the key to good writing - good Christian writing - communicating the feelings, broadcasting the blessings and revealing the lessons learned about life along the way. As we do that, we bring glory to God, revealing who He is and what He has done in our lives. Whether I’m writing an article, a chapter in a book or a poem, these elements should be there. When they are, they touch the hearts of those who read them and have the potential to change lives.

And I think that’s the key to longevity as a writer - a changed life. How many times have you heard someone say, “When I read that it made a difference, made me think, gave me a new perspective.” Or, even better, “That book (article, poem …) changed my life.”

If one life is changed, our work will last for eternity. It’s not really important that our names are not remembered. We made a difference in a life. That is longevity indeed!

P.S. - I wrote this before reading Nancy's column below. Interesting how the Lord orchestrates these things, isn't it? :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Letter to the Editor - Lindquist

When I was twelve years old, I decided to do something to help the people in my town who didn’t seem to understand that God loved them and wanted to be their friend.

From the time I was three or four years old, God had been my best friend. At first, I assumed everyone had the same kind of relationship with him that I did. But as I got older, I realized there were differences, and I became puzzled. Had some people turned their backs on him on purpose? Did they know what they were missing? Even my own parents didn’t seem to understand that God wanted a relationship with them, and not just their attendance at a Sunday morning worship service.

At that time, we got three newspapers at our house: the daily Winnipeg Tribune, the bi-weekly Brandon Sun, and our local weekly, the Souris Plaindealer. I was familiar with the Letters to the Editor sections in each. After praying about it, I decided the easiest way for me to tell lots of people about God was to write a letter to the editor. I usually did okay in my essays for school, and the newspaper would reach more people than I could ever talk to on my own. I thought our local newspaper offered the best chance for me to get published. And while it was the smallest paper, there were two thousand people in our town, plus many more in the surrounding countryside.

I worked on the letter, rewriting it several times, trying to keep it from being too long (I had counted the number of words in other letters) and trying to keep it from sounding as though I was putting people down. When I thought it was ready, I copied it in my best handwriting: we didn’t own a typewriter.

But then it occurred to me that the letter might embarrass my parents. This was, after all, a very small town. Shaw’s Clothing, my dad's store, was three doors down from the Souris Plaindealer’s office. The bank of Montreal and a small café called the Snack Shop were in between. The owner and editor of the Plaindealer was a good friend of my dad’s. What if he called my dad and asked him about the letter? That would be terrible. Could I get the letter published without letting anyone know I wrote it? After all, I wasn’t writing it to get attention; I just wanted to tell people that God loved them.

I’d heard of authors using pseudonyms, so I decided to come up with one. I used my second name—Jane—which I thought was too plain. Ever since Jayne Mansfield had become popular, I’d been adding a “y.” For my last name, I decided to use my mother's maiden name. So I became Jayne MacDonald.

I don’t know why I didn’t just mail it. Stamps only cost eight cents in those days. But for some reason, I decided to drop it off myself. Of course, I had to get it into the newspaper office without being discovered. I put the letter in an envelope and addressed it to the editor, then took it to school with me. After school, I walked downtown as I frequently did. (In a town of 2000 people, that isn’t very far!) I went to our store, dropped off my books, and left again, keeping the letter out of sight.

I walked down to the newspaper office and hovered around the outside, peering through the window now and then, until I saw the woman at the reception desk go into the back room. As she left, I whipped inside, threw the letter on the counter, and dove out of the office. My heart was going 100 miles an hour as I did this. But as I walked back to our store, I relaxed. I had done my part. The letter was written and delivered. The rest was up to God.

For several days, I lived in dread that someone would say something to me. I expected the editor to tell my parents. Would they be angry with me for writing what I had? Would my letter be printed, or was it too heavy? A week passed and I heard nothing. Then the new Plaindealer arrived. I opened it and looked in the Letters to the Editor section. There was my letter.

For several more days, I was afraid someone might figure out I’d written the letter and say something to me. But no one did. And, in fact, as I grew up and life became busy, I forgot all about my letter…

In case you’re wondering what a 12-year-old might write, wonder no more. This is my letter, just as it was then.

Dear Sir:

Although I am not sure if you will use this letter, I sincerely hope you will, and that it will help some person to "see the light."

The "light" I refer to is God. I have been prompted to write this letter because I feel that there are millions of lost people who do not know that they have a friend, a Father, who cares for, and loves, them no matter who they are, what colour they are, or what they have done.

These people may be ignorant and lazy, or socially prominent. To him they are all alike. He loves them all. If only more people could realize this, our world would be a wonderful place in which to live.

Watching the Billy Graham crusade on television recently, I was thrilled to see hundreds of people streaming down onto a muddy field, in the rain, to acknowledge that they had at last found their Lord.

It was truly wonderful to know that their lives would now take on a new and glorious meaning.

I feel sorry for those empty people who do not know Christ. They have no one to confide in, no one to ask for forgiveness for their sins, no one to gather strength from. They do not know that there is a Lord who loves them so much that He sent His only Son to die so that they might live.

By saying that God forgives our sins, I do not mean that it is right to sin. Our Lord is deeply hurt when we yield to our temptations. But if we are truly sorry, He is glad to forgive us.

To me, God is a friend, a father, an advisor, and a rock on which I can lean in time of trouble. I deeply wish that more people could come to know God and to feel as safe and strong as I feel in his care.

Thank you.

Miss Jayne MacDonald
Now and then, people have asked me why I've focused so much of my energy writing books and teaching workshops to equip young people to serve God effectively. It’s because I remember myself at their age, and I know how much they understand and how much they want to serve God. I feel very sad when adults spend their energy entertaining kids instead of giving them the tools they need.

Next time I blog: The "rest" of the story...

N. J. Lindquist

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Still Riding That Shiny Red Bike - Harris

I sell my articles and books, but not my paintings or poems.

Those I stuff into boxes. Sometimes I lose them.

The poem I wrote about my red bike might be in a box under the stairs. Or maybe it was lost when I moved. I wrote it about twelve years ago. I haven't seen the text for years.

But I hear it from time to time. The lines still go through my head.

Lines like:
Riding on a shiny red bike too big for her
Hot sticky tar holds her feet to the ground.

And the ending:
She slips her feet of out dime store thongs. (Or, as the 'fashionistas' now insist we say, 'dime store flip-flops.')

The 'bike poem' is supposed to be about who I was when I was nine. But maybe it's about who I am now.

Last week, I convinced myself that I would be cooler running errands on my bike than writing in my office. But, by the time I locked my bike to the rack at the mall, my hair was wet and much curlier than when I left home. And my face? I wouldn't say it was red exactly, just a very deep shade of pink. My over heated look didn't bother me. I was triumphant as I walked past the sedentary, albeit cool looking, layabouts drinking their 'iced whatever's' on the patio. I was on a mission.

A reserved copy of The Canadian Writer's Market was waiting for me inside Chapter's.
Determined not to waste time, I ignored the temptation to treat myself to Starbucks' iced special of the week.

In less than five minutes, I was back outside, unlocking my bike and deciding which errand I
must tackle next. But neither my 'to do list' nor the eye squinting sunlight could stop me from spending another five minutes in the blazing heat looking at my Canadian Writers' Market before I rode out of the mall parking lot.

It wasn't just the marketing opportunities that engrossed me. It was the cover: RED, SHINY AND BIG. Like the first bike I ever chose for myself. When I was nine, I didn't care that I had to stand up to peddle my SHINY, RED, NEW bike. I would be the right size in a year or two. I knew I would grow. And I did.

I grew up to be a writer. And even though it might be more sensible for someone like me, who lives outside Canada's major metopolitan areas, to qive up thinking that her books and articles will ever impact our nation's major news outlets, publishers, or even the public, I keep writing.
I am a writer because I'd rather dream dreams that are too big for me than give them up. And with God's grace, I am learning to slip my feet out of my shoes when I get stuck in the hot tar.

I'm happy to ride on barefoot. I hope you are too.

Jane Harris

Friday, July 20, 2007

Secrets - Grove

Secret things
We all have secrets. Some are unspeakable. Some we just don't speak of. We carry them around with us all day. In our back pocket, our change purse, the back of our mind. But we never allow them to ride in the front seat.
We have secret things: rituals we perform to ward off evil (I used to avoid using the word 'goodbye' so the person who was leaving would not die), charms we hold on to because, even though we don't really believe its lucky, we cannot bring ourselves to throw it away - just in case. We say secret words so that we will not blow a fuse, get a divorce, hurt a child, or get too big for our britches.

Secret places
We have places we go, real or imagined. We go to a place that is our own and do things there that we tell no one else about. We long for these places. We miss them when we cannot go there. A chair, a song, a memory, a fantasy. We can say and do what we like in these places. We hide there when the world is big and hairy.
Sometimes they are places of peace, where we take center stage and feel good. Sometimes they are places of sorrow, where we feel pain in a way we can control. A place where we can hold the knife ourselves. We tell no one of these secret places. That way we do not have to justify them, share them, joke about them, or feel ashamed about them.

Secret fears
We are all afraid of something we do not talk about.
I knew a woman who was afraid for her marriage; that her husband would never leave her. She wanted him too, but she feared he never would. I used to sleep with the covers over my neck so that the vampires would not come and suck the blood from my veins while I slept.
We tell no one of our secret fears. Because one of our fears is being found out. Afraid of being judged. Of being misunderstood. Of ourselves, and what we are capable of.

Secret tellers
I tell secrets. They are your secrets. I write them out on white sheets of paper. I confess them, share them, pass them to others in the hallway at school. I do this for your own good. For my good. For the common good. You read your secrets, the ones I have written out. You read them to yourself, to others, to the audience in your secret place, out loud. It makes you sigh to see them there, in black and white. It makes you glad that someone else told. For you. Instead of you. You read them and you know you are not alone, crazy, going to hell. I tell your secrets, and you are secretly glad. Relieved. Un-burdened. And so am I.

Bonnie Grove
Live Authentically

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Moving Out of My Comfort Zone... Again - Meyer

I don’t know how it is with you but it seems to me that every time, I start to get a little bit too comfy cozy, God decides to move me into an area that is not quite so comfortable.

And yes, it’s happening again. I never thought this small town girl would actually come to enjoy living in the big city of Winnipeg but it’s been kinda growing on me. I can navigate the downtown core (and sometimes even find a parking spot!) and I’ve begun to feel that this is “my city.” Winnipeg has been very good for my writing career and it’s also a good stopping off place for our grown children who have to travel either west or back east (all roads lead through Winnipeg!).

Alas, it is time to go. On August 29th, we’ll be packing up and moving 8 hours north of Winnipeg to a First Nations community called Norway House. And yes, we are going because we want to go but… but… I was just getting nice and comfy cozy here.

It seems to me that God is constantly doing this same kind of stretching and growing process in my writing as well. I’m cruising along with a familiar group of characters, a nice setting and a comfortable plot. Then the Lord says, “Okay, that’s cool but now I’d like you to write about a man who is homosexual, married to another man, with a child together – and oh, by the way, he’s dying of AIDS and his final wish is that his daughter will be cared for by his brother whom he abused as a child.” Okay, that’s really not very comfortable. I’d so much rather write a nice little romance about some white settlers in the 1800’s – did I mention that the characters in my books are predominantly First Nations?

My initial reaction when the Lord introduces me to these topics is “NO!” I don’t want to do it. I’m not qualified to do it. And… and… I don’t want to do it.” I end up coming around eventually as God’s gentle pressure continues. And, of course, the way is always well prepared for me as soon as I’m ready to open my eyes and open my heart. I meet people with AIDS. I find all kinds of books on the topic. It’s suddenly there all around me in my immediate field of vision. And by the time I start writing the story, I feel confident that I can communicate in such a way that my readers will relate to the characters and perhaps allow God to stretch and grow them a little bit too.

I think that moving out of our comfort zone is what following Jesus is all about. He did tell us, in a lot of ways, that we shouldn’t get too comfy cozy here on earth. He said stuff like “take up your cross and follow me” and “in this world, you will have tribulation.” And, oh yes, something about being pilgrims and wanderers on this earth…

I like where my computer and desk are. I like where my pictures are on the walls. I like where my couch and chairs are and my plants… I don’t want to move and have everything be unfamiliar again. But I know the Lord is in this. We have felt his clear direction. It’s time to go. And I know He will prepare the way for us.

Dorene Meyer

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Am a Writer - Payne

My name is Kimberley Payne and I am a writer.

I won my first award for writing as a grade 4 student. I had entered the Legion's poetry contest and won second prize. I remember having to stand in front of a small audience to read my poem - it was both freeing and frightening.

I kept a journal of all my trips camping with my family and my two-week stint in Quebec during a student exchange in grade ten. I still have these journals.

I also uncovered a romance story that I had written to amuse my girlfriend in high school. Each week, I wrote a new chapter with a new adventure. They are so embarrassing to read now as an adult!

In my dark days, I wrote poetry. I have kept many of these poems - mainly as reminders of how difficult life is as a teenager. Many speak on suicide and my continuous battle with depression.

Pen pals were seen as lifelines. I would write up to ten pages detailing my life and couldn't wait to receive a new letter in the mail from around the world. I especially liked to read about my cousin's life in The Netherlands.

I wrote for the school newspaper but focused mainly on creating fun things like word jumbles and crossword puzzles.

I wrote poems for special events like birthdays and weddings and anniversaries. My mom kept some of these, but I wish that I had kept my own.

But writing was seen as a hobby; something done for fun. I attended Wilfrid Laurier University and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration. I'm certain that my essays in philosophy helped my overall grade-point average. Some friends questioned why I didn't major in Philosophy or Psychology instead of Business!

Upon graduation, I worked many temporary jobs until I landed work as a Career Counsellor. Again, my writing was helpful when working on case notes for my clients.

After six years, I was laid off, moved and started a new life. This included a new job - self-employment as a personal trainer. I loved developing my advertising and marketing plans for the business and coming up with fun names for some of my workshops.

But still, writing was part of all my other jobs - not a job in itself. Not until I moved once again, left my business, my family and friends and went to Orillia, Ontario where I found God and found my true call in life. I remember the tear-filled afternoon in 2001 when the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart that I am a writer.

It was in Orillia that I attended my first workshop on writing, by the Canadian Author's Association, called, "So you wanna be a writer" held at the Stephen Leacock museum. I was again in tears when I had to admit in front of a group that I was a writer. It was freeing and frightening.

Looking at your own history, are you a writer?

Kimberley Payne

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is There More to Life Than This? - Hird

an article in the August 2007 Deep Cove Crier

by the Rev. Ed Hird+

Why have almost a million Canadians already taken the Alpha Course? With ten million Alpha participants around the globe, Canada per capita is the most Alpha-friendly country in earth. The Alpha Course nationally is based in Great Vancouver, which was one of the first parts of Canada to really open the door to Alpha.

This August we are launching the National Alpha Invitation 2007 in which thousands of churches from every denomination will be inviting their neighbours to explore the meaning of life. Through billboards, buses, transit shelters, car flags and other creative methods, Canadians from coast to coast will be giving our wonderful nation an opportunity to rediscover what makes Canada great.

“I think Alpha is so popular” says Sally Start, the Canadian Director of Alpha “because the course provides a unique opportunity for real discussion around spiritual matters – important issues of life that matter to all of us. There’s no preaching and everyone’s opinions, and ideas are valued.”

Alpha is designed primarily for non-churchgoers and is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith in a relaxed setting, over ten thought-provoking weekly sessions. Each week guests enjoy a meal, and a talk on subjects as diverse as “Who is Jesus?” “What Does the Holy Spirit Do?” and “How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?” It is low-key, friendly and fun – and is supported by all parts of the Christian church.

The theme for this year’s Alpha Invitation 2007 is “IS THERE MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS?” Many Canadians have a lot of questions about the meaning and purpose of life.

Alpha is a safe way to do this where no one is put on the spot. All questions and comments are welcomed on an Alpha course. Everyone is accepted into a loving, caring community of fellow seekers. There are no experts on an Alpha Course. Everyone is on a journey together. One of the best things of the Alpha Course is the great friendships that one makes over the 10 weeks.

The first evening takes the form of an introductory dinner so you can see if Alpha might be for you. You can find out more by going to

St. Simon’s North Vancouver is now launching its 27th Alpha Course on Thursday Sept 20th at 6:30pm. To find out more or register, you can contact us at

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

Monday, July 16, 2007

Family History - Lawrence

I began working on my family history about 10 years ago. It is fascinating and each time I find a new piece of information, I am spurred on to search for more pieces of the puzzle. There is never a good place to break off from this endeavour, only a good place to proceed ever more vigorously on the journey back in time.

My plan, all along, has been to put the information I glean into a book or onto a CD so that my family can share in the knowledge I have found; for what is the use of the information if I do not share it with others? Two weeks ago, I finally completed my project. “Completed” is not really the correct word to use because there is so much more information yet to be found.

However, when it came to my attention that my great nieces and nephews did not know their cousins and, indeed, did not even know who they were in relation to themselves, I decided that now was the time to compile the work into a volume that family members could hold in their hands, in order to look at photographs of their ancestors and follow their way back through their parents, grandparents and beyond.

Soon, those of us who know even a little of our ancestry will no longer be in a position to pass on that knowledge to the younger generation and that is sad. The book that I have compiled is so much less than it could be but still much more than if I had done nothing.

The ancestry I have recorded reaches back almost 200 years. From four family heads, a member of our family can follow his or her descent into the present-day and see other members as they relate to them. The project is not complete but is there for others to pick up the thread.

My ancestors include those who were writers and editors, passing on their talents to me. It is my joy and pride to say that my grandfather, Edwin Davies, compiled and edited the History of the County of Brecknock by Theophilus Jones in the year 1898; that my father composed a piece of music for the classical guitar, A Country Dance, along with many articles about the guitar and banjo, which he played; that my brother was an editor and journalist for an English newspaper and his son after him.

There are other threads that can be followed back through our ancestry and forward on in present and emerging generations. I hope that someone will pick up what I have put together and continue searching into the annals of time, recording further back into our family history. Each one of our ancestors had his or her place in the backdrop of our present lives and I give thanks for each life lived to God’s glory and as a stepping stone to mine.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Canadian Authors Who Are Christian - Shepherd

What does it mean to be Canadian authors who are Christian? We see our identity in each of these categories. What does it mean for us to be Canadian? What does it mean for us to be authors? What does it mean for us to be Christians? Where do these three identities connect?

Let’s look at them. To be a Canadian is to be tolerant. According to surveys, that is the primary value in our country today. Perhaps it is our tolerance that gives us a reputation as a gray nation. However, Canadian tolerance is nuanced. While we certainly are not as flamboyant as our neighbours to the south are, we do have some strong passions like love for our national sport – hockey.

To be Canadian is also to laugh; although our humour is often focused on our own foibles, in the form of satire as expressed in The Royal Canadian Air Farce or This Hour has Twenty-Two Minutes. We can also enjoy a good belly laugh watching the practical jokes played on unsuspecting victims on Just for Laughs.

We are alert to our world. Commuting to work or school we tune in the crisp, clear articulate voices reading The National News or The World at Six. Their steady, measured CBC tones calm our spirits as they announce the latest tragedies and disasters.

To be Canadian is to bask in the reflected glory of our musical icons like Ann Murray or Céline Dion. It is to enjoy the weekend catching up with Stuart McLean and the latest activities of the quintessential Canadian family – Dave and Morley, Sam and Stephanie on The Vinyl Café. It is to pick up a morning coffee from the drive through window at Tim Horton’s and finish it at your desk before starting work, while ploughing through one of our national dailies – The Globe and Mail or The National Post, or both.

To be Canadian is to head for the beach in summer and the ski slopes in winter, determined not to be held back by the vicissitudes of an extreme climate. It is to rise in the arena and feel one’s heart flutter at the familiar bilingual anthem as the red maple leaf is spotlighted. It is to be proud of our home and native land.

What then does it mean to be an author? For me, an author is one who loves words and ideas and who constantly juggles the two, at the same time trying to corral them into a form that will clearly communicate the order that they have in our minds.

To be an author is to dare to express one’s convictions; knowing readers and critics may well interpret the piece using a different lens and apply it to a totally different context. It is to risk baring one’s deepest thoughts and holding your breath, for weeks before hearing that the editor finds them not suitable for the purposes of their publication at this time.

To be an author is to read and research and interview and think about your subject or your characters until they become your whole world. They are present when you eat and when you sleep, whenever you are not occupied with something else, they are there, and sometimes they even intrude when you are otherwise occupied. Then when you have thought about them until your head is aching and you don’t want to think any more, out of the blue comes another new twist and you begin again at square one.

As authors, we go to our computers and we respond to the news that we hear of what is happening in our country and around the world. We make our voices heard. We hone our skills simply commenting on the world as it is interpreted to us through our news media. To be an author is to be a voice.

What does it mean to be a Christian? Since there are probably as many answers to that as there are Christians, I look to my dictionary for help. The first definition I read is that a Christian is a person who has received Christian baptism. While that may be true, I think most Christians would associate that with being a church member, rather than a Christian. It also omits the considerable number of Canadians who today classify themselves as Christians but according to an Ipsos-Reid survey are not associated with a church. The definition further enlarges to include those who are adherents of Christ’s teachings so that covers non-churched Canadian Christians.

A second definition of Christians is persons exhibiting Christian qualities. I like this one better, but instead of Christian qualities, I would zero in on Christ’s qualities. We know that qualities exhibited by Christians are not always those we see in Christ. Only Christ perfectly reflects Christian qualities. We always fall short.

Adherence to Christian faith, includes the understanding that Christ, through His Spirit inhabits those who belong to Him. He empowers Christians to reflect the nature of Christ. We know the image of Christ in us will always be imperfect, because possessing the Spirit of Christ, does not obliterate our own unique personality. We were each fashioned with our own unique personality, by nature and nurture. The presence of the Spirit of Christ in our lives, with our consent can enhance our personality, making it conform more closely to the nature of Christ who is the embodiment of the love of God for all humanity.

Further descriptions of what a Christian is would take us deeper into theological discussions and that is not my reason for writing. For our purposes, I think it suffices to say that a Christian is a follower of Christ, who is empowered by the Spirit of Christ to reveal something of the profoundly loving nature of Christ is all aspects of life.

That brings us finally to what it is to be Canadian Authors who are Christian. For me, it is to fully embrace our Canadian culture, in the sense of being attuned to all aspects of what it means to be Canadian. At the same time, it is as authors to seek to express our voice about that culture and all that it entails, reflecting long and hard and digging and researching those aspects of the culture that seem to elude us. As Christians, we will do this in the manner of Jesus, that is with profound love and respect for all and in a way that will invite others to be open to new possibilities and opportunities. To me, that is what it means to be a Canadian author who is Christian. What do you think?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Our Daily Bread - Hird
Our Daily Bread
(an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier Newspaper)

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Work as if you were to live 100 years, pray as if you were to die tomorrow." Canadians, generally speaking, are very hard-working. Most Canadians seem to enjoy their line of work despite its intermittent frustrations. Many of us have also put in many years of preparation for our life work, either at University or some other institute. As a result, we have a sense of satisfaction that we are responsible hard-working citizens who pay our own way and earn our own bread.

The danger with being hard-working and fairly successful is that we start thinking that we've achieved it all by ourselves. We think of ourselves as self-made men and women. Self-made people, however, suffer from the problem of worshipping their "maker". "Self " becomes their focus and centre, Whenever self is on 'the throne'. other relationships (spouse, children, parents, work) tend to suffer. Self-centredness is the greatest disease for successful, hard-working people. The cure for the disease is to begin to see one's life and "successes" more as a gift than just an achievement. Most of us were probably taught as children either at home or public school to say "Give us today our daily bread." The value of such a prayer is that it reminds us that receiving a gift is just as important as earning a reward. If we are very intelligent, it is ultimately a gift that we never earned. If we are very artistic, it is very much a gift. It we are good with finances, once again that is a wonderful gift. Now we are responsible for how we develop and make use of the gifts God has given us. But let us never forget that all of our abilities are ultimately a pure gift.

The Associated Press released a study done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of 100 bushels of corn from one acre of land in addition to the many hours of the farmer's labour, required 4,000,000 pounds of water, 6,800 pounds of oxygen, 5,200 pounds of carbon, 160 pounds of nitrogen, 125 pounds of potassium, 75 pounds of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list, and, in addition to these things, which no human being can produce, rain and sunshine at the right time are critical. Human beings have no control over these things. It was estimated, the report said, that only 5% of the produce of a farm can be attributed to human efforts.

If you feel led to pray the Lord's Prayer this week, I encourage you to pray "Give us today our daily bread" with a new sense of thanksgiving and gratitude.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Price Worth Paying - Fast-Vlaar

I've invited a few Canadian authors who aren't regular bloggers here to post a "guest" blog and talk about why they write. The first is Angelina Fast-Vlaar, who is the author of two books: The Valley of Cancer and Seven Angels for Seven Days.

While on chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer ten years ago, I began to receive a distinct impression that I needed to tell how God had supported me through some difficult journeys. This, to me, meant not only my cancer experience, but also to tell of another journey ten years prior to the cancer. This journey was recorded in several journals now safely tucked away in a box somewhere. I found the box and began to read about my husband’s death in the middle of the Australian outback. I didn’t get very far. The emotions overwhelmed me and I more or less said, “Sorry, Lord, but this is too difficult.” I tucked the box back into the attic.

But the nudging did not cease. I relented and decided that, yes, my children needed an account of their father’s last six week, the details surrounding our “trip of-a-lifetime” in Australia and the marvelous way God had sent strangers (angels?) to see me through the most difficult week I’ve ever experienced. Narrowing my audience to five, made it a little easier to proceed.

But, I was married again and the emotions were almost embarrassing. How does hubby number two feel about me sitting at the keyboard writing about hubby number one? I tried to explain. He fully agreed and understood. Bless him!

I began to carve out a few hours during the day reliving my heartbreak as I typed. Often I snapped the journals shut and said, “That’s it, I can’t do it.” One day I came across the line, “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” I began to understand the price I needed to pay in order to make the story live. I plugged along, realizing more and more how dependent I was on the Spirit to guide me. One night, the book divided itself into four parts. Another night I received titles for each chapter. Many a night I’d wake with a phrase, a sentence or just the right word on my mind. I learned it was best to keep pen and paper handy as in the morning the sentence would be gone.

Still, I wanted to give up. I have a friend who paints pictures of Jesus on stones she finds along the lakeshore. She had given me one depicting Jesus with a hand of blessing on a kneeling woman. I propped the little stone against my screen as a reminder that, basically, this was His work.

One day I read another good line, “God cannot use what we are not willing to share.” That clinched it. I forged ahead, finished the manuscript, printed six copies, and the children each received one for Christmas. They devoured it, thanked me, said it was the greatest gift I could have given them, and – told me I needed to share it with a wider audience.

Really? I walked around with that thought for several months. Then I came across The Word Guild’s ad asking for manuscripts for their yearly contest. I did another rewrite, this time leaving out some personal details. The children joked that now I had written a family version and a public version of the book. So be it.

Seven Angels for Seven Days won the Castle Quay Best New Canadian Author Award that year in 2004, was published the next year and now is called a “best-seller.”

Messages began to arrive. E-mails, written notes, cards, telephone calls, conversations. “You are the ‘angel’ who helped me through my (bottled-up) grief.” “Your book helped me to make peace with my parents.” “You helped me to acknowledge and honour my grief.” “You helped me to gain a new appreciation for my mate.” “I was more than an hour late for an appointment because I couldn’t put your book down.” Etc. etc.

And I began to realize that the price I had paid in reliving the heartbreak of my experiences was necessary in order to be a blessing, and as I look back, I realize that it was a price worth paying!

And that makes me wonder what else there may be in my heart (or maybe in your heart) that would be difficult to share, yet would result in someone gaining wisdom or receiving a blessing.

Click here for more information about Angelina's books and speaking topics.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cantankerous Writers - Wright

Bob sports a wild beard and wears multi-coloured beanies that he crafts himself. He leads his donkey in the Christmas parade. Down through the years Bob has endured snickers and snide comments about his appearance and lifestyle. He doesn’t care. Bob is a gentle anarchist and poverty activist who writes acerbic letters to the editor about local hypocrisy, failures of compassion and examples of environmental damage. Since he believes all problems should be solved locally—after all, it takes a village to raise a child—he has no use for federal politics. He spearheads a local organization called, Up From the Ashes.

I like Bob, although I disagree with him quite frequently. Every few months a lapsed Baptist and I join him for lunch. Discussion quickly moves to challenging topics: Canadian troops in Afghanistan, the lack of access the poor have to services, and invariably, why I am a follower of Christ. Between these lunches he keeps provocative e-mails coming my way.

Bob keeps me honest about my faith. My lapsed Baptist friend does the same. Is my faith practical? Do I have a reason for the hope that is in me?

Another couple, in this case—devout Christians—have a similar effect. Strangely enough they too are non-conformists. They feel uncomfortable in our middle-class church. They too ask uncomfortable questions: why do Christians spend so much time in their church buildings, why don’t we have more programs for the poor, why is our lingo so stilted, so passé, why aren’t there more Christians in the arts?

Every group needs dissenters. In Christian circles we usually restrict our admiration to non-conformists of an earlier age. Knox. Luther. Calvin. Edwards. Wilberforce. Booth. We’re a little uncomfortable when their step-children pop up in our midst.

Perhaps here’s where Christian writers can offer a service—at least some of us. God calls us to comfort, encourage, edify—but also to challenge the status quo. Where there is no dissent we become too comfortable. In reality the status quo rarely reflects any biblical ideal. We all harbour the departure gene—the propensity to drift away from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Spurgeon called it a tendency that leads to spiritual downgrade. (Do we still believe that humans have a fallen nature?)

Without a few non-conformists to challenge our beliefs and practices how will we escape the deadly drift that ends in history’s boneyard? The church reformed must be the church ever reforming. I would welcome comments from fellow Christian writers on this theme.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why? - Hovsepian

When my nephew was little, his grandpa used to tease him sometimes by asking a bunch of “why?” questions — obviously trying to make a point about how children in general, and Joshua in particular, tend to frequently ask such questions.
I think that, as adults, we also ask a lot of “why?” questions. We never outgrow our natural curiosity and, in fact, we probably become more cynical and skeptical, questioning the reasoning behind much of what happens in our lives.

The people in the Bible were no different…
When Rebekah felt her twins jostling around in her womb, she asked the Lord, “Why is this happening to me?” (Genesis 25:22)
The Israelites grumbled to Moses: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3)
Moses in turn asked God, “Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” (Exodus 32:11)
Job, in his despair, asked, “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11) Actually, Job asked many “why?” questions, including one that many of us have probably asked: “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7)
David, too, often questioned why God allowed certain things to happen: “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9)

Is it wrong to ask “why?” I don’t think so, if we’re asking with a sincere desire to understand and a willingness to accept the answer. But not if we simply ask “why?” and then storm off in anger.
I also think that if we want to ask God “why?” then we should be willing to answer some of His questions:
“Why do you worry about your clothes?” (Matthew 6:28)
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26)
“Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4)
“Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

The next time you want to ask “why?”, take a moment to ask yourself why you’re asking. Then be ready for the answer.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Busyness: A Blessing Or A Curse ?? - Hird

(Previously published in the Deep Cove Crier Newspaper)

Many of us have become too busy for our families, too busy for our spouses, too busy to rest, too busy to play, too busy to pray, too busy to read this... The Author John McNaughton comments that we live in a society where busyness is seen as a virtue and the quality use of time is understood only by a few.

I was somewhat lazy in Senior High School, but by the time I was working on my Masters Degree, I was in full gear academically. I was working 14 to 16 hours a day on major papers and loving it. The only trouble was that I was too busy for my family and never noticed. Only years later did I fully realize how I had robbed my family of vital time that we needed to spend together. Fortunately for me, my family is very forgiving and since then I have learned basic time management principles from the bible that have taught me to be a better husband.

Learning to say "no" as Jesus did is vital to my developing a less cluttered time schedule. So often we can feel put upon with details, frantic with schedules, and wearied by demands. The problem is that we've said "yes" to too many time commitments that God never asked us to take on. Listening to God first and obeying Him really helps me to just say "no".

Procrastination is one of the deadliest diseases which we fight each day whether in our work, family, or spiritual life. Procrastination is such a serious problem that we even procrastinate in facing our procrastination. The bible helps me overcome procrastination by reminding me that time is short (1 Corinthians 7:29). When I realize that time is short and that Jesus could return at any moment, it spurs me to make the best use of the remaining time I do have.

I saw a bumper sticker at a local school that said "The best thing to spend on your children is time!" A key way to restore your family relationship is to begin to trace back the family and marriage time that T.V. has stolen from your family. Research shows that while fathers think they spend 15 minutes a day with each child, they actually only spend 37 seconds a day per child. In contrast, families watch 7 hours of T.V. per day.

My prayer for those reading this article is that time for spouse, family, and God will become prioritized in our busy lives.

The Rev. Ed Hird+

Rector, St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, BC
Anglican Coalition in Canada

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Great new Christian Popular Culture and Science Mag - O'Leary

Check out Salvo, a lively Christian popular science and culture magazine that deserves a zillion more subscribers and will reward you handsomely for your support. Go here for a free excerpt from my book By Design or by Chance?, for example.

Hard pill as it is for me to swallow, the other columnists are all better than me, so be sure to just get lost in the site. And remember to feed the kitty.

You can read

The Privileged Planet
An excerpt from Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards' groundbreaking book on the ways in which our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards

Science and the Church
What it means to question Darwinism by Herbert London

Full Contact
My dream dialogue with Ellie Arroway by Regis Nicoll

By Design or By Chance?
An excerpt from Denyse O'Leary's comprehensive book on the theories surrounding the origin of life by Denyse O'Leary

The New Religion of Computer Consciousness
Transhumanists are working on their own cyber-immortalized Tower of Babel by Leslie Sillars

"Protection" from What?
Abstinence, fertility cycles, and sex education by Kate Bluett

Marriage Ain't What It Used to Be
. . . Or is it? by Mike D'Virgilio

Everybody's Doing It
Planned Parenthood's Teenwire and its encouragement of adolescent sexual behavior by Dawn Eden

Sex Boom Bah
Cheerleading gone wild by Herbert I. London

In Praise of Free Love
by Sam Torode

The Devil Made Me Do It
Freedom, responsibility, and the media by Thomas M. Sipos

Holiday Wars
Twas the season for discrimination by Thomas M. Sipos

A Doctor in Spite of Himself
A review of Fox's new television series Houseby Mike D'Virgilio

Housewives Not Desperate
Sexist show calls Hollywood's progressive bluff by Adam Groza

None Too Revealing
An interview with David Seltzer, the writer behind the confusing—and confused—NBC television series Revelation by Bobby Maddex

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Fourth of July - Boge

What is a Christian writer’s response to the War in Iraq and to the current situation in America?

I’ve been spending a lot of time studying Iraq, 9/11, oil, global currency and the role America has played in shaping the world since the allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. You could say that since that time we have lived in the American Age – that no other country has been as influential in world events as America. Whether that continues and how America fits in with a rising Europe and China is a debate that will likely draw surprise on this side of the Atlantic.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, America has been the only superpower. With great power comes great responsibility. (I think that’s a line from Spiderman). That responsibility has come into question in international circles since the Shock and Awe Campaign of the American led invasion of Iraq. And while some Christians are quicker than others to tie politics and religion together, many are even quicker to jump to conclusions about the motivation for the war in Iraq without taking the time to understand some of the deeper issues at stake. Is a Christian responsible for investigating this truth? Or are we strictly to investigate the Truth of Jesus, and not worry about events that don’t directly relate to the spreading of the Gospel?

I recently wrote and directed a movie called Among Thieves with an unparalleled team at FireGate Films. It tells the story of three friends in Chicago who reunite 10 years after high school and uncover a global oil conspiracy with links to what really motivated the war in Iraq. It’s a film that I hope will challenge us to think critically about global issues that affect everyone from the poorest to the rich. I also hope it will be a catalyst for people to evaluate how they receive and believe information about the world around them, and how they arrive at what is true.

There’s an inscription on the CIA wall that has always amazed me. It reads “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I wonder how those words of Jesus affect some of the individuals who work there. I would be curious to discover if those are simply words carved in stone, or if to some degree they still guide people who make clandestine decisions.

Perhaps it’s enough to know that they are words that should be directly affecting me and my activities. And that ultimately, the Truth of Jesus supersedes the mysteries and man-made allegiances here on earth.

I wish all of our neighbours to the south a very happy Fourth of July. Thank you to each of you who hold the Truth of Jesus is such high regard and who continue to promote the Gospel in whatever way you can. Many of you have a vision for the good influence America can have throughout the world and you are to be commended and encouraged for your efforts.

May God bless America.

Paul H. Boge

Monday, July 02, 2007

In Pursuit of Words - Wegner

I wrote this blog three days ago because I knew I’d never get it done today. I worked hard on it and wondered how everyone else came up with pieces that were so much better than mine, in spite of all my Eight Step Self Editing (my forever thanks to Jim Taylor!).

Today, just before posting this, I read the heartbeat of some of the best writers I know and I was taken aback to hear how they struggle with the same issues I do. I shared their pain and sincerely thank them for their honesty.

Now that I’ve confessed my similar frustrations, here’s what I wrote on Saturday:
What is it about words that so ensnares a writer? Why can’t we be content with “he was” or “she said”? What makes us such sleuths of depiction?
I suspect there are psychological or emotional triggers that first set us on our track but what drives some of us to pursue this relentless urge to record stories? For the writer who is Christian, God is the ultimate Reason, the Shepherd of our valleys and the Author and Finisher of the faith we long to best depict and describe.

And description and depiction are what we are all about. After all, who but a writer, in heart or in action, delights in the gift of a dictionary? To whom else but a crafter of words would a verb be considered “delicious”? And who but a writer would bother with these questions!

The answer to these issues, in my opinion, is linked to the breathing of God upon our hearts and minds. Whenever God determined to convey a message to His people, He moved someone to take up the pen: “Write these words,” “write them on the tablet,” “write them on their hearts,” he commanded then took up His own quill, “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.”

As writers who are Christian, our mission to assemble letters and words into life-giving messages by seeking the Spirit’s help - even in finding that illusive, perfect, word. Although the pulpit we have been awarded is global and our responsibility, universal, it’s easy to forget (especially when we struggle for affirmation and a publisher) that this is no mean calling.

In summary it is divine will that drives us to letters and words and communication. In the simplest but most profound explanation I know - to write is to obey the calling of God on our life.

Whether in editing a column, preparing a church bulletin, or reporting the news of a company merger, we take up the pen at His command, we write under His umbrella and we chase words to His delight…and all the while, giving thanks to God for Roget and Webster! PS: …even as we struggle.

Night Owl - Martin

Have you ever been to a poetry reading? Of course there are many different kinds. They range from one featuring one or two established poets, reading from recent books, to an “open mic” for those who may have never published a single poem, and may have never read publically. When there’s an “open mic” it’s always hard to know what you’re going to get.

As I drove to the Write! Canada conference in June, I was thinking of some I’d been to elsewhere that were less than what I wanted to see at our Night Owl Poetry Reading on Friday Evening. How was it going to turn out?

I knew I had a solid base from which to start in planning for this event — despite all the uncontrollable variables. Hannah Main-Van der Kamp was leading a poetry workshop at the conference, and she had agreed ahead of time to come and participate. I was planning to read a few of my own poems, and I figured there would be some seasoned poets also attending.

When time came to begin, our audience was still small, due to The Word Guild’s birthday celebration that was still running, upstairs. I decided to go for a more intimate setting and have everyone form a large circle. Although we soon outgrew the circle, it set a tone that made the event far better than I ever would have anticipated.

Hannah, who is a particularly expressive reader began by reading one poem. I then, in turn, asked others to contribute a poem, read one myself, and asked Hannah to read another. I was so pleased with the quality of the work being read, and the sensitivity of each reader to everyone else. Even those who were new to all of this did quite well. Once everyone who had signed up had read, I was able to ask for volunteers to read once more.

So what made the Night Owl at Write! Canada so amazing this year? I realize now the difference was that instead of readers coming to find an audience, they had come to experience poetry! No one hogged the stage, over-staying their welcome, or using up other people’s time; no one slipped out once their turn had passed. None of us wanted it to end!

I was totally impressed by the community that gathered that night. A good time was had by all.


D.S. Martin is the author of So The Moon Would Not be Swallowed (Rubicon 2007) which is available through his website:

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