Friday, September 28, 2007

Faith Of Our Mothers – Holy Faith! - Clemons

Anyone who grew up in the Church has probably, at one time or another, sung that grand old hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers.” It’s a great song, and I’m fond of it’s message, but I also realize I probably learned more about faith from my mother than I did from my dad.

I remember, as a young college grad, asking my mother to pray about a position at a school district I had applied for and wanted. She took my request to heart, and to her knees, and two weeks later called to ask if I got the job. I was chagrined to tell her, “No, the position was offered to someone with more experience.” I’ll never forget her response. She said, “That’s not the right answer. I’ve prayed about this and I’m certain God told me you were the one they would hire.” I hung up feeling God hadn’t just disappointed me, but my mother as well.

You’ve probably already guessed what happened. Two days later the phone rang. It was Human Resources wanting to know if I was still interested in the position. Seems the other person they wanted received a counter offer from his employer that included a pay raise if he promised to stay. I got the job. Go figure.

That kind of faith is something one builds over the years. I’m not sure where the faith walk for my mother started, but I do know of one step along the way. My younger sister, Christine, was only three years old and was dying. For two days she lay in her bed curled up in a ball holding her stomach. My folks took her to the doctor, but at age three, she couldn’t tell them what was wrong, and all my parents knew was that she was listless and wouldn’t eat. The doctor sent them home with a prescription to buy medicine for the treatment of the flu.

They waited another two days before insisting they see the doctor again. He opened his office to them on a Saturday, but fifty years ago they didn’t have the diagnostic tests we have today, so he still couldn’t determine what was wrong. Nonetheless, since Christine hadn’t eaten anything in several days, the doctor did admit her to the hospital. He knew the problem was internal so he decided to go in and take a look around, and what he found was that her appendix had burst and she was filled with gangrene. In those days appendicitis was the number two killer among women.

My father, a godly man who served the Lord with all his heart, was shaken. As a young boy, he had lost his own sister to appendicitis. The tragedy had played a significant role in my grandfather’s turning away from God. He couldn’t quite reconcile a loving God sitting idly by and watching the death of an innocent child. Now my father was being tested in the same way.

And the complication of gangrene only made it worse. They removed my sister’s appendix but her vital signs were weak, and the infection had spread throughout her body. The doctor gave her as much penicillin as possible, so much that my mother says her bum looked like a little red pincushion, but the drug was new. It had only been on the market a few years and was considered by many to still be in the experiential stage. In this case, it had little, or no, effect. Nothing they tried seemed to work.

The doctor counseled my parents to go home and prepare for the worst, but they refused. For three days they stayed at Christine’s bedside and prayed, catching only moments of sleep as her health continued to deteriorate before their eyes. The doctor finally convinced them to leave, if only for a few hours, just to get some rest. He promised to call if anything changed. My dad dropped my mother off, but having been away from the office for almost a week he felt he should go in and return a few calls. My mother knelt by her bed and prayed.

Now, they’d both prayed the whole time they were at the hospital, but for some reason, God chose this time to assure my mother that everything would be alright. All of a sudden my mother rose to her feet filled with what she describes as “perfect peace.” She somehow knew everything was fine. She started doing the laundry.

Meanwhile my dad finished his business and arrived home to find my mother singing while hanging clothes on the line in the back yard. To say he was unnerved by her calm would be an understatement. He insisted they return to the hospital at once, but Mom’s faith in God’s promise was unshakable. She was content to wait until the laundry was done.

Today, when they tell this story, my Dad’s honest enough to say her faith tested the limits of his patience. How could she be so sure it was God’s voice she heard? But wouldn’t you know, when they entered Christine’s room, they found the oxygen tent had been removed and the nurse gushing with excitement. “Your daughter has eaten something for the first time in days,” she exclaimed, and when my parents looked into the crib, Christine reached up and wiggled her fingers, begging to be held. Of course my mother didn’t hesitate to ask the nurse when she’d first noticed signs of improvement, nor was she surprised to learn it was the exact time Mom got up from her knees after hearing God say, “all is well.”

Yes, boys and girls, the faith of our mother’s is indeed, a “Holy” faith.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Podcasts and Other Goodies - Hall

For this blog I though I would share with you some of my favorite writing podcasts. These are all free subscriptions, and very easy to access, even for the luddite-minded, like me.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about - first you need to download iTunes. Go to and find the appropriate iTunes for your machine and away you go. I've had iTunes on my computer for years and always listen to free radio. I've purchased dozens of songs for 99 cents and also spend a lot of time listening to podcasts.

When you have iTunes on your machine, get online, click on podcasts along the left, then click on podcast directory along the bottom and you'll be greeted with hundreds and thousands of free things to listen to.

Here are a few 'writing' podcasts that I never miss:

1. It's always good for writers to listen to stories and I love Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe stories, but often I'm just getting home from church and making lunch when they're on the radio, so I end up missing them. I now have subscribed to the podcast, so I can listen to them any time I want to.

2. CBC's Between the Covers podcast is a re-broadcast of the radio show and features Canadian stories read by Canadians

3. CBC's Writers and Company features interviews with Canadian authors and is always interesting.

4. NPR Books is a rebroadcast of National Public Radio (U.S.) broadcast on books and book news. I try not to miss it.

5. Popular author Dean Koontz has an interesting podcast. Just do a podcast search for Dean Koontz. Try doing a podcast search for any of your favorite authors and you'll be surprised at what you find!

6. Writers on Writing comes from the University of California and is a wonderful broadcast of interviews with authors and agents.

7. A fun one is The Writing Show with Paula B. She features SUCH an array of all-things-writing. Recently she featured a panel on the pros and cons of self-publishing which was quite eye opening.

8. A lot of the major publishers, Random House, Harper Collins, etc, feature podcasted first chapters of their newest releases.

Well, these are only a few. If you do a podcast search using the word 'writing' you'll come up with hundreds of things to listen to. Literally! You can listen to them right on your computer, or if you have an iPod, you can plug them in and your daily constitutional becomes that much more interesting.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Interview Excerpt: Tim Alberts & Philip Cottrell - Martin

This is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with independent recording artists Tim Alberts & Phillip Cottrell. This portion addresses their philosophy about reaching an audience, which I believe is an important thing for all Christians who are artists to carefully consider — whether they are musicians, writers, visual artists, film producers, or any other kind of artist.

Their second CD Wide Open is to be released in December. Visit their web site for the latest on the CD release concert or to purchase a copy.

Don: “Would you say you’re more interested in targeting your music toward the Christian market or more the mainstream?”

Tim: “I like the idea of participating in the culture as opposed to the Christian sub-culture. I don’t really understand why it is that we’ve retreated from that. I listen to music by people whose opinions I don’t necessarily agree with. It’s interesting for me to be a part of that dialogue. I wouldn’t want to market — we’re not very good at marketing anyway — I wouldn’t want to try to market to the Christian industry, although I understand why it works from a marketing standpoint — identify your audience and market to it. I want to try to avoid that.” (Turning to Philip) “How do you feel?”

Philip: “I agree. It’s an interesting challenge. As Tim said, we’re not marketers, which is a problem. I don’t see us just trying to get in all the Christian bookstores we can.”

Tim: “One of the things I admire about Bruce Cockburn, is he’s managed to write songs that have beautiful Christian imagery and meaning that make sense in the larger culture. I think we need more of that.”

Philip: “I would agree. I’m more interested in rubbing shoulders with the larger culture. I find [the Christian music industry] a little confining. If you go strictly the Christian route, I find that people see things in the songs that aren’t necessarily there. They’re allowed their own interpretation, of course, but they impose a set of values that were not intended. We’re trying to present a larger view of the world. As Tim says, opening up the dialogue is where the interest is. Exploring the grey that’s much more interesting, than just saying this is the way it is.”

Don: “In order to generate this dialogue people need to hear your music. Have you tried connecting with a label or a distributor?”

Philip: “No. We’ve talked about the value of someone looking after that side of things...”

Tim: “I’m interested in doing that more with this project than with Spin” (their first CD). “Because Spin was kind of labour of love. This one we’re trying to take to the next level.”

Don: “This time you’re more intentional.”

Tim: “Yes, that’s it.”

My preview of the upcoming CD by Tim Alberts & Philip Cottrell, Wide Open, will appear in the October 15th issue of Christian Week.

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

Monday, September 24, 2007

Delivery Blues - Aarsen

“We can’t deliver to P.O. Boxes. You have to have an address.”The FedEx person is on the other end of the phone. They have a parcel for me and they can’t deliver it to the address I’ve given. I’m suppressing sighs of frustration. I can Google any place on earth and zoom in on a car in San Francisco, I can send complex files all the way around the world, but FedEx can’t grasp the nuances of a person who lives out in the country away from paved streets, streetlights and door to door delivery.

“You won’t deliver to my address.”

“Ma’am, we deliver anywhere.”

Obviously this Fed Ex employee has seen Castaway one too many times. “Just use my P.O. Box. It’s a manned post office. Someone will be there to receive the package.”

“Can’t deliver to a P.O. Box, ma’am. I need an address. We will deliver to an address.”

“Not to this address you won’t.”

“We will deliver to an address.”

So, just because I’m feeling ornery I rattle off our legal land description. Lengthy pause. “I’m sorry. We can’t deliver to that address.”

And we’re back to the beginning. According to FedEx, Purolater and any delivery people, I live where No and Where intersect. A place where DSL is just a dream. Cable television? Not going to happen. Cell phone reception? Spotty at best. We have satellite radio, satellite internet and, if I wanted, satellite television.

One could say, without much exaggeration, that it’s a long reach from my home to New York, the publishing hub of the world. And yet, in spite of living in such a remote area, last month I celebrated the publication of my 20th book. Two of the three publishers I write for are based in New York. The third in Nashville with offices in New York. When I first dreamt of writing a book, of being published, I thought it would stay as that. A dream. I thought I lived too far away from where the important publishing people congregated for publication to come my way. But it has. I’ve worked hard, and I’ve been blessed richly. I was encouraged by friends and family and spurred on by the thought that this dream had come true for other writers. I’m humbled and thankful for this milestone and I guess what I’m trying to say is - location, location, location - these are words used only by real estate agents. Location doesn’t have much to do with writing. With publishing. Sometimes my location has been a huge advantage in that I don’t have the distractions of city life. Sometimes my location has been a disadvantage in that I don’t have the opportunity to connect face to face with other writers and many promotion and publicity opportunities pass me by. Or the Fed Ex person.

However, I’m thankful for where I live and the inspiration I receive from it as well as the material it gives me to use in my books. I love my location. Even if FedEx doesn’t.

For such a time as this . . . .

Over the past year, I have experienced having my first novel published, a book launch, interviews on local talk radio and on 100 Huntley Street.

These experiences have been wonderful in their own way, but in reading Nancy's post from a couple of days ago, and Marci's from yesterday, I am reminded of those times when God reveals to us a little moment where it is so crystal clear that we are in His will. What joy those moments are, and so often they are about small things, like Nancy's description of helping an old lady across the street in a strange, dreary-looking neighborhood.

Several years ago, I made a practice of visiting a friend who was in hospital being treated for cancer. I always found it an effort to go. Many, many other activities would have been preferable. But one day, out of mere habit, feeling spiritually dry but having committed myself to doing this, I forced myself to head out into the winter morning, scrape the ice off the car, and drive to the Ottawa General on my day off work. My friend, Mabel, had received a bout of radiation the day before, so I did not know that her daughter had told family members not to visit that day so her mother could rest.

What her daughter didn't know was the doctors planned to give Mabel a chemotherapy injection that morning. She had cancer in her spine, and a previous operation had cut a small hole in her skull for chemo injections that would carry the cancer-fighting chemicals as close to the tumors as possible. I asked Mabel if she wanted me to stay, and she did.

So, I happened to be there when a doctor or nurse injected a large syringe full of a yellow liquid into Mabel's skull hole, then left the room.

Mabel became scary sick within minutes of the injection. I raced out to get a doctor. Then she settled down for a couple of hours of abject misery and I stood by to help her back and forth to the bathroom---she was tremendously frail---or to hold a vomit basin for her.

It was while holding that blue plastic basin that I had one of those moments of perfect peace, knowing that I was created for that moment to be there for Mabel, even though I hate hospitals, I could never, ever imagine becoming a nurse and like any of you, I don't particularly like smelly bodily fluids. The fact that I had come, after the family had been asked not to, became a sign to that family of God's loving care for their mother, sister, and aunt. That was so rewarding to see a glimpse of God working and knowing that He used you for his glory, even though your participation had been, well, in my case, perhaps even grudging.

While my book launch was a joyous occasion, I did not feel the heavens part in the same way. There have been times I've received glimpses of the plan, though.

About a month after my launch, an old friend invited me on his talk radio program and had me stay for the whole two hours. It was a magical interview, probably the highlight of my publicity tour, even more gratifying than being on Huntley Street, though that was a wonderful experience, too. But again, while these experiences made me high, they were not quite the same as those small but clear signs, like glowing breadcrumbs, that yes, Deborah, you are on the path I have set out for you.

But one followed shortly afterwards. I did a book signing at Salem Storehouse a few days after I had done the radio interview. Because The Defilers was sold out in Ottawa the afternoon of the interview, I had to bring some books from my own private stash to Salem for the signing. We sold about ten books, and I had only one left. Out in the parking lot, I had just put the big poster of the book cover into my Toyota's trunk, when a woman who had just parked her car strode over to me, asking if the book signing was over. She had heard me on the radio a few days before and had driven an hour and a half to buy a book. She needed it for her daughter who was struggling with her faith. Had she rolled into the parking lot a minute later, I would have missed her. She was able to get a signed copy of the book, and because the signing was officially over, it was easy for me to take a moment aside to pray with her for her daughter.

I sometimes think that our writing life is very much like my hospital-visiting experience. Sometimes it's hard slogging. You get up and you write because you've made a commitment to meet a deadline or finish a manuscript. You work on snappy query letters and professional proposals even though you might prefer a trip to the dentist. You get rejection letters. You wonder whether any of it is worth it. But then some small thing happens that lets you know, yes, you are in My will, you are exactly where I want you to be and here's an opportunity to be Me for someone, and something to do with your writing life put you in those circumstances.

Those moments make up for any lack of success. They even surpass the joy of getting a contract, or launching a book.

One day in His courts is better than ten thousand elsewhere. I pray that God will open your eyes today to what He is doing in your life through you for the Kingdom and that you will receive a token, a sign of His grace that will keep you going through those times of wilderness and hard slogging.

Deborah Gyapong covers politics and religions for Catholic and Evangelical newspapers. Her first novel, The Defilers, won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2005. In 2007, it won an Award of Merit in The Word Guild's contemporary novel category.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Bag of Fish or Jesus - M. Laycock

My husband preached a great sermon this morning from John 21. The gist of it was that we are all prone to oh-so-quickly give up on God and turn back to our own resources. Just as the disciples did. Jesus had told them what to do, and where to go, but they thought He wasn’t going to show up, so one of their leaders, an impetuous fellow named Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” The others said, “Yeah, sounds like a good idea.”

They fished for hours to no avail so when a man turns up on the shore and asks if they have any fish they all shout a resounding, “No!”

It’s when that man tells them to cast their net on the other side of their boat that one of them, the well-loved John, says, “Hey – uh – I think maybe it’s Jesus.”

To his credit, Peter wasted no more time with the fish – he leaped out of the boat and hurried to shore. Then Jesus, who was indeed the one speaking to them, tells them to bring some of the fish they’d just caught to the fire. An interesting suggestion, that. Jesus already had fish roasting over the coals, yet he tells them to bring what they had just caught with their own hands, under His direction.

There are a couple of lessons to learn here. One, guard against giving up on Jesus. He will come through, He’s never late, and He will always give us what we need to accomplish what He has in mind. Two, there’s a principle to learn from Peter and the disciples who followed his lead. We can so easily get caught up in striving to make a living - trying to make things work out the way we want – this crazy career as a writer, for instance – that we can lose sight of the One we are supposed to be following. But as Peter discovered, when Jesus shows up, the bag of fish is suddenly of no importance. Being with Jesus is all that matters.

And there’s a third principle to learn from this story. We can know that God intends to put us to work. He has given us skills – like the ability to catch fish – or to write – and He will use them to His own purposes. Part of that purpose is to teach us and bless us abundantly as we become a blessing to others. The disciples ate as much fish as they wanted that morning and had plenty left to sell. It was the fruit of their own labour but it was labour guided by their Lord, labour that taught them something about Him, labour that was indeed, life-giving.

The writing process can be something that is self-engrossing – just a way of life – or it can be a means to an end – a way to life as it was intended to be, and a way to be with Jesus.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

God Sees the Sparrow Fall - Lindquist

A few summer’s ago, I drove nine hours from Toronto, Ontario, to Cleveland, Ohio, to help a little old lady across the street.

Perhaps I need to explain.

Because of his job, my husband has done a fair bit of traveling, usually by airplane. Normally he would have flown to Cleveland for a one-day meeting. But this time he planned to drive. Feeling kind of restless, I decided to tag along. (Okay, I also thought I might do a little shopping.)

Not wanting to leave her at a kennel, we took Silx, our miniature poodle, along with us. Consequently, after arriving in Cleveland, I found myself alone from morning to suppertime Friday in a rather tired motel with a dog who was convinced she needed to go for a walk every few hours to check out her new territory.

The area around the hotel was a mix of older shops and three or four-story apartment buildings. Nothing very interesting at all. The whole area looked as tired and vacant as our motel. The wide street was busy, though, with cars rushing past in their hurry to get someplace else.

Walking the streets of a strange city felt funny. Weird thoughts filled my mind, like: What would happen if I was hit by a car? No one would know how to contact my husband.

On our second walk, I decided to use my time wisely by talking to God. Maybe he'd brought me here so I’d spend some quality time with him! So I said, “Lord, why am I here? Teach me something new. Show me what you want.”

On our third walk, a very short, elderly lady was standing in the middle of the sidewalk leaning on a cane. Her striped brown house dress, bandage-wrapped legs under brown support stockings, and worn bedroom slippers made her look out of place, perhaps even lost. But her face was nicely made up, her short brown hair neatly combed, and her eyes alert and intelligent under the heavy lenses of her brown-framed glasses.

Not a bag lady. Perhaps someone who lived in one of the apartment buildings.

When Silx and I came close, she spoke. "I wonder if you would help me? I need to get to the other side of the street to my beauty parlor, but I walk so slowly, I'm afraid to go."

It was a strange request, but since she didn't look about to attack me, I agreed. Moving Silx to my left, I took the lady’s arm with my right hand.

She was right. She walked very slowly, shuffling along in the worn slippers. Fortunately, the cars slowed and stopped for us, and we arrived safely at the other side of the street.

Her beauty parlor was about half a block away, so, having no agenda, I walked with her, matching my steps to hers.

Her name was Anna, and she lived in a small apartment with a cockatiel for company. She had come home from the hospital the day before. Apparently the blood wasn't circulating in her legs, and the consequent swelling and burning had caused the worst pain she’d ever experienced. But the doctors had given her medicine to take and a cream to put on, and told her she would recover.

She surprised me when she said she was 81. She looked a good ten years younger. I now felt I understood her eagerness to get to the beauty parlor so soon after being in the hospital.

She said she had osteoporosis, too. But she wasn’t feeling sorry for herself. Rather, she had a ready smile and a, “Well, I’ve made it this far!” attitude.

She raised her eyebrows when I said I was a visitor from Canada. “You’ve come a long way to help an old lady across the street,” she said, her bright eyes twinkling.

At the door of the beauty parlor she turned to me and said, "Thank you so much for your help. Sometimes I get lonely and it's been lovely to talk with you." Before going inside, she took my hand briefly and added, "God bless you."

Silx and I continued on our walk. But I felt different. I was still in a strange city, but I had found a friend.

More important, through that lady, God vividly illustrated a truth I knew in my head, but not necessarily in my heart. He took me nine hours from home to show me that he really does see not only every sparrow, but also every person in all those faceless cities where I've never been. He knows each person, every single one. And he cares for them the same way he cares for me.

It was a long drive to learn that little lesson, but it’s one I will always remember.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What is a Canadian Writer Who is Christian? - Harris

Even back in Bishop John Strachan's day, many Upper Canadians rejected the mission of the Methodist circuit riders who rode up from 'the rebel republic' to preach a mixture of revolution and Christ. The message of intimacy with Christ the Methodists brought could not be heard in Canada until the 'loyalist' Egerton Ryerson became Methodist leader in Upper Canada.

Ryerson was a man with unquestioned allegiance to the Crown and to the government of Upper Canada. Both he and Strachan are qreat figures in Canadian history. Both took their ministries far into the wildlands, building churches and schools in the remotest parts of the colony. But neither man got evangelism completely right.

For decades, Ryerson and Strachan feuded over the rights of public versus faith based schools and argued about money from 'Crown and Clergy reserves.' They lived in the same community, but never bothered to meet privately to settle their differences. Instead, they argued with each other through the newspapers. But Strachan and Ryerson had more in common then either admitted.

Near the end of his own life, Ryerson, lamented his political feud with Strachan because this feud was used by the radical Scot, Alexander Mackenzie, a man who hated the church, to incite rebellion in 1837. In Ryerson's words, "How much asperity of feeling and how much bitter controversy might be prevented if those who were most concerned would converse privately with each other before they entered into the area of public disputation." (p. 29. Harris, Stars Appearing: The Galts Vision of Canada)

Unfortunately, Strachan and Ryerson spent years fighting over theology and policy issues that had little to do with the gospel. In doing so, Ryerson's message of grace was nearly forgotten. And Strachan, a man who came from a working class family and exhbited great compassion for the sick and the poor, became associated with the elitist, socially regressive Family Compact.

I admit it: I have mixed feelings about being labelled a 'Christian' writer in Canada because many people I know don't associate the Church with grace, compassion or respect for the poor. They associate the Church with a political agenda and ruthless money-making.

This irritates me: I don't like people assuming they know what my views are on politics, arts, culture, and social issues in advance of asking me. And, as an author and journalist, I especially don't like mainstream media, publishers and editors, assuming that I'm not 'balanced' in my reporting and analysis of issues. Being 'balanced' is my bread and butter because most of my work is printed in mainstream publications.

Of course stereotypes about Christians, like all stereotypes, are largely untrue. And since I've been a member of The Word Guild, I've had a chance to meet, via email, incredibly talented, professional authors and journalists from many Christian denominations, social classes, and lifestyles. They live in every region of this huge and beautiful country.

The members of TWG contribute to Canadian culture in impressive ways. And Christian publications, such as Faith Today, Christian Week, The Anglican Planet, and Maranatha News often have more courage in their approach to news and features than many mainstream magazines and newspapers that bow to the opinions of 'advertisers.' If you're like me, you've probably had editors tell you many times, "I don't think our readers want to hear that." (This is code for 'the advertisers will withdraw their money if we print that.'}

So, why are "Christians" ghettoized in the media? Especially in Canada? Do we have any role to play in the stereotypes about us? I think we do. And I think we can do much to fix our own image among Canadians.

Much of what I see being touted as a Christian world view by the popular press and some Christian ministries, especially on economic and political issues, simply can't be found in the gospels. But Christians who suggest that some messages published and aired by 'Christian ministries' have nothing to do with Jesus, often have their 'relationship with Jesus' or 'submission to authority' questioned. I know. It's been happening to me since I was a teenager.

My discomfort with 'agendas' began when I was little girl. In those days, I received Sunday School papers written in Indiana that touted the 'godliness' of the American Revolution. It was quite an inappropriate and confusing message to give to a child who recited The Lord's Prayer and sang 'O Canada' and 'God Save the Queen' every morning before school.

Every Sunday our living room television blared out programmes in which, mostly foreign tele-evangelists talked more about politics than Jesus and lobbied their listeners to join political organizations.

Many of the adults in my life simply stated Canada should copy American political and social arrangements -- that Canadians had 'missed' God's message. That our country didn't have the 'blessing' of God.

By the time I was a teenager, I had a hard time meshing my own experience of asking Jesus into my heart with what I heard from the pulpit. Church didn't seem to have much to do with Jesus at all. It was more about being a club that kept the damned at a distance.

When I was 18, I left the church. It took me years to separate the 'political' messages from the gospel. Even though I continued to read the Bible almost daily, take my kids to Sunday school, pray, and defend other Christians when they were under attack, I resisted calling myself a Christian until I was in my mid thirties.

It was only when I grew up enough to be able to put my eyes on Jesus, that I could accept the 'label' Christian. Even then, it took years to be able to stand up to 'the authority figures' who questioned my faith simply because I did not think the way a Christian, especially a Christian woman, 'should.'

I don't think I'm alone. Canadians left the churches in droves in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. Yet according to Sociologist Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge, in Lethbridge, Alberta most Canadians still identify with the Christian faith, even if that link is only through their grandparents, and are open to re-connecting (or in some case connecting for the first time) with their churches. I can relate to that. And I grieve for others still living in the kind of 'exile' I was once in.

Maybe it is time to begin removing the obstacles and 'stereotypes' that limit the church in Canada. That may mean reconsidering exactly what messages we are sending to society at large.

What do you think?

Writers work alone? - Grove

Running like your pants are on fire? Busy? Hurried? Days crammed pack?

Me too. Except it’s all just in my head. Sure, there are dishes in my sink. There are kids waiting to be picked up, laundry to be done, friends waiting to hear back from me. But I’m busy thinking.

My husband, Steve, rushes in the room.
“I’m taking the van in to be serviced, Ben needs to be picked up at school and Heather has swimming lessons," he says.

“Hmm?” I say, not looking up from my computer screen. “Do you think zinnias grow well this far north?”

“What are zinnias?” says Steve.

I flip to another screen. “Would you describe this color as ‘gun metal’ or ‘stainless steel’?”

“Bonnie,” he sighs. “We really need to get going.”

“Where?” I ask, as I follow him up the stairs and out the door. We climb into the van and I say,
“Have you ever picked a lock with a pencil? I mean, do you think it can be done?”

“What are you doing in the van?” says Steve. “You have to take the car to get Ben. And where is Heather?”

I get out of the van and walk around to the driver’s side. I tap on the window. “Do you think people eat bunt cake at funerals most often, or are brownies more common?”

“Finger sandwiches, and don’t forget to pick me up at the garage when you are done at Heather’s swim lesson,” Steve hollers as he drives off.

Pretty good. I fish for the notebook I always keep on me and write ‘fgr sands’. I’m sure I’ll know what it means when I read it later. My daughter, Heather, finds me standing on the driveway scribbling in my notebook. “I’m ready,” she says.

“For what? Hey, Heather, do you think someone could climb up that lattice?” I say, pointing to the structure leaning against the house. “Or do you think it would break?”

“Sure. You could do it, Mommy.” She climbs into the backseat of the car.

I hesitate. She could be right, but she’s only four, and I doubt she knows much about it. I write it down anyway. I’m walking back to the house when I hear Heather call, “Mommy? I have swimming lessons.”

“Oh yeah, uh, I know. I was just going to call Ben.” I holler into the house, “Ben!”

“Ben is at school,” Heather says. I check my watch. 3:45 P.M. I’m fifteen minutes late picking him up.

“How was school?” I say to Ben when I finally reach the school.

“We had a substitute teacher. He had a big nose,” He says

“How big,” I say. “Big like a ball of dough, or big like a ski slope.”

“Big like a pickle,” says Ben.

“Wow. That’s really good Ben.”

“It is?”

“Yes. Big like a pickle. Good for you,” I jot it down in my notebook, put the car in gear, and head it toward swimming lessons.

I leave my daughter with a girl I am reasonably sure is her swimming instructor and sit by the pool. Soon I am transfixed by the movement of the water. I mumble to myself and scratch in my notebook. “Hey Ben, what do you think that water looks like? Besides wavy. You can’t say wavy.”

He thinks for a moment, head tilted to one side. “Bumpy.”

I roll my eyes. Six year olds. I write it down anyway.

After swimming I head to the library. The kids run for the children’s section while I get lost in the instructional books. I’m transfixed by a passage detailing the invention of toilet paper when my son pokes his head around the book shelf. “I’m hungry, when are we going home.”

“Soon,” I mumble as I, once again, hear the theme from The Pink Panther play loudly. “Why on earth do they keep playing that song over and over again?” I say as I write down the name Joseph Gayette.

“Mommy, your purse is playing that song,” Ben says.

Oh, yeah. Steve downloaded it as a ring tone for my new phone. Rats. “Hello?” I say.

“Bonnie,” says Steve. “Where are you?”

“The library, of course. Did you know the ancient Romans used wool and rose water as toilet paper?”

“No. I’ve been waiting for over an hour. I’ve called and called.”

“For what? Hey, Steve, only fourteen percent of households had bathtubs in 1907.”

“Good to know. Please come and pick me up at the garage.”

“The garage? What are you doing there?”

Later that night, I lay in bed feeling exhausted. I lean over and kiss my husband goodnight. “I’ll be glad when this book is done,” I say to him. “You can’t understand how consuming writing is.”

He smiles and says, “Yes, I believe I do understand.”

Monday, September 17, 2007

You Know You're North When... Meyer

Greetings from Norway House, Manitoba!

The boxes are almost unpacked and most of the pictures hung. Right now, I’m looking out my window at this beautiful peaceful scene – very different from Winnipeg. We’re pretty far up north – around the 55th parallel, which will mean more if I tell you that the equator is 0 and Toronto is around the 40th parallel.

On the way up here, there were definite signs that we were heading north. My husband was greatly impressed when we stopped at a service station and he asked the teenage girl at the counter if they had any tire plugs – and she knew what they were! They also had an interesting sign hanging in their store and I just couldn’t resist taking a picture of it (not sure it will show up too well on the blog - the sign says, "We don't call 911").

As we journeyed closer to Norway House, we were informed that the ice road was closed, a great relief to us since it was only the first of September! We got to drive our big U-Haul truck onto a ferry instead for the journey across the river to Norway House.

The bears up here stroll down the middle of the road as if they own it! Apparently, there aren’t as many moose or deer on the highways, which is good news for those times when we’ll be driving back late at night from Thompson or Winnipeg.

Norway House is about 8-10 hours north of Winnipeg (the distance varies, depending on how far over the speed limit you are willing to go). The nearest large center is Thompson, which is located about two hours down a gravel road followed by another two hours of pavement. Thompson is the third largest city in Manitoba. It’s got a Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and even Staples. What it doesn’t have is a bookstore! There are in fact no bookstores anywhere up here. The Northern Store carries a rack of some popular titles but that’s it. Thompson has a nice little library and our church in Norway House has a little room with books for sale in it that is open when the church is open. Yep, so already I’ve explored all the marketing opportunities in the region for my books – the Thompson Public Library and the Norway House Bible Church bookstore!

But it’s great. I feel like I’ve come home. The people are very friendly and the pace is so much slower. People smile and wave as you go by. I really missed that in the city.

Norway House is also, of course, a great place to write, especially since all of my books are set in a fictional First Nations community. My newest book, Deep Waters, is set to be launched on November 22 at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg. So, if you’re not able to make the journey up to Norway House, maybe I’ll get a chance to see some of you then. Winnipeg is only around the 50th parallel!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Baden-Powell: Nature Lover
Baden-Powell: Nature-lover
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Baden-Powell, the founder of the world-wide Scouting movement, preferred to learn his lessons from nature rather from a classroom. B.P. was not an academic success. His school reports read: 1)Classics: Seems to me to take very little interest in his work 2)Mathematics: Has to all intent given up the study of mathematics 3)Science: Pays not the slightest attention, except in one week at the beginning of the quarter 4)French: Could do well, but has become very lazy; often sleeps in school.

Baden-Powell was a bit of a loner in school, somewhat reserved though never unpopular. Given a choice, he preferred the solitary pursuits of exploring the woods round the Charterhouse school in Surrey, England. There he learnt how to snare rabbits and cook them in secret with a smokeless fire, how to use an axe, how to creep silently through the bush, how to hide his tracks, how to identify the different kinds of animals and plants, and how to climb a tree and hide from the school authorities. B.P. said that it was in those woods that he gained most of what helped him later in life to find the joy of living.

It is no wonder that years later Baden-Powell that the object in Scouting "was to wean (the boys) from indoors and to make the outdoors attractive to them." B.P. described Scouting as a school of the outdoors. Scouting, said B.P., was not a science, nor a military code. Rather "it is a jolly game in the outdoors, where boy-men can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness."

As Scouting was first developing, B.P said to his adult leaders: "... give your boys all you can of woodcraft and Nature study...The Nature study should be a real close touch with Nature, far beyond the academic dipping into the subject which passes under the name in school. Collecting, whether of plants or bugs, and investigation, whether of beasts or birds, are all-absorbing studies for the boy and mighty good for him." Why was Baden-Powell so exciting about Nature study and Outdoor camping? Because B.P. saw it as a "golden chance to bring the boy to God through the direct appeal of Nature and her store of wonders." Nature study for B.P. was a character-building, and spiritual exercise. Nature study, said B.P., "gives the best means of opening out the minds and thoughts of boys, and at the same them the power of appreciating beauty in Nature and consequently in art..." Nature study helped "the realization of God, the Creator, through His wonderous work, and the active performance of His will in service for others."

I believe that Baden-Powell might have really enjoyed living in Deep Cove, with its unforgettable beauty of mountain, forests, and sea. B.P. would have reminded us that "the mystery of the sea and the heavens, and the fascination of the colouring of the scene, and the modelling of the scene" all point to God’s handiwork. Baden-Powell saw all of nature as gifts from God. We all teach our children to say "thank you" for birthday and Christmas presents. How much more should we say "thank you" for God’s gifts of nature?

B.P. said "We teach the boy that a gift is not his till he has expressed his gratitude for it. His attitude to God is, therefore, thankfulness for benefits received; and his method for expressing this is through service, in behalf of God, to his fellow-men. To Baden-Powell, the question was not what can I get from life, but what can I give in life. When dealing with conflicts in the Scouting movement, B.P. recommended that people "...ask themselves the simple question, `What would Christ have done under the circumstances?’ and be guided accordingly".

In a last message found among B.P.’s papers after he had died, he said: "Dear Scouts,...I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn’t come from being rich, not merely from being successful in your career, not by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it..."

My prayer is that we too, like Baden-Powell, may be filled with gratitude to God our Creator for the wonderful gift of Nature.

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

Friday, September 14, 2007

Navigating the Conference - Payne

As I left the conference, I got lost and was sinking into a panic. “I’m on Bloor Street, heading east, in a traffic jam. The DVP is closed. Help!” The calm voice on the other end of the line guided me in the right direction. From his comfortable chair at home, my husband knew the roads of Toronto like his own shoe size.

I recognized that same panic at home when I looked at my pile collected from the conference.

By taking simple steps, you will be able to navigate yourself without getting lost.


· Pray. Earnestly pray for yourself and all others involved in the conference.

· Prepare ahead of time. Give thought to what you want to get out of the conference. I pore over the brochure.

Would you like to learn about a specific writing technique? Choose workshops to meet this goal; have backup choices.

Want to meet with an editor? Review the faculty biographies for those who fit your area of interest, and plan to make an appointment with at least one.

Hope to network with other writers? Develop a list of questions to discuss, and psych yourself up talk to everyone you can, not just to those you know.


· Pray. Be in fervent prayer throughout the conference, and pray for a teachable spirit.

· Collect freebies. Carry a bag to gather sample publications, writer’s guidelines, handouts and books.

· Mark business cards. On the back of the card, jot what you discussed with the cardholder, the date, and the conference.

· Sit by yourself. This allows you to focus on the presenter and not miss important information while chatting with a friend.

· Highlight main points. The pile of notes can grow heavy, and important points can be easily lost. Take a highlighter to underline the significant points for easy reference.

· Asterisk actions. Put an asterisk beside each idea that you must take action on later. Once home, label a blank piece of paper with, “To do – Conference Title – Date” and filter through all conference material, seeking out the asterisks.

· Colour Website addresses. Use a coloured pen to write important Website addresses. At home, add them to your “favourites.”

· Ask questions. Now is not the time to be shy. Participate in discussions and ask questions. Chances are, someone else will be grateful that you had the courage to ask.


· Pray. Pray for guidance, because the real work begins when the conference is over.

· Write an encouraging note to all who blessed you at the conference.

· Organize your pile of conference goodies soon, while everything is still fresh in your mind.

Business cards: File alphabetically.

Flyers and promotional materials: Put into a file labeled with the name of the conference and date.

Workshop notes: Punch and place into a large binder under suitable headings, e.g., Inspiration, Non-fiction, Technique, Business, Marketing, Legal.

Writer’s guidelines: Staple onto the front cover of the periodical, and file.

Get cracking on your “to do” list. Review the asterisk list, prioritize, and follow up immediately. It’s too easy to fall back into routine and lose the steam of enthusiasm from a conference.

Don’t get lost in a wave of panic after a conference. Follow these simple tips and you can navigate a conference with enthusiasm and confidence.

(First printed in Exchange Newsletter April 2005)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jesus Loves Me This I Know - Hird

An article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by the Rev. Ed Hird+

One of the most well-known children’s songs throughout the world is "Jesus loves me, this I know." Somehow that song, like "Amazing Grace", forms part of the spiritual memory banks of most adults. The vast majority of boomers and builders in Canada have gone as children either to Sunday School or Catechism. As a result, most Canadians, whether or not they currently attend church, have significant core memories connected with those early experiences. As a teenager, I found church boring and avoided it by golfing and skiing on Sunday mornings. But as a child, I remember enjoying Sunday School and looking forward to going. I’ve always liked to sing, and one of my favorite hymns as a child was "Jesus loves me, this I know". Even though I did not know Jesus personally, something touched me as I sang that song in Sunday School. Years later, I still feel deeply moved by this simple song.

Dr. Karl Barth was one of the most brilliant and complex intellectuals of the twentieth century. He wrote volume after massive volume on the meaning of life and faith. A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all those volumes. Dr. Barth thought for a moment and then said: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

When Mao Tse Sung attempted to crush the church in China, things seemed very bleak. In 1972 however, a message leaked out which simply said: "The this I know people are well". The Communist authorities did not understand the message. But Christians all around the world knew instantly that this referred to the world’s most famous children’s hymn. Miraculously the Chinese Church, instead of being crushed, has boomed under persecution, growing from 1.5 million believers to over 100 million believers.

The Warner Sisters
The author of this amazing little children’s song was Anna Bartlett Warner, sister o the famous 19th century writer, Susan B. Warner. Susan’s first novel The Wide Wide World was an instant success, second only to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most popular 19th century novel written in North America. Anna published her own novel Dollars and Cents under the pseudonym "Amy Lothrop". Anna and Susan collaborated together on fifteen fiction and children’s books. Neither sister ever married, so they shared a house on Constitution Island right across from the famous West Point Military Academy. The two sisters took a great interest in the Military Academy in which their uncle Thomas Warner was a chaplain and professor. As a result, they opened their home to the cadets and held Sunday School classes. Anna outlived her sickly sister by thirty years, and continued to run a very large Sunday School throughout her life. It was her invariable custom to write for her students a fresh hymn once a month.

No. 1 Spiritual Song
Great words without a great tune don’t get very far in the musical world. Fortunately William Batcheldor Bradbury stumbled across the "Jesus Loves Me" words, and wrote the now unforgettable tune. Thirteen years earlier, Bradbury had written the tune for the "Just as I am" hymn, which everyone nowadays associates with Billy Graham Crusades. In 1862, Bradbury found the "Jesus loves me" words in a best-selling 19th-century book, in which the words were spoken as a comforting poem to a dying child, John Fox. Along with his tune, Bradbury added his own chorus "Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus Loves me..." Within months, this song raced across the hearts of children throughout North America, and eventually all the continents of the world. Even after over 130 years, "Jesus Loves Me" is still the No. 1 spiritual song in the hearts of children around the world. Why is this? I believe that it is because all of us deep down need to know that God loves us. When I tell unchurched people in our Seymour/Deep Cove area that Jesus loves them, many of them genuinely thank me. One lady said: "Great...we can use lots of love". A man said: "Thanks...I’m going to need Him some day." Whatever situation we are in, all of us need to know that the Lord really loves and cares for each of us.

Catharsis of Love
I loved my Grandpa deeply, even though sometimes he was distant and abrasive. Grandpa claimed to be an atheist, who had no time for religion. One day I discovered to my surprise that Grandpa used to be active in a church choir, until his first wife died. Left with two children under age two, he turned bitter and dropped out of church. When Grandpa was in his late 80’s, I was speaking with him about that painful time in his life. Initially he said that he didn’t want to talk about it, but then he started talking. First he said that God sure works in mysterious ways. Then my atheist Grandpa began to sing "Jesus loves me, this I know" to my three year-old son. My son began to dance in front of Grandpa, and an amazing catharsis happened for my Grandfather. Shortly after, my ‘atheist’ grandfather began listening to hymns again. The next time I visited him, Grandpa spontaneously sang: "Up from the grave He arose!" Within two years, I took my Grandpa’s funeral, confident that Grandpa had rediscovered that Jesus loved him too.

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Be Prepared To Change – Lawrence

The hummingbirds have left for southern climes, the yellow school buses are on the roads again, and I have given my first talk of the season. These are all signs that change is happening and that the fall season is upon us.

At the end of June, when school was out and summer stretched ahead of us, with its long evenings empty of meetings and other obligations, we could almost put writing on hold while relaxing and listening to the beautiful music of nature.

However, knowing that I had an hour’s talk on meditation to prepare for the first Monday after Labour Day, I did work on my writing, if only between long interludes of birdsongs heard from the porch. By the end of August I was ready to give my talk to the women’s group and I felt good that I was prepared.

Labour Day arrived and I received a phone call to confirm my presence at the Christian women’s meeting on the following Monday. I assured the president that I would be there. It will be a half hour’s talk, she said.

I spent the next few days cutting my talk down to a half hour from one full hour—not easy but do-able. On the Friday, three days before the scheduled talk, I discovered that the advertised topic was my new meditation book, Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years.

So much for spending the summer months getting ready for a one hour’s talk on meditation! Now, three days before the event, I had to revamp the talk to a half- hour on my book.

In actual fact, because I had prepared ahead of time, I found it relatively easy to change the talk to the new format. I was able to speak to the group about my new book as well as about meditation in half the time originally planned—and I sold a few books.

The motto is: Be well prepared, listen to God’s voice, be willing to change and follow God’s guidance where he leads.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

UPR - Unconditional Positive Regard - Shepherd

I learned the phrase unconditional positive regard at an executive leadership course, yet I have seen and experienced it my whole life.

As a little girl in Sunday School, I saw the flannel graph figures of a greedy little man, climbing up into a sycamore tree, as Jesus and his friends walked past. Jesus stopped underneath the tree and saw good in this scoundrel who stole money from people to live luxuriously. Looking at him with unconditional positive regard, Jesus expressed a desire to join him for coffee at his house. The story does not tell of us of Jesus accusing him or railing at him. It only tells of the love and acceptance that created room for Zachaeus to discover new possibilities for generosity within himself. In response to this unconditional positive regard, the miserly taxman declares his intention to return to his clients four times what he had taken from them. What a powerful tool for change!

I saw evidence of unconditional positive regard in Mrs. Dunsmore, my grade six teacher. As she read my feeble efforts to express thoughts and ideas that were burning within me in my weekly essays she responded with enough encouragement and enthusiasm to make me believe that I really could become a writer. She did not focus on where I fell short but rather on my potential. While for many years the hope she planted in me remained dormant, it finally awakened and I began to write.

I saw the miracle of unconditional positive regard transform the life of an urbane woman who I learned about as a young adult. She encountered Jesus beside a well in Samaria. She found herself blushing with shame as his penetrating questions reminded her of her moral failure. Yet Jesus gently spoke to her with unconditional positive regard and commended her for her honesty. She became a new woman, strengthened by unconditional positive regard to reach out to those whom she had formerly shunned.

I saw unconditional positive regard in the Sunday morning congregation who patiently listened as I tried to unravel all the mysteries of human suffering in the twenty-five intense minutes of my first sermon. Without their unconditional positive regard I would have likely run away when I realized how foolish I was.

I experience it constantly in watching my friend who seems to ooze unconditional positive regard. The moment she hears someone’s name mentioned she will speak up about what they do well, even when all who are present know that recently this person has not been showing positive attributes.

Unconditional positive regard may be contagious. I suspect it is. I know that when I am the recipient of unconditional positive regard, it changes my attitude.

Last Thursday was more than a bad hair day. I faced what I felt was unfair criticism before breakfast was even finished. Traffic was snarled as I drove to the office, and the fuel indicator began to ping, just after we passed the last gas station on the route. Spilling coffee on a clean, white shirt in the elevator, by the time I arrived in the office, I was finding it increasingly more difficult to hold myself in unconditional positive regard. Unable to find an essential file for a one time meeting did not help. Frustration increased as I realized my assistant was away from the office that day.

However, the sun broke through the clouds as my colleague stuck her head in my office, just for a minute to tell me how much she appreciated me and to thank me for my help with a situation she had been handling. Her unconditional positive regard breathed new life into my ruffled spirit. She gave me courage to take a deep breathe, put back my shoulders and prepare to face the challenges of the day.

The power of unconditional positive regard is incredible. It is the hallmark of God’s Spirit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Book Launch Blues - Wright

As a Canadian Christian writer I feel like a flea on an elephant. My first novel, The Lightning File, has arrived and I’m faced with the daunting task of making that elephant notice my existence.

How? With limited financial resources, finite energy, limited time and a personality that seeks the background this is extremely daunting. I’m tempted to give up before I get started. But I believe in the book and others have been very encouraging. Most important, without claiming that the book was commissioned by God, I can say that He has given quiet assurance all along the way.

So, first I sent letters and emails to those who had bought my earlier books. Orders began to trickle in. Next I got permission from my home church to put a descriptive leaflet in members’ mail slots. Response has been quite wonderful. I’ve sold 35 books to church members already! And they are buzzing about the book’s suspense.

I’ve sent out a few review copies and news releases to local media. So far I’ve had two articles in area newspapers and another reporter is coming this morning. I’ll continue to pursue these avenues as time permits. Local libraries have been encouraging.

Visits to fifteen or so bookstores have yielded contracts to supply small consignments in most of them. I’ve had a book table at an arts festival and also at a fall fair with slim results. In the weeks ahead I have book launches scheduled in Cobourg, Brighton and Mississauga. (If you’re in the Mississauga area this coming Saturday, Sept. 15th, I’d love to see you at 2397 Huron Park Place: west of Mavis and south of Dundas—follow the balloons.)

The more I think about my limitations, the greater peace I have. God seems to whisper; Just do what you can and leave the rest to me. Besides isn’t it more important to please me than be a ‘success’? So I cast my bread upon the waters, rein in my impatient personality and remind myself not to despise the day of small things.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

CS Lewis: Lover of Nature - Hird
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
by Ed Hird+

Perhaps one of the most famous and versatile 20th century English writers has been the Oxford, and then Cambridge, scholar: C.S. Lewis. Some readers, especially children, find the Narnia tales among the most captivating books they have ever read. The recent film and TV presentations of the Narnia Chronicles are making CS Lewis' books even more accessible. University students often reserve their greatest appreciation for C.S. Lewis’ science fiction trilogy. Clyde Kilby describes him as "the kind of writer who can usher the reader into a new world, into a continuing process of discovery that reconstitutes his way of thought and life."

Unmistakable Beauty
Where did C.S. Lewis get his vivid skill at being able to describe fantasy and science-fiction worlds that fascinate and delight the imagination? Scholars attribute the development of this creative ability to his childhood love of nature. If C.S. Lewis had moved to Canada, I could easily see him wanting to live in the Deep Cove area, with its magnificent forest, water, and mountains. Lewis’ love of nature was something that he never outgrew. Once his older brother brought a toy garden into the nursery. It made Lewis vividly aware of nature -- not as a storehouse of forms and colours but as something cool, dewy, fresh, and exuberant. Years later, he stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day. Suddenly there arose within him without warning an "enormous bliss", a joy that made everything else that had happened to him insignificant in comparison. The rest of his life became the search for that authentic joy that makes all life meaningful. He went through a long period of atheism and cynicism about the world. But he could not ultimately deny the mysterious beauty that he saw in nature.

First Steps
In his first step to faith, he began to hold that "Beauty is the call of the spirit in that Something to the spirit in us." Gradually Lewis started to realize that the more that he grasped after the Joy in nature, the less of it he would experience. It was his very tendency to analyze and tear apart all his experiences that robbed him of the joy of his experience. As C.S. Lewis discovered, "It is impossible to both kiss one’s girlfriend and analyze the kiss at the same moment." To do so is to dissipate the reality of the kiss.

Supernaturally Natural
Lewis began to realize that his search for Joy could not be found in Joy alone, but in that to which Joy points. It could not be found in nature alone, but in that to which nature points. C.S. Lewis began to discover the supernatural behind the natural. As Lewis put it in a letter to a friend, "Today I got such an intense feeling of delight that it sort of stopped me in my walk and spun me round. Indeed the sweetness was so great, and seemed so to affect the whole body as well as the mind, that it gave me pause...Everything seems to be beginning again and one has the sense of immortality." C.S. Lewis later wrote an autobiography entitled "Surprised by Joy", to express how shocked he was to find that Jesus Christ could make such a difference in his everyday life.

My prayer for those reading this article is that we may open our eyes to the beauty of Canada, and that we may experience the Joy of knowing the Supernatural behind the Natural.

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

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Garbage In, Garbage Out – Hovsepian

I’m always in the middle of a few books at the same time. Two that I was recently inching bookmarks through are French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guliani and It’s Always Darkest Before the Fridge Door Opens by Phil Callaway and Martha Bolton.
One is an interesting look at the diet habits of women in France compared to those in North America, and the other is a book written by two Christian humorists about how we can find joy in even the most difficult situations.

Strangely, I got a somewhat similar message from both books: What we get out of life is strongly connected to what we put into it.
We know that we can’t feast on chocolate and ice cream, sit around watching TV all day, and then expect to be healthy and fit. (And, no matter what Callaway says, having a balanced diet does not mean carrying a plate in each hand at a buffet!)

Similarly, we can’t overload our minds with worldly entertainment or information that is empty at best and corrupt or evil at worst, and then expect to reflect Christ in our words and deeds. We can’t commit all our time to selfish pursuits — whether they are for our careers, our leisure time, or our materialistic lusts — and then hope to have stress-free lives and meaningful relationships.

Lately I have been reminded of the absolute importance of devoting time for the study of Scripture. No matter how many excuses I make or how I try to reason with myself that I attend church and Bible study regularly, I know that I need to spend more time in personal Bible study.

When I go through a week of undisciplined eating and I’ve been too lazy to go for my much-needed walks, I feel it. I’m sluggish, my clothes are uncomfortable, and my conscience bothers me. However, when I’ve filled myself with vegetables and other wholesome foods, and when I’ve been at least somewhat active, I feel great!

In the same way, if I’ve gone too long without digging deep into God’s Word, all the other spiritual “junk food” I’ve ingested starts to manifest itself in my life. We must be the only creatures who knowingly fill our lives and bodies with so much garbage! No wonder many of us are unhappy and dissatisfied.

Let’s get rid of the trash… and “eat” the good stuff!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When Shoplifting Comes to the Bible Book Store

What Would Jesus Do? I am struck by the irony of that question as I stand behind the counter of a Bible Book Store, holding the empty display card for a pewter pendant with the initials WWJD cut into the metal. Found tucked among gift books, the card no longer carries the pendant.

The question posed in the classic novel, In His Steps, first published in 1896 has caught the imagination of several generations and launched a marketer’s dream in small retail products. It is a fair question to ask, even in a pluralistic society.

Shoplifting is not a major problem in most Bible Book Stores, but it does sometimes occur. I wonder if the person who slipped the pendant around their neck, secreted the card, then walked out the door – ever thought about the question asked on the simple symbol they wore?
What Would Jesus Do? It is an intriguing question. There is quite a bit of “religion” in the lives of many of us, but sometimes not all that much love for God or other people. It fascinates me that the rebukes from Jesus recorded in the New Testament almost invariably focus on very “religious” people whose lives show little love for God or neighbours. It disturbs me though, because I have spent my whole life in church circles. I speak the “native” language fluently. I can go through the motions when I am more than half asleep. I have to ask myself frequently if some of those rebukes should be directed my way.

The empty display card testifies to petty theft. There is a wounding deep inside me over the smallness of that act. Yet I can’t help but wonder how often my life wounds others.
What Would Jesus Do? – Perhaps I need to ask that question myself a bit more often. Perhaps the person who stole the pendant will be confronted by the question, and the ripple effect from Charles Sheldon’s classic novel will impact one more life.

More than 50 million copies of the book have sold in the 111 years since it was first published, asking What Would Jesus Do? For shoplifter, Bible Bookstore employee or church-board chairman, it is still a question well worth asking. I can confidently claim that Jesus wouldn’t shoplift or condone shoplifting. But would He condemn, or would He show compassion for the soul-hunger that light fingers try to feed?

It is no easy thing in any store to love the shoplifter. But somehow the inconsistency of it in a Bible Book Store adds an extra measure of insult to the financial injury. The irony of the question asked on the stolen item, What Would Jesus Do? does not lessen the insult; adds to it in fact. Yet, compassion for deep soul-hunger must be the driving force of the staff behind the counter.

What Would Jesus Do? The question is as pertinent to me as to the thief. I dare not forget that.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Just released - a neuroscientist's case for the existence of ... the soul! - O'Leary

“Never shrinking from controversy, and sometimes deliberately provoking it, this book serves as a lively introduction to a field where neuroscience, philosophy, and secular/spiritual cultural wars are unavoidably intermingled.”—Publishers Weekly

The belief that the mind does not exist apart from the brain dominated the twentieth century. But can we really dismiss our thoughts and feelings, or furthermore, our religious and spiritual experiences, as simply outcomes of the firing synapses of our brain? In THE SPIRITUAL BRAIN, authors Dr. Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary present the groundbreaking evidence that the mind cannot be simply reduced to physiological reactions in the brain.

Most neuroscientists are committed to the view that mystical experiences are simply the result of random neurons firing, or “delusions created by the brain.” THE SPIRITUAL BRAIN takes another approach, powerfully arguing for what many in science are unwilling to consider—that people actually contact a reality outside themselves during intense spiritual experiences. Beauregard uses the most sophisticated technology to peer inside the brains of Carmelite nuns during a profound spiritual state. His results and a variety of other lines of evidence lead him to the surprising conclusion that spiritual experiences are not a figment of the mind or a delusion produced by a dysfunctional brain.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS – Mario Beauregard’s work at the University of Montreal on the effects of consciousness and volition on the emotional brain, and the neurobiology of the mystical experience has received international media coverage. Dr. Beauregard was selected by the World Media Net to be one of the "One Hundred Pioneers of the Twenty-First Century." Denyse O'Leary is a Toronto-based journalist who specializes in faith and science issues and who has written for the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail.

The Spiritual Brain
A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul
By Mario Beauregard & Denyse O’Leary
Published by HarperOne
Hardcover / ISBN 978-0-06-085883-4 / $25.95 / 400 pages / September 2007

Here are some of the comments on The Spiritual Brain

"If you have a mind, you will find The Spiritual Brain a refreshing antidote to the strange arguments offered by some scientists who insist that their minds, and yours, are meaningless illusions." - Dean Radin, PhD, Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences and author of The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds

The Spiritual Brain is a wonderful and important book that provides new insights into our experience of religion and God. It offers a unique perspective to the ongoing dialogue between science and religion. This book is a necessary read for both the scientist and the religious person.
-Andrew Newberg, M.D. Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania. Co-author of Why We Believe What We Believe.

"The Spiritual Brain is a very important book. It clearly explains non-materialist neuroscience in simple terms appropriate for the lay reader, while building on and extending work that Sharon Begley and I began in The Mind and The Brain, and work that Mario and I collaborated on in academic publications." - neuropsychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, author of The Mind and the Brain

"I truly was bowled over by the book, ... In The Spiritual Brain neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and science writer Denyse O’Leary push back hard. First they debunk the most widely touted urban legends of impoverished materialism"
- Michael Behe, author of Edge of Evolution

I've just finished reading The Spiritual Brain (I was sent an advance copy). It's superb, and is a milestone in what I think is going to be a 'long twilight struggle' against materialist neuroscience.
- neurosurgeon Mike Egnor

Today at the Mindful Hack, the blog that supports The Spiritual Brain:

Mind is not merely brian, Spiked reviewer insists.

Lawyer explains why materialist atheism is incoherent

Mathematician David Berlinski says mathematics is more than just climbing "the greasy pole of life."

Hype and the pop science media

And at the Post-Darwinist:

Dog breeding - proof that Darwin was right? Hardly, says prof

O'Leary's thoughts on "teaching the controversy", riffing off Freeman Dyson

Anti-intelligent design physicist on humans as pollution.

Another undead materialist myth: Copernicus "demoted" man from center of universe

Steve Weinberg flogs the "Christians believe in a flat earth" myth

Former atheist Antony Flew to author book on God as designer

British sociologist Steve Fuller is prepared to give Darwin a decent burial.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Greetings from Saskatchewan
Greetings from Saskatchewan
an article previously published in the September 2007 Deep Cove Crier

My wife, three sons and I piled into our minivan this summer and drove thousands of kilometers to Manitou Beach in Watrous. Saskatchewan is known as the land of the living skies. While I love the North Shore mountains and seashore, there is something unforgettable about a prairie sky that seems to roll on forever.

The magnet for this long trek to Saskatchewan was the rare opportunity to meet with 240 of my wife’s relatives. All six of the brothers, many of them in their eighties, made it from six different parts of Canada. Three of the six brothers are actually ordained clergy. There were so many relatives that we had to wear colour-coded name tag just to figure out who was who. I jokingly say that my side of the family could hold a family reunion in a telephone booth.

Manitou Beach, with its high mineral content, is famous because you can float on it, almost like the Dead Sea in Israel. While at Manitou Beach, we were able to have family dancing at the historic Manitou Beach Dance Hall, and then go to an old-fashioned Drive-in Theatre to see the hilarious Noah take-off movie ‘Evan Almighty’.

It was fun to visit the historic family farm on the rocky roads, but not fun to replace the windshield after it was smashed by rocks on the prairie road. It is amazing how good can come of difficulty (Romans 8:28). The smashed window gave me a chance to connect with a North Bay trucker, an Anglican Edmontonian, and an Los Angeles actor repairing Canadian windshields. We were able to pray together and one of them even obtained a copy of my book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’.

While in Regina, I had the chance to meet with two of our sister ACiC churches. If food is the language of love, I felt very loved while visiting in Regina. One of our congregations in Regina is full of Nigerian and Sudanese new Canadians and recent immigrants who fed us delicious African food. We were also treated to African dancing and singing by a Regina priest’s lively children.

Regina has deep significant to my family roots. Due to the Canadian Pacific Railway, my great-grandfather Oliver Allen was shipped with the Toronto Militia to quickly defeat Louis Riel at Batoche.

While conquering Riel, my great-grandfather Oliver met my great-grandmother Mary Mclean a Regina Leader news-reporter sympathetic to Louis Riel. Right before Riel’s hanging, my great-grandmother, who was fluent in French, disguised herself as a Catholic priest in order to interview Riel. Her newspaper editor had told her: “An interview must be had with Riel if you have to outwit the whole police force of the North-west.” Riel said to my great-grandmother on Nov 19th 1885: “When I first saw you at the trial, I loved you.” Shortly after, my great-grandparents Oliver and Mary married and relocated to start life anew in BC.

It interested me to discover that many Albertans and BCers are moving to Saskatchewan to take advantage of the cheaper housing prices and the country lifestyle. The Saskatchewan government is promoting this with large billboards in Alberta showing a husband, wife and two kids with the backdrop of a single-family home and a bike. The Saskatchewan billboard says in large letters: “More Life, Less Stress”. Some Saskatchewan residents that I met are worried about the Albertan/BC invasion because of the way that it is making housing prices unaffordable.

What a vast and amazing nation that we live in as Canadians. What a wonderful treat to be able to take family members to explore the richest of this amazing gift called Canada. I thank God as a loyal BCer that all of Canada belongs to all of us.

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

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