Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Three Platonic Ideals: Beauty — Martin

In November, I introduced the three Platonic ideals of Goodness, Beauty and Truth. These three ideals have slipped in and out of fashionable thought, and yet their centrality remains. As I mentioned in my blog on Goodness (November 14th) the one of these three virtues most neglected by the church, in recent years, has been beauty. This has not always been so.

During the Renaissance and the Reformation, the church (first the Catholic and later the Protestant churches) had great influence over painting, sculpture and music. Consider Biblical themes in the paintings of such masters as Giotto, Raphael, Michelangelo, El Greco, and Rembrandt. Consider the spirituality behind the music of such composers as Handel and Bach.

Today, we are beginning to again acknowledge the importance of celebrating all of God’s creation, and that the beauty of that creation tells us much about the creator. Similarly, we are learning that we are called on to imitate God — not merely in his Goodness and Truth, but also in his creation of Beauty. Eugene Peterson (author of The Message) in reflecting on Psalm 29 in his sermon "The Beauty of Holiness" said, "Beauty is our sensory access to holiness" (Image #29). He went on to say, "Beauty is the term we apply to these hints of transcendence, these perceptions that there is more going on here than we can account for."

My reflection on Beauty, from my poetry collection Poiema, follows:


Let Beauty Come

Psalm 90:17

Let beauty rest on us like a shaft of light
penetrating to the dimness of our forest floor
our eager green turns toward it

Let beauty come like rain for Hopkins’ roots
splattering exuberantly on our disappointments
making right what we could never foresee

Awaken our hibernating senses so we find
what was hiding & what was on its way
The affirmation of blessing

Let beauty grow in the work of our hands
not our own but truest beauty
growing in the work of our hands

As Peterson has said, "We are in a world at play to the glory of God, in the beauty of holiness."

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his new poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), and his chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed are available at http://www.dsmartin.ca/

Monday, December 29, 2008

To Resolve or not To Resolve - M Laycock

I was delivering Christmas cards last week and stopped in to the small gym where I have been noticeable only by my absence lately. I admit I felt a little guilty going in the door. The owner greeted me with a wide smile and we wished one another a Merry Christmas. Then I said, “One of my New Year’s resolutions will be to get here more often.” My friend shook her head. “Oh don’t do that, don’t make yourself feel guilty about it!” Then she stammered a bit. “But …. I don’t mean …. Do come back!”

We laughed and I assured her I would.

I’ve been thinking about what she said ever since. I’ve been thinking about guilt. It does seem to be a big part of what we do at this time of year. We feel guilty for all the things we didn’t do in the past year - like finish that novel or write that article that’s still in draft form in the computer -and most of us resolve to do better. So guilt isn’t such a bad thing, if, and that’s a big if, we make the changes necessary in our lives. If guilt is unresolved it becomes an unhealthy thing and can lead to bitterness and anger that will only make us miserable. But guilt that leads to change, that’s healthy guilt.

So I have decided to make that New Year’s resolution, and a few others – like finish that novel and write that article - and I’ve gone a step further. I have a plan for carrying it out. Often that’s the key. If we just dwell on our guilty feelings and set no goals or plans for how to change, nothing constructive will happen. Unhealthy guilt will result.

I’ve heard many people scoff and say that all religion does is make you feel guilty. They are absolutely right. But Jesus has gone a step further. He has set out a plan that wipes away the guilt. All we have to do is move from religion to relationship. Accept Him as our brother, our friend, our saviour, and no amount of guilt can hold us down.

The word guilt appears a few times in the Bible. My favourite is in the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 22 – “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

I like those words, “assurance”, “cleanse” and “washed with pure water.” Though the guilt of our sin may bear us down, there is forgiveness. No matter what we have done, or what has been done to us, God forgives, and we are set free “by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…” (Hebrews 10:20).

The best resolution any of us can make as we move into 2009 is to get to know Him more. I pray we will all resolve to do so. It’s the only way to get rid of all that guilt.

Planning for Success in 2009

I've been thinking a lot about success lately, and I'm in the process of writing up my personal plan for success in 2009.

A colleague started me on this trail back in November when she was looking for writers to interview on the subject of tenacity. Her questions were: “Have you succeeded because you refused to give up? Are you published because you wouldn't take 'no' for an answer?”

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her questions, and I’m sure it will help aspiring writers to read how others succeeded because they kept going and refused to take “no” for an answer. I’ve certainly enjoyed hearing that kind of story over the years.

In fact, two of my favorite songs are Toby Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now” and Buddy Jewell’s “I Wanna Thank Everyone (Who Ever Told Me No)”—both about people who wouldn’t give up and eventually succeeded.

For that matter, two of my role models are Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who weren’t afraid to go into the Promised Land and had to wait 40 years for everyone else to die before they finally got there. I can just see them walking into Jericho singing, “How do you like me now?”

So I admire tenacity. Yet when I read those two questions, I felt sick to my stomach. And I said to myself, Yeah, sure, I’m going to talk about how successful I am and anyone who knows anything at all about the publishing industry is going to read my response and say, “What on earth is she talking about? She’s not successful. She’s never had a bestselling book. She doesn’t have an agent. She doesn’t have any editors lined up wanting to work with her on a project. Hardly anyone who matter even knows who she is. And she’s saying she’s a success? Yeah, right.” And I became totally depressed. Who was I to think I know anything about writing? Why did I even bother to try, never mind to teach others?

My very strong reaction to these questions led me to do a lot of soul-searching throughout the month of December. I realized that the bottom-line was I didn’t feel as though I had succeeded at all. Eventually, I asked myself another question. At this time in my life, what does success look like to me?

It dawned on me that success (for me) really has very little to do with how much money I make or how many copies of my books sell or what awards I win or how many people know my name. I’m not even concerned about establishing a career as a writer. Success to me, at this stage of my life, is the ability to spend my time doing what I want to do. And the truth is that during my lifetime, I've rarely done that. No wonder I felt like a failure!

The only time doing just what I wanted to do was my primary focus was for a year or so shortly after my marriage when all I really did was write some short stories, my first novel, and parts of three other novels.

Since then, my time has pretty well been spent doing what I felt I needed to do: raising my four sons; homeschooling for a total of 17 years; cooking, cleaning, etc,; taking on numerous leadership roles in churches, including church planting and discipling both individuals and groups; caring for my mother; editing Cell Life Forum; leading workshops and speaking; and starting The Word Guild. Not that I disliked what I was doing—some of it I thoroughly enjoyed.
But only on rare occasions, and for short intervals, did my activities involve writing fiction.

In recent years, from June, 2001 until September, 2008, I wrote only one-half of one novel—Glitter of Diamonds. Yet during that time, if you'd asked me what I wanted to do, I'd have said, “Write fiction.” No, "wanted to do" isn't strong enough—longed to do.

During that entire time, and for most of my adult life, I've felt that part of me was in prison and I couldn’t find a way out. There were so many urgent, more important things to do—who cared if I wrote another dumb novel or not? Especially since hardly anyone would read it anyway! Yes, I'm a great writer. I know that. But so what? We all have to make sacrifices for the greater good, right?

Now, during this time, I was always asking God to lead me, and I have to assume he was. I don’t regret what I did or how I spent my time. I've learned a lot. But for some time now, God has been making it very clear to me that I need to write, and that I need to get everything else out of my life. And now he's telling me it's my time to just have fun.

I know that sounds somewhat ____________(fill in the blank: wrong, selfish, heretical...).

I’ve spent most of my life doing things for others. Some of that is because my natural instincts are to see needs and try to meet them. I'm also aware of the verse in the Bible that says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Luke 12:48. I'm very aware that I've been given a lot. So, how can I sit here planning to spend an entire year only doing what is fun for me to do?

I was recently reminded that in the book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there are times when all that happens is dancing and gaiety—even while a battle is going on. It seems strange, but we each have a role to play, and I believe that this year is my turn to dance.

Once I realized that all I really need to feel successful is the ability to be who I am deep inside—a fiction writer—my world felt right again. And I decided to plan for success in 2009.

I’m hoping to finish writing at least four novels, some of which were begun years ago. No, I'm not worrying about who might publish or read them. Did Picasso worry about who might look at his paintings?

As for publishing, well, I’ll worry about that later, if at all. The important thing for me right now is that I write. By the time one story or book is finished, I’m more than ready to go on to the next one. I’m not going to worry about making money or becoming famous or even helping others. I’m going to write for purely selfish reasons—to enjoy myself. And I plan to be tenacious about it. :)

If you want to follow my journey for the coming year, I'll be blogging on the journey at www.releasethecreativeyou.wordpress.com and on writing at www.bluecollarwriter.wordpress.com

N. J. Lindquist

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Laughing Out Loud

My list of favourite authors keeps growing as I open myself to read across genres in both fiction and non-fiction. However, my all time favourites remain those who can make me laugh out loud including Erma Bombeck, Phil Callaway, Stephen Leacock, and John Mortimer.

In an attempt to emulate these greats, I’ve added such how-to books as “Comedy Writing Secrets – the best-selling book on how to think funny, write funny, act funny, and get paid for it” by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz, and “How to Write Funny – Add humor to every kind of writing” edited by John B. Kachuba.

But, as I suspected, writing humour is more difficult than I had hoped. My novel-in-progress is a contemporary story about a separated mother dealing with her daughter’s recent disclosed secret. The tone is serious and contemplative. The subject is dark and ugly.

I believe it is a good story. It has strong characters, a fast pace and interesting plot. But then, I asked myself, “Is this the type of book I would pluck off the shelf?” and I hated to admit that it wouldn’t be.

So I’m back to the drawing board – or in this case, the keyboard. I want to give my protagonist a sense of humour. I want her to tackle the disclosure with a sense of comic relief. It’s proving tougher than I thought.

I’m open to suggestions and recommendations on how you would handle this.

Kimberley Payne
http://www.kimberleypayne.com/

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Peace All Year - Robert Scott

It’s that schizophrenic time of year again. It is a season filled with peace and good will but also frantic rushing about.

Phrases like, “Will I ever get all the preparation finished?” are standard, as we race toward the holiday season.

Each of us will look to Christmas with emotion of one sort or another. If we have young children or grandchildren, our excitement will be a reflection of theirs. If it is our tradition to gather with family, we will look forward to the event with either expectation or, in some cases, with rejoicing that it only happens once a year.

The folks who deliver the daily or weekly papers know when the holiday season is upon us, and it weighs heavily upon them physically. These are the days of the ten-pound newspaper, only a few ounces of which are actual news.

It is a sure sign that our emphasis has changed with the passage of time.
As you and I prepare for Christmas, I pray that you will take time to think about how the celebration got started. Christmas is intended as the festival to observe the birth of Jesus Christ. His coming was foretold more than seven hundred years before it happened. God told of His plan to grant forgiveness of sins thousands of years prior to that.

Christ brought peace, and hope, and love to the world. Those who call themselves His followers have laboured, over the centuries, to bring the good news to all who will listen.

There are groups celebrating other events at this time of year. Some are secular. Other people relate to a different religious practice. There are people who revel in the fact that they celebrate nothing.
Whether or not we choose to recognize and honour Christmas, the fact remains that God took that one moment in time to let us know of His love and His plan for the salvation of humankind. Those who believe have additional cause to celebrate, and the joy goes on all year.

My prayer for you is that you will be so blessed by the truth of Christmas that you can have the quiet joy apart from all the material things that happen during this season.

A Joyous Christmas to All

He gave the right to become God's children to everyone who believed in him. – John 1:12 (GW)

Robert Scott is a pastor and the the author of ADVERTISING MURDER, LOST YOUTH and MURDER EXPRESS, titles in the Jack Elton Mystery series, Published by AVALON Books, New York

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

God Chose a Way to Change the World - Mann


I’ve been trying, across this Advent/Christmas season, to get a hook into a plot for a Christmas play that everybody can enjoy. Christian friends tell me “this effort might end up falling short of satisfying Christ-followers or be too religious for others.”

Yet, I believe that one of the central messages of Christmas is to give the invitation to reconcile. We often see this reconciliation as visible ways of reaching out to others. The Salvation Army leads the way in the malls, while other churches and community groups fall in step with community foodbank committees, Mitten Trees and free Christmas dinners. People in general, passionately extend an extra visit, card, Poinsettias or chocolates. I see men, women and children working shoulder-to-shoulder and walking side-by-side, without checking out faith credentials, changing their little corner of the world.

I read this caption on Internet a while back, “There are tons of ways you can change the world. Just pick one!” and I asked myself if I had. Surely, at this time of year, we are so aware of the particular way that God chose to change the world. We can continue with the work of Jesus and learn how he changed the world with tons of ways. Christmas is a powerful season and it touches people and initiates enough compassion to change the world even for a short time through actions and attitudes on the street, at the desk or at the local arena. And that short time might save someone’s life, give another hope or plant a seed of confidence. Family members who resist sitting beside someone who’s hurt them in the past now find an excuse to fill the empty chair. Friends, who haven’t connected since last year’s Christmas card pick up the phone and call. People with a hate-on find ways to put a love-on. Forgiveness filters through a hardened heart. Reconciliation reigns. Anger dissolves. And peace pierces depression, pain and grief.

“The Christmas Truce” comes to my mind every Christmas season. We know that four months after WWI had begun, English Christmas carols and “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” were sung from opposing trenches in Flanders as the troops witnessed the power of reconciliation on Christmas Eve. In essence, the war had ceased for a short time as men met between the lines to exchange greetings, cigarettes and cookies. They buried their dead and recited “The 23rd Psalm.”

Christ came to earth to reconcile people to God and one another. God certainly picked a significant way to change the world on that Christmas Eve in 1914 if only in people’s hearts for that short time. For God so loved the word that he gave . . . .

Well, maybe that plot for the Christmas play has begun. Thanks be to God!

Take Time to Make Memories (1996)
WinterGrief (2003)
Aggie’s Storms (2007)
Numerous plays, columns and articles
www.homestead.com/the_meadows/mann.html

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thoughts on the Season - Robert Scott

I'm living in a land of ice and show this year.

For twelve years we have lived in an area of Canada where, apart from the lights and signs, and a substantial increase in the weight of the newspaper, from all the flyers, you would not know that winter had arrived. At least, that is usually the case. Please read on.

When we moved to Victoria from Red Deer, in answer to a call to ministry, folks laughed at our snow shoes and snow scoop when they were unloaded from the truck.

That Christmas, the snow was so bad that traffic did not move for days. I had to make a hospital visit on Christmas Eve night. They had to come for me in a four-wheel-drive and we almost ended up in the ditch a number of times.

I have pictures of my daughter, wearing shorts, plowing out the driveway. We've learned, over many years of traversing this country, that you can never be too confident that things will never change. I like it like that.

When we moved to Saskatchewan, folks wanted to know where we had moved from. We would tell them and they would ask us what had gotten into us. We told them that we were a pastor and his wife and we had experienced the winters of Montreal, the Gaspé coast, Southwestern Ontario, Southeastern British Columbia and Red Deer, Alberta.

In each place, there have been wonderful memories created. Growing up in Montreal, our family lived within the same eight block area. Grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and their families gathered together at this time of year to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. I can still remember the smell of turkey, vegetables, and Granny Scott's famous desserts cooking in my grandparents’ house when the gang of us gathered together. I still remember one cousin who insisted on making faces when the 'family portrait' was being taken, in the living room, after the meal. Those were special times.

Christmas on the Gaspé, in farm country, was a time of community gathering. We had some wonderful times together on my first appointment.

In every community we have lived in we have met folks who treated us like family and welcomed us into their homes. It was good. Besides, we had our own growing family to share it all with.

I had always given little thought to the celebrations that were held in the church. Maybe I should rephrase that. I put a lot of effort into preparing for the services that I conducted. I started working on things in September or October. What I mean is that it seemed like the normal thing to do. I was the pastor, after all.

I never realized how important that part of the season was to me until last December when we visited friends in South America and there was no special celebration in the community where we were staying. Family was half a world away.

This Christmas will be different because this year has been different. We moved from Vancouver Island to just south of Moose Jaw to be closer to family. (The daughter who plowed the driveway in her summer clothes, her husband and our two grandchildren.) We found a wonderful church fellowship in which to worship. I announced that I was a retired pastor and, within a week, was busier in our new church home than I had ever been. I'm giving a lot of thought to the Christmas celebration.

This year we will hear and share the Christmas story. This year, we will be surrounded by family. This year, Christmas Day will stand out from all the other days as one of celebration. Jesus will be honoured and the birth of the Saviour will be given due reverence.

I pray it will be the same for you and all those you love.

Robert Scott is a pastor and the the author of
ADVERTISING MURDER, LOST YOUTH and MURDER EXPRESS, titles in the Jack Elton Mystery series, Published by AVALON Books, New York

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Restless Night ... Day of Resolute Decision -- Black

Tear streaks glistened on Joseph’s rugged cheeks, lit by silver-blue moonbeams streaming through openings in window shutters, as he lay and silently grieved. And prayed ... prayed deeply in the silence, while clamouring, conflicting thoughts ricocheted with endless noise in his brain. Finally, tired, and heart-weary, he drifted off to sleep.

It was during that much-needed sleep, when his conscious efforts to sort things out were finally brought to a point of quietude and rest, that an angel of the Lord spoke to him, informed, and instructed him. Comforted him.

"Joseph son of David," the angel began, "do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

He awoke, pulse racing. And, he remembered every detail. This was not a fading dream. Not a hazy thing, fast evaporating like the morning mist. There would be no second-guessing. Joseph was satisfied–this message was from God, and he knew exactly what he must do, and would not delay to do it.

Sobbing now, overcome with relief, and overflowing with love and gratitude, the kindly carpenter felt comforted. And thought it odd that he also had a sense of indefinable expectancy, knowing in his heart beyond all shadow of doubt that Mary was innocent of any wrongdoing; that her pregnancy was by the direct intervention and favour of God, and that he, Joseph, a humble carpenter– together with his beloved Mary–had a part to play in the Lord God’s Divine Plan.

Lifting his face to heaven, Joseph drew a deep, steadying breath–a welcome sigh, really. He then drew the back of his hand over the tears of relief and joy escaping from his eyes, rose from his bed, and readied himself to go face a family, a world, and a culture that he suspected wouldn’t understand–or even believe, were he to attempt to explain it to them.

But he was resolute. Decisive.
He would go and see Mary. Share His experience and relief. She would understand. She was already dealing with the precious knowledge of God’s gracious work in her life, and the emotional pain of wagging tongues, and judgmental glances.

Despite the potential for his being maligned and misunderstood, even by those of his own family, Joseph faithfully followed through on his resolve, taking Mary home as his wife. And, after she delivered the Christ Child in the humble circumstances of a crude shelter in Bethlehem, he named Him Jesus –Yeshua –the Lord is Salvation, for "he shall save His people from their sins"–and still does!

Resolute and decisive ... Characteristics of our Lord Jesus.
He was ready and willing to do what He had to do ...
What He came to do in His redemptive mission.
And aren’t we grateful and glad?


The Christ Child grew in favour with God and people.
He understood ...
Knew why He came.
To be Immanuel–God present with us.
To make, through His life and ministry, His Father known.
To make through His death, His soul an offering for sin.
Through His resurrection, ascension, and glorification,
to bring sinners-turned saints home to eternal glory
as His brothers and sisters by grace.
AMEN.


Thank you for joining me in this meditation (a segment abbreviated and adapted from my Advent Three message for last Sunday–Dec. 14, ‘08).

A Very Blessed Christmas to You All!
Peter.

http://www.freewebs.com/authorpeterablack/

Friday, December 19, 2008

How the Natal Star Was Born - Nesdoly


Of all the characters in the Christmas story, God the Father may be the one we think of the least. So how did He handle the gestation and birth of His only Son? I imagine that for Him it was similar to how it is for fathers everywhere - at least according to the angel Gabriel...








How the Natal Star Was Born


The Son vanishes just after I am sent
to the Galilean virgin
and heaven isn’t the same.
Gone the laughter, mischief, hijinks.
Music replaced by silence
all monochromatic, sober
like the life of the party has left
and we don’t have the will
to keep partying or to go home.

The Almighty’s been moody since then
broods like never before
over calendars and seasons,
looks down a lot, mostly toward Nazareth
at this blossoming virgin-still
and her earthmate.

The day this couple sets off down the road
He starts pacing... pacing... pacing...
When they get to Bethlehem
it’s pacepacepace.
Then He pauses
"Hush!"

All the hosts of heaven stop their chatter,
crowd behind Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David
peer over the balcony
focus on a dark building
near a sign that blinks "Sorry - No Vacancy"
It’s so quiet you can hear the stars hum.

Then, cutting the night
tiny and tremulous
"A-wah, a-wah, a-wah, a-wah."

The Almighty laughs His magnificence
tosses His glory, flings His radiance
and then starts handing out
cig–, no trumpets
to every angel within arm’s reach.
"Go tell somebody, anybody!"

After they’ve left He asks for the bubbly
shakes it up
pops the cork
sprays it all over heaven.

Copyright © 2004 - Violet Nesdoly

*******************

Check out my monthly poetry column, "Poet's Classroom".

I blog about writerly topics at Line upon line, personal stuff at promptings, and daily devotions for kids at Bible Drive-Thru.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another Year Older - Meyer


As the 17th of December turned quietly into the 18th, I was frantically trying to finish the editing on my upcoming novel, The Little Ones, which was a finalist in the Word Alive! 2008 publishing contest and will, Lord willing, be published in 2009. (draft of cover is to the left).
By four in the morning, I needed to quit and get some sleep. All nighters are for the young! And now that the big 5-0 is officially behind me, my doctor is advising regular checkups. "Your body is wearing out," he cheerfully informed me just yesterday.
But I can honestly say that I've never felt healthier or happier in my life. It's been a wonderful year.
And I loved being 50. It was especially fun to think about being one half of a century old since my oldest son was one quarter of a century and had a son less than one year old. Then a month ago, my middle son turned one quarter of a century (the two boys are 14 months apart) and his son was born last April. Oh, and if I don't have you thoroughly confused by now, let me add in that my husband is also 50 years old. So with all of birthdays and births coinciding quite nicely, we were able to get a photo of my husband at 1/2 century, my son at 1/4 of a century and my grandson just starting off. We're hoping to get a photo at Christmas of my husband, our middle son and our second grandson who will have the same "stats."
Here is a photo of John, Steve and Seven (now you know why I didn't mention names when reciting all the numbers above!)
There have been other births this year - the "birth" of my publishing company: Goldrock Press and also of three new books: Meet Manitoba Children's Authors, The Voice Behind the Mask and Pilot Error.
I'd set a goal of losing 50 pounds in my 50th year but only lost 40, so I'll be setting some new goals after Christmas (NO ONE diets at Christmas!)
So, another year older, and a new one just begun.
Hope your new year is filled with great joy!
May the Lord bless each one of you,
Dorene

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some Hasty History and a Christmas blessing - Harris

I've been submerged in deadlines all week. The Word Guild blog slipped my mind as I immersed myself in research, writing and figuring out Christmas. But about four in the morning I was prodded awake by a nagging thought: The Word Guild Blog. The Word Guild Blog, I thought? Is it the 17th? Oh my, what will I write?

Then the thought came to me. Share what you've found out. So, here it is.

Let me begin with a verse from scripture: Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Now let me share a couple of historical facts that I've discovered that run counter to what you hear on the news. First, Michael Ignatieff's, promotion to Leader of the Opposition, without an election, is nothing new in our democratic tradition. Both Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, in Alberta, became Premiers without an election in their first terms. This has happened several times at the federal level as well.

As loyal members of their parties, the caucus members (MLAs and MPs) of our political parties normally accept their memberships' choice about who should be their leader in the Legislative Assembly or House of Commons.

That is convention. It is not law, although some parties do have by-laws, within their organizations, to require members of the party sitting in the legislature or Parliament (which includes the Crown, Senate, and House of Commons) to follow the party's instruction about who to choose as First Minister or Leader of the Opposition.

But, rarely, a party's caucus (MLAs or MPs who sit as members of that party) chooses a leader without a party vote. That too is acceptable in our system of Parliamentary Democracy.

For example, when Alberta Premier William Aberhart died suddenly in 1943, there was no party convention or consultation. Instead, the Social Credit Members of the Legislature got together at a caucus meeting and made Ernest Manning the Premier. The voters and the Opposition had no say in this decision. This is a perfectly acceptable way of becoming Premier in our system of government.

We are a Constitutional Monarchy. It is the role of the Crown to ensure that there is always a stable government in Canada and the Crown has several options to ensure it. The Crown can also deny unconstitional laws as the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta did when William Aberhart tried to deny Freedom of the Press in the Province of Alberta. His decision was backed up by both the Governor General, the Provincial Courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Committe of the Privy of Westminster . I assure you that Albertans are very glad Lieutenant Governor, John Bowan, a Baptist Minister, took his job seriously enough in 1935 not to sign away our Freedom of Speech because the Premier, also a Christian Pastor, asked him to. (Interestingly, this episode is not usually discussed by the popular media, although Lord Byng's decision to deny Mackenzie King an election is.)

Why? Because first ministers (Premiers, Prime Ministers - these words literally mean first minister- are elected as members of an assembly (legislature, House of Commons) for a particular riding (sometimes called 'constituency'). Canadians, like Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, and other Commonwealth Realms elect members of assemblies (Legislatures, Parliaments). They do not elect First Ministers.

It is convention that the head of the largest party becomes First Minister. The leader of the second largest party usually becomes Leader of the Official (or Loyal) Opposition (Also sometimes called Leader of Her Majesty's Official --or loyal- Opposition.

But coalitions are also acceptable: one coalition was between Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Georges Etienne Cartier. It led to Confederation.

In the 1950s, the parties of British Columbia formed a coalition to deny the Commonwealth Cooperative Federation power. In a rather dramatic story, typical of British Columbia's colourful political scene, the plan led to the election of W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit Party.

O.K. Now you have proof that I am a nerd who immerses herself in history and the constitution. But may this nerd make one comment?

Learning one's history and constitutional framework helps us discern what is being said to us by our 'leaders' and, with prayer, leads us to where we need to go.

Sorry this is so hastily written. I'd be happy to discuss this history with any of you, but give me until tomorrow. I have to get this last deadline met. Blessings. Happy Christmas.

Jane Harris

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas: Past, Present and Future - Meyer

Not Far from the Tree, my newest novel, had me researching the time of the dirty thirties and the Great Depression. Even though I didn’t live through that time, I was born while the world still felt the effects and just as the Second World War began. My research and writing brought back the memories of a time when the differences between wants and needs were distinctively known.
About the same time as Not Far from the Tree was released, the financial world began to tremble and there were answering shivers felt especially by many dependant on the automotive trades. The shudders are still spreading in ripple effects and we still don’t know where it will stop.
Now Christmas is almost upon us. My mind went back to the Christmas gifts of times past. One year there were dolls for my older sister and me. My aunt and grandmother had fashioned some home-made clothes and we were ecstatic! Another year we received wallets (and that was it-nothing more) and again I felt most fortunate and not just a little grown up. That year we received a little pin try from my grandparents. Christmas could not have been better, I had no thought of wanting more. Of course there were the “fancy” cut oranges for breakfast and even a few sweets! (an unheard of occurrence in our regular meals!) Family gatherings, bountiful meals the Christmas story and carol singing in the afternoon rounded out the memorable days. For several years, there wasn’t even a Christmas tree but we didn’t miss it all that much. We felt extremely fortunate even without the stack of gifts to which we now have become accustomed. What would it take to get society used to less or smaller gifts? One would hope it wouldn’t take an all-out depression to force us into realizing that relationships are more important than things, gifts of the heart are worth more than those with a high price tag, attention and time spent with loved ones, the lonely or alone is more treasured than the amount of parcels under the tree, that the spirit of Christmas, goodwill, the celebration really is all about the Reason for the season—the birth of a Savior. Once we acknowledge that and put Christ back in the center of our festivity our priorities will be straight.
This year, there is evidence of some reserve in the usual buying frenzy, but many are still moving through the check-out lines with carts full as though quickly buying in case it is the last time it will be possible for awhile. While I was standing at the end of the line behind six or eight people (no use moving to one of the other six lines—they were all just as busy) I pondered what it would be like for our society to change its expectations, to be happy with less material goods. Perhaps then we could take time to nurture relationships, enjoy the basics in life and renew our consciousness of the Giver.


Ruth Smith Meyer
Author of Not Easily Broken and Not Far from the Tree
http://www.ruthsmithmeyer.com/

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Love Broke Through at Christmas - Hird

The more I think about Christmas, the more convinced I am that Love always finds a way to break through. In the darkest of times, there is a breaking in of light, a making of a way where there is no way.

Billy Sunday grew up in a single parent home, before being sent to an orphanage at twelve years old. Billy ran away from the orphanage two years later and worked as a stable boy looking after Shetland ponies.

Baseball fascinated Billy. Despite his being struck out the first thirteen times at bat, Billy played professional baseball for eight years for Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. His remarkable speed in running the bases was his trademark.

One evening, after a night of drinking with his baseball teammates, Billy attended a renewal service. Billy’s life was powerfully transformed, so much so that he became a full-time worker in 1891 for the YMCA. Love broke through. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Billy was one of the first clergy to make use of this amazing ‘new’ medium of radio.

Billy would sometimes have a baseball game with those attending before proceeding to hold a renewal service. Sometimes during a sermon he would dive across the stage and visually slide into home plate. Then he might stand up and challenge men to ‘come up to the plate’, to stand up for their wives, children, church and country. Billy broke the stereotype that church is only for women and children. He strongly challenged men to play their part, to be part of God’s team, to get involved. Love broke through for many families attending Billy Sunday’s meetings.

During Billy’s lifetime, over one hundred million people heard him speak, more than any other preacher to that point. Billy often spoke without any PA system. Over 1.25 million people publicly responded to Billy’s challenge to dedicate their lives to Christ, to ‘come up to the plate’ and stand up for their families and God. Historians describe Billy Sunday as an early 20th Century Billy Graham. Billy Graham just turned 90 years old. My hunch is that most of us have heard Billy Graham, either in person or by TV. Ironically Billy Graham gave his life to Christ at a meeting that had been originally founded by Billy Sunday.

Through Billy Graham and Billy Sunday, love has broken through for countless ten of millions of families. This Christmas, as you think about the simplicity of Christ in the manger, may love break through for you and your family members.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, BC
Anglican Coalition in Canada
http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/cr0812.html
-an article previously published in the Dec 2008 Deep Cove Crier

Friday, December 12, 2008

Servants, Maids And Pets - Lawrence

This week, I made a miscalculation about how much dry cat food I had until the next shopping day. Consequently, I ran out of this food two days before I was to go into town. For people who live in the city this would not pose a problem but for those of us who live in a rural area with no bus service and no car, it means waiting until someone can give us a ride.

For two days, I was constantly followed around—I might even say stalked—wherever I went. The cats’ eyes were on me when I went to the cupboard for a dish; if I got up from my chair the cats got up immediately to see if I would somehow produce a bag of cat kibble.

It was not that they were without food altogether—I gave them extra canned cat food throughout the two days, but they missed their dishes of hard food from which they normally grazed anytime they so desired; and they couldn’t understand why they had been cut off from this supply.

I was put in mind of the psalm verses: To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us. Psalm 123:1, 2. N.R.S.V.

I am not saying, of course, that God makes miscalculations in His dealings with us, but that when we face problems in our lives we look to God for solutions as our pets look to us in their times of need. My cats became very anxious while I was unable to provide them with their usual food—they only knew that they were without and that I was not providing for them.

We, too, may become anxious when sickness, need or loss occurs in our lives. We know, however, from past experience that difficult times provide opportunities for us to grow in faith and that God has not forgotten us but will see us through our times of struggle just as we will see our pets through whatever happens to them.
© Judith Lawrence

Author of Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years; and Grapes From The Vine, Book of Mystical Poetry. Both available at www.lulu.com
Author of Prayer Companion: A Treasury of Personal Meditation, available at Chapters and www.pathbooks.com
Web Site: www.judithlawrence.ca

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Communicating for a Change


What is the purpose of our writing?

For fiction writers, many aspects come to mind: entertainment, inspiration, teaching. For non-fiction writers, the list is smaller: teaching and inspiration, sure, but probably not entertainment to the same extent.

But can I make a suggestion today? I think the purpose for everyone, fiction or non-fiction, should be the same thing: communicating for a change. We communicate, in our various ways, because we want to inspire people to grow closer to Christ in our own specific niche area.

In fiction, books do that by allowing us to walk with the characters, experience life through their eyes, and change our hearts. In non-fiction, it's often done from a teaching point of view: this will work, and thus you should do so and so.

I think, though, that non-fiction writers need to learn from fiction writers. The best way to actually inspire change isn't to list a whole bunch of things that people need to learn, or realize, or capture. It's to relate to them on a heart level so that they feel a connection with you, and experience God's touch, so that they will be motivated to change.

Teaching has its role, certainly. But if a person knows everything about doctrine, and everything about proper family life, and everything about the Bible, but doesn't put it into practice, what good is it?

We need to connect with people so that they are inspired to change. That is the role of every Christian communicator.

It is God, of course, who does the inspiration. We are only the vehicle. But if that is not our aim it is far less likely that God will work in that way. If we are simply trying to squeeze as much knowledge into a book as we can, a person may feel smarter after reading it, but won't necessarily do things any differently.

When I started writing I came straight out of university, and I was in the "teaching" mode. As I've been writing and speaking for longer, I've realized this is the wrong approach. I now plan every talk, and every book, by asking the question: what one main thing do I want people to go and do afterwards? And if I can't answer this in a sentence, then I go back to the drawing board.

This is especially important when it comes to speaking, and I have a new blog up called Christian Women's Speaker, where lots of tips are given about how to launch a speaking career, or go further in the one you're in. And this is something I want to drive home: we communicate for change.

And we write for change. I'm working on a new book proposal now, for a humorous book that I hope will help people build their lives on Christ alone, and not on all the other things we trust in during this life. But I'm starting the project with my aim in mind first, not with a list of everything I want to teach.

It's revolutionized the way that I see writing and speaking, and I hope I've put a nugget of an idea in your minds, too, so that it will revolutionize the way we all approach communicating, in whatever realm of life we find ourselves!

Sheila Wray Gregoire speaks across Canada to women's groups and at marriage conferences. She is the author of four books, including Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight: Help for women who want to feel more in the mood. You can usually find her at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Vulnerability of Jesus

We pretty up the manger and we pretty up the cross.
We make them quaint and cute as fairy-tales.
We empty them of meaning and stark reality.
Our meddling oft’ ensures the message fails.

These are the beginning lines of a poem that has refused to cooperate, refused to embrace beauty of language, metaphor and meter. Easter and Christmas are like that for me – too big to grasp, the paradox too vast for comprehension.

But the manger is a feeding trough for donkeys, sheep and goats.
The cross is a blood-stained hunk of wood.

. . . And the One most intimate with God cried from that cross, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me.” We have known – all of us – separation from God. What we have not known except in glimpses, is the intimacy so close that the Bible uses the language of marriage to describe it.

Even before the manger we see a depth of vulnerability breathtaking in its scope.

Vulnerability # 1: The creator – in the womb of a teen girl who was castigated, at risk of stoning. Nine months of vulnerability confined in space and time.

Vulnerability # 2: Joseph, knowing he is not the father, shocked, bewildered, wounded, then visited by an angel.

Vulnerability # 3: Birth in a stable. No midwife. Separated from family. Mary’s hard working husband feeling the humiliation of being unable to provide better for his wife – wondering what he will say to the in-laws. Since Mary turned up pregnant, they have not been overly fond of Joseph anyway. How will he tell them their grandson has been born in a stable?

Vulnerability # 4: Interruptions in the night. Shepherds, probably more at home in the stable than Mary and Joseph, perhaps smelling like they were at home there – insisting on seeing the baby. Not a setting to make Joseph eager for company or to have his name spread farther.

Vulnerability # 5: Returning to the home they just left with a newborn son just months after the wedding held little appeal. But setting up shop in this little village that had welcomed them with a barn had its drawbacks as well. Starting a business from nothing once again, knowing surely that the rumours would reach here as well – promised continued heartache.

Vulnerability # 6: The Creator of the Universe in diapers, learning to walk, to talk, to feed himself – accepting all the limitations of an infant.

Vulnerability # 7: Strange visitors bearing strange gifts for Jesus, now a toddler underfoot in the carpenter shop. High profile visitors that get tongues wagging once again, stirring up all the old rumours.

Vulnerability # 8 Joseph’s dream. An urgent night-time escape into Egypt – no five-star motels along the route. Herod’s power-mad blood-lust plotting extermination, blackening an already tarnished name.

Vulnerability # 9: Toddler, boyhood and youth in a carpenter shop. The creator, who by his word spoke worlds into existence, with blood dripping onto the fresh curl of shavings on the floor when he drove a splinter into his finger, earning blisters and dirty finger-nails while taking two days to fashion a stool for a peasant’s cottage. The tedium of adze, rasp and chisel.

Vulnerability #10: Return from Egypt. Memories are long. Mary’s pregnancy has not been forgotten. The stigma, in a culture where the mother was usually stoned. A virgin birth was no easier to grasp at that time then it is now, even though it had been promised.

Vulnerability # 11: The Bible does not tell us when Joseph died, but there seem to be almost no references to him after the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12. The responsibilities of eldest son to a widowed mother, probably before reaching full manhood. The carpenter shop is no longer a place to interact with an earthly father – it is a place where a youth must try to earn a living for a family – a daunting task.

Vulnerability # 12: Understanding his call – his identity – his responsibility – but still the eldest son of a widowed mother.

Vulnerability # 13 Ministry to the masses. Scorned by the religious leaders who should have first recognized him.

Vulnerability #14 A healing ministry where he somehow bears “our infirmities." Healing seems to cost him in personal, physical ways, and doubtless emotional ways as well.

Vulnerability #15 Misunderstood even by his own family. Thought insane by his brothers.

Vulnerability #16 The crowds try to take him by force and make him King. He has taught daily about the Kingdom of God, but they just don’t get it.

Vulnerability # 17 His disciples also fail to grasp the core of his message, and argue over who will be greatest in his kingdom.

Vulnerability # 18 His closest friends sleep when he has pleaded with them to watch and pray.

Vulnerability # 19 Sold for 30 pieces of silver. Betrayed by a Kiss. Denied by one of his closest followers.

Vulnerability # 20 Possessing power and authority to speak worlds into existence, he chooses to submit to the abuse, the mocking, the flogging and finally the cross.

Vulnerability # 21 Crucifixes and pictures always provide at least an undergarment, but crucifixions did not. The Creator of the Universe hanging naked before the crowds – bearing as much humiliation as human minds could conceive.

Vulnerability # 22 Rebuilding a shattered fellowship of believers after the resurrection. His closest followers were as astonished as anyone to find him alive again.

Vulnerability # 23 A commission to reach a lost world, entrusted to 12 men, many of them rough fishermen with little schooling and a track record of failure.

Vulnerability # 24 Guarding the integrity of the Word through generations and across language barriers.

Vulnerability #25 Entrusting people like you and me to continue to lift his name; continue to spread his message in this day and in our sphere of influence.

Christmas remains an incredible history-shattering event. The shadow of the cross falls across it, and the triumph of the cross as well. And still, God chooses to make himself vulnerable to the caprices of those like us who claim his name. May this season see us grasp that reality a little more firmly. May we bring true honor to his name.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Fairnes? What's fairness? - Denyse O'Leary

Over at Future Tense, some of us have been blogging about the transitions that the publishing industry is facing. For example, Wendy Nelles notes that Thomas Nelson's recent layoffs represent a 9% decline in book sales.

There have also been cutbacks at Augsburg Fortress, and here is an item on the death of print magazines. I have written on how major media in general are in the tank, and what all that means. It is to that theme that I return again today.

Essentially, young people are not reading much print media. That should not especially surprise anyone - travelling the Toronto subway, I often see young people listening to music or texting each other, but almost never see them reading newspapers or listening to regular radio. Now and then I see a young woman flapping through a fashion mag, but the fashion writers are kidding themselves if they think that she is reading their work closely.

If anyone in a given subway car is reading a book, chances are it is a Bible or a Koran, or else it is "on the lit course." I think books like the Bible and the Koran will survive, because to those who read them, they aren't just books, they're Books. Ritual surrounds their reading. At my own (Catholic) church, for example, an elaborate procession bears the Bible to the lectern and everyone stands as the priest reads (and kisses the book). Similarly, at Simcha Torah, Jews dance with the Torah. That kind of thing hasn't changed in thousands of years and I don't expect it to. But typical print culture - tabloids and fashion mags, for example - is going the way of all mere culture ... into oblivion

A possible alarming development, however, is that old media might try to survive by getting government to give them an edge against new media. This morning, American columnist George Will drew attention to this possibility:
... these worrywarts say the proliferation of radio, cable, satellite broadcasting and Internet choices allows people to choose their own universe of commentary, which takes us far from the good old days when everyone had the communitarian delight of gathering around the cozy campfire of the NBC-ABC-CBS oligopoly.
I've heard enough about this revival of a so-called "fairness doctrine" from enough different sources that I don't discount it.

Essentially, the idea of a fairness doctrine is that - to be fair - we must make sure that everyone gets equal time to make their point in each privately owned medium. The trouble is, that, historically, such a requirement means that media avoid controversy. That's because determining who should have equal time and under what circumstances becomes an unsupportable burden and a source of unaffordable litigation. More to the point, the costs of getting into broadcasting/podcasting are so low now that almost anyone with a point worth making can just make their point online. It costs nothing to start a blog here at Blogger, for example.

If government sees a need for involvement, helping minority views (for example the views of persons with a disability) would make far more sense than a fairness doctrine. Such assistance would more effectively recognize the nature of the new media universe as well.


Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Gift Of Poetry — Martin


As Christmas draws nearer it’s like we’re drawn back in time, like Ebenezer Scrooge carried magically by the ghost of Christmas past to things we remember from long ago, and those things we associate with this great celebration. This is where poetry dwells — in the associations we make in our minds, and in the part of us that makes meaning and looks for significance (for beauty, for truth, for goodness). The danger in this territory is that possibly we will settle far short of the things that really matter by contenting ourselves with the sentimentality of the season — even the religious sentimentality of a cute baby who never got diaper rash — rather than in the God of the universe on a risky foray into enemy territory.

During this Advent season, I want to encourage you to make room in your heart and mind and in your busy schedule for poetry that reflects upon the significance of the incarnation. Share such poetry with your family, with your friends; send it in an e-mail. Many Christian writers reflect on that first Christmas in their poetry (I, too, include some Christmas poetry in my new book Poiema).

One such poet, Luci Shaw, is particularly attracted to Christmas; over and over she gives us much to consider. Many of her Christmas poems have been gathered into the book, Accompanied By Angels (Eerdmans). She sent an earlier version of the following poem to me, in December, three years ago. With the permission of the poet, I include the published version for your reflection during this Advent season:

Breath by Luci Shaw

When, in the cavern darkness, the child
first opened his mouth (even before
his eyes widened to see the supple world
his lungs had breathed into being),
could he have known that breathing
trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs
as it brushes in and out through flesh
to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating,
tramping the crossroads of the brain
like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and
invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes
and toenails? Did he have any idea it
would take all his breath to speak in stories
that would change the world?

From What The Light Was Like (WordFarm, 2006)

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his new poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), and his chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed are available at http://www.dsmartin.ca/

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Preparing for Christmas - Mann


All good things need preparation. For this reason, Advent gives us four weeks to consider hope, peace, joy and love. I am considering these individually this year to lead the way into the joyful Christmas season.

Each year, our family comes home to the farm for the traditional ‘Dad’s Day in the Kitchen’. The scent of turkey and dressing filter through the house hinting of wonderful things to come. The grandkids perch on the steps alongside their stocking, to be handy for the great plunge of pulling out gloves, scarves, hats or stockings that Grandma has knit over the year Although it was great fun for ten or more kids to squirm onto the steps to get their pictures taken as a pyramid of faces from the youngest to the oldest, several of the older ones have now opted out to make room for the younger ones. All of is proof that this day too has particular preparation and blessings.

I used to do the Advent calender when the children were small and as they grew, I began different ways to enter the Christmas season. As the grandchildren came along, it seemed increasingly difficult to talk about preparing for Christmas in a consumer world of lineups, bargains and purchases.

For me personally, other people often help me prepare for the birth of Christ in my life. At Christmas, perhaps more than any other times, I feel Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. As well, Christ’s spirit of hospitality urges me to offer loving gestures. And most of all Christ’s offering of God’s love initiates action.

And maybe at Christmas more than any other time of the year, other people show me the certainty of God’s love and the surprise of God’s challenge to pass on that love through the ministry of reconciliation to those around me. Thank you, folks.

Keep in touch: www.homestead.com/the_meadows/mann.html
Take Time to Make Memories: Snippets of life
WinterGrief: A personal response to death
Aggie's Storms - the story of a Grey County girl who grow up to become the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Just the Right Word - Laycock

I am one of those people who loves words. Sometimes I’ll say a word in my mind over and over just because I enjoy the sound of it. So each day I open my e-mail with the tantalizing anticipation of receiving a new word from dictionary.com.

The other day it was actually an expression rather than one word, and it was French, our second language here in Canada. It’s an intriguing phrase that relates directly to writers – “mot juste” – literally, word just or just word. The meaning given was “a word or phrase that exactly fits the case, as in - The poet's concern for the mot juste nearly always makes his prose a thing of interest and beauty.”

Mot juste. I began to wonder, if I had to find a mot juste for God, what would it be? I quickly realized it would be a difficult task, perhaps an unending task. He has, of course, described Himself and perhaps that is where we should start. He gave himself many names – to Abraham he was El Shaddai, God Almighty, and El Olam, the God who has no beginning and no end. To Moses he was Yahweh, The LORD, “the God of your fathers.” (Exodus 3:14). David called him Yahweh Tsebaoth, the Lord of Hosts when he faced Goliath. When he built the temple, Solomon called him “Hashem,” The Name, and rejoiced that God had promised His Name would reside there and receive the prayers of the people. To Jeremiah He was Miqueh Yisrael, the Hope of Israel. In the New Testament Jesus offended the religious rulers by telling them to call God by the familiar, Abba, Father or Daddy.

Finding just one word for God is, indeed, an impossible task. His character is so vast, His essence so rich and deep that there could not be one word that would describe all of Him. But, as He Himself has shown us, in all circumstances there is a mot juste for God and that word will always make Him a God of interest and beauty. His character is multifaceted and His ways infinitely complex yet He constantly reveals Himself to us through His creation, His people and His word.
Perhaps His most dear name, to those of us this side of the cross, is simply Jesus, the One who saves. That is a mot juste that we can use and rely on and praise.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:10).

Marcia Laycock, winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award, 2006, for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Visit her website – www.vinemarc.com

Monday, December 01, 2008

Elijah Syndrome - Meyer

Audrey Guiboche, Brenda Fontaine, Angela Singh, Dana Coates and M. D. Meyer


I don't know that it is always necessarily this way but it does seem sometimes as if great "mountain top experiences" are followed by moments (or days or weeks) in the valley.

I arrived home yesterday from Winnipeg and our wonderful double book launch of Northern Writers volume 1, an anthology, and Pilot Error, a children's chapter book. It was a lot of fun and a great success. But after the 9-hour trip home yesterday, I jumped right back into work and now... Well, I feel a bit down. Not quite as bad as Elijah - he was really depressed! (read 1 Kings, 19th chapter) but a little on the down side nonetheless.

Recently, our pastor spoke about the experiences of Elijah after his great victory on Mount Carmel. God had answered his prayer in such a wonderfully miraculous way but then Elijah hit that period of depression afterwards. What our pastor spoke about was the practical needs we have as human beings for food, water and rest. A big part of Elijah's problem was that he was just plain tired. When God ministered to him, the first thing He did was to provide food and water for him. And Elijah got some much needed sleep.
And so today, I leave you with no great words of wisdom but just some very practical advice that we all need to hear sometimes and maybe particularily as we near the always extremely busy Christmas season. Take time to rest when you need it. Eat nutritious food. Drink enough water to keep your body healthy.

And now I think I'll go take my own advice...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Appreciating Who I Am

When I was a child, I had two best friends - my collection of books, and my collection of paper dolls. I was an only child whose adoptive parents were in their late thirties when I was born. Because most of their friends and relatives had children who were older than me, and because I was very thoughtful and quiet, I spent many hours alone, even in rooms filled with people.

We had no library or bookstore, so every book that entered our house became dog-eared. From the age of two, I memorized the little Golden books my parents read me and then I “read” them to myself, over and over and over again. In that way, I learned to read before I went to school. Once there, I met Dick and Jane and Sally, with their pets Spot and Puff, and found them wonderful. A Child’s Garden of Verses, Alice in Wonderland, Grimms and Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales, Peter Pan, Little Women and Little Men, the Trixie Beldon series - I read them so often that could have told each story with ease.

Along the way, I also found paper dolls. I designed new clothing for them and used them to act out stories I made up. When I was ten, I collected shirt boxes (boxes that each held about a dozen men's shirts) from my dad's clothing store and decorated them, transforming each box into a different room and connecting all the rooms with masking tape. This cardboard dollhouse covered the floor space in my bedroom. My stories became a day-to-day saga — an early version of the TV soap opera. Between reading and acting out stories with my paper dolls, for many hours each day and much of the weekend, I lived in a world of story.

Eventually, I put my paper dolls away, but the books remained. I have them still, on a special bookshelf in the midst of many more shelves filled with many more books. I still return to my old favorites when I’m feeling tired or unwell, or when I need the comfort of a familiar friend.

The stories I created for my paper dolls gradually evolved into more complex tales, captured first with pen and paper, then typewriter and finally computer. To this day, nothing gives me more enjoyment than a few hours lost in a good story, whether creating my own or reading someone else's.

Of course, there were times, particularly when I was an adolescent, that I very much resented the fact that I was alone so much. Not that I actually disliked the time I spend alone, but, when I thought about it, I found it unfair that I didn't have a brother or a sister, or even parents who could relate to me more than mine could. I never doubted my parents love for me; but my relationship with books and my endless imagination simply didn’t resonate with them. They - in particular my mother - never understood why I would choose to be alone, or how I could daydream so much. How do you explain the longing that's in your soul to create?

However, the moments when I was unhappy about being me never lasted. Even as a child, I knew that God had made me the way I was, and I assumed he had his reasons for not making me good at sports or popular or witty or beautiful. Not that I wouldn’t have minded being these things. But I had a child-like faith that I could trust him.

As I look back, I can see that my faith was justified. In his wisdom, God was sharing himself with me, giving me precious gifts that have enriched my life and enabled me to share his love with others. Every time I write a story or an article, I’m using the gifts God gave me. Each time I think of a new way to express something, I’m dipping into his great vat of creativity. I know that in those long hours of solitude I was never alone. He was with me, encouraging me, laughing with me, crying with me, giving me the gift of himself. He's with me still, at my shoulder as I write this, the only muse I'll ever need. And one day when I meet him face to face, I have a feeling that one of the best things we'll do is tell each other stories from the reservoir of creativity that flows from him.

Creativity: a gift that has existed from the beginning, the outpouring or the creator's love. A gift without end. While not everyone has been able to or would even want to use that gift the way I have been, I believe each person is born with a large measure of creativity that is just waiting for us to use it in unique ways that are appropriate for each one of us.


N. J. Lindquist frequently speaks and writes about creativity. Read her story "The Diamond Ring" in Hot Apple Cider, or her "As Each Part Does Its Work" column in the December 2008 Marantha News.

N. J.'s website is www.njlindquist.com.

N. J. blogs at:
www.njlindquist.wordpress.com
www.bluecollarwriter.woprdpress.com
www.releasethecreativeyou.wordpress.com

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Unseen Process of Change - Black

"Amazing!" "Marvellous!" "Wonderful weather ... We’ll take as much of it as we can get." Such greetings were exchanged down at the mail pick-up vestibule. The unseasonably balmy weather persisted well into fall this year, with frequent sunny days, blue skies, and gorgeous autumn hues. Fairways were well-served with shorts-and-tee-shirted golfers, and despite the chill of economic downturn, a general sense of cheerfulness floated in the air. But how soon we were walloped with a wintry onslaught, in falling temperatures and rapid accumulations of snow! Change can come so quickly, even when we're expecting it.
One expects a good level of maturity to develop in a youth, especially one from a stable home environment, but it can still be a lengthy process. Imagine: A teenage son goes to bed one night thinking that his dad’s stupid, and knows nothing. Each father-son conflict convinces the boy all the more that his dad lacks smarts. His father can’t say anything right.

They butt heads for about five years. Then the boy’s motor cycle breaks down, and he just can’t solve it. His buddies come round, yet between the whole bunch, they fail to find the solution. Eventually, he storms off with them, thoroughly ticked off with the bike. His dad arrives home and his wife tells him about the bike trouble. She hands him the ignition key. He cranks the engine, applies his ear, eyes, brain, and considerable experience to the matter, quickly zeroing in on the problem, then fixing it.

Their son arrives home to find a note taped to his bike, suggesting he try starting it again and taking it for a test ride. It is signed, "Love, Dad." The lad is incredulous when his machine roars into life at the first try, and in seconds it smoothly cruises along. Puzzled, he muses, I don’t get it. How can someone go to bed so stupid–not having a single clue–one night, then get up the next morning, and be so smart!

The relationship between father and son begins to improve. The boy’s attitude has changed so quickly, but it wasn’t just because of the fixing of the bike. Change was already in the works, as little by little, the father’s wisdom, and his consistent and generally firm, but caring ways, built up–layer upon layer–in his son’s subconscious mind, removing any sense of threat and conflict. Somehow, the process of the fellow’s maturation came to the point where he awoke to the realization that his father was much smarter than he’d given him credit for–and that he cared.

Leaves turning to the glorious shades of autumn then falling from the branch to the ground, were only the visible manifestation of a process that began when days shortened and nights turned cooler. Sap and nutrients were being drawn down from the branches through the trunk and into the root system in preparation for winter sleep and a fresh awakening in spring. Often change is in process of happening before we can visibly see its effects.

Do you hope some wholesome and good change will occur in your life or in someone you love, yet there’s little or no sign that it’s happening? Watch for little signs, keep praying, and show kindness and gratitude. You may be surprised at how quick the desired change becomes apparent.

Perhaps you’ll wake up, wonder how it all happened, and say, "Thank You, Lord!"

(First published in The Watford Guide-Advocate Nov. 27, 2008)

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Changing of the Guard - Nesdoly

Aunt Lois, Mom, Aunt Hilda - April 2004

At the beginning of 2006 our family still had four matriarchs – four sisters-in-law who had outlived four brothers, their husbands. Here are three of them, taken at my mom's 90th birthday party in 2004

Then they began slipping away. Aunt Martha died in March of 2006, my mom in June of that year, Aunt Lois in August. The last of them, Aunt Hilda, died a week ago today, eleven days after her 99th birthday.

Suddenly we're it – the oldest generation. It's a sobering thought.

Changing of the Guard

Lately the old mothers
have been slipping from their places
falling, dying
vacating strategic positions
leaving gaps
in the front line

A new generation
of matriarchs is needed
to organize the family dinners
the baby showers and the anniversaries
to send the birthday cheques

There's a call for fresh recruits
a newly commissioned troop
of kneeling warriors
arms raised in petition and praise
blessing the infants and the in-laws
interceding for the prodigals
alert watch-women
guarding the walls of the family

© 2007 - V. Nesdoly

Check out my monthly poetry column, "Poet's Classroom".

I blog about writerly topics at Line upon line, personal stuff at promptings, and daily devotions for kids at Bible Drive-Thru.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Finding God's Path - Lawrence

In Psalm 107 verse 4, we find the words: Some wandered in desert wastes; they found no way to a city where they might dwell.
Sometimes we wander around not knowing what to do. We want to write but we can’t seem to make it happen. We become frustrated and our time is wasted because we flit from one thing to another. We haven’t found our calling, our own city in which God wants us to dwell. We are desperate to find our niche; we are spiritually and creatively hungry and thirsty. We are not fulfilled.
How do we deal with this? We need to cry to the Lord and ask Him to show us what it is we are to do. Ask Him to reveal to us our vocation and the creative focus for our lives; and when we receive the answer, we must be prepared to follow through. As we follow through on the guidance that comes along, the way will be made clear; as we respond to each bit of inspiration, even if it seems like a risk, a long shot, the path will open up before us.
That is how we grow, by taking risks; that is how we come into our fulfilment, by following the path that seems to be plopped down in front of us. The path leads us to the city where we may dwell in fulfilment. We are led along the path, step by step, and along this path we are delivered out of our distress because we trust and follow where He leads. Then we will be fulfilled, live abundantly, be satisfied and live in God’s dwelling place for us.
We are lost, we ask for direction; He leads, we follow; He brings us into our own land; we give thanks. Sometimes we say this can’t be my path; that’s much too brilliant for me. But God’s paths are always more glorious than we could ever imagine for ourselves. God gives more than we could ever ask or imagine. Once we have set ourselves in His path, watch out for His wonders to be revealed.
© Judith Lawrence
Author of Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years; and Grapes From The Vine, Book of Mystical Poetry. Both available at http://www.lulu.com/
Author of Prayer Companion: A Treasury of Personal Meditation, available at Chapters and http://www.pathbooks.com/
Web Site: http://www.judithlawrence.ca/

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God Rushes In - Grove


Hubby was talking on Sunday (he does that, he's the pastor). His topic was "Biblical Holiness". I glanced around the small sanctuary, ah, two new families today, a perfect time to bring up such a nice, fluffy, easy topic like holiness.

But, this is Steve we're talking about, so I shouldn't have worried. I've never met a man like him. He's the sort of pastor who, no matter what the problem, no matter how bad things look, he will always and without fail point a gentle, steady finger toward God for the final answer.

He told us holiness is about selling out to Jesus - body, mind, and spirit. . . and material goods, and family members, and friends, and. . . and. . . and. . . all of it. We are to be empty buckets which God fills with the things He deems us stewards of (even the things He gives back to us are never truly ours - they belong to God and He entrusts us with them).

Steve told us it isn't easy. He said it is a concious decision - it won't just happen on its own. We have to want it to happen, pursue it, he said. And when we do, God rushes in.

We have only to confess our sin and God rushes in to forgive it. We have only to hand over the grubby rags of our lives and God rushes in to clothe us in white robes. We have only to pursue Him and He rushes in and shows us He has been pursuing us the entire time.

Who is this God so ready to forgive, to clean us up, to make us holy?

He is the God who, when we were yet sinners - haters of God, sent His only Son as a sacrifice so that we, who hated Him, could be given opportunity to fellowship with Him.

Let us offer up, this day, our small lives, our tiny hopes, our dull imaginations, and allow God to rush in and transform us to His likeness.

You can read Pastor Steve's sermon at: http://practicallysanctified.blogspot.com/
Bonnie Grove is the author of the upcoming book Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You (Beacon Hill Press, March 1, 2009. Her debut novel, Talking to the Dead (David C. Cook) will hit stores June 1, 2009. Learn more at www.bonniegrove.com.

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