Friday, February 29, 2008

Writing Through The Slog - Gregoire

I sometimes wonder how many writers give up because they think they're hypocrites.

You get started writing because you feel that God gave you a message, a message you want to share. You speak to others about what God has told you. You write it. You talk about it on the radio.

And then slowly, you realize that your life isn't living up to it. You're floundering. And it begins to feel like you're pretending.

I've had those moments this year, and it's been really tough. I think they're attacks, most of them, accusing us of not having the right to say anything. When you're outside of it, the answer seems obvious. God gave you the message, and the message doesn't change. The truth is still there.

But when you're inside, it can feel very hopeless. I'm sure it's the same in other areas of ministry, too: missionaries, pastors, charity work. The same whispers: how can you go out there all day and pretend to be a Christian leader, when your life is such a mess?

How many writers have we lost to this? How many pastors? How many of us have given up before our time because we feel inadequate? And the hardest part is that once you're seen as an expert, once you have a platform, to talk about any of these issues can be endangering your career.

I think we need to be free to talk about them, in our own circles, and get support. I'm not sure what that would look like. But we all go through dark periods of the soul, and these dark periods should not negate our ministry, except in the worst circumstances. They're really refining moments, when God can teach us even more, though it may not feel like at the time.

I'm emerging from a dark period right now, and I have more hope in my life and my career than I have in a long time. I can really feel God. But it can't be that feeling that keeps me going, or during the next valley I'll be attacked by self-doubt again. We must clarify our calling, so that when we start to feel attacked, the calling itself isn't at stake. That's a difficult thing to do, but I think it reinforces the need for all writers to have prayer warriors working with them and for them.

We need that support group. It's up to all of us to seek it out, because rarely will people take the initiative themselves. But we must. And then, maybe, we'll lose fewer ministry workers to self-doubt and inadequacy.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila is the author of four books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of life. She can be found at

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Divine Distributor - Wright

What can we do when our best efforts to market a book fail to elicit much response? When Evangelical Press published my book, Revolutionary Forgiveness, I had high hopes that God would use its message widely.

I felt passionately about the importance of helping individuals, couples and churches to embrace a forgiving lifestyle. As a pastor and missionary I’d seen first hand the wounds bitterness and unresolved anger can inflict.

So I wrote an easy-to-read guidebook covering all aspects of forgiveness from a biblical perspective. I illustrated each point with examples from real life. I re-wrote and revised it umpteen times. My publisher accepted the manuscript with enthusiasm and produced it in a format conducive to small group study. They even linked it to an interactive web site. I felt sure this would become my most useful book. That was 2002.

With the limited resources at my disposal, I did everything I could to promote the book. It received great reviews and sold well in the first six months. A church or two used it for small groups. A few individuals responded to the web site. Then, interest tanked. Since 2003 sales have been dismal.

“Why, Lord?” I queried. “Is my motivation wrong: am I seeking to glorify myself rather than you?” It’s so difficult to discern one’s own motives. After all, being a writer—an author—can be quite flattering. I’m rarely sure whether pride lingers in some dark closet of my mind. Only the Holy Spirit is able to expose and root out that kind of ugliness.

Marketing gurus provide a multitude of reasons why some books sell and others don’t. In the case of Christian books, there is a special factor. Sometimes they either sell or don’t due to God’s inscrutable will. When they do sell, it may be due more to God’s gracious providence than anything else.

And so through the years I’ve tried to pray, “Lord may each book on forgiveness that does sell become a blessing. May it help to reconcile an alienated couple or unite a divided church or free a bitter individual from resentment and anger. And please keep reminding me that every book sold is important.”

Then came 2008. Imagine my astonishment when the publisher sent word that 2194 books sold in the last six months of 2007.

God loves to surprise us with examples of his uncaused grace. God’s surprises aren’t meant to get us to stop using all the means at our disposal. He expects us to work hard, hone our craft and use wisdom and integrity in marketing. But sometimes our mouths hang open as we sit back and watch God work.

Eric E. Wright

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why the battle for freedom of speech concerns you

Imagine you have set up a small business offering writing and editing services. You have printed up business cards. You are proud of the fact that a number of Christian organizations have used your services, so your website and brochure lists some glowing recommendations. You are easily identified as a Christian. Then someone comes in off the street and asks you to write a brochure or a report that violates your religious beliefs. What do you do?

Maybe some members of a New Age religion have asked you to write up a brochure for the next Psychic fair in your town. You kindly tell these folks you cannot because it would go against your conscience.

They go away unhappy and lay a complaint against you before a human rights commission on the grounds that you discriminated against them on the protected ground of religion.

What if you were asked to write a brochure advocating same-sex marriage? You belong to a religious denomination that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. You refuse on conscience grounds. You find afterwards that you have a human rights complaint laid against you for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Think it can't or won't happen to you? Think you can't be targeted by activists from any range of groups that want to use the system to silence any group that is critical of them?

Take a look at this list. It is quite a litany of cases, many involving Christian expression. It is not a comprehensive list. History can and will repeat itself. That's why it is important to raise your awareness and do what you can to protect freedom of expression and freedom of religion in Canada.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Birth of a Story - Austin

It was one of those strange triggers that sets a writer’s mind off. Our grandson was sleepy in his booster seat behind us. There was just enough snow on the road to demand attention to my driving – and Grandma started an “I Spy” game. A little stream, mostly hidden under snow, passed beneath the road – and suddenly my mind was weaving a story. I entered into the game a bit, but for some reason my wife thought I should watch the road. Like most males, I’m not great at multi-tasking. But usually I can drive while my mind toys with words. The “I Spy” game led to another game that got us mostly home. I entered into the second game more than the first, but my mind kept gnawing at the story idea. We dropped our grandson off at his parents and headed the next couple of kilometers home. We unloaded the van and puttered at a few little chores – then finally – I grabbed a clipboard and made a dash for the bathroom.

I wonder how often the first words of great stories are written while sitting on the throne?
Bathrooms are not the most inspirational places in the world, and toilets are not the most comfortable seats, so I didn’t linger long, but that story idea had already taken on an identity.

Those first paragraphs were enough to begin to channel and focus the creative juices. There is an urgency to first paragraphs. I don’t pretend to understand it. I have had those moments before when some brilliant idea is demanding my mind’s attention, but I cannot or will not give in to it. Later, when I try to recall even the germ of the idea, all the magic is gone. But with a few words down on paper, there is a sense that something has come to birth.

Supper, devotions, dishes and feeding the dog all intervened before I peeked in the cradle again. There was a hunger in me – but no sense of panic. The birth had happened. Now, there was feeding and nurturing, that delightful adventure of learning the personality of an infant story – of waiting to see if it would be a strong-willed story that would wrest control from the author and go in places he never imagined – or would it be compliant, cooing and smiling and responding to the author’s will at every point?

Research will include the retreat of the ice from the last ice-age as well as the meanderings of the Saugeen river – and little tidbits of history along that river.

Two hours began a story that even in its rough, first draft, delights and astonishes me – for it is a genre that I don’t write.

He had been born as the great ice-sheets reluctantly retreated north. Just
months after Caledon Mountain thrust its bony spine up to the sky, he woke to
the chill tickle on his tummy as he rolled down an icicle. That was his very,
very first memory. When he hung for a moment over a big empty space he wasn’t
old enough to be scared. And when he stretched all out of shape, then suddenly
broke away, he had gasped with astonishment, then giggled when he plinked into a
little puddle. . .

A drip in a puddle: “A Child’s History of the Saugeen River” has been born – though the working title may not be the one registered on the birth certificate. Time will determine that.
Brian Austin

Monday, February 25, 2008

In Praise of Transitions - Schneider

Experienced writers will tell you that one of the key components of good writing is the transition. The way in which a story moves the reader between scenes, time frames or points of view is crucial to its success. The best transitions are those of which the reader remains unaware.

I’m discovering that I want the transitions in my “real life” to be just as subtle. The transition between winter and spring here in Northern Alberta lasts for two to three months, and always puts me on edge. One day will be sunny, beautiful (and sloppy) and the next several a repeat of winter weather. I want to stamp my feet and just whine. “Sunshine already!”

Both of my children are in transition phases, as well. (Are children ever not in transition in some way?) There are days when it seems the lessons and values we’re trying to pass along are actually making a difference. There are other days when we seriously wonder if anything we’ve said has made an impact.

As a military spouse, a huge transition comes my way about every third year, as we prepare to move to a different community, often even a different side of the country. Much preparation goes into the move, leaving me with a “neither here nor there” feeling for weeks at a time. I just want to go unconscious until the whole process is over.

However, if I’ll let them, these transitions can be vivid pointers toward Heaven. Scripture tells us that we are just travellers on this earth, that nothing we see, have or experience here is permanent. We are in the ultimate transition. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote that all of creation groans and travails with us until we’re all renewed together in the likeness of the One who created us.

Travail ... yes, that word brings to mind the most dramatic transition of my life, one which I’ve experienced twice, and which many women will tell you is not even remotely enjoyable. It’s the phase of labour just prior to the baby actually being born. It follows hours of pain (for many of us, anyway), and is the prelude to the incredible intense physical effort of pushing. I remember my prenatal instructor telling me, months before the experience that “transition” is when the labouring mother most wants to give up, when the job of getting this baby into the world feels endless and unendurable. She said those feelings were supposed to remind me that the job was almost done, that very soon, I’d be holding my little one. And she was right. I did want to give up. I did feel as if I couldn’t handle another moment of agony. And I was within an hour of meeting my child face to face, an hour away from all the struggle and pain fading into insignificance as I cuddled my little one close.

That’s what I need to remember when the other earthly transitions make me want to weep with frustration or give up the effort to stay true to the path my Father puts before me. Transition means change is happening, even if I can’t see it. Transition means the really good part is almost here. Transition reminds me that Heaven is but a whisper away.

Janelle Schneider

Friday, February 22, 2008

Situations That Challenge - Lawrence

Marianne Williamson, in her book, The Gift of Change, says that whatever situation we find ourselves in presents us with a lesson that shows us our next step forward. When I ended up in the hospital on my 70th birthday, I have to admit that I had to search deep within me to find the lesson God was asking me to learn.

Being presented with sudden blindness in one eye because my blood thinners caused me to bleed into that eye was difficult to handle. A further difficulty presented itself in that because I had to cut down on my blood thinners to prevent bleeding there was a possibility that I could have a stroke. I had plenty of time to think and pray back then, in November, as I couldn’t read or do crossword puzzles and I was tied to my bed by an intravenous so I couldn’t do much walking about or visiting others.

Writing is important to me and, I believe, it is God’s calling for me, I had to look hard to see what God was asking of me. Was God asking me to give up writing as a sacrifice to the Divine glory? I could do it if I had to but I think that God would ask me this only if there was something else to take its place. During the eight days of being in the hospital I did not come to any conclusion of God’s next assignment for me but I kept searching and hoped God would make it clear to me in due time. Of course, patience is always a lesson I can learn more about so that’s what I have concentrated on.

As the weeks have gone by my eye sight is improving and my blood results are stabilising. Practically, I have learned that I can read the computer screen if I make the font larger; and that I can read and do crossword puzzles if I have a good light. Because I can do these things, I realise that I can also continue to write. I have a lot of writing stored in my computer files and, over the last few days I have begun to look at what I have and to see whether I can expand on it and make it into another book of meditations.

Before my loss of vision, my writing had grown stale and I was perhaps even a little bored with it all. When I was faced with the loss of writing I became more aware of its value to me and others. This event woke me up to the gifts God has given me; and brought me to realise that there is a lot yet to be done for God’s glory. Thank you, God, for the opportunity to grow in wisdom, grace, and patience; and to discover the gift in change.

Judith Lawrence

Author of Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years and Grapes from the Vine: Book of Mystical Poetry available at

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Will Blogs Replace Newspapers and Magazines? - O'Leary

At a number of writers' groups, a real concern is the way newspapers and magazines increasingly want the writer to give up all rights for little or no compensation. That's a real problem for writers who republish their work. For example, my first book, Faith@Science, was entirely republished work, largely from ChristianWeek.

However, I think that blogs are making such a dent in the circulation of print publications that the real question for a writer is how to make money blogging - in which case you may not need to give up any rights. Far from it, you can turn your blog into a book - and then sell your book via the blog, as Canadian blogging queen Kathy Shaidle does.

Here are some thoughts on making money blogging:

1. See if you can get someone to pay you. I get paid to blog at some blogs (Design of Life blog and ID Report). The site sponsors sell books, basically.

There is a natural affinity between non-fiction books and blogging. Authors can use the blog to keep up with news that relates to the topics you write books about. But many book authors or retailers do not have the time. It makes sense to hire the job out to someone who knows the area and writes in an interesting way.

Bear in mind that you will need to agree with the blog's owner about who owns the content you prepare. I make different agreements depending on the type of content.

2. Ask people to donate to your blog. They can do so via PayPal. Kathy Shaidle does that. I don't, but my blogs exist to support my books, and I get royalties.

3. If you blog at Blogger, sign up for Adsense and allow ads on your blog. Blogger's system puts ads on your blog that are relevant to your topics by monitoring key words. Thus, if you wrote about skiing, you'd probably get ads for ski wear. Check my two blogs, The Post-Darwinist (supports By Design or by Chance? )and The Mindful Hack (suppoorts The Spiritual Brain), and see what ads Blogger's software has chosen. Each time I earn over $100, I get a cheque. So far, I've had two of them. No, not a huge amount of money, but why leave money sitting on the table? And as readership grows, the amount tots up faster.

Of course, most blogs, like this one, are a community service. But as blogs increasingly become a major way people get content that they used to buy magazines and newspapers for, we will need to be creative3 in replacing the lost income from print sources

Here are some recent stories I've written at my two blogs, The Post-Darwinist and The Mindful Hack

Insulting Canadianness anyone?

Hate crimes against religions: Wh’s really at risk?

A philosopher faces death via mysticism

Christianity Today features news item on young astronomer denied tenure

What kind of evolution does the Pope support? Is his associate Christoph, Cardinal Schoeborn trying to rehabilitate Teilhard de Chardin?

Toddlers as Neanderthals?: Evolutionary psychology hits the affluent parent set

Fun sendup and straight talk about
evolutionary psychology

Denyse O'Leary

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Seedy Consolation - Wegner

In a kind of “thumbing of the nose” to winter, garden seeds have appeared at the local grocery stores. Recently those colourful harbingers of spring, standing erect in their private display case positioned next to the bakery counters, gave me cause to stop and dream. As if the mouth-watering fragrance of fresh-from-the-oven rye bread wasn’t enough, it was the sight of impending flower patches and succulent cherry tomatoes that stopped me dead in my tracks.

The bread I might resist; the seeds, I could not.

Ambling through the aisles of imported fruit and winter-storage potatoes, I found myself dreaming of crisp carrots, dew-dripping lettuce and snappy peas. After all, is there anything more soul-stirring than those little paper promises of summer in the dead of winter? No matter if winter consists of leaden-grey skies, incessant rains or bone chilling temperatures of -50 with the wind chill, I mused, the hope of harvest springs eternal in the hearts of those who love working in the dirt.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of the display was the variety. Packets of petunias and parsley, carrots, calendula, spinach and sorrel competed for space next to wild flowers, green peas, pole beans, or golden corn. Tucked above, below and next to them was an array of herbs. While thyme and basil vied for space between alyssum and beefsteak tomatoes, the ever-present zucchini and summer squash asserted their presence. It was enough to make the head swim and the imagination salivate.

I continued shopping but only by a deliberate act of the will, an organized grocery list, and familiarity with the store’s layout. On the outside I picked up milk and yogurt; inside my head, I was planning where to sow the spinach and the cucumbers. This mental preparation of summer salads and pickled beets nearly - but not quite - braced me for what seems to be a weekly increase in the price of next Sunday’s roast. “See,” I told myself, “You really should consider becoming a vegetarian.”

After tossing in the last tin of tuna and a tube of toothpaste, I chatted briefly with the clerk about…I’m not quite sure...then headed out the door. I sighed, allowing my thoughts to return to the garden and a few related issues.

“The trellis the neighbourhood kids wrecked last summer- actually they wrecked it twice - needs to be repaired,” I mused, mentally starting yet another list. “Hubby may as well paint it at the same time. Come to think of it, he might as well extend the cage for new raspberry shoots at the same time…and prepare a new frame for peas because we really should plant more this year.” The variety of chores that came to mind was matched only by the multiplicity of garden seeds motivating this train of thought.

”Hope spring eternal” someone wrote and it’s true. The most bitter of winters creates its own kind of hope for another season. So, tomorrow - or maybe in a month or two - I’ll face the realities of moisture and temperature levels, bugs and slugs, and the myriad of moulds just waiting to suck the life from my crop. But, not right now. Today, grocery bags in my hand, I am transported to another place, aided by thoughts of the beans and berries I froze in balmier times.

And to my fellow writers: May the chill of writers’ block and letters of rejection be replaced by the warmth of God’s approval on our words.

Linda Wegner

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

God Before Time - Clemons

One thing I’ve given a bit of thought to lately, is the working of God within time. As any physics teacher will tell you, time is a function of mass, motion and gravity. Time is not a constant. It changes the faster you go, or with the less gravity you have. But mass, motion and gravity are creations of God. He’s not subject to their machinations. God sits outside time, looking in.

Which brings mwe to my subject. I frequently talk to fledging writers who want to know why it takes so long to get published. Many, like myself, truly believe they are called to write. Like me, they expect to earn money at it—it is, after all, a vocation not an avocation. They pray and believe God is going to use their words to change the world, but they write, and write, and send out one proposal after another, and then complain that while they believe they’re doing God’s will, God isn’t answering their prayers, and they start to think about giving up.

It’s a matter of faith, I tell them. You have to believe in spite of what you see.

I try not to leave them with the usual glib answers. I’m sure you’ve heard them all: “Your faith is too weak. If you believed with the faith of a mustard seed you could ask anything and it would be done for you,” or, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for to ask anything of God you must first believe He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” It’s true, if you pray but you don’t really believe God hears and answers, forgetaboutit.

Or how about this one. “You ask and receive not because you seek to heap it after your own lust.” True again. If you’re praying that you sell enough books to buy a $750,000 house with a Ferrari in the drive and have money left over to pay your bills and take a European vacation, your asking God to provide you with earthly goods when He says we should be storing our treasures in heaven, so again, you’re prayers probably aren’t going to be heard. But I haven’t met anyone doing this.

Then there’s the verse in James that says the prayer of a righteous man avails much. True, you do need to be righteous, at least in the sense that you’re right with God, that you’ve confessed every sin and are truly seeking to do His will.

But what if you’ve practiced all of the above but still feel your prayers haven’t been heard?

Well maybe the missing ingredient is time. We don’t work on God’s clock. My pastor, Rod Hembree, recently put it this way: “Sometimes we pray, and God starts to answer, but we interrupt Him mid-sentence.” In other words, God may be right in the middle of working out the answer to our prayers, when we give up.

If you don’t think it’s true consider this: just about every old testament saint, all those we learned about in Sunday School, waited years for the promise of God to be fulfilled in their lives.

Abraham was told he would have a son, but he was ninety before it finally happened. As a boy Joseph was told his bothers would bow down to him, but before he saw it come to pass he had to endure slavery and imprisonment for at least twenty years. God preserved Moses’ life from his birth but he was eighty years old when he was finally called to lead the children of Israel. David was a young man when he was selected by God to be King over Israel, but even after slaying Goliath he had to endure many years of being chased by Saul before God actually fulfilled the promise.

The problem is we become impatient with God. We want our prayers answered now, not sometime in the future. God, on the other hand, sits outside time. He sees the end from the beginning. He already knows how and when He’ll answer our prayers. For Him, it’s a matter of patiently putting up with our impatience until He knows we’re ready.

Is a limited view of time the missing ingredient in our faith formula? I don’t know, but I can say that we do well when we remember it’s not about us, it’s about Him: for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Philippians 2:13

Keith Clemons

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Am Not Called to be a Christian Writer - Hall

The journey I have been on for the past couple of years has led me to come to that rather startling pronouncement. Three years ago our church went through Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose using his book The Purpose Driven Life - which you have heard of, I am sure.

The book surprised me. It asked probing questions. It changed my thinking about a lot of things. If I could be so bold, I could say that it changed my life. One of its more astonishing pronouncements was that we have no other calling than to worship God. None. I balked at that at first. Naturally I did. I am a Christian writer. It's what I do. and yes, I argued, it's a 'calling'. And besides, it's cool to tell people that I'm called to be a Christian writer.

And then God led me through some very difficult times. Even my very writing, it seemed, was in jeopardy. I began to realize that Rick Warren might be right. If suddenly I could no long write, God could cast me aside as useless trash if my only calling was to be a Christian writer. I began to learn that maybe, just maybe, I'm supposed to worship God, and that is it. My writing, my vocation, is unimportant compared to my relationship with God.

Now, suddenly I am hearing that message everywhere. A small group I'm involved in is studying Larry Crabb's Soul Talk. He refers to C.S. Lewis' First Things and Second Things. The First Thing is worship of God. Second things are everything else - families, jobs, artistic abilities, hobbies and even the good things we do for others.

My husband and I listen to the sermons of Dr. Tim Keller (See He talks about Good Things and Ultimate Things. A Good Thing would be my writing. The Ultimate Thing is my relationship with God. He argues that if we make idols of Good Things, we miss The Ultimate Thing.

Look at Job. In one day, he lost all of his Second Things, his Good Things, but learned that God could be trusted, that God was the only person who could be trusted. God was a First Thing.

Yes, I will continue to write. It's what I do best. It's what I enjoy. But it's no longer my "Calling": I'm trying to give that to God.

(The picture at the side is my husband, Rik, sitting in Einstein's lap, taken on a recent trip to Washington DC.)

Linda Hall

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Good Friday Goodbye - Hird

What a joy to celebrate twenty years of the existence of the Deep Cove Crier. I remember twenty years ago when Wilf Fawcett of Fawcett Insurance approached me about becoming a columnist for the Deep Cove Crier. Wilf wrote a DCC insurance article for many years before retiring.

I had no idea when I agreed to start that I would be still writing for the Deep Cove Crier twenty years later. As I have mentioned to Bruce Coney the DCC Publisher, my recent award-winning book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’ is a direct fruit of sharpening my skills by month-in, month-out writing for the Seymour/Deep Cove Community. Thank you, Bruce and Gail, for opening this door in my life.

Writing and books have a tremendous influence on all of our lives. Sometimes the most powerful writing we do is when we say ‘Goodbye.’ Most eulogies at funerals are an opportunity to say Goodbye, to pay our last regards. Most of us say ‘goodbye’ thousands of times in our lives. Saying goodbye to our loved ones is always the hardest. As most of us are immigrants to Canada within the past number of generations, we know the story of how hard it was for ourselves, our parents or grandparents to leave our homeland and come to this strange land named Canada. My Nana Allen was born in Canada, but she still called England the mother country. She longed deeply for a land that she never saw until she turned 80. When the Irish left Ireland to come to the new world, many of their relatives had a wake, in effect burying them as dead.

Unless we learn to say goodbye from our hearts, we can never move forward in our lives. Many people will never let go. They easily become bitter, discouraged, and even physically ill. Letting go and letting God is not just a slogan. It is a vital key to restoring health in the 21st Century.

Jesus said ‘Blessed are those who mourn/grieve for they shall be comforted.’ Saying goodbye is the heart of genuine, healthy living. The term ‘goodbye’ is an English contraction of the phrase ‘God be with you!’ Why were our ancestors always saying ‘goodbye’ to each other? Because they wanted God to be with them. What better gift can we give each other that the gift of God being with them?

This month, we remember Good Friday and Easter. Jesus had to say goodbye on Good Friday before he could say ‘hello’ on Easter Sunday. Why did Jesus leave his best friends on Good Friday? He left them because he loved them and wanted God to be with them. As Jesus hung on the cross, he said ‘Goodbye’: “Into your hands I commit my spirit’. Jesus knew that unless he let go and surrendered to the cross, there would be no way forward. The resurrection joy of Easter Sunday is a direct result of Jesus saying goodbye on Good Friday. My prayer for you this Easter is the words ‘goodbye.’ May you discover this Easter that God is really with you, that you are deeply loved.

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

Previously published in the March 2008 Deep Cove Crier

Friday, February 15, 2008

Integrity - Martin

When I’m observing an artist’s creation — poet, novelist, musician, movie maker — I often consider the question of integrity. Regardless of who they are, artists need to strive for what I call artistic integrity. Does the piece aspire to excellence when compared with others who do similar work?

When reviewing other poets’ writing, I apply the same standards that I challenge myself to attain, with my poetry. As Music Critic for Christian Week, I consider various aspects of musicianship, song writing, production, and originality. In that role I seek to tell readers about music that is worth checking out, rather than telling them what to avoid. What makes this CD stand out from others in the same genre? Why would this be a good album to purchase?

Particularly if an artist is a Christian, there’s another aspect of integrity I believe must be considered. I call it spiritual integrity. Does the work fit within a Christian world view? Would God be glorified by the content? Although artists shouldn’t feel they need to preach the gospel or kingdom values, they should not, intentionally or unintentionally, undermine them either.

In evaluating the artistic and spiritual integrity of art, we’re not likely to all agree, but I believe we each need to fix our minds on what we believe such integrity looks like. I believe in expecting high standards from believers artistically, and even higher standards spiritually. As children of the creator, creativity should be a high value — but we should reserve the toughest criticism for our own art.

And so we ask... How should a novelist portray evil? Does she have spiritual integrity if immoral behaviour by her characters is seen as acceptable, or even as exciting? Does she have artistic integrity if bad things only seem to happen to bad people? To what degree should believers be portrayed as being sinful, or even hypocritical? What’s the difference between being judgmental and being discerning? Should a Christ-follower openly question God through his poetry?

Beyond our art, we also need to express our integrity in our lives — being encouragers, being servants, being men and women of prayer, loving our spouses and children by actions as well as words. Integrity is what we’re called to; people of integrity is who we are.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day - Aarsen

I have a box of chocolate hearts in my house that I bought for Valentine's Day. I love my husband and I know he loves me, but I also know that purchasing flowers or chocolate for a day that falls, this year, in the middle of a working week falls below buying an orbit motor for his maintainer but barely above buying bottled water. I learned this after many years of marriage. I also learned not to turn Valentine's Day, or my birthday, or Christmas or our anniversary, into a test of his affection for me. He is a pragmatic man and the purchase of yet another consumable that usually comes over packaged is just such a waste for him. If I want chocolates or flowers, I buy them myself. This system works for both of us. I have the things I like and he's off the hook. I have had it said that maybe that's why I write romances as well as women's fiction. So I can live out my fantasies and create the kind of man I would like to be married to. Possibly. However, I also like to think that in my books, my hero is a man much like my husband. Pragmatic and yet with enough romance in him to satisfy my readers. My heroes are the kind of men who buy garage door openers for their sweetheart's birthday. My heroes are the kind of men who are baffled when faced with women's tears, but will learn, like my husband has, to simply hug, pat on the back and keep the questions to a vague, "How are you doing?" Maybe they'll buy flowers, if I let them. But the most important aspect of my men is that their heart might not be on their sleeve, but like my husband, it is in the right place. And every time I push that button on my visor and that door to my garage magically opens, I love my husband just a little bit more.

Carolyne Aarsen

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Small Treasure - Laycock

I have a treasure on my shelf. A friend bought it for me at an antique shop a few years ago. It’s a small book, leather-bound and gold embossed, called Trench’s Study of Words. Dr. Trench, an Anglican priest, gave a series of lectures to students at “The Diocesan Training School, Winchester,” which were later put into book form. Apparently it sold quite well. I have a copy of the seventeenth edition, published in London in 1878. I googled the title of this little book and was surprised to discover you can still purchase a copy of it, though not a leather-bound edition, at Perhaps the longevity of Dr. Trench’s work has to do with the fact that he was a man who valued the worth of words. He also valued the Bible.

In his introductory lecture Dr. Trench negates the possibility that language was an accident of human nature, that man invented language himself from “rude imperfect beginnings,” as was put forth by the “urang-utang theory” beginning to gain prominence at the time. No, Dr. Trench assures us, “The truer answer to the inquiry how language arose is this: God gave man language just as he gave him reason and just because He gave him reason. For what is man’s word but his reason coming forth that it may behold itself. They are indeed so essentially one and the same that the Greek language has one word for them both. He gave it to him because he could not be man, that is, a social being, without it.”

Yet man did not begin with a fully formed vocabulary, Trench states - “He did not thus begin the world with names but with the power of naming: for man is not a mere speaking machine; God did not teach him words, as one of us teaches a parrot from without; but gave him a capacity and then evoked the capacity which He gave.”
Dr. Trench goes on to link the agency of man with the divine will of God. God brought the animals to Adam; Adam gave them names.

As I read this passage in Dr. Trench’s book I was amazed again at the grace and mercy of our God – the One who created us to be social beings, the One who gave us language, the One who gave us “the power of naming” and then “evoked the capacity.” And I am made aware, again, of the responsibility we carry as writers, yet the simplicity and creativity of God’s design in giving us this power. As our reason goes forth in language to “behold itself,” may that enlightenment truly be, so that we also behold Him. May we use the power He has given us for the enrichment of others, for our pleasure, and all to His glory.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Learn All You Can - Meyer

“Learn all you can from the mistakes of others. You won’t have time to make them all yourself.” – Alfred Sheinwold

I have often threatened to write a book about all the things you shouldn’t do to become a successful author. Yes, I do have enough material to fill a whole book!

At a recent book launch, I told my audience, largely composed of former writing students, of one thing that I had done that they should never do. Back when I first conceived of writing a series of books, I set myself a challenge: the last three words of one book would be the first three words of the next book. I did this (a) because I like a challenge, (b) because my books were being published out of sequence and I had some notion that a person would be able to “link” my books together in chronological order even if they couldn’t do that using a copyright date and (c) because I like a challenge.

As I teach, mentor and edit, I always strongly encourage writers to have a great “hook” at the beginning of their book. The first few words are what will draw the reader in or make them set the book down and pick up the next one on the shelf. After the first few words of a book, the second most important thing is the last few words of a book. I still remember the last line of a book I read as a child: The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: “It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far far better place I go than I have ever gone.”

I suppose part of the reason that I made so many mistakes, especially early on in my career, was that I was almost exclusively self-taught. I did have access to some books about writing from our very small local library but for the most part, it was a case of trial and error.

I had been writing in virtual isolation for six years before I attended my first writer’s conference. It was the first time I had ever met an editor, the first time I had met an agent, the first time I had rubbed shoulders with other authors. I was so blown away! And what amazed me the most was that I found out that what had taken me six long years to learn on my own, I could have learned in three days through the wonderful workshops and classes that were a part of the conference!

I was so excited by this that I gathered my courage up, went home, put together everything I had learned (the hard way) and began preparing writing classes so that other aspiring authors could learn about writing without having to go through the trial and error process that I had gone through.

So this is my message to all of you out there who may be thinking about writing or have started to write. Don’t struggle alone. Even if there are no writing classes or writer’s groups near where you live, there is an organization that is here for you. The Word Guild can be a support to you wherever you are in this very large country of ours.

Write! Canada is a conference held every year in June in southern Ontario. It’s a great time to learn from the mistakes - and successes - of other authors. For more information about Write! Canada and the other services that The Word Guild has for you, check out their site at

Dorene Meyer

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Man of La Mancha on Valentine's Day 2008 - Hird

My car has the delightful tendency to break down, when it is most inconvenient financially and socially. As a result, I’ve had the privilege of becoming good friends with our local mechanic who massages my car back into life. While visiting our local auto shop, I told our mechanic Cec that I was writing a Deep Cove Crier article on Don Quixote. He chuckled and said: "Wasn’t that the guy that tilted at windmills?"

As a child, I read a comic book version of Don Quixote, and concluded that he was a total fool to go chasing after windmills. Thirty-five years later, I’ve observed that many of us as adults end up chasing after windmills in business, politics, relationships, or sports. One of those windmills is twisting ourselves into a knot, trying to have the perfect marriage relationship. Anne Wilson Shaef, a well-known 12-Step writer, comments that relationships are always better in the abstract, and that reality is the stuff that ruins what dreams are made of. Her counsel is that when we let go of what marriage should be and let marriage be what it is, we can have a chance for marriage to be what it can be.

My wife and I went to a Marriage Encounter weekend a number of years ago, and have since written each other hundreds of letters, sharing our feelings about our daily joys and challenges. We both feel that this method of written dialogue has been a tremendous benefit in bringing greater sensitivity and communication in our thirty-year marriage. One of the most powerful metaphors that has been used in the Marriage Encounter weekend is in the exploration of the relationship between Don Quixote and Dulcinea. If you’ve never seen the award-winning Broadway musical and Hollywood movie Man of La Mancha, I recommend that you and your spouse rent or borrow it in the near future. There is something about those songs that stir me every time I hear them, especially To Dream the Impossible Dream, Dulcinea, and Aldonza.

Peter O’toole does a brilliant performance as Don Quixote, a skinny old gentleman with wispy white hair and a care-worn face, a seeming mad-man who dreams the impossible dream of restoring love and gallantry to everyday relationships. Sophia Loren memorably lives out the character of Aldonza, a sullen and abused kitchen-wench, who is transformed into Dulcinea by Quixote’s unfailing respect.

The so-called sexual revolution of the 1960’s was supposed to remove barriers that kept people from reaching their full potential. Instead it slowly eroded an appreciation for the sanctity of the marriage relationship, and often left women more vulnerable to abuse and abandonment. Don Quixote symbolizes a recovery of chivalry and mutual respect in the male-female relationship. Upon encountering Aldonza, Don Quixote sings: "I have dreamed thee too long, never seen thee or touched thee but know thee with all of my heart. Half a prayer, half a song, thou has always been with me, though we have always been apart, Dulcinea...Dulcinea". Don Quixote repeatedly speaks blessing into Aldonza’s life, calling her Dulcinea (meaning sweetness).

Despite her rejection of his love, Don Quixote still keeps speaking into her life with patience and gentleness. Again and again Quixote reaffirms that the male-female marriage relationship is far more than just physical: it is a spiritual reality, an experience of one flesh intimacy. That is why Quixote, the Man of La Mancha, sings: "I see heaven when I see thee, and thy name is like a prayer an angel whispers, Dulcinea...I have sought thee, sung thee, dreamed thee, Dulcinea". Because of how deeply Aldonza has been hurt by other men, it seems almost impossible that she could ever learn to trust again. She struggles between the fear that Don Quixote is just an old fool and the faint hope that he might indeed be her knight in shining armour.

At one point in the movie, Quixote’s relatives try to take him away from Aldonza, claiming that he is mad. The priest pauses and says: "One might say that Jesus was mad, or St. Francis." In one sense, Don Quixote functions as a Christ-figure, one who gives his life for others, even though dismissed as insane by his own family (Mark 3:21). In another sense, Don Quixote symbolizes the faithful pilgrim, like Francis of Assisi, who saw so clearly through the hypocrisy of his age that he was rejected as a "fool for Christ"(1 Corinthians 4:10). Either way, Don Quixote reminds us as men that sometimes we have to humble ourselves and look foolish, if we really want our marriages to blossom.

Don Quixote was shameless in his affirming of Dulcinea. In response, she cynically said: "Your heart doesn’t know much about women". Instead of giving up, Quixote gently responded: "Woman is the soul of man, the radiance that lights his way. Woman is glory". Dulcinea was deeply afraid that he would just use her and discard her, like all the rest. She said to him: "What do you want of me?" As a true errant knight, Quixote said: "I ask of my lady that I may be allowed to serve her, that I may hold her in my heart, that to her I may dedicate each victory and call upon her in defeat, and if at last I give my life, I give it in the sacred name of Dulcinea."

Gradually Dulcinea melts in the face of Don Quixote’s gentleness and patience. She sings: "Can’t you see what your gentle insanities do to me? Rob me of anger and give me despair. Blows and abuse I can take and give back again, Tenderness I cannot bear."

Tenderness is what we most need in our marriages today. Tenderness is what will heal the deepest wounds. Tenderness is a gift of love from the heart of Jesus himself. May Don Quixote’s gentle insanities give each of us hope for our marriages in the days and years ahead.

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

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Double Blessing - Mann

My first grandchild is being married this month. This event has stirred my thoughts. What does a Grandma give her granddaughter and name-sake for a wedding present? Something that will last forever? Or perhaps money that she can spend or choose to save? Maybe an heirloom or a piece of jewellery that has been in the family?

I began to think about making her something with my hands. I used to sew—perhaps I could make a quilt. I became quite excited about this, which later took me to the fabric shop. Colours, textures, diagrams and patterns darkened my passion creating an almost impossible maze. Yet, I persevered and began to choose shades that enhanced each other. The clerk suggested a reversible quilt that I could do on the sewing machine. This sounded perfect as I didn’t have the room to set up quilting frames, nor did I have the time or knowledge to quilt. I went home that day with a large yellow bag filled with countless fabrics, eager to cut and piece together the blocks to shape a chocolate-shaded queen size quilt, “with just the right colour of orange, Gran.”

As I cut the quilt bat, placed the coloured triangles in place and continued to build the blocks with the assorted colours, I began to think how much this exercise was like writing. Every block represented a well-chosen word. The strip of cloth framing the quilt block reminded me of phrases and statements that connect thoughts, taking the reader further into the plot. After laying the blocks out on a large surface, it was easy to see when an overused colour was in the wrong place distorting the imagery. How often does that happen in writing where a favourite word or concept becomes over-kill? The colour and strength of thread carefully woven through the large piece of handiwork is not unlike the importance of vision and passion that holds a long effort of writing together.

I have put the squares together showing the quilt in all its glory. And I marvel how often important dreams start with little things. And reversible? Yes, it ends up that in the end I have two quilts, two different colour concepts, back to back. I agree that this was very ambitious for me at a time when I was busy with family illness, church leadership and writing. Yet, I inserted stitches into the cloth with prayer, placing the colours side-by-side asking for peace and love within this marriage. Working with so many colours, I soon realized how forgiving the pattern was to my mistakes - again a perfect image of a good marriage.

The droning sound of my 40-year-old Elna sewing machine motor reminded me that my granddaughter would have noisy and overbearing life-problems not unlike those I’ve had through fifty years of marriage. The push and pull of moving a 1400 piece quilt through the arm of the sewing machine illustrated how awkward some situations would be, creating their own tension.

And I smile as I think of this reversible quilt. Two sided! One for her and one for him. But they have to be together to enjoy this benefit. Most of all, I thought of how this quilt would be the mantle, the covering of God’s love – perhaps a double blessing.

Donna Mann
Author of WinterGrief: a personal response to grief and Aggie's Storms, the story of a girl who grew up to become the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Self-Denial - Dawson

Growing up in a family of six meant mealtimes tended to be a bit of a case of survival of the fittest. My parents did their best to put food on the table and I don’t ever remember going hungry. While unknown to us at the time, they sometimes found themselves without a meal; we children certainly had no shortage. And even still we had a ‘me first’ attitude right from our youngest years. I remember my father talking about a need for medicine for it and by the time I was four, even I knew what was coming.

“Yup. You kids need a pill. A sulfa-denial pill.”

We’d groan at the cheesy humour but it was usually enough to make us step back and think about our actions.

Too bad self-denial didn’t really come in pill form. It would be so convenient. Just think. Christmas dinner. You have a banquet laid out before you but you know the doctor wants you to lose weight. Oh it’s so hard! You grab your bottle of pills out of your coat pocket, pop one quickly and presto! Self-denial kicks in and you don’t eat all those yummy things that are bad for you.

Or you sit in your car outside that store. You know you shouldn’t go in. There are products and books in that store that aren’t fit for human eyes. It’s a place where Jesus wouldn’t want you to go. The pill slips down your throat and you shift the car into gear and drive off.

Maybe it’s one of those days when your kids are driving you batty and nothing would please you more than to scream at the top of your lungs until you collapse with the stress relief that shouting brings. There goes that self-denial pill again and suddenly you’re the perfect parent—calm, patient and eager to spend the extra time playing with those little darlings of yours.

Life’s not that simple though. I wish it was. I’d have my cupboards stacked with bottles of self-denial pills. Pills that would help me keep my cool when the people in my world aren’t doing exactly what I’d like them to do. Pills that would keep me from dipping into the refrigerator unnecessarily or out of the clothing store (or the tack shops in my case). Pills that would erase my complacencies. Pills that would take my mind off that last task that calls to me with a voice as loud as the one that my heavenly Father uses when He wants moments with me. Pills that would calm me when I read the news and discover that yet another heinous crime has been committed and the perpetrator has walked away with a slapped wrist. Wait a minute! Pills like that would clean up our justice system. Our world.

But they don’t exist. And so it is up to us to practice the art of self-denial. When we view something we shouldn’t look at or read something we shouldn’t allow into our minds, it is our responsibility to turn the channel or close the book. When we look temptation in the face it is our job to say ‘You cannot have me! I won’t be taken!’ When we put our work before God—or our loved ones—it is our place to recognize and set aside those things that would build those walls.

As we write, let us always remember the sulfa-denial pill. In all we do, as believers, with God’s help, we must strive to sacrifice self for the sake of Christ’s work. If that means not writing a piece, then it is up to us to pass it by. If it means putting to pen words that may not be warm and fuzzy then that is our calling and self must not interfere. If it means sitting back and assessing our writing perspective and our priorities then self had better not get in the way.

Who knows, some day, the medical world may come up with a self-denial pill.
Until then it is up to us.

Donna Dawson
Author of The Adam & Eve Project

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Early Valentine - Arends

As this will be my closest post to Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share this piece about candlelight and diapers ...

I am fairly certain that my most memorable Valentine’s Day took place in 1998, although there is much about it I cannot remember. I think we went to dinner – spaghetti, maybe? And I’m willing to bet my husband Mark brought me flowers (because he’s a romantic) and chocolate (because he’s smart).

Here’s what I do remember – I was 12 days away from delivering our first baby, and I was enormously, unbelievably great with child. Mark was attentive and sweet, and if he thought the hormones had made me completely crazy (which they had), he didn’t show it. What I will never forget is the moment we shared the sudden, bittersweet epiphany that this would be the last Valentine’s Day we’d spend as just the two of us. It was thrilling, but more than a little scary, too. So this was my Valentine to Mark …

You are ready to be a father, I know. But you still want – need – to be my husband, my beloved. Will we ever again lose ourselves completely in each other’s arms?

No. We will never be the same.

From now until forever there will always be Someone Else, this new, intrusive little wonder, occupying our time and our hearts. It can be no other way.

But oh, my Love, the romance is far from over. It has barely begun. Do you not see? Now the ties that bind are crazy glue. We are more than a man and his wife. We are a family. You are still my lover, still my friend. But now … wow.

Now you are my baby’s father.*

10 years later, I can look at the two children who mess up our house and light up our hearts, and I can smile at Valentine’s Day, 1998. We felt like we were on the top of a very wild roller coaster, and it turns out we were. We were also in for the romance of our lives.

Carolyn Arends

*excerpted from We’ve Been Waiting For You, by Carolyn Arends © 2002 by Carolyn Arends, published by J. Countryman, a division of Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Gratitude - Harris

This morning, I woke up angry. Not grateful for anything. Stressed to the hilt, after meeting a deadline yesterday. And really wanting to tackle some assignments still on my desk.

The cause of my angst? Taxes. That's right. The annual exercise in frustation that writers, and everybody else, must go through in order to stay in good standing with the Government of Canada.

Over a month ago, before a flood of assignments came my way, my husband booked our annual appointment with our Chartered Accountant. And he insisted it couldn't be changed.

But in the flurry of the last couple of weeks, I hadn't even started my Statement of Business Activities.

This morning, two file folders filled with receipts and invoices stared at me on the table. At least I knew where they were this year.

So, in my pajamas, without my hair combed or make-up on, I ploughed through the piles, drinking instant coffee, and barely finishing 20 minutes before the appointment. (It's a ten minute drive to the accountants, by the way.)

After throwing on some professional clothes and combing the knots out of my hair, I looked presentable -- except for the scowl on my face. And the fact that I kept repeating, "I'm SOOO angry," when my husband tried to hug me.

My mood hadn't improved much when our accountant put out her hand and attempted to smile at me. But she persisted in being nice.

Looking at our financial statements, I started to wonder. Why I was angry? I make money at work I love. So does my husband. And he still loves me when I scowl.

Gradually my mood lifted. I left with a $25.00 gift certificate on an accounting program, several tips on how to save time and money on my bookkeeping, and, I think, a better perspective.

As I sit here this afternoon, I'm grateful to be where I am. And, I hope, I'm a little nicer to those around me.

Best of all, that pile of invoices that greeted me this morning is back in my filing cabinet. I'm at my desk, doing the work I love. And our ever cheerful accountant has more of the work SHE loves.

Now that's something to be grateful for. Happy Taxes Everyone!
P.S. Taxes are a sign of spring in Canada. Like the first buds on trees and the robins. Okay, maybe that IS going too far.

Jane Harris

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Sacrifice of Praise - Grove

We bring the sacrifice of praise
Unto the house of the Lord.
We bring the sacrifice of praise
Unto the house of the Lord.
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of thanksgiving;
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of joy.

- Kirk Dearman

I’ve sung this song in church. Maybe you have, too. Many moons ago – back in the day, as they say.

Yesterday, the moment I awoke, God spoke to me. “What is the sacrifice of praise?”

Oh man, pop quiz and I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

Okay – sacrifice, Old T time (Yes, I know there is a reference to continually offering the sacrifice of praise to God in the NT – Hebrews 13:15, but Hebrews is a book deeply steeped in OT and the word would have the same connotations if not the same actions).

I sat up, feeling awake. I know how these things go. God brings something to my mind, often in the form of a question (I like questions), and I get to experience grace as He shows me something “new” about the question at hand. (It’s not new to Him, but only to my small mind).

Okay, Lord. Sacrifice. I’m thinking animals, temple, maybe long line ups, waiting. Patience.

Good. Now back up.

Uh, okay. Backing up. Well, a fellow would have to organize his family, maybe travel. Planning.
Good. Now back up.

Hmm. Well, a fellow would have to raise the animals, I suppose. A perfect animal, without spot or blemish. Or the first fruits of the harvest. He’d be working at it for some time – a year? And then would offer it to You in faith, regardless of how well his business, farm, family, crops, or life had gone that year. Perseverance.

Hey! That’s three “P’s,” I think, quite pleased with my alliteration.

We’re quiet for a moment, God and I, just hanging out, thinking, waiting.

I know He’s showing me something, and I’ve learned to wait.

Then my penny drops.

It’s me.

I’m the sacrifice of praise. The sacrifice of joy, of thanksgiving.

It’s the life I live, the words I speak, the meditations of my heart. It’s what I write, what I allow myself to think about. It’s how I love my family, treat strangers, promote my books, speak out, hold hands, call someone I haven’t seen in church for a few weeks, invite a friend, volunteer, make life a little nicer for someone else. Lifestyle.

I smile. “You’re not asking much, Lord. Just all of me.”

Bonnie Grove

Friday, February 01, 2008

Why Are We Fascinated with Murder? - Lindquist

Next Tuesday, I’m thrilled to be reading in the library of Casa Loma in Toronto with Peter Robinson as part of Casa Loma and Crime Writers of Canada’s reading program. I'll be taking my copies of Peter's books along for him to sign. :)

Besides giving a short reading from Glitter of Diamonds, I’ll be taking questions from the audience about what I write and why I write it. Consequently, I’ve been doing some thinking about our fascination with murder.

I heard recently that books involving murder and other crimes are second only to romance in popularity. Programs such as CSI, Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, Dr. G. and about 20 others focus on forensics and real-life murder and such things. Why do we have this fascination with murder? Underneath our veneer of civility and niceness , are we all secretly wishing we could knock off our boss, our spouse, or our annoying next door neighbour? By reading these books and watching these programs, are we sublimating desires we’re afraid to act on?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I feel our love for murder has more to do with our desire for justice than an unacknowledged desire to take lives. I don’t know about you, but life in 2008 frequently leaves me feeling overwhelmed. Nonstop technological advances leave me shaking my head and thinking of becoming a hermit. The horror of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make me cringe. I have to change channels when the ads about animal cruelty come on. Hearing about the terrible things happening to innocent adults and children right here in Canada, or walking in downtown Toronto and see homeless people stretched out on the sidewalks make me feel helpless. There's so much evil and so much need. What can I possibly do to make difference?

What affects me may not affect you, and vice versa, but I suspect we are similar. And while it may sound trivial, in a world that often seems to be spinning out of control, I believe that reading a mystery or watching CSI replaces some of our insecurity by reminding us that there really is right and wrong, that the truth will eventually be found, and that good will ultimately prevail over evil.

Yes, there are concrete things we can all do to make a difference, such as giving money to ministries such as World Vision, Yonge Street Mission or the Humane society; writing letters; praying for specific people or simply for God's will to be done.

But we're each unique, too, and for some reason, I have all these characters and plots running through my head. Sometimes I wonder why I don't have momentous themes and how-to lists running through my head, but I don't. So I guess I'll keep writing books about murder in the hope that reading them will remind a few more people that there is Someone in control and that Truth will win in the end.

N. J. Lindquist
Blogs: What's On My Mind?
Blue Collar Writer

Transforming a Woman's Soul - Hird

Transforming a Woman’s Soul
an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Many of us, whether women or men, fail to remember that we are made in God’s image. God does not make any junk. He makes all things beautiful in His time. God is beautiful. God is the author of all beauty and all creativity. The Psalms tell us that we worship to behold God’s beauty. That is why we are repeatedly encouraged in the Good Book to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,

On a recent visit, I was shown a fascinating book by Heidi McLaughlin entitled “Beauty Unleashed: Transforming a Woman’s Soul”. For the past 19 years, her passion is to help women walk in the knowledge that they are one of God’s most glorious creations.

Heidi says that ‘there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who knows that she is loved. She is the one who glows with energy when she walks into a room.’ ‘Every human being’, Heidi writes, ‘on this planet yearns to be loved. Everyone looks for something real and tangible: unconditional love.’

We can choose to be either part of the problem or part of the solution. As Heidi puts it, ‘wherever we are, our love can melt the hardest heart, heal wounded hearts, show compassion, or quiet an anxious or fearful heart.’ Love is the most powerful force in the universe. The heart of Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross was love. As we love hurting people, we help them discover that there is hope and a future.

Heidi teaches that ‘to unleash our greatest beauty, we must let go of expectations.’ This is the heart of the well-known phrase ‘Let go and let God’. So often we cripple ourselves with our hidden demands of how life should be going. Surrendering our hopes, dreams and fears to God will take a heavy load off our shoulders that was never meant to be there. We are called to cast our cares on Him, for he cares for us. That is why the Great Physician said: “Come to you, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.’

God is offering a beauty rest that will transform your soul. As Heidi puts it, ‘I believe that there is nothing God wants to do more than to shower us with his life.’ God sees your beauty and calls it forth. Will you say yes to His beautiful love?

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

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