Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy 400th, Canada! - Hird

When Americans celebrate their beginnings, they do it with great enthusiasm and patriotism. Canadians often express more reserve and ambivalence.

Five years ago I was privileged to travel from Montreal to Victoria with 250 francophones and anglophones on a ‘La Danse’ tour of reconciliation.

I learned on that tour that Quebec itself is the heart of Canada, and Canada cannot live without her heart. Quebec has the anointing to release passion back into our nation.

This August, my wife and I were invited to a follow-up conference in Quebec City where 330 Canadian leaders celebrated the breakthroughs and healings that God has been bringing between francophones, anglophones, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, new immigrants, baby-boomers, gen-xers, and millennials. What a privilege it was to be in Quebec City to celebrate the 400th Anniversary!

400 years ago, Samuel de Champlain birthed Quebec City, a name that he translated from an aboriginal word: ‘where the river narrows.’ Quebec City, the Iroquois village of Stadacona, became the earliest permanent city north of Mexico City and Florida established by Europeans. Many people don’t realize that Quebec City was once, jointly with Toronto, the Capital of Canada.

“I arrived there on the 3rd of July,” wrote Samuel de Champlain “when I searched for a place suitable for our settlement, but I could find none more convenient or better situated than the point of Quebec.” Champlain stepped ashore and unfurled the fleur-de-lys, marking the beginning of that city and indeed of Canada. “No other European colony in America, “commented the eminent historian Samuel Eliot Morison, “is so much the lengthened shadow of one man as Canada is of the valiant, wise, and virtuous Samuel de Champlain.”

Champlain was born in 1567 in the town of Brouage, then a bustling seaport on the southwestern coast of France, some 70 miles (112 km) north of Bordeaux. His father was a sea captain and as a boy he became skilled at seamanship and navigation. Champlain later commented: “…(Navigation) is the art…which led me to explore the coast of America, especially New France, where I have always desired to see the fleur-de-lys flourish.”

Champlain cared deeply about the First Nations people, building lasting friendships with many groups. Pere Lalemant in 1640 wrote: ‘Would God that all the French, who were the first to come into these regions, had been like him!’

400 years later, Quebec City is more beautiful than ever. Thank God that there is a noticeable reconciliation happening between francophones and anglophones in Canada. Thank God that Quebec is more than ever an integral part of Canada. My prayer for those reading this article is that we may all celebrate the gift of our 400th Anniversary.

The Reverend Ed Hird+

Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Coalition in Canada

Friday, August 29, 2008

Looking Closely At God’s Creation—Judith Lawrence

The other day I noticed a green leaf lying on our back porch. However, when I looked more closely, I realised that this leaf had legs and a head—in fact, it wasn’t a leaf at all—it was an insect with camouflage. Here was some kind of a grasshopper skilfully camouflaged as a leaf.

Seeing this insect made me think of the marvels of God’s creation. There are so many different beings, large and small, in this world—each one with its own purpose, each one with its own amazing properties, each one with its own particular detail. This grasshopper stayed very still as I stood over it to examine it but, as soon as I walked away, it began to continue on along its path.

I have no idea of God’s intention for this creature or for the many other creatures that have been created and live in our forest. I do know that I never cease to be struck with wonder at God’s creation, of its diversity and versatility. If God has a purpose for this leaf with legs, and I’m sure He does, then there must also be a purpose for me.

It is so easy to go through life thinking that everything that happens in my world is chance but, if I really examine God’s creation in the details, if I look at my life with all its connecting links, if I see the guiding path leading me from one thing to the next, I will begin to understand and know the wonder of God’s care for me in all its details. I know, too, that it is God’s desire for me to grow closer to Him and His love, to mature in the fruit of the spirit, to know and follow the divine purpose for me.

It is time for me to look closely at the details of my life and to see God in each wonderful event.

© Judith Lawrence

Author of Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years; and Grapes From The Vine, Book of Mystical Poetry. Both available at

Author of Prayer Companion: A Treasury of Personal Meditation, available at Chapters and

Web Site:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Passing the Torch - Shepherd

Here it is – my turn to blog again. What can I say that has not already been said more engagingly by someone else? Inspired by those who have blogged before me, I can share my own reasons for hope and for joy. These are unique.

Like Linda Wegner, I am seized by the value of gratitude. For many years now I have been keeping a gratitude journal. Part of the discipline of my daily prayer time in the early morning, includes completing one full page of subjects for gratitude in my journal. The format is a written prayer, but prayer that is limited to expressions of gratitude. I mostly follow my rules, but on occasion have found myself inadvertently beseeching divine help for some subject that is weighing heavily on my spirit. As a corrective, as I read over what I have written, I turn the request into a confident phrase acknowledging with gratitude that the Author and Finisher of my faith already knows all about the situation and is at work. I have been amazed how this exercise has spilled over into my attitudes and infiltrated my thinking.

Sometimes I find reasons for gratitude in the most unexpected places. As a writer, I had a unique occasion for rejoicing this summer. The privilege was mine to conduct a creative writing workshop with young people from ages fourteen to eighteen. My husband and I were part of the faculty of a Music and Gospel Arts Camp for teens. When the request came to me to facilitate a workshop on creative writing for those teens that selected this art form as their option, I warmed to the challenge. Submerging myself in my writing books for material, I was able to prepare several writing exercises for the young people to work on during out daily hour together. What amazed me was the skill level of these young people. They need to polish their craft, but I found their ideas and skill in expressing them really exciting. Their creative imagination blew me away. I did not have to tell them to show and not tell. They did a masterful job of it. I was so thrilled about their writing gifts that I have decided to try and mentor them and so help them become published authors. This is not entirely altruistic. I expect that I will improve myself as a writer, by reading their offerings.

My week with these young writers led me to some firm convictions. We need to read what these young people are writing. We need to help them to learn all the technicalities about getting published. Most of all we need to value their voices. If we don’t, I am sure the Enemy would delight to perverting their gifts for his evil purposes.

These are Christian young people, yet I find that they have not drawn such a solid line as we have between the sacred and the secular. I can see them equally at home sharing their message in the mainstream media as in Christian publications. They seem to have that awareness that God is in everything. As, with our encouragement, they learn to attune their hearts to Him, they will better be able to share what He is saying to them with their peers and with us. Then, I think plenty of fodder will be available for us to fill our gratitude journals.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In Praise of Not-So-Excellent Titles - Austin

Allow me to say something in favor of not-so-excellent titles. I won’t name the book, but will confess the writing was mediocre at best. The author was a gifted CEO. He wasn’t a gifted writer. Yet I read it at a time when the message proved to be exactly what I needed. It profoundly influenced my Christian walk. That book still sits on the shelf in our church library. I doubt it has been signed out in ten years. But every time I want to pull it, I’m reminded that God used it to speak to me. Just this week I read another old title from our library. In a rather weak novel of just 155 pages it shared a warm and winsome story. In a sense it was a story I have been actively searching for. I can critique it rather harshly. I can point out many ways the writing could be improved. But I can also take from the story the sense of love and hopefulness the author tried to share. Do I leave it in the library? I’m not sure. But I am convinced of this much, I don’t condemn the author. In fact I celebrate the passion behind the writing.

Settling for mediocre writing is not an option. I’m convinced I must strive for excellence. Yet if I’m not writing better in ten years than I am today, I will have failed dismally.

A confession – Much writing that receives critical acclaim leaves me cold. It does not stimulate me. It does not engage my intellect or my emotions. It often uses impressive language, but leaves me saying, “What???” Arguments can be made for my intellectual smallness and I won’t fight those arguments. Yet with a conservative estimate of 8,000 books read in my lifetime, on a vast array of subjects and in a wide range of genres, (I wish I could claim to have retained all that) I’ll risk believing my opinion has some validity. – So Critical Acclaim is NOT what I am measuring excellence by. Rather, it is the ability to communicate effectively, engaging both the intellect and the emotions. Specialty resource books, like dictionaries, still achieve excellence without necessarily engaging the emotions, if they prove a ready source of information that you don’t need another dictionary to interpret. (Like many writers, I can get lost in a dictionary and easily spend an hour when I have gone to it to confirm a single definition, though most non-writers seem to find it a dull, if necessary book.)

How can excellence in writing be achieved? To the best of my knowledge, the “instant” successes as writers can be counted on the fingers of one hand – after being careless with a power-saw. It happens, but if I’m counting on it, I’d better plan on living a very long time. And since I’ve already written extensively and have a list of publishing credits, I’d have to redefine “instant” if I was somehow launched suddenly to fame.

Realistically, writing, writing and more writing is the surest path I know of toward excellence. That path should also be marked by extensive reading and as much feedback as possible. A significant portion of that feedback should be of the barbed kind – the character building rather than the ego building kind. Yet if it is all negative; if it is all, ‘you did this and this and this wrong,’ writers will give up long before they achieve excellence. They will learn to silence the call, or will write in secret, like it is some shameful addiction.

Not-so-excellent titles are and must be part of the writer’s journey. Not-so-excellent titles let authors grow. Not-so-excellent titles still have something vital to say. Not-so-excellent titles are often used by God in significant ways. Writers must strive for excellence. But an infallible God uses fallible people. Writing that draws from the very best I can give will be better than the very best of some other writers. It will not be as good as the very best of yet other writers. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is if I settle for anything less than the best I can do. Neither is it okay if in trying to encourage other writers, I excuse them if they settle for less than their best.

Brian Austin

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympics - Boge

I think anybody who has the courage to dive off of the 10 meter board deserves a medal. More so this year than in previous years, I am so impressed with divers who take the time and the courage to excel at their sport. I can’t believe that people can actually do that consistently. It’s mind bending. Especially the handstand! I mean, that is really amazing to watch.

And then there are the marathoners. The men will go on the last day of the games, but the women have already completed. And their time per mile is simply incredible. Watching the athletes in these and other sports has been nothing shy of inspiring.

The athletes come from all over the world, yet when they are interviewed they seem to have one thing in common: for years, they were focused on training for their sport.

Someone once said that success is in direct proportion to what you had to give up to achieve it. These athletes could probably relate.

Can we?

I think there’s a parallel there with the Christian life. I was reading recently the parable of the talents. One got five. One got two, and the other one. The first two developed what they had. The last one wasted his talent by hiding it. We may or may not be given sports talents, but we’ve been given at least one talent to develop. That could be writing, or parenting, or business.

By watching these Olympic Games and by reading that story of the talents I’m encouraged to take pause and evaluate which talents God has given me and to take the time to develop them and focus on those, even if it means that other things have to fall by the way side. I’m encouraged to continue to strive for excellence in the areas God has given me to pursue. I’m curious to see where it will all lead.

But one thing’s for sure, I’ll leave the diving to others.


I’ve been doing a lot of ruminating on a couple of Scriptures. The first contains the injunction, “in everything give thanks.” The other is the story of Jesus and the ten lepers he healed. One came back to give thanks while the rest of them went on their way, blissfully celebrating their new life.

It is proper that we heed the oft-preached exhortation to give thanks for and in difficult times and we Christians are fairly competent at giving genuine praise to God for His sustaining power. It’s just that we sometimes become fairly selective in deciding what qualifies as important enough for the extra efforts we have to put forward.

I’d like to introduce another view of this mandate to express appreciation and thanks in everything. Though far from where I want to be, I have made it a daily habit to go out of my way to give thanks to those people and organizations that I tend to take for granted. If you’re at all interested, here are a couple of suggestions: Why not drop a personal note to the local police department expressing your genuine appreciation for their role in serving your community. Sure some of them are rotten – as are some other folk I know - but I sure wouldn’t want to live somewhere that had no one to enforce the rules. Speaking of the rules – why not genuinely thank the officer who might stop you for speeding or jay walking? Who knows, perhaps God has used him or her to prevent your being involved in a fatal accident!

Because this is a blog directed to writers, I’m going to suggest that we have unique responsibilities in this “exercise in gratitude.” How often since you’ve written to someone who beat you out in a contest you really wanted to win - just to thank them for setting such a high standard of excellence for our profession/ministry? You haven’t? I haven’t either but I’m thinking of a long overdue note I need to write. And what about sources you’ve interviewed (even the ones who were, shall I say, less than uplifting in their remarks)?

I’ll close with just one more reminder: have you TWG recipients of monetary awards ever taken time to voluntarily thank your sponsor? No one approached me (and perhaps they just forgot) but a thank you would have put a smile on my face. I didn’t win anything this year (I didn’t enter, either) but in the past I found that a simple handwritten note evoked great appreciation from the sponsors that made it possible for me to have certificates hanging on my wall. Gratitude produces gratitude and we could all use more of that.

I’d love to see 100 per cent membership in the Appreciation Participation writers’ organization. Who would be the objects of our expressions of appreciation? Why not use this question as a topic of discussion on the writers’ list serve.

Linda Wenger

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Living by Faith: A Meditation - Reynolds

Living by faith means living each day with a sense of God’s presence and in the knowledge (the confidence) of God’s love. Living by faith does make a difference.

How does one “live each day with a sense of God’s presence?” Isn’t this is a matter of developing sensitivity to the reality of God, that reality greater than the ephemeral, material world around us. This is hard for some to realize, because the material world of the senses seems so apparent, so real. Yet we all, to some extent, have some sense of a greater reality permeating the material world. Some have so developed this sense that the reality of the spiritual seems more real to them than physical reality.

I say they “sense” that reality, but in fact it cannot be said to be knowledge through the senses. It is more a pre-sense of God’s presence – something before or apart from the knowledge of the senses. For some, this “sense” comes quietly and gradually, perhaps developed over many years of spiritual practice. To some it comes as a climacteric, changing their lives even to an astonishing degree. For some, it seems to be natural to all their living.

Living by faith is also living “in the knowledge or assurance of God’s love.” This confidence or assurance comes through my faith in Christ. There is a knowledge of the heart of God we can know only through the love shown us in Jesus. This is not to say that this love does not reach out to all people or that only Christians are “saved.” In fact, I believe that this love, this “grace” of God, means that we can stop worrying about our own salvation and simply get on with living life with a confidence in God’s loving presence – in joy and sorrow, health and disease, life and death.

It still matters of course whether we do good or evil. Surely what is good is what is good for us and for all God’s creation, and what is evil is that which destroys human happiness or the world God has given into our keeping. St. Augustine wrote, “Love God and do what you want to do.” Living by faith means that all we do will be to the glory of God’s love and in gratitude for all that we have been given.

Alan Reynolds
Author of A Troubled Faith

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Tribute to Gerard Manley Hopkins - Martin

Last month I blogged here concerning an excellent new novel, Exiles, about the influential English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). Today I’d like to encourage you to look deeper into Hopkins’ poetry itself. Many of you will be familiar with his best-known work such as “The Windhover” and “Pied Beauty”. Regardless, I’d like to encourage you to invest a few minutes meditating on his verse.

Hopkins wrestled with reconciling the humility of Christian servanthood with the inherent pride in producing art. He dedicated whatever time he could — which was minimal due to the demands of the priesthood — to his unique poetic vision, and he submitted his talent to God as a gift. The Norton Anthology of English Literature touches on his story by saying, “During his lifetime, these remarkable poems, most of them celebrating the wonders of God’s creation, had been known only to a small circle of friends, including his literary executor, the poet Robert Bridges, who waited until 1918 before releasing them to a publisher.” It is my belief that Hopkins’ attitude of submission to God, and his dedication to his art, are the essential elements that pleased his Lord — so that God has chosen to elevate Hopkins’ poetry.

The words of the following poem often play in my mind, in the same way the psalms do, when I’m out in God’s creation, leading me to worship.

God’s Grandeur (1877)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

In contrast to “God’s Grandeur”, Gerard Manley Hopkins also wrestled in prayer concerning the difficulties in his life. The following poem (one of his “terrible sonnets”) included a quote in Latin from Jeremiah 12:1, which reads in the NIV, “You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” The final line of this poem has often found itself in my own prayers.

[Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord] (1889)

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? And why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build—but not I build; no, but strain
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

May we approach our lives and art as Hopkins did.

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at
His full-length poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), will be available in September.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heros - Aarsen

I write romance novels and one of the main criteria is an easily identifiable hero and heroine so the reader doesn't get confused. And from time to time, I have been corrected on my depiction thereof when I've been told that my character's actions, either the hero or the heroine, are not heroic. And not in terms of death-defying and mountain leaping, but in terms of - will the reader be able to cheer for this person? Will the reader be able to identify with this hero or heroine? Will the reader be emotionally invested in seeing the hero/ine attain their goal?

As well as writing romance novels, I love watching movies. And again, the same rules apply. Identifiable, heroic lead that I'm emotionally invested in. It is by this criteria that I decide whether a movie is 'good' or 'bad'. Sometimes ambiguity makes things interesting and there are times that I like to indulge in a bit of that myself, but overall, I stick to the rules.

Then we bought and started watching Planet Earth. An amazing series of movies that show animals in their natural habitat, doing what comes naturally. Surviving. The announcer, with his plummy British accent, narrates the harrowing life of the beluga whale, struggling to hold on in the harsh northern waters, circling and coming up to breathe in a tiny open spot of water in the arctic ice. The whales all have huge scars on their back from polar bears trying to catch them. I feel desperately sorry for the beluga whale. Cut to a cute, cuddly little polar bear cub, a baby, stumbling through the snow. Again the narrator breaks in with dire news. If the mother polar bear does not get anything to eat, her milk will dry up and her baby will starve. As a mother, I am cut to the quick. BUT in order to live, guess who the polar bear has to eat? Right. The whales that I was cheering for mere minutes ago.

So who do I cheer for? Who is the hero of the piece?

Not so easily identifiable in nature and confusing for us as humans who, as I said before, like clearly identifiable heros. And something that we as humans have been dealing with in some odd ways. I have seen a tendency to elevate certain species. Noble eagles, wolves, grizzly bears, polar bears, killer whales. And where do these heroic animals sit? Firmly at the top of the food chain. But what of their prey? Don't they deserve a hearing? A role in their own story? And if we do write a story about the poor mother sheep, struggling to survive, suddenly the wolf will become the villain of the piece. So then, what is this wolf, really? Hero? Villain?

And then we have the Olympics. We have been inundated with stories of our Canadian athletes - the sacrifices they made to win an berth in the Olympics. I want them to win. But if they do, someone else, who has worked just as hard, made just as many sacrifices, will lose. And if someone from the Netherlands is watching and my Canadian hero beats their Dutch hero, my Canadian hero is, in their eyes, a villain. An adversary. So what is my noble Canadian? Hero? Villain?

This truly does depend on your point of view, doesn't it? Depends on who you cheer for. It has the potential to make one a little goofy.

That's nature. My husband, a country boy, has pointed out these inconsistencies to me since I, as a city girl, came to the farm. And I've never known quite what to do about them. About the sin in this world that has created an ambiguity about what is heroic.

In my own writing I have struggled with how heroic to make my hero? I want people to identify with them in other ways as well. To be able to see that my heros are human with faults. That sometimes my heros mess up. So are they truly heroic?

Thats why I am always thankful for my assurance as a Christian. That in my life, I do have a hero. Someone who has done everything right and has done everything well. And that my Saviour is worthy of all honor and praise.

And that someday, in His perfect world, we will be perfect heros and heroines. And that in that time the wolf will lay down with the lamb and the leopard will lay down with the goat.

And I'll know exactly who to cheer for.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Is it Really Hope? – M. Laycock

I recently read a hilarious book by Terry Pratchett called Going Postal. If you're a fan of fantasy, you're probably aware of this prolific writer. His imagined worlds are intriguing, his characters quirky, his plots ingenious. I thoroughly enjoyed Going Postal - often laughing out loud as I read it.

But it had one flaw. The main character, Moist Von Lipwig (that's Lip-vig, if you please!), is a con man. He lives his life by one belief - people will always have hope, and if you're smart enough, you can figure a way to make them pay you for it.

The problem is, Mr. Lipwig's definition of the word hope is flawed. To him, the reality of hope means he can make you believe the piece of glass he holds in his hand is really a priceless diamond that he will sell you for a ridiculously low price. He recognizes that part of you will know that “diamond” is not real, but part of you is thinking, what if? Part of you wants to believe what he's telling you. Mr. Lipwig becomes skilled at convincing people that his lies will make them rich. Mr. Lipvig plays not on hope, but on greed.

True hope is something very different indeed. The writer of the book of Romans explains – “Not only so, but we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:23-25

Pratchett is using the dictionary definition of the word – “expectation and desire combined.”(Canadian Oxford Dictionary). Not a bad definition, but in Prachett’s story we would have to add the greed ingredient – the lust for those things we see in the world around us. To bring us back to biblical hope, I would add the biblical addendum – “hope that is seen is no hope at all.”

Scripture tells us that the whole of creation groans with the anticipation of being redeemed and reunited with the creator. That’s the hope we have, the hope that makes us long for the intimacy of relationship with God, the hope that keeps us hanging on when things look dark, the hope that tells us there is something more than we can see.

It helps to have that kind of hope when our books don't sell and the rejection letters pile up. It helps to know there is a bigger picture and the artist painting it knows exactly what He's doing.

“I pray … that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:18-21

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

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Legacy Continues - Part 3- Meyer

I have spent the last five weeks traveling around through 3 Canadian provinces and 5 USA states. What I have found is that people in general have very little knowledge of First Nations/Native American people – their history, culture and the challenges they face. The general consensus on both sides of the border is that “they” should become like “us” – get an education, get a job and stop all the whining, complaining and protesting.

What I have also found is that people in general are not mean-spirited; they are simply unaware – and they are eager to learn and be informed. There just seems to be a real disconnect between the mainstream culture (including Christians) and the First Nations/Native American culture.

The books that I write are set in a fictional First Nations community and have primarily First Nations’ characters in them. They are well-endorsed by First Nations/Native American people. I believe they can build a bridge of understanding between our two cultures. As non-First Nations people read them, they will have an opportunity to learn, even as they are enjoying a fast-paced compelling story.

In the last two blog posts (The Legacy Continues – part 1 and 2), I wrote about what had happened to the First Nations people in my mother’s generation and in my generation. Now, I would like to share a bit about what is happening in my children’s generation.

A couple of days before I left, I had the privilege of attending a high school graduation where we live in Norway House. Most of the kids were First Nations. It was such an awesome moment. The valedictorian was a young man who is Cree. The guest speaker was a doctor, a young lady who was also Cree and had grown up in Norway House. An elderly lady, a residential school survivor, spoke of how wonderful it was to be present at her grandson's graduation. She herself had never had the opportunity to graduate from high school.The principal (non-Aboriginal) spoke of how these graduates, in completing school (some with high honours) had had to face more than most teens their age. Each of the graduates had an escort to walk them into the ceremony. For some that was a boyfriend or girlfriend; for some it was their son or daughter. One young father proudly walked in with his newborn baby - you just know he's going to be a good daddy to her. There is hope for the future for First Nations people. There are many, many good things happening. When thinking about the atrocities committed against the Aboriginal people of Canada, our response should not be pity. It should be a sensitivity to the barriers that have had to be overcome by a people who have been crushed down but not destroyed. Another wrong attitude would be to idealize any one cultural group. Cree and Ojibway people blow it occasionally just as those from Irish or English descent do.

We need to respect each other’s differences, honour each other’s cultures, and understand that we are all created equal and God desires for us all to be brothers and sisters together in His family.There is no them and us. There is only us.

Dorene Meyer
Author of Deep Waters, a compelling contemporary novel that will give you the opportunity to “walk a mile in the shoes” of Gracie, a First Nations residential school survivor, and experience her reconciliation to Sarah, the daughter who had been taken away from her at birth.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Here's to you - Mann

Many writers do not intentionally write with flaws and then enter the work in a contest, unless they were exceptional writers. It is noted that Jeanne Villa was thrilled to receive the news that she had won the romance category in the Lytton Fiction 2008 award for the worst writing. She submitted a manuscript with this confusing and awkward opening: "Bill swore the affair had ended, but Louise knew he was lying, after discovering Tupperware containers under the seat of his car, which were not the off-brand containers that she bought to save money, but authentic, burpable, lidded Tupperware;. . . “It goes on interminably to describe Louise’s, or is it Bill’s viewpoint, or are we really learning about the Tupperware containers. At any rate, the sentence is sixty-nine words in length, which tells me she worked extremely hard writing the worst opening she could write.

I don’t know about you, but it takes all my energy and stamina to write. I could probably begin to think about this award with any of my worst sentences, and I could find a few options without looking far. After smiling and wondering which I’d like to spend my energy on, writing the worst or the best story, I have to admit I still attempt to write right.

While Jeanne is celebrating her badness, I’m going to wish her well realizing that to win the award, her badness had to be the best. I guess that’s the best oxymoron that I could come up with. I often talk about the last being first and the concept of inside out and upside down, but it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around the worst being the best.

Today, I will do my best to write my way. And somehow, I think that will be easier than to write to win a Lytton Fiction award for the worst writing. Way to go, Jeanne!

Donna Mann
Take Time to Make Memories: memoirs
WinterGrief: a personal response to grief

Aggie's Storms (2007)
Aggie Dream - coming in 2009
Faithful Choices: a workbook for small-membership church working towards renewal (2009)

Monday, August 11, 2008

What 800 Words Can (and Can't) Say - Arends

Six months ago I agreed to write a bi-monthly column entitled "Wrestling with Angels" for Christianity Today. To date three of the columns have run, and it's been intriguing to read the emails and online responses each piece has provoked. I am learning more deeply both the power and limitation of words. Especially when you only get 800 of them! There's not a lot of room for "on the other hand," for nuances and finer points. And readers, I am learning, will respond not only to what you've actually written, but also to whatever personal ongoing debates the column loosely reminds them of ... sometimes they will argue with or commend points that were never actually made in the article. (I call this syndrome "Arguing with Straw Men" and I've been known to do it with zeal myself.) Fascinating!

If I sound defensive ... well, I was at first. And I still wish I had another 1000 words per column to say "What I actually mean is ...". But I am learning both to be as precise as I possibly can in what I write and then also to accept that some folks are going to misunderstand or disagree. The world of ideas is fraught with potential miscommunication, but if that keeps us from engaging with ideas and with each other, we lose so much.

My newest column has been posted here. It's entitled "Here's to All The Losers" and is an anecdotal look at an experience I had coming to the end of my own resources and discovering that God's strength and provision is better than my own. (Surprise!)
The responses to the article have been interesting. Because I drew a parallel between my own experience (developing laryngitis on a concert tour) and an aspect of the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32 (Jacob could not be blessed until his own strength was overcome) ... some readers have taken my point to be that obstacles/tragedies/difficulties are always from the hand of God. Not so much! For me, the point was that it's better to get to the end of ourselves and need God than to operate in an illusion of self-sufficiency and miss all He has for us -- how we get to the end of ourselves will be wildly different in each situation. I think life on a broken planet will most often get us there free of charge, and I certainly don't take every difficulty I face as a chess move on God's behalf. Quite the contrary. But, whether we're wrestling God, our own natures, life itself or even the devil, the faster we can come to the end of our own strength and into God's, the better (even though the sensation is usually more than a little unpleasant while it's happening.)
If you have a chance to read the piece, I'd be interested to hear you thoughts.
Carolyn Arends

now available: Wrestling With Angels
"Carolyn observes keenly, reflects deeply, and renders it all poetically. Wrestling With Angels is a book I can give to almost anyone with confidence it will speak truth in the inmost places." -- Mark Buchanan, author

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sharp as a Serpent's Tongue - Harris

I've been trying to cheer myself up, to write a cheerful post. Sorry I can't do it.

It's been hours and my eyes are still smarting. This morning, someone I care about told me I'm wasting my time. That I'm not going to get a book contract. That I won't be successful in my grant proposal. And that being successful 'isn't in the cards', for me. This person was trying to be 'helpful' and prevent me from being disappointed from what they perceived was the inevitable -- failure.

Funny thing, I'm proud of my work. My portfolio is jammed full of published articles. I've written blogs, books and book chapers. I'm starting a new national project next week. And I'm meeting with my local editors about fall projects in the morning.

But, still, in the eyes of my friends and neighbours, I'm just playing. Living a delusion. And need to be set right. "It just aint gonna happen, lady. Can't you see that? Try something else before it's too late."

The thing is I can't see it. I think they are dead wrong. And what they call success, I call drudgery. What they call growing up, I call giving up. What they call delusion, I call dreams.

And most important, writing is what I'm called to do.

So, in the morning, I will be at my computer. Trusting God to give me the words, just as I trust him now to dry up these tears.

As I write, I will try to remember that words have the power to destroy. And the power to give life.

"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify one another," Romans 14:19

Jane Harris Zsovan writes in both mainstream in Canadian publications about faith, business, arts, and contemporary Canada. She is the author of Stars Appearing: The Galts' Vision of Canada

She contributed "Jessie's Generation: Canada's Firebrands of Mercy and Justice" to Hot Apple Cider: Stories to Warm the Heart and Stir the Soul

She writes Vision of Canada Blog, on contemporary and historical Canada.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Grieving Eden - Grove

Writer's get the same questions asked many times. "What do you write?" (not always an easy question - I write non-fiction and fiction), "Are you published", and "Where do you get your ideas?"

To the last question, it's safe to say, "Everywhere." And I think it's true. Ideas are, literally everywhere. But where do the big ideas come from? The ones that haunt you and taunt you until you write them? The ones that follow you in the mall, trip you in the hall, and elbow you in the lineup?

Let's be real, few ideas do this. Good thing, too.

But let's keep facing it, and realise each of us as at least one big idea that won't go away. (Frankly, I believe most of us have several over time) Why won't it go away? It's not supposed to. God put it there.

Here's a nugget I've learned (am still learning, will continue to learn) about ideas: They grow.

For years I've had an idea about a non-fiction book about relationships. When I got the idea I was just smart enough to realize it was a good one. I dug in straight away, writing. I wrote and wrote. But it all came out Greek. Nothing made sense. I had thousands of words, but I hadn't said anything.

What to do?

Let it grow. It's been years now, since I had that good idea. It's stewing away. When will it be done? I don't know. All I really have now is just the idea. Here it is:

Several years ago, I took a theology class at a small Bible college in Southern Ontario. I found I had an affinity for the subject, and delved in with great delight and interest. I was often in the midst of classroom discussions, and took joy in sharing ideas about God's word.

One day, the lecture was on the doctrine of sin. The focus was on the first chapters of Genesis and the fall of humanity. Of course, as a long time Christian, I had heard and read these passages many times. But this time, it was different. As I listened, I allowed my imagination to wander into the garden, and walk where Adam and Eve had trod, hear what their ears had heard. A feeling soon overtook me. I sensed God was showing me something; guiding my imagination.

The awe I had felt soon turned to deep sorrow. Unable to withstand the moment, I put my head on my desk and cried. I was about to dash for the door when I heard the professor call my name. "Are you crying?"

I swallowed my embarrassment, and looked up. "Yes."

He looked at me, mystified. "What's wrong?"

Forty sets of eyes turned to gaze at me.

"I'm crying," I stammered. "Because of all we've lost. We once knew the company of God. He walked with us as a friend. We loved Him purely, without fear or obstacle." I glanced at my professor. "I'm grieving all I lost in the fall. I'm grieving Eden."


It's that experience that has spurred the idea for a book. And it's all inside of me. The ideas, the words, the point, the lessons, the thesis, the everything.

But, when I go to write it down I'm still not saying anything.

The deep ideas, the important ones, the ones that won't go away, are worth waiting for.

Bonnie Grove is the author of the upcoming book Your Best You: Discover and Develop the Strengths God Gave You (Beacon Hill Press. Release date, March 1, 2009). Her debut novel Talking to the Dead is due for release summer, 2009, from David C. Cook.

Holy Ground - Meyer

Moses went …deep into the wilderness…the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a blazing fire in the bush… Do not come any closer,” God told him. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” from Exodus 3:1-4

After I experienced a dry spell in my writing
—a winter where my ideas froze up.
this little selection got me to thinking about holy ground
in various aspects

Please indulge me and walk with me for a bit.
Just in case,
Let’s take off our shoes,
Just in case!

Moses went into the desert
– here in Canada, we are more familiar with winters,
so bear with me if I talk about winters instead of deserts.
Both can give us the same feeling
of isolation and barren landscapes.

There are winters of all kinds.
Winters of the soul,
Winters in our personal journeys or in health,
Winters in our family relationships
Winters in our writing.
and this kind of winter can come
even in July or August.

Sometimes, our winters seem longer than our summers.
Among the writers in The Word Guild,
many have experienced personal winters,
the stripping of the leaves,
the killing frost
the tearing up and cutting off of summer foliage
in whatever form those have taken.

The days grow shorter,
And we experience the long darkness
of the winter nights.
It’s hard to see or feel the support of those
Who are right next to us.

God whispers,
“I am the God of the Winters
as well as the springs and summers.
Even in the winter,
bushes can burn and not be consumed.

Just as underneath the frozen and barren ground,
bulbs and roots hold life,
sap is stored to rise in the spring,
Even so,
My spirit is at work
in your winter,
in your night.
Rest in Me,
Trust in me
I am ready to bless.

Wiggle your toes,
feel the holy ground.
Let the coolness of the floor, or the stone
speak to you of the waiting,
the softness of the carpet or the grass,
of hope for the warmth that is to come.

For I, the Lord your God
Have seen your misery,
I want to meet you in the barren places.

As the arctic tundra,
yields flowers of delicate beauty
even so I will bring to flower
the purpose for your life
the answer for your present dilemma,
if you just acknowledge your need of me.

Stay where you are until I ask you to move,
but with your shoeless feet acknowledge my presence.
for you ARE standing on Holy Ground!

Ruth Meyer is the author of Not Easily Broken (Word Alive Press) and is working on the sequel Not Far From the Tree. She is a frequent contributor to REJOICE! Devotional Magazine. She speaks to many groups on various topics of her own or your choosing and blogs also on her website: Come visit her there.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Do I Really Need to Be Passionate About My Writing? – Lindquist

A few lines I read in a book recently took a huge load off my shoulders. Well, not literally. More accurately, they stopped my brain from pacing around and around in circles inside my skull. They opened a door in my mind and let all my anxious thoughts escape, freeing me.

For years, I’ve heard that you need to figure out who your target audience is and write books, blogs, articles, etc. all geared to that market. It’s called branding. And these days you hear it everywhere. In fact, I even tell people that myself. It’s good advice.

Donald Maass, literary agent and author of the book, Writing the Breakout Novel, says you need at least four novels that appeal to one particular audience before your audience starts to “know” you (i.e. you break out from the pack). I’ve heard other authors say it took them 5 or 6 or even 7 similar books to get known in their field.

It makes perfect sense. You want to be remembered, and it’s easier to be remembered if you have one dominant characteristic. When you think Tupperware, an image of good plastic storage bowls and other dishes comes to your mind. You don’t have to wonder if you’re talking about dishes or shelving or raincoats.

So when you think N. J. Lindquist, you should think… Ah, there’s the problem. What exactly should you think?

I’ve had a number of conversations with editors and agents who’ve asked me what I write, but when I started to tell them, held up their hands and said, “Just give me the one book you’re passionate about writing.”

And I flounder. I honestly don’t know which book I’m passionate about writing!

At this moment in time, I have no fewer than 20 partially written books.

I pull out the file folders and plastic bins they sit in, and I gather them on a table in front of me. At one time or another, I’ve obviously been passionate about all of them. But at this moment, do I feel any passion at all? No, mostly what I feel is bewilderment. What's wrong with me that I have 20 books I want to write? And why, when I start to think about working on one of them, do the rest all start shouting in my head, “What about me?” “Don’t forget about me?”And from not being passionate about any of them, all of a sudden I’m passionate about ALL of them, and I want to write them all, at once, right now.


So there I was a few weeks ago reading Barbara Sher’s book, Live the Life You Love (which I heartily recommend you read right after her other books I Could do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, and, if you’re anything like me, Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing All That You Love), and there on page 77, she said, "When you start doing the work you were born to do, you don’t feel passion. What you feel is that nothing is missing." (From Live the Life You Love, Barbara Sher, page 77)

Comfort? Like an old friend you can sit down beside and not have to worry whether you combed your hair or if you have stains on your shirt.

Comfort? Like the feeling that you're in the right place at the right time.

And I realize that this is exactly what I feel. Comfort. About each one of my 20 or so books. Comfort about not having to focus on one type of writing.

Maybe my brand should simply be “woman who has all sorts of interests and writes what she pleases.” So what if I never break out or have a best seller. So what if I'm not held up as an example of how a writer should behave. I have a feeling I'll have a lot of fun.

Now all I have left is to figure out how to write 20 – okay, what if we start with four? – books at the same time. One book on writing; one contemporary novel; one adult mystery; and one children’s fantasy chapter book. And I can keep up my blogs, too. After all, I have so much more to say about being healthy and loving your family and dressing for success and country music and baseball and elderly dogs and celebrating your creativity and… Oops getting a little lightheaded. But this is me!!!!

If you want to know what I’m thinking about life in general, read here.

If you’ve read my newest book Hot Apple Cider and want to comment, go here

To read the opening to my children’s fantasy, click here.

If you’re interested in my advice about writing, go here.

I recently blogged on "point of view" in fiction on Fiction Matters.

My regular column on the body of Christ is in the Maranatha News.

My main website is here.

P. S. The photo shown here was taken at the UrbanThink bookstore in Orlando Florida where I was signing my mystery novel, Glitter of Diamonds, a couple of weeks ago.

P. P. S. I will post pictures of my signing of Hot Apple Cider at ICRS in Orlando on the Hot Apple Cider site.

P. P. P. S. My teen books are feeling neglected, so here's a link to them.

Off to have fun and be comfortable. :)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Happy 150th BC Anniversary- Hird

B.C.’s first war ­– and its Common Prayer warrior

by the Rev Ed Hird+
digital BC Christian News

In the fourth installment of our series marking B.C.’s 150th anniversary, author and pastor Ed Hird profiles a man of war – and worship.

HOW MANY of us have ever heard how Colonel Richard Clement Moody ‘fought the good fight’ in B.C.’s first war?

In 1858, Colonel Moody’s troops steamed north along the Fraser River to Yale, on the Enterprise.

Ned McGowan had led a vigilante gang to falsely imprison the Yale Justice of the Peace, P.B. Whannell.

McGowan had great influence with the vigilantes, as he was both a former Philadelphia police superintendent implicated in a bank robbery, and a former California judge acquitted on a murder charge.

Without Moody’s intervention, the fear was that B.C. would be quickly annexed to the U.S. by McGowan’s gang.

Upon arriving in Yale, Colonel Moody and his force were unexpectedly received with “vociferous cheering and every sign of respect and loyalty,” according to one account of the day. No shots were even fired!

Matthew Begbie (the so-called ‘Hanging Judge’), in his first-ever B.C. court case, fined McGowan a small amount of £5 for assault, after which the defendant sold his gold-rush stake and promptly returned to California.

Journalist (and later B.C. premier) Amor de Cosmos declared B.C. had “her first war – so cheap – all for nothing,” adding: “B.C. must feel pleased with herself.”

Moody left his mark spiritually, as well. At the conclusion of ‘Ned McGowan’s War,’ Colonel Moody invited 40 miners to join him at the courthouse for worship.

As no clergyman was present, Colonel Moody led worship from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

Moody wrote afterward: “It was the first time in British Columbia that the liturgy of our church was read. To me God, in his mercy, granted this privilege. The room was crowded with Hill’s Bar men . . . Old grey-bearded men, young eager-eyed men, stern middle-aged men of all nations knelt with me, before the throne of Grace.”

– from Ed Hird’s Battle for the Soul of Canada.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Word Games Benefit Writers—Judith Lawrence

The other evening, I watched the game show, Jeopardy, as I often do. One of the clues was to do with the word quaint. I can’t remember now whether it was the clue or the answer. However, I discovered that the word quaint originally meant wise or cunning; now we use this word to mean old-fashioned or daintily odd.

I believe that writers can benefit from watching such TV shows. Far from being a waste of time, they can expand a writer’s vocabulary and knowledge. Reach for the Top, Jeopardy, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire can bring us a wealth of information. I often find myself saying in surprise, I didn’t know that!

Crosswords and other word puzzles can also be helpful to writers, whether in their ability to expand our general knowledge or to increase our attention to correct spelling, even if that spelling is in the American form of English and not the Canadian.

Game shows that emphasize general knowledge may also spark writing ideas, such as the one that sparked this blog topic. Writers need to keep their wits about them and always be on the look out for writing topics; they should also have paper and pencil at hand in order to write down the idea when it presents itself.

We should never rely on our memories to hold the great idea until it comes time to write the article, story, or blog. As easily as an idea is given to us, it can just as easily fly away out of our grasp.

I wish you many happy hours of writing and gathering of fruitful ideas, as well as plenty of paper and sharp pencils with which to write.

© Judith Lawrence

Author of Glorious Autumn Days: Meditations for the Wisdom Years; and Grapes From The Vine, Book of Mystical Poetry. Both available at

Author of Prayer Companion: A Treasury of Personal Meditation, available at Chapters and

Web Site:

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Reflections on Life as a Journey

Life is a journey. This is not news. Yet to apply it to the walk of faith seems to come as a surprise to each generation.

As we sat around our living room with the College and Career group looking at the Scriptures and trying to understand how they relate to our lives today, Julie spoke up. “I never realized it before. Our Christian life is a journey with God. That’s cool!”

I recalled the day many years earlier, when I had come to that understanding. It seemed to free me to grow. It meant that I did not need to have all the answers as a Christian, but I could discover them as I journeyed.

The journey has been identified with the faith pilgrimage throughout history. The classic example in our English culture has been John Bunyan’s allegory written from his prison cell, Pilgrim’s Progress.

This classic recounts the pilgrimage of Christian and his companions as they travel to the Celestial City. My assumption, perhaps from my evangelical background, was that the journey began when one embraced the faith. Now I think differently.

A new image of God has seized me as I have walked the Christian pathway. I now see God as an all-knowing yet all loving parent standing with arms outstretched, ready to embrace all who will come. His invitation extends to all humanity.

We are born with the desire within us to turn towards that embrace. That is the meaning of the words of wisdom in Ecclesiastes that speak of God placing eternity in our hearts. The journey begins when life begins, but it sometimes follows an incomprehensible route. There are occasions when this route seems heading far away from the loving embrace. Yet those times can prove to be the closest to the U-turn of a wandering soul.

We do not travel the journey alone. Many companions accompany us on our route. At times we choose them and other times they are messengers sent to encourage us on our way.

Wherever we are on our life journey when we choose to embrace the Faith we are gifted with a divine companion. The Spirit accompanies us continually for the rest of our journey. He is the source of continual comfort, hope and encouragement. Without His help we could never make it home to the loving embrace that awaits us.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Need for Solitude - Gregoire

I have just returned from a cruise to Alaska. It was my in-laws' fortieth anniversary, so my husband and I took them to see the mountains and the glaciers. I'm just back now, but I'm extremely jetlagged, so I hope this makes some sense.

One of the most intriguing things about Alaska is the people who live there. It's quite different from our own north, which is still predominantly aboriginal peoples trying to hold on to their traditional way of life. In Alaska, native peoples comprise a very small minority. Most are people who have moved there because they want to live in the last frontier.

They are adventurers, and the best selling books seem to be about those who have chosen to live in the bush, away from civilization. They build their own cabins, hunt their food, and only have sporadic contact with the outside world.

On the one hand, living in minus fifty degree weather in a cabin you built with your own hands doesn't sound like my idea of fun. But the idea of getting completely away from others, and just being with those you love most, does have an appeal, I must admit. Imagine being somewhere where noone could bother you, or put expectations on you. Imagine being truly alone, where you could choose what to do today, and not be guided by current events or outside pressures.
In every writer I think there's an element of that adventurer, who years for solitude and reflection. It's really hard to finish assignments or come up with something brilliant when the phone keeps ringing and you're supposed to go to this party and do you mind bringing a casserole for the lunch after church?

Many writers do retreat to the solitude. They have a cabin where they write for four months, or another place where others can't reach them. It sounds heavenly. And yet, at the same time, I'm not sure that's really what we're called to. There may be times when we need to be alone with God (Paul, after all, spent fourteen years virtually on his own after his conversion before beginning his missionary journeys), but I do think we are called to be in the world. And if we spend so much time in solitude, how will we have the insights into the challenges of today's world to communicate to others?

This urge to escape is probably something all of us have felt. And yet I don't think we should let ourselves be too wooed by it. Take a weekend every now and then; even a week if you need it. But let's live in the real world. Let's make those potluck casseroles and battle the laundry and call the repairman for the furnace.

When I need to write, I go to the library. At least my phone can't reach me! But I'm never that far away. I think we need others to keep us grounded, and to give us new insights into the things we're writing about. I'd love my own cabin, and maybe one day I'll have a place where I can write in solitude. But I hope I never give up on real life for too long. That's where we really live out our faith. And we need that challenge.

Sheila is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. She speaks to women's groups around the country. You can usually find her at home homeschooling her two daughters. And knitting. Preferably simultaneously. She blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

Popular Posts