Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We All Could Use a Good Laugh

I think my lizard is gay.

That's one of my favourite opening lines of the columns that I've written. I try to use a lot of humour in my columns, and in my writings, as you can probably tell from the titles of my books (To Love, Honor and Vacuum; Honey, I Don't Have a Headache Tonight).

We all love to laugh. And today I am sitting in on a seminar on how to write about humour. How it's all about surprises, and giving people what they aren't quite expecting.

And it's about sharing just what happens in our everyday life. Like when Faith Today and Women Alive editor Karen Stiller used the recipe on the front of the Canadian Living magazine one Thanksgiving and it turned her turkey purple. That's funny, and that's fodder for family humour for decades to come.

Unfortunately, it's hard to write funny on command. But I think this idea of surprise is what does it, and you often have to do it in threes: you tell people a list of two things they're expecting, and then you throw in something they're not. So you may mention a woman, sitting on a couch, knitting, and talking to her dead grandmother. The third seems out of place, and it's what makes stuff interesting. And funny.

For the record, my lizard did not turn out to be gay. He just turned out to be extremely stupid. But from a Christian point of view, humour is a bridge with the rest of the world. When I am writing something funny, even in the secular market, I can push the envelope a bit on how far I share my faith because with humour things are more permissible. Here, for instance, is a bit of a column I wrote last Christmas on "Seeking a Wise Man", that won an Honorable Mention at this year's Canadian Christian Writer's Awards.

Right now, many men are obsessed with that age old question: “how can I earn major brownie points this Christmas?” Well, if you want to find the road to Christmas success, it’s always advisable to follow those who have blazed the trail before you. And who better than those we now call “The Three Wise Men”, all because they mightily impressed an important woman that long ago Christmas.
What did they do that was so wise? First, they brought gifts. No matter what your wife says, a package under the tree is non-negotiable. But not just any package. I heard the woeful tale of one husband who bought his wife a scale. As my husband said, that level of stupidity doesn’t come naturally. You have to practice.

The gift, then, must be good. The Wise Men came bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I’m sure Mary greatly appreciated those things. I’m equally sure she and Joseph promptly sold them to pay for their flight to Egypt, thus ushering in that other sacred Christmas tradition of returning gifts for the cash.

The Wise Men’s gifts, though, did show great forethought. They brought gifts to honour a king, just as you must buy gifts to honour your queen. But the wise men remembered that first rule of Christmas gift-giving: under no circumstances should you buy her something you think she needs. First, you’re probably wrong; and second, even if she needs it you’re bound to buy the wrong one. If she needs it, make a date to go buy it together on Boxing Day. Don’t make it a gift. The Wise Men, after all, didn’t bring diapers and Vaseline, though those would have been useful. They brought something symbolic of who Jesus was to them. So think romance, not necessity. Think meaningful, not useful in the laundry room. It’s the wise way.

I went on to encourage people to "take that journey" into a church this Christmas season, and it's wonderful to be able to do that.

I think the difference between Christian humour and non-Christian humour, though, is that, as Christians, our humour isn't meant to make us feel superior. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Humour is just funny, about finding the absurd in everyday life. Too often humour is used to denigrate others, and that's something that we should not do as Christians. It's better to laugh at ourselves.

I really think that if Christians started using humour more, as they wrote, we would start to see some walls coming down. People would be more willing to listen to us if we're funny. And we'd get rid of that stodgy stereotype we too often bear.

Besides, don't you think God created humour? I mean, think about naked mole rats. Or giraffes, who are born by first falling six feet to the ground. Or nose hair. Or the number 17. These things are funny. I don't know why, but they are. And God made them. I'm sure He gets a great laugh at us, too!

I've been working on more comedy when I speak, and I'll leave with this short clip of a recent Girls Night Out talk I gave on the Western Ontario tour. I hope you think it's funny; I had fun with it. Now I just need to figure out how to make it funny when I translate it to paper rather than live!

Sheila is the author of four books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life. She blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and you can read her columns and articles at

To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Moving Day - Austin

Inspiration: "The infusion or arousal within the mind of some idea, feeling, or impulse, especially one that leads to creative action."
The definition SHOULD bring at least a touch of the reality – shouldn’t it?
In the midst of a marathon workload, inspiration has seemed strangely lacking for several weeks. Moving a Bible Book Store is a major undertaking. My normal work week is 22 hours at the store, and 30 – 40 hours in writing related work. This last stint, with the move actually beginning Saturday night Oct. 25 and the store scheduled to reopen in the new location on Thursday, Oct. 30 has been seven days a week with a number of 16 hour days. Many books by TWG authors have been boxed up and moved. A few have now found themselves back on shelves in the new store, and the rest will emerge out of the chaos over the next two days. It is exhausting, yet exhilarating. The new store is much better located, more visible, on the main street, larger, brighter, with higher ceilings and as good or better parking.
Many, many volunteers have helped. Saturday evening when we began, there were probably more than 25 people packing books into boxes, and numbering and labeling them. Art and Gift-ware had to be boxed up as well. Shelving units had to be dismantled and labeled.
The volunteers tell me something about how deeply many people still appreciate quality writing. Most of the people who have been there helping have full schedules already. I don’t think any of them were desperate for something to fill their hours. Several of our best customers have been there, helping pack up, and today quietly working away at restocking a section of shelving.
A delightful little interlude at some point (the hours are starting to blur) was a rainbow seen from the door of the old store, pretty much covering the new store. It wasn’t a particularly brilliant rainbow, but it seemed somehow fitting and I managed to get a couple of pictures. Rain and moving days don’t mix well, but the sun found moments to peek through breaks in the clouds and the rainbow itself gave spectacular scenery just about every time I paused to look. There has been a mood of excitement and anticipation among everybody involved. In the midst of the chaos of the new store, there are beginning to be little glimpses of order. Clutter is starting to clear. Shelves are beginning to fill. Little lengths of aisles are beginning to appear. There are places you can actually walk without tripping over something. Food keeps showing up. Crock-pots full of chili or soup, lasagna, sandwiches, donouts, muffins – we’ve burned a lot of calories, but a number of people have been making sure we get them all back.So if you have any reason to be in Hanover, Ont., from this Thursday on, check out our new location. The sign hasn’t yet arrived, but it’s supposed to be 45 feet long, so I think you’ll be able to find us on the North side of 10th St in the M&M plaza.
Brian Austin

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Public Enemies of Books - No, Not the Ones You Think - O'Leary

No, no, by public enemies I don’t mean censors or book burners. I mean the increase in the number of communication activities we can choose among, while idle in public.

Take the Toronto subway, for example. It used to be that there wasn’t much to do while crossing town underground except read, knit, or listen to music. One can still do all that. But today one can also talk to friends on the cell, send and receive e-mail and text messages, watch videos on the i-pod, and read the free daily newspapers. The latter are just small enough and short enough to be convenient for a subway trip. Or, while waiting for a train, one can watch the rolling news headlines on what used to be a simple clock.

All these new activities compete for the time available for reading books, magazines, and newspapers offered for sale. The number of types of media has exploded but there are still only twenty-four hours in a day.

One outcome is that today’s writing must not only be good enough to compete with the row of ads around the car. It must be good enough to compete with interactive media as well.

And that requires a lot of thought and clever strategy on the part of writers, publishers, and booksellers.

© Denyse O'Leary

The item above is is one of the blog posts from Future Tense, The Word Guild’s new blog on transitions in the publishing industry.
Visit Future Tense often for regularly updated content.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Humour In Poetry — Martin

Every emotion, any thing common to man, is within the range of poetry. Humour, however, has been something which often relegates a writer to the ranks of a lesser poet — the author of “light verse”. Poets through the years, from Edward Lear to Ogden Nash, may have well-known names, but are never sighted among the greats. That’s because poetry wants to be more than merely a laugh; it wants to leave the reader with something that lasts beyond the initial chuckle.

Laughter, if employed in the context of serious thought, often disarms listeners and leaves them open to what a poet’s saying. Consider the poetry of Billy Collins — the one-time Poet Laureate of the United States. He begins his poem “You, Reader” with:
“I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you...”
Collins often draws us into his poetry with his wit, and then draws us in further with his reflectiveness.

Christian poet, John Leax, in his most recent collection Tabloid News, wrote a series of fourteen long poems, each inspired by the absurd headlines he saw on supermarket tabloids. His titles include: “World’s Fattest Twins Arrested for Stealing World’s Fattest Cat” and “Duck Hunters Shoot Angel”. They leave you wanting to read more.

In my new poetry book Poiema (Wipf & Stock), humour is not a dominant element, but it does have its place. At recent poetry readings, I have found that poems the audience finds to be funny help break down the barriers between poet and audience. The following is an audience favourite:


Shopping carts flow like rain down & down
to the lowest point in the parking lot congregating
like sweltering cattle beneath the shade of a field’s only tree
Always park at the point of highest elevation at the A&P
or one may gore your car when they instinctively dart
in a chrome lightning flash a stampeding
grocery cart cloudburst (to inextricably intertwine
the metaphors) escaping from surprised seniors
who hadn’t expected such heart

It has no wish to be caught You’ve seen what happens
once a buggy roams beyond the confines of the supermarket lot
Do they climb to the top of the highest lookout
watching the skies like a prophet of the end times?
Do they repent & roll their way back to the grocery store?
The heart of a grocery cart is a wayward thing
seeking a ditch to wallow in
Shopping carts flow like rain down & down
into any convenient creek

It is here they fall into bad company becoming bent
& broken often losing a wheel rusting & falling apart
Is there no redemption for the prodigal shopping cart?
Might they not be washed clean washed downstream
into the nearest of the Great Lakes wheeling down
the St. Lawrence & out to sea? How great it would be
if they evaporated like ocean spray & were carried
to the clouds where they might once more fall
down & down upon parking lots as rain

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Perfect Climate - Laycock

Oswald Chambers wrote – “The spiritual saint never believes circumstances to be haphazard, or thinks of his life as secular and sacred; he sees everything he is dumped down in as the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

I met a woman last night who is what I would call one of those “spiritual saints.” She’s a middle aged woman named Marta, a lawyer from Columbia who says she heard God tell her to leave her career and take care of the children living in poverty in her country. Through an interpreter, Marta said, “when Jesus called the disciples he didn’t tell them where they would go or how they would survive. He just told them what he wanted them to do.”

So she set about doing what God told her to do. There were many displaced people in her town and hundreds of children roaming the streets. So Marta and her husband started a church and then a school under a tree in a vacant lot. Twenty five children came, then fifty, then one hundred. Soon they needed a building so they tried to secure the land where they had been meeting. But there were men there who wanted the land and threatened Marta and two other women who were helping her. So they prayed. And God answered. Today there are 700 children in that school and there are three other schools in other cities where children are being fed and educated.

The circumstances in which Marta was “dumped down” were not easy. They still aren’t. Columbia is a country ruled by terrorists and drug lords. But Marta’s vision is to teach the children to live as Christ would have them live. Her philosophy is that a child can change a family, a family can change a community and a community can change a country. The children in her schools see the daily protection and provision of God. It is having an impact that no doubt will have lasting effects.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the circumstances in which we in North American have been “dumped down” - a chaotic financial crisis that could have lasting effects on our world. For some of us it will have rather serious personal effects. So how are we to respond?

We would be wise to count ourselves in that company of “spiritual saints” and see the circumstances as an opportunity to draw closer to Christ and to do what he wants us to do.

Marta says at her school they are very careful to teach the children that they are not poor. “No one is poor when they have Jesus,” she says.

So perhaps we should ask ourselves, in this climate of uncertainty, do we have Jesus? Have we “secured the knowledge of Jesus Christ?” Perhaps we are moving into the perfect climate in which to find out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Most Precious One of All - Meyer

Lately, my life has gotten busy. More than just a little – actually it’s gotten horrendously busy. Just for the short term, mind you. It’ll all settle down again soon. Just some things that have come up unexpectedly that have tipped things over the balance.
And lately, it seems as if I’m having a hard time juggling everything. I’m keeping all the juggling balls in the air but they’re spinning so fast, I’m wondering that if I did drop one, maybe I wouldn’t even notice it until it was too late!
I wish I could remember where I read or heard this because I would like to give credit where credit is due but unfortunately I can’t. And I’m sure that this will be a paraphrase at best. This person had used the juggling balls metaphor and had said that there is only one ball out of all the balls we are juggling that is glass; that one is our family.
I would like to extend this to include all relationships. This precious glass ball that I’m juggling amongst all the wooden ones is my relationships: with God, with my family and with all the other people I encounter every day. Hearts shatter as surely as a precious glass ball does. All the other things in my life can come crashing down (editing deadlines, book launches, manuscripts, housework, laundry, dishes, even blogs!) and I can eventually pick them up again – or do without them. But if in the heat of the moment, I blow up at someone or am just careless about what I say or do, I may have broken something that might not be able to be put back together again.
“Lord, I pray that during this busy season of my life, I will not wound in any way any one of the precious people that I meet during my day.”

Dorene Meyer, author of Deep Waters
“Set in the fictional Ojibway community of Rabbit Lake, Deep Waters will transport you into Canada’s far north for a compelling story of enduring love and sustaining faith.”

Did Jesus Make Lists? - Nesdoly

Did Jesus make lists? That question came to me this morning as I was thinking about the day ahead and the list of things I’d like to get done. For me list-making has always been an efficiency tool or self-check guide to make sure I’m staying on task. As such, though, lists easily rule me, making me resistant to serendipity and interruption.

Jesus, on the other hand, comes across as a very anti-list person the way He drifted from incident to incident – one day in Galilee, another in Capernaum, then Bethany, then Jerusalem – with seemingly no itinerary or plan but to do His Father’s will.

And then, just after wondering about Jesus and lists I came to the place in Luke where He made one! Yes indeed, in Luke 6:12-15 Jesus comes to His flock of followers one morning with a list of twelve people He’s picked to be disciples. Though I’m sure he didn’t make His list because He was in a panic, feeling overwhelmed, or wouldn't otherwise remember (more reasons I make lists), I imagine He had one reason in common with mine – His time was limited. He had lots to get done and needed to focus His efforts.

But there is also a big difference between Jesus’ list-making and mine, and that is what He did while He was making that list: He “continued all night in prayer to God.” Luke 6:12. Now there’s a novel thought – praying over my lists. Presenting them to God and letting Him strike out some items and add others to my to-do list, prayer list, grocery list, list of people I’d like to have over, books I want to read, things I’d like to do before I die ...

I’m definitely a list person, though I must admit that more than once I’ve questioned the good of the lists I’ve made because they so easily spin me off into my own little agenda. But if Jesus made lists surely it’s okay for me to make them too – as long as I don’t forget to make Him part of the process. Oh, and I just thought of a way to shake off the tyranny of any list that thinks it's the boss. I'll make sure that "serendipity" and "interruption" are always on the list!

Violet Nesdoly is a freelance writer who lives in Langley B.C. She posts daily devotions for kids at Bible Drive-Thru (


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Theology in Aisle 7 - Arends

This is from my newest CT column, which was recently posted on Christianity Today's site.

Theology in Aisle 7
Trying to organize a God who transcends.

I love office supply stores. Reams of fresh paper (Aisle 16) and boxes of unsharpened pencils (Aisle 5) still give me back-to-school butterflies, the sense that the future is yet to be written and anything is possible. But I'm most drawn to the bins, sorters, and all manner of organizational aids in Aisle 7. They glisten with shiny plastic promise, reminding me I am just one astute purchase away from transforming the paper-riddled chaos of my life into structured bliss.

Recently I found just the thing, a two-foot black box with an open front divided into eight sections. I used my label maker (Aisle 3) to give each compartment its purpose, happily imagining soccer notices and utility bills lying obediently in their designated places. My husband came home and grinned at the box, envisioning it as next month's addition to the rejected-organizational-aid pile. "That," he told me gently, "is a junk collector."

But it will be organized junk.

I labeled one of the compartments "seminary"; this time the back-to-school butterflies were not merely nostalgic. I've begun chipping away at a master's degree, and on the same day I bought my new organizer I decided on a concentration in Spiritual Theology. I've been longing for more structure, not only in my office but also in my faith.

I've been searching for frameworks, outlines, contexts; ways to more thoroughly understand what I believe. The studies I've chosen emphasize systematic theology. The very word systematic gives me that Aisle 7 rush. I can hardly wait to be organized!

But there are people—wise, godly people—who grin at me like my husband did at my organizer. "Do you think," asked my friend Barbara, who happens to be a theology professor, "that part of you is looking for control?" I stared at her blankly. No, part of me isn't looking for control. All of me is looking for control. I hate chaos and uncertainty. I am deeply bothered by doctrinal divisions within even the small confines of my own church tradition. And honestly, I really don't like it when God behaves unpredictably, when he seems to be as much about mystery as he is about revelation, and when he refuses to fit into the slots I have labeled for him.

Faith would be much tidier if God could be contained within mutually agreed upon doctrinal positions. Scripture would be much more manageable if it were pure exposition, if there weren't all those sprawling narratives, wistful poems, and cryptic apocalyptic visions. Why didn't God give us his Word in sermon points that spell out catchy acronyms? Why is it all so messy?

Even our most precise expositor, the apostle Paul, holds revelation and mystery in tension. In his letter to the Ephesians, he proclaims, "God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure" (1:9, NLT). But for all the time Paul spends explaining things, he still has the nerve to celebrate everything he can't understand about God. "Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord's thoughts? … All glory to him forever!" (Rom. 11:33-34, 36).

This, I'm beginning to understand, is my challenge: to immerse myself in all that has been revealed about God while celebrating all that is mystery. We have a God who both transcends our messy lives and incarnates himself in them. That reality is hard to organize, but it's the best news there is.

There's a story, often credited to E. Stanley Jones, about a missionary who gets lost in the jungle. He comes upon a village in the middle of the trees, and asks a resident to lead him out. The local agrees, and for an hour he walks ahead of the missionary, clearing a way through the foliage with a machete.

Eventually the missionary asks, "Are you sure we are going the right way? Isn't there a path somewhere?" The villager smiles. "Friend, I am the path."

"I am the way, the truth, and the life," Jesus tells us (John 14:6); "I AM," declares Yahweh (Ex. 3:14). My ideas about God are not the path. My church tradition, helpful as it is in pointing to him, is not the path. I plan to spend the rest of my life learning the best terminology we have for our understanding of what God has done and is doing, but the terms are not the path. Only God is. Only he can lead me through the jungle that is my life and into the boundless adventure of life with him.

Praise God, there is not a thing in Aisle 7—or in the universe—that can contain him.

Carolyn Arends

I blog, therefore I am at:

Songville (brand new site for songwriters) (where I muse on Stuff That Matters)

Wrestling with Angels (where I park my Christianity Today columns and other pieces)

Carolyn Arends Newsblog (where we post goings on, twitter updates, and other news relating to my work as a recording artist and writer)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Do You Wear Masks When You Write?

Do you wear masks when you write? Do you ever put things down on the page that you think you should say because your church or your friends or even your publisher thinks that way? Things that represent how you think you should think or be or what you should do? Do the words stare back and you and call you a ‘liar?’ If you don’t, I salute you.
More than once, I’ve found myself throwing out pages littered with clichés and Christian lingo, words that really didn’t reflect what I thought or what I was trying to convey to my readers.
More times than I can count, I have had to leave my computer keyboard to sit with pen and paper in a quiet spot to replace meaningless platitudes with honest English. I have had to write out thoughts that shocked or confused me or revealed aspects of my thinking that needed examining.
Writing demands transparency. To say anything worthwhile we must be honest, with ourselves, with others, and with God. We must be willing to be uncomfortable and reach beyond “should be” to “what is”. To look at ourselves and the world as they truly are. We can’t wear our masks.
Taking off the masks helps connect us with our readers and with God. It allows us to write honestly about the human condition, which is certainly not all light and goodness.
Readers know when we gloss over what we think to make it palatable or politically correct. They know when we are trying to fit a mould; or trying contort ourselves into an image we think they want to see. And the result is boredom and a quick toss of our work in the garbage.
Take off the mask when you write.
Sit down with a pen and paper and see where your thoughts take you. See what inspiration awaits you. Pray about what you are meant to write, or think or do. And, above all, be honest. Your readers will thank you for it. And you will find God taking you on journeys you never knew were there.
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. Jane writes Vision of Canada Blog, on contemporary and historical Canada.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Strengths You Know - Grove

"Wait, which book is this?" My guest asked. It's confusing when someone writes both non-fiction and fiction. And there are days I wonder why I've managed to bog myself down in the fantastically huge worlds of both. But I have, and now I needed to explain which book was this.

"Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You," I said. "It's about connecting to yourself and God via the strengths God chose for you." It's a mouthful, I admit, but its enough to get me revved up, to remember why I stepped foot in the non-fiction camp: because using your strengths changes your life.

Let me share with you a portion of the book - it's my favorite part, the part that glimpses heaven, the part where I share with you how I see God.

I have a mental picture – more like a movie - of what it looks like when God decides which strengths to give someone.

"God gazes down at a child (let's say the child is you), a big grin on His face. His eyes twinkle at the sight of you.

An angel stands behind Him, holding an enormous book filled with every good thing. Page after page of strengths, talents, and breathtaking abilities. Qualities that are found in The Creator of this child.

The angel thumbs through the book. "Most Holy One, which gifts will You give this child?"
God's eyes dance with delight as He ponders the wonders He can bestow upon you. He doesn’t want to rush this moment of joyous contemplation. He peers down at you, His smile growing.

Suddenly, God throws his head back and laughs with pure joy. The sound is like every bird on earth singing all at once. Oh, He knows you so well. He knows what will bring you joy.
The angel laughs with God. "Will you give this child courage? A love of nature? A sense of humor? Creativity?”

The Lord of Heaven and Earth touches your cheek. "To this child I’ve already given the greatest gift of all. I have given my Child, so that we can forever be connected, in relationship."

Then God, overflowing with happiness, throws His arms over His head and dances around you. "But even still, I have every good gift to give. I’m generous beyond all human measure. The joy it brings me is uncontainable."

The Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, bends down and whispers in your ear, "Here my child. These are for you. I give you these gifts. Grow in them. Explore them. Use them to bring glory to My name. Let them be a constant reminder of My great love for you." "

By connecting to God using the amazing gifts He gave you, will change everything. Will change you. And the best part about it? It's fun. Which just makes sense to me. God knows how difficult life can be, He knows the issues we face and the humanity of our human-ness. No wonder He equipped us from the beginning to face the world. What are your strengths? They are the refractions and reflections of God's character found in you.

Spend some time today thinking about the gifts God has entreasured you with by His infinite love and mercy. Praise Him for them, and then get using them!

Bonnie Grove is the author of the upcoming book Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You (March 1, 2009, Beacon Hill Press). She is also the author of Talking to the Dead, a novel (summer 2009, David C. Cook). Visit Bonnie at and her blog

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To Just Be - Meyer

The feathery clouds enhanced the blue, blue sky domed over the deep turquoise and indigo waters of Lake Huron. The horizon curved gently to the right and the left, toward the shoreline. In front of me the crimson-to-orange sumacs swayed in unashamed exhibition of grandeur while the dark green pines framed the whole picture with their unwavering consistency. The constant shlip-shlap of the waves echoed slow whispers of peace (shlip) that flowed gently into my consciousness and the seeping away (shlap) of the tensions of the past weeks. Shlip-shlap, shlip-shlap—ah-hh!

After September’s rush of committee meetings, planning sessions, doctor’s appointments and the last-minute details of getting a book through it’s final birthing pangs into the hands of the delivery room “doctors,” a Thanksgiving weekend at the cottage seemed timely and appropriate. The first day, although my body leaned back on the lawn chair, my spirit insisted on sitting on the edge, tensed, ready to spring into action at the next call for action. Not quite imperceptibly, my fingers drummed impatiently on the arm of the chair. Almost audibly, I heard the voice of my first husband encouraging me to learn to “Just be.” It was echoed by the hand of my present husband, aware of that tense part of me, stroking my hand to encourage the same learning. (Two wise and wonderful men seeing the difficulty I have in learning to be rather than constantly do, must tell me something.)

On the calm and gentle waters of the lake, a Sea-do raged onto the scene. The rider with great skill and abandon roiled the water, crossing his own wake and dashing against the waves with frenzy and fury. At times the engine threatened to cut out, but the pause was only momentary. Away he would roar again—round and round and back and forth, riling the calm waters which fanned in an ever widening vee behind him. All his noise and turmoil seemed to affect only a small portion of the great expanse of water and very quickly returned to peaceful lapping when he tired of his play. He had not gone far, and probably saw only what was immediately in front of him.

A little later, two kayakers quietly sliced their paddles through the water and passed with tranquil grace to the north. Probably almost an hour later, they slipped quietly past again from north to south. Some of their attention, no doubt, was on their paddling, but I dare say they saw many features of the shoreline, the birds that flew overhead, the autumn colours on the way, the different cloud formations in the sky. They felt the tug of the water against their paddles. the occasional splash of water, the breeze against their faces, the smell of the water. They must have absorbed the peace of an autumn day, the thanksgiving of the season.

It set my mind to wondering. I wonder if the first fellow on the scene went back to shore content and full of satisfaction, or did he restlessly look around for something else to do? On the other hand, I would like to think the kayakers may have reached shore with probably tired muscles, but a deep satisfaction of having really seen and experienced God’s wonderful world. I would like to think that they were quite ready and willing to just be.

Then I wondered, “Which represents my life, and how can I learn from the two-act play I just witnessed?”

Ruth Smith Meyer
Author of two novels:
Not Easily Broken and Not Far from the Tree

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

John A Macdonald: Nation-Builder - Hird

Every time I spend ten dollars, I come face-to-face with Sir John A Macdonald, our first Prime Minister. As “the most famous of all Canadian leaders”, Sir John A. was a nation-builder, a man with many flaws who looked beyond himself and saw a great dream.

This year we are celebrating BC’s 150th Anniversary. Without Sir John A, there is no doubt in my mind that BC would have been lost to Canada. The vast majority of BC settlers were Americans drawn from San Francisco by the 1858 Gold Rush. John A’s promise of the Canadian Pacific Railway won over the hearts and mind of ambivalent BCers. This extravagant promise almost bankrupted Canada and nearly destroyed Sir John’s A. Macdonald’s political career. Imagine if the Federal Government in 2008 promised to send Canadian Astronauts to Jupiter by 2010! A railway all the way to BC was just as unthinkable in 1870. Some cynics joked that Canada was not a nation, but a railroad in search of a nation

John A was not only a nation-builder but also a bridge-builder. He commented: “We should accept as men and brothers all those who think alike of the future of the country, and wish to act alike for the good of the country, no matter what their antecedents may have been.” He saw Canadian Confederation as a spiritual marriage between francophones and anglophones. Unlike many of his fellow party members, John A could read French, understand it, and speak it reasonably well.” Sir John A commented: “God and nature have made the two Canadas one – let no factious men be allowed to put them asunder.”

After the tragic death of his first wife Isabella, he married Agnes Bernard, just before the national ‘marriage’ of the Dominion of Canada on July 1st, 1867. Agnes wrote in her diary: “I have found something worth living for – living in – my husband’s heart and love.” As a devout Anglican, Agnes had a significant impact on her husband’s life, causing him to cut back on his drinking and start attending church on Sunday. John A was deeply impressed by the Beatitudes, and made a practice of reading his bible every night before bedtime.

In 1888, during six weeks of Hunter-Crossley renewal meetings in Ottawa, Prime Minister Macdonald had a deep encounter with Jesus Christ. As one journalist put it, “When the well-known form of the Honorable Prime Minister arose in the centre of the church, many strong men bowed their heads and wept for joy.” After dining at the prime minister’s home several days later, Rev John Hunter confirmed that “Sir John is a changed man.” May we all, like Sir John A. Macdonald, have the courage to change the things we can.

The Rev Ed Hird+, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-an article for the North Shore News

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanksgiving - Lawrence

At this time of year we think about autumn with its glorious colours and falling leaves. Walking through the leaves we smell the scent of autumn and know that the coming of winter will soon be upon us. Many of us think of fall as the best season of the year perhaps because of its beauty and earth’s harvest time. But this may also be the saddest season of the year as falling leaves bring bare trees and signs of death all around us.

Fall brings us harvest festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations. Having planted in spring’s moist earth; watched the seeds’ grow through their first sprouting, budding and flowering in summer’s warmth; rejoiced in their fruiting and harvest as they mature, now we give thanks to the Creator of all this goodness in our harvest services and our family gatherings.

But, for all our rejoicing and celebrating, fall is a sad time of year; with the culmination of the harvest comes also the end of the growing days, the death of the ground plants, the approach of winter’s cold and earth’s apparent death.

People begin to make plans for the coming winter season—they plan to play on the snow-packed ground and the frozen water. Is it a good thing, this denial of nature’s opportunity for rest and renewal? The Creator made our planet with cycles of day and night, summer and winter, life and death. Other animals follow these cycles; some are diurnal, others are nocturnal; some animals hibernate through the winter while others migrate to warmer climes.

We humans defy or deny the cycles of the earth. We do shift-work; we play and work through the winter months; we go on about our business, wrapping ourselves in warm clothing, denying the cold and death of winter and its call to rest.

Perhaps this is not a bad thing. This attitude helps us get through the difficulties in life—times of illness, times of poverty, times of loss. It helps us fight through illnesses and pain; find cures for diseases that were once terminal; we keep smiling, hoping and giving thanks through adverse conditions. It helps us keep on keeping on.

We give thanks not only for the good things—the harvest, our well-being, our blessings—but also the spiritual growth that comes to us through our reliance on God in our difficulties, and the peace that passes all understanding, which comes in times of poverty, illness and loss.

May each reader be blessed in this fall season of paradox; may each be blessed with spiritual growth in whatever are your life’s circumstances.

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

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Antidote to Fault Finding - Shepherd

When I was young, my mother used to tell me not to always be fault finding. It was a habit that was difficult to break. It was always easier for me to see what was wrong, than what was right. There was always room for improvement. The trouble was, not only did I see the ways what others did needed correction, I also became a perfectionist, so that I was never satisfied with what I did either. The danger of being a perpetual faultfinder is that it leaves no room for appreciation. It is based on dissatisfaction.

My years at university encouraged the faultfinding. We learned to think critically, which meant that nothing could be accepted without first examining all of the assumptions why such a thing could be postulated. It would be heresy to accept something at face value. This is not in itself unwise. However, when it begins to permeate every area of life, one can become a chronic faultfinder.

What is the antidote? In exercises of critical thinking, it could be to make a sincere effort to find those things that are positive or with which we can agree before we begin to look for what must be changed or challenged in a theory or a position.

In relationships it is to find what is admirable and attractive about a person before pouncing on their weaknesses or failures.

The ability to take this positive approach seems much more difficult and unnatural to us than a negative, questioning or critical approach. We find that we have to train ourselves to think that way.

One of the useful methods of developing a more positive attitude occurred to me several years ago. I discovered that if, every morning, I sat down and filled one page of my journal with those things for which I could be grateful that day, the scales began to fall off my eyes, and I could see much that was good and positive in the world around me. I could be freed from the chains of fault finding.

That is not to say that I go around looking at the world through rose coloured glasses. I am aware that there is much that I could focus on that is far less than pleasing or of fine quality. There are experiences that can take us so far into the darkness, that the light at the end of the tunnel seems no larger than a pinprick. Such was the case when our son became a quadriplegic as a result of his car careening out of control on black ice.

As we rushed to his bedside in the Intensive Care Unit, although I threw my gratitude journal into the suitcase, I doubted that I would be able to fill it during the days after his accident. I wondered if I would ever feel gratitude again.

Yet miraculously, each morning as I arose and opened my journal, with a few minutes of reflection there came to mind subjects about which I could frame my gratitude. Sometimes it was individuals who were there for us. Their kind deeds served to encourage us to hang on. Sometimes it was unexpected signs that God was with us in these dark days, like running into the surgeon as I left the chapel, where I had been praying while he did the tracheotomy. His comment that he just completed the most perfect tracheotomy of his medical career, assured me that those prayers had been heard and answered.

Critical thinking has its place, within the framework of a life that is based on gratitude. All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above. In an imperfect world we can keep our equilibrium by trusting in One who surrounds us with reasons to give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Eleanor Shepherd

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why You Shouldn't Just Write a Book - Gregoire

I've just returned from speaking for Girls Night Out five times in the past week. I also spoke at two MOPS groups, and visited a few other places. It was busy, and I am tired!

I sell a lot when I speak, but increasingly I'm noticing that it's not necessarily books. Last week one of my big sellers was a "Retreat to Go" package I've created, with a DVD of a conference I gave, and then a whole kit on how to host a women's retreat, with all the planning checklists, dramas, ice breaker ideas, and more that you will need.

I think people want information, but they don't necessarily want it in books. They want to listen to it as they commute. They want to experience it with others on DVD. They want to reflect on devotions every day, or something else like that. But the time to read a book? Not necessarily.

Perhaps it's different for fiction; I have a feeling it is. But nonfiction? I'm not sure. It's still selling well, according to booksellers, but I sense that people crave information, just in different ways.

So for the last few months I've spent a ton of time uploading videos of myself onto YouTube, and blogging, and starting a podcast. It's a lot of work! But I'm starting to see more and more people learn about me who had no idea what I had to say before.

I read a great blog post a few months ago on why not to write a book. Here's a little bit of what she said:

1. People who have a lot of ideas need a blog, not a book.A blog is more immediate, so you’ll get better feedback. And getting feedback as you go is much more intellectually rigorous than printing a final compendium of your ideas and getting feedback from the public only when it's too late to change anything.

Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging. There is nothing like a blog to help you realize you have nothing new to say. And, if you do end up having an amazing blog that focuses on one, big grand idea with great writing to boot, then you can get a book deal from your blog.

Another of her points is that books lead to speaking careers, and speaking careers go nowhere, and they're very stressful. I'd second that! But I still love speaking, because I think it's a gift God has given me.

And that's the difference between us as Christian writers and the rest of the world. We don't just write to get rich and famous (because we probably wouldn't, anyway!), we write because we feel called to it. So are you called only to write? Or are you called to communicate?

Deborah Gyapong and Denyse O'Leary both have awesome blogs, and I'm sure more people have read their blogs than their books, though they're likely upset about that. I've been trying to blog for a different niche audience (Christian moms), and I'm having fun with it. But being able to talk about what's on your mind in a daily basis does solidify your thoughts, and give you some authority, too.

Books are still needed, but they're not all that is needed. And if someone is thinking, "I have this great story to tell; I really should write a book!", maybe they're on the wrong track. Maybe they should blog. Or speak. Or write articles. All three would probably reach a bigger audience.

So I will keep writing books, because that's something I'm gifted in. But it's not all I'm going to do. I'm also going to make more CDs of my talks. And DVDs. And I'll blog. And all of that is a lot of work. But it's how we reach people today, and I guess we just all have to adjust!

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 around the country to women's groups and at marriage conferences. You can find her at, or at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Selling Your Title: Whose Responsibility? - Austin

I’m an author, a librarian and a bookstore employee. I love words. I love the wonder of language, its incredible versatility, its dynamic and its power. I’m thrilled when someone tells me how much they’ve enjoyed a book. I often joke that I couldn’t sell water on the Sahara, but something about books changes me. I’m not ‘selling’ something. I’m sharing a treasure. I get an almost identical thrill in the library as in the bookstore. (If I owned the store and had to pay the bills I might see things differently.)

I find great satisfaction in promoting authors I know, but my role as a bookstore employee and as a librarian is broader than that. In most cases where I have opportunity to make suggestions to a customer or someone browsing library shelves, I’ll offer a selection that fits a theme. It might on rare occasions even include my own work if someone expresses an interest in poetry, or is looking for resources on grieving. But it will always include other work presented in the best light possible. I am frequently disappointed in the choices customers make, but if I have given them a fair selection with an indication of the strengths of a number of titles, the final choice is theirs. When I present Hot Apple Cider alongside another anthology, I know both are excellent books. But there are several thousand excellent choices in our store as well as quite a few not so excellent.

But – when it all boils down – whose responsibility is it to sell YOUR title? Is it the bookstore’s responsibility? Is it the publishers? Is it yours?

I’ll risk saying all three, but ultimately the biggest responsibility falls to the author. I would love to tell you that your title landing on our shelves automatically translates into sales. It doesn’t! With a gripping cover and excellent back-cover copy it stands a good chance of getting picked up by customers. That is a big start, but only a start. If you are fortunate enough that someone on staff takes the book home and reads it, that’s another big plus for you. Still, it sits on a shelf beside many other titles. Customers have limited funds and limited time. They may make a decision based on those three or four one-line blurbs on the back cover. They may make a decision based on the title and the cover illustration. They may make a decision totally on price – your title lists at $16.99 and the one beside it is selling at $11.99.

As an author, I want stores to do more for “my” titles. I think they should somehow get special treatment. Out of the thousands of new titles released each year and the tens of thousands of backlist titles available, I want “my” titles featured front and centre, read and endorsed and promoted by every staff member. As an employee, however, my title ranks exactly the same as every other title in the store.

Your title, wherever it fits in any store, is the product of your dream and passion and labour of love. But the title beside it also represents an author’s dream and passion and labour of love. Yet the responsibility for your title, still remains primarily with you.

Brian Austin

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Give Thanks, Go Vote, and Lean Hard - Wegner

As Canadians we have a unique week ahead of us: Thanksgiving Day on Monday followed by our federal election the next day. Perhaps the arrangement of those two is most fitting because, depending on one’s political point of view, giving thanks may be more difficult after the voting’s completed and the results are tallied.

But while both those events involve a number of faith related issues, it is the overriding global economic crisis that looms largest in many minds. Around the world people (Christian or not) have responded in panic, anger and despair as they’ve watched seen their houses, savings and pension funds disappear. The Scripture put it this way: “Men’s hearts failing them for fear.”

Currently I’m working on an assignment to prepare an 800 word article reflecting current market conditions and advice from the experts on how best to deal with the situation. I’m the writer, not the source of economic wisdom, but what I want to say to the readers of this blog can be summed up in three basic statements: in everything give thanks, vote, and remember the Source of all our supply is not Wall Street, the TSX or your banking institution of choice.

Marcia posted an excellent blog several days ago in which she posed the question: What if [pick your example] hadn’t obeyed God’s direction? I’d like to add this: What can God do if I do?

As a writer who is Christian I believe that whatever the genre or the audience, what motivates our personal life permeates our writing. We may not be free to pen the name of Christ but the fragrance of His presence can’t be filtered out. Times may be tough but the Lord is Almighty!

Linda Wegner

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Isn't it high time someone said this? - Denyse O'Leary

From Martin Beckford, the Daily Telegraph's Religious Affairs correspondent, we learn that composer James MacMillan warns of "liberal elite's 'ignorance-fuelled hostility to religion' " (01 Oct 2008)
James MacMillan, one of the conductors of the BBC Philharmonic orchestra, claimed in a speech last night that the "ignorance-fuelled" hostility to faith shown by "metropolitan arts, cultural and media elites" risks making society bland and uniform.

He also accused pop culture of inhibiting musical curiosity in the young and leading to greater conformity.

MacMillan, regarded as the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation, added that embracing spirituality is now one of the most radical and counter-cultural moves a musician can make.
Well, I don't know why anyone should be surprised. MacMillan, a Scottish composer, was commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Sandford St Martin Trust, a charity that furthers radio and television programs on religion, in a lecture at the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Of the "new atheist" project, MacMillan said
The campaigning atheists, as opposed to the live-and-let-live variety, are raising their voices because they recognise that they are losing; the project to establish a narrow secular orthodoxy is failing.
Yes, exactly. Human beings are spiritual by nature. The "new atheist man" could be a Nobelist, but he is much more likely to be a bewildered soul in rehab somewhere who "don't believe in nothing" and doesn't have the least idea how he should live, in consequence.

Also, fun posts just up at The Mindful Hack - the blog that supports my book, The Spiritual Brain:

Altruism: Can mathematics, with a dash of faith, explain altruism?

Artificial intelligence: Conversing with computers? ... or with their programmers?

Spirituality: Is this a trend? Guy tries Judaism "on spec" - discovers 7-day no-refund policy, ends as famous pulpit rabbi

Neuroscience: Getting past the "You are a computer made of meat" phase

Psychology: Picture yourself deciding you actually like the way you look!

Social psychology: "Only the lonely"? Yes, abstract concepts can generate physical sensations - for better or worse

Near death experiences: Large project to study up to 1500 cases - possible new insights into relation between mind and brain

Evolutionary psychology: Do people see faces in cars?

Spirituality: A conventional sad tale does not transform into a spiritual memoir just because God is hat tipped

The difference between the mind and the brain ... in under one minute

Ici un entretien a blog paranormal re Du cerveau à Dieu - plaidoyer d’un neuroscientifique pour l’existence de l’âme

Monday, October 06, 2008

Avoiding Forced Rhyme — Martin

Back in March, in the session I taught at Write! London, I outlined many things that good poets should do. I only focussed on four things they should avoid. I have talked on this blog about three of them, so it’s high time I expand my thoughts about the fourth. The other three blogs can be found on this site:
“Avoiding Sentimentality” June 27
“Avoiding Didacticism and Predigested Ideas” May 27
“Avoiding Clichés” March 20

These three topics don’t just apply to good poetry, but to good writing as well. Today’s topic, however, is unique to poetry.

If I were to ask my young students to write a poem, without having shown them how, the most obvious mistake they would make would be to let the rhyme write the poem. This happens when the writer searches for a word to rhyme with whatever has gone before, and it is that rhyming word that determines what the writer ends up saying. How many songs about love, end up speaking about “the stars above”, or “heaven above”, not because that fit with the songwriter’s thoughts, but in order to rhyme? How often does someone sing about a dove, or fitting hand in glove, simply to rhyme with love? This tends to lead to more clichés.

Another related problem is when writers replace the normal word order people use in conversation, with an awkward word order — again so that the rhyming word is at the end of the line. This was acceptable in past centuries, but seems contrived in contemporary poetry. Let me wrap these concepts into a brief rule: Don’t include anything in the poem that wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t provided a rhyming word. Don’t rearrange normal word order in order to make it rhyme. If people wouldn’t normally say it that way, don’t write it that way.

Please don’t think I dislike good, rhyming poetry. I wrote some myself for my new book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock, 2008) including a sonnet and a villanelle. Often, however, I prefer to use internal rhyme — rather than end-stop rhyme — and to use other musical elements, such as alliteration, and onomatopoeia. My advice to young poets would be to refrain from writing rhyming poetry for the next ten years, before permitting themselves to return to it. Writing good free-verse is more difficult. Once they can do that, they’re better qualified to write rhyming verse.

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

Friday, October 03, 2008

Commitment and Providence - Laycock

Commitment and Providence – M. Laycock

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.All sorts of things occur to help that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance which no man or woman would have dreamed could have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.Boldness has genius, power, and magic to it.Begin it now." Goethe

Let’s play what if. What if Abram didn’t pull up the tent pegs and set off from Ur. What if Noah didn’t pick up the hammer? What if Moses didn’t pick up the staff? What if Gideon didn’t climb out of the winepress and break down the altar to Baal? What if Joshua didn’t march around Jericho? What if Ruth didn’t go with Naomi? What if David didn’t take the provisions to his brothers on the front lines? What if Solomon didn’t build the temple? What if Shaphan the secretary didn’t read the book of the Law to Josiah? What if Josiah didn’t tear his robes? What if Esther stayed home? What if Daniel didn’t pay attention to his dreams? What if Matthew didn’t walk away from the tax collectors booth? What if Peter didn’t put down his nets?

What if you don’t take up your pen?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Casting All Your Care Upon Him - Meyer

When my kids were young, we sometimes listened to “Patch, the Pirate” tapes. One of the songs was about a wart hog who always worried and every time he started to worry about something, he would get another “worry-wart”. It was a cute little song that has stuck in my head all these years – along with a hundred other crazy kids’ songs like “The Cat Came Back” and “Another Fancy Dinner by My Mother” (CARAMEL BROCCOLI!!)

Usually the wart hog song pops into my head when I’m worrying about something – which, my husband would tell you is just about all the time! Actually, I think I’ve taken worrying to a new (I won’t say “higher”) level. I don’t just worry about my own problems. I worry about people who live half a world away and I worry about my neighbour next door. I worry about my kids (of course I do!) and now I’ve added in their wives and their families – and of course, my grandkids.
I worry about the town, the province, the country, the world.
I worry about the dog – Is he happy? Is he hungry? Is he bored?
I worry about the birds – Will they still eat the birdseed even though it’s wet from the rain? If I forget to feed them, will they go somewhere else or die of starvation?

Of course, as a writer, there are always a thousand things to worry about. Will the publisher accept my book? If they do, will I like the final product? If I do, will my reader like it? And if my readers like this book, will they like the next one – and the next?
Today, I was checking for some copyright information on a recently published book of mine and I started skimming through the first chapter. I was horrified – had I actually unleashed this book on the world? Worry gnawed away inside of me. Even with super-great endorsements and letters from people who have enjoyed the book, I still worry constantly about those who might hate it – who might hate me.

And I need to remind myself again – and again – and again to cast all my cares upon Him because He cares for me. This verse from the Bible (1 Peter 5:7) is about God. God cares for me. The God of the universe cares for me! And… he cares about the birds (see Matthew 10:29 and N.J.'s post from yesterday!). He cares about the dog (sorry, no verse for that but I figure if he cares about birds, he cares about dogs, too). He for sure cares about my kids and grandkids – and the people who live half a world away!

And because He cares, I don’t have to worry. Repeat after me, all you worriers out there (you know who you are): I don’t have to worry.

"Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

Dorene Meyer
Writing about how much God cares for each one of us – Deep Waters (for adults), Colin’s Choice (teens) and Get Lost! (kid’s chapter book) all set in the fictional First Nations community of Rabbit Lake. Available at your local bookstore or directly from the author at

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Getting to Know the God of Details - Lindquist

A little while ago, I took the time to spend a day with God in the midst of some of his most exotic creations at our local zoo. And while there, I had a bit of an "ah ha!" experience.

It happened while I was looking at a Siberian tiger, studying his magnificent, velvety, orange coat with its black markings, the white tufts of whiskers, the deep, simmering eyes. It must have been the orange colour that reminded me of the kitchen curtains God helped me make some years before.

Now I know some people would say that God has more critical and urgent things to do than to help someone get new kitchen curtains. I sometimes wonder about that myself. I mean, really, why would the God who made the heavens and earth take the time to make sure that one unimportant person gets the right material for her kitchen curtains?

But he did.

We had moved into the house about twelve years before. The steel blue wallpaper in the kitchen was fairly new and good quality, and we had lots of other expenses, so we ignored the fact that we found it kind of depressing, and left it up.

But, finally, the day came when we just had to do something to brighten the kitchen. We painted the dark wooden cupboards cream, painted the walls to match, and bought a new cream table and chairs with apricot and turquoise threads in the chair fabric.

I looked for curtains in either the apricot or the turquoise. Nothing even close. I looked for fabric to make curtains. Nada. Not at any price. Those colors simply weren't in. My time was running out. I had many other things to do. I had to find something, and I had to find it now. I prayed, "God, please help me find the material I need, or something else that will work." I got into the car one last time, and drove to the closest fabric store, looking for a fresh thought, a new idea, something I hadn't thought of before. Nothing. I drove to Walmart, explaining my frustration to God. "I can't take any more time on this. Please help me find something - anything - that will work."

I had been in Walmart a few days before and seen nothing. But the moment I entered the fabric area this time, I saw a bolt of light apricot material on a sale table. It was non-wrinkle polyester, the exact color and weight I needed, and on sale for only 99 cents a yard! I bought 12 yards, enough to make curtains for both my kitchen window and the adjoining family room window.
I drove home in a happy daze, thanking God. And I had the curtains up by Saturday night.

I know that bolt of material was not there three days before. Where did it come from? Perhaps the God who can turn water into wine can also make bolts of apricot fabric appear.

But why would he bother?

Reliving that experience in my mind while still looking at the Siberian tiger, I glanced over and noticed a sign explaining that the black markings, particularly those on the face, can be used just like fingerprints to identify each tiger. No two Siberian tigers have the same markings.

But it's only a wild tiger, I thought. Why couldn't they be the same?

I remembered Matthew 10:29. "Two sparrows cost only a penny, but not even one of them can die without your Father's knowing."

If God knows each tiny sparrow, then presumably he also knows each Siberian tiger by name.

I thought of the next verse, Matthew 10:30. "God even knows how many hairs are on your head."

And I suddenly realized, in a way I never had before, that God is a stickler for details. He is right here with us all the time, looking after us, caring about what matters to us, trying to guide us into knowing what matters to Him. And He wants to be included in our day-to-day lives, even when it's about buying curtains.

I thought of the many other times God has intervened in the seemingly trivial details in my life. Why would the God of all the heavens and earth find me a parking space just because I'm in a hurry and didn't leave enough time, or point out the exact book I need to read just now, or show me how to patch up a broken relationship? Because he cares about every tiny detail in my life. Every detail of all of our lives.

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