Sunday, November 30, 2008

Appreciating Who I Am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N. J.'s website is

N. J. blogs at:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Unseen Process of Change - Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Changing of the Guard - Nesdoly

Aunt Lois, Mom, Aunt Hilda - April 2004

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

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

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

Changing of the Guard

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

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

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

© 2007 - V. Nesdoly

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Finding God's Path - Lawrence

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God Rushes In - Grove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life – A Grab Bag - Ruth Smith Meyer

Although I haven’t seen them recently, I remember the local drug store of my childhood having “Grab Bags” in an aisle bin for a modest price. You couldn’t see what was in the brown paper bags before purchasing them; you just had to hope there may be some things you really, really wanted. A few times, I couldn’t resist the temptation. There usually was at least one item with which I was delighted. Some were okay, but not something I would normally have purchased, but still useful, and some items I hardly knew what I could do with-even a disappointment. Yet they had all come in one bag.
The past week or two sometimes have felt like one of those grab bags. Among the goodies—some encouraging news from my husband’s medical appointments; visits with old friends and family; the enthusiasm with which my new novel, Not Far from the Tree, has been received; the celebrations around my husband and my daughters birthdays and the many warm greetings on my own last week.
The okay? The season’s first snowfall—early, but it did beautify our world and we didn’t get as much in our immediate area as some did, so we could appreciate the beauty without the labour; I’ve been able to get caught up on some work that got pushed aside in order to finish my book—tedious but satisfying to finish.
The items I think I could have done without? Our son-in-laws surgery that went drastically wrong, leaving him with a long recovery period (we’re so glad he made it, though); the death of a young mother leaving her husband to finish raising four young girls; the difficulties confronted by another friend on her journey with cancer; the crisis in a few organizations where I have responsibility.
Some would say as in the grab bag, life is a bit of a gamble. There is no doubt; life certainly is a mixed bag. What a difference though when one has a deeply grounded faith in Someone Who has the world in His hands! It helps us believe there is purpose in each one of those grab bag items, even if that purpose may be concealed at the moment. Let us not cast away or push any one of them aside, but reach out with open hands, seek out the opportunity for growth, understanding and deeper relationships that each presents and ask that Someone for help when we are perplexed.
Ruth Smith Meyer
Author of Not Easily Broken and Not Far from the Tree

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Golfing with My Undertaker - Hird

Golf is now over 500 years old, having been played officially throughout Scotland since 1502. Most of the earliest references to golf were about attempts to ban it or to condemn the golfers. On 6th March 1457 in Edinburgh, King James II banned ‘ye golf’ because it was more popular than archery.

As a teenager, I golfed religiously three times a week at Langara Golf Course in Vancouver. To prove my dedication, I even sometimes golfed in the snow. I also used to caddy for my father, which was a great way to spend quality time with him.

Years later, my golf game has its moments of glory, as well as many reminders of how far I have fallen. I recently took part in a golfing tournament with forty undertakers and one hundred and ten clergy. On the second hole of the tournament, I sunk a forty-five-foot putt. Delusions of being the next Tiger Woods filled my mind until I missed a four-foot putt on the very next hole. Golf can be very humbling, and is therefore good for the soul, or so they tell me.

In the twenty-eight years since I was ordained, I have taken many funerals. Virtually every funeral involves a funeral director, sometimes called a family services counselor. I have found them to be very personal, decent individuals. It was not until I started golfing with funeral directors that I really came to know them personally. Over the eighteen holes, the pastors and undertakers shared the inevitable victories and defeats. It really helped us realize how much we had in common, though the funeral directors are usually better golfers.

Both funeral directors and clergy are usually called upon in times of sorrow and death. While some people try to do their own services, most Canadians still look to professionals to help them through this most difficult of times. Both pastors and undertakers are often misunderstood. People sometimes don’t realize that undertakers and clergy are ordinary human beings much like themselves. I remember once when a Deep Cove resident was shocked to see me shopping at Safeway, because they didn’t think that clergy actually shopped.

One of the privileges of serving for twenty-one years has been to walk with North Shore families and individuals through the key transitions of life: birth, marriage, and death. With one local family, I had the privilege of burying four members. Families during funerals will open up and share their hearts in ways that you rarely otherwise see.

Death is the great leveler. No matter how we try to avoid it and deny it, death catches up with every family. We can put it off for a while through healthy eating and exercising, but sooner or later we all face the grim reaper.

Both funeral directors and clergy can make a big difference in helping families navigate these painful waters. I am grateful that I can remind grieving people that there is a bridge over troubled waters, that Jesus made a way and prepared a resting place for them. I am grateful that death does not have the final say. My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us will find that bridge over troubled waters.

The Reverend Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, BC
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pre-Christmas Without Anxiety - Lawrence

Here in Central Ontario we have had snow several times already this fall and, by the magic of television, we’ve watched the Santa Claus Parade from Toronto—both these events prepare our minds for Christmas.
Since Hallowe’en, we have been encouraged to buy our cards and presents and are daily admonished to mail them out by the due date in order for them to reach their destination on time.
I have heard rumours that the postal workers may go on strike at this crucial time of the year, and that retailers are worried that people will cut back on their spending because of the current economic climate, thus making the shopkeepers’ profits less than desirable.
People are getting anxious over a festival that commemorates the coming into the world of Jesus Christ, the one who came and continues to come to give us peace and take our fears away.
While we take part in the social events that surround our celebrations of Christmas, let us keep the Christ Child firmly in our hearts, knowing that he is the only gift we need and the best gift we can possibly give to others.
When we have Jesus in our hearts we have nothing to fear. Jesus is love and, there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4: 18 NRSV
© 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, November 20, 2008

Why Listen? - Eleanor Shepherd

It seems ironic for a writer to insist on the need to listen, yet I believe it is a skill we need to cultivate, particularly if we call ourselves Christian.

Why do we need to learn to listen? The world we live in is a complex one. With the idea being promulgated that truth is always relative, it is difficult for any of us to find solid convictions in which to anchor our lives. This is true both inside and outside the church, and particularly so for a post-modern generation.

Those of us who grew up in the modern era were handed down some truths that we were to accept without question. We were forced to make a choice. We could accept what we were taught or we could reject it and find our own set of beliefs.
When tolerance became the supreme Canadian value, it was no longer acceptable for us to hand down truths to the next generation. We could make suggestions but we had to leave them to make their own decisions. Anything that we held onto without questioning was suspect. While there were positive aspects to such an approach, the church suffered many casualties. Perhaps the reason was that the beliefs that were handed down had not been examined and integrated into life.

What does all of this have to do with listening? Listening is an essential part of learning what makes sense and what does not. As we try on ideas and philosophies, it is in the testing of them that we find whether or not they can become an anchor that will hold us steady in the storms of life. That testing often takes place in our conversation with one another. As we share our lives, we affirm to each other what it is that keeps us going and where we find the strength to cope.

With eyes wide open we need to ask the hard questions that test our faith, so we will discover if we really do have something that will hold us when we need it. We ask ourselves, “Do I really believe that Jesus is with me in the maze that my life sometimes seems to be, like He accompanied his friends on the road to Emmaus?” “On what do I base my convictions?”

Here is a tough question. Do we have the courage to ask someone outside the church to tell us about the god in whom they do not believe? If we dare to ask, we may be surprised to discover the god in whom they do not believe is a god in whom we do not believe either. We all have a distorted picture of God at best. The often rejected god is not the God the Bible tells us about.

By listening to the genuine questions of other people, we will learn a lot about God and about ourselves. By listening to their questions, we may also find that they challenge our assumptions and teach us to live with some ambiguity. This can be for us the beginning of our walk into a genuine faith, that admits to not having all the answers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rejoicing with those Who Rejoice

Do you remember that verse in Romans 12 that talks about weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice?

What is the hardest one for you?

For years I focused on the "weep with those who weep" part. I figured that when a friend was hurting, it was important to hurt with them. To enter into their pain, and not just ignore it or give it a passing glance, just enough to buy a card but that's it.

Lately, though, I've started to wonder if the "rejoice with those who rejoice" is actually harder. Sure, it's fun to cheer when a friend gets married. That is, if you're already married. It's great to cheer when your sister announces she's pregnant! If, of course, you haven't just had four miscarriages. What about when a friend of yours signs a great book deal, when you've been waiting for a nibble on your proposal for months?

Then it's a little bit tricker, isn't it?

The publishing industry today is very cut throat. There's an economic downturn coming, and it will be harder to get our books published. So there's even more room for jealousy, and feeling badly, and wondering if you're doing this all for nothing. And it's hard to look when someone else seems so much more successful.

But God calls us not just to look, but to rejoice! He asks us to be happy for them, because He is the One doing the work. He has a reason that their book is selling, that their baby is healthy, that their marriage is working. These things can be difficult when someone else is living the dream that we have nurtured for years, but I think God is calling us to dream His dreams, and not only our own.

That doesn't mean that He doesn't give us individual dreams. But we have to remember that He has the ultimate plan for this world. And we have to rejoice just for being a part of it.

I find that difficult, to focus on God, rather than the things that I have built up in my mind. But I am learning, slowly but surely, that He is guiding me in my writing and my speaking, just not in the directions I thought. My speaking is currently going better than my writing, which is perhaps typical of this economy. I'm looking at doing more self-publishing, especially of devotionals, since I already have a ready audience. But I'm also interested in the idea of communicating, and not only writing. Speaking, even "twittering", if need be!

God has given each of us specific audiences. Some of those audiences may be large and some small, but He has put them in our path for a reason. Let's not lament that He didn't do a better job; let's rejoice with what He's given us, and rejoice with what He's given others. Let's focus on Him, not on us!

Here's a little video clip of me talking about what it means to focus on something. Hope you enjoy it!

Sheila is the author of four books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life. Find Sheila at!

She blogs at, and twitters at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

God Is Not Fair!

I was privileged to grow up in a home where the Bible was read daily by parents who, although imperfect, believed it and lived their beliefs. I have no memory of not believing in God or not believing the Bible was His Word – full, complete and trustworthy. Through the years there have been passages that bothered me; passages I wished were not there, yet I have remained convinced of God’s sovereignty, so those passages stood whether I liked them or not.

Without question the Scripture that bothered me the most, that wore on me like a dull headache that wouldn’t go away, came from Exodus 20. Tucked nearly in the middle of the Ten Commandments we find these words:
“I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me. . .”
Everything in me would protest. “God, that is so unfair! How can you hold kids responsible for their parent’s actions, or their grandparents or great grandparents? How can you call that justice? How can you call it love?

I am sure I read the rest of that section – at least occasionally, but I didn’t get it. I was too busy giving God a lecture on justice. He’s a pretty good listener, but for some reason He never argued with me – just listened to my rant. He was still God. He had the authority. He had the power. I had a responsibility to obey Him. But I didn’t have to like it.

It is not that many years ago I was reading through the same part of the Bible again. I could feel the tension rising as I approached those words. (I never feel compelled to read with great care the genealogies, or the lists in the book of Numbers, although I do enough historical research to greatly value that such information is given with meticulous detail.) This though – the Ten Commandments – is absolutely central to the Old Testament, and still of great importance to the New Testament. It was and is God’s Word, so I had to read it. I had to try to digest it and align my life to it – BUT – God was more than smart enough to know I didn’t like it – so I didn’t need to even pretend.

For some reason that day, I actually took in what the rest of the verse says:
“but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
I don’t remember any thunderclap of revelation – just a draining away of anger, a slowly growing sense of awe as a new thought rattled around in my head and finally took root.

God is unfair! It remains true – even truer than I used to think – but in an awe-inspiring way. Look again at Exodus 20: 5-6:
“I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me, BUT showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
The ratio is 250 to 1 of love over punishment. God is unfair, but the unfairness is all in our favour. He takes the penalty for our carelessness, our thoughtlessness, and even our deliberate sin, and pours out love toward us.

Consider this. If the average age of the next generation being born is estimated at 20 years, that promise of blessing stretches for 20,000 years. The Bible places the creation of Adam about 6,500 years ago – that is assuming the very detailed genealogies and precise dates given in the Bible are literal rather than symbolic as some people try to argue. That means we are still on the receiving end of God’s promised love from Adam, and from every generation since that has honoured God – while at most the sins of our Great-Great Grandparents are still plaguing us. It also means our children and grandchildren for the next 13,500 years are heirs of that promise stretching all the way back to Adam.
Even if you don’t take Genesis literally – that promise still has a 20,000 year extension clause attached – Not quite what you typically see on a Limited Warranty.

There are a couple more factors as well. “Jealously,” as used in this passage, is part of the language of marriage. God is looking for an exclusive relationship. He is not interested in an open marriage with multiple lovers– so even the negative part of this passage uses the vocabulary of love. Also, punishment is restorative, not destructive – again, an act of love.

God is not fair! He takes the burden of all my stupid acts, whether careless or intentional, and still loves me.

There are times in your life and in mine when we can say with a lot of reason that life is unfair. There is a lady in our church who was doing her devotions when she was sexually assaulted. That seems to me awfully unfair. A lot of the people living on the streets have good reason to think that life is unfair. But God – though He doesn’t always show His power the way and in the timing we think He should – has proven His love over and over. He has promised blessings with a 20,000 year extension plan attached – and that is before you factor in eternal life. He has planned – with the full cooperation of His Son, Jesus, a cruel sacrificial death – so that justice could be served yet we could be set free.

God is unfair – incredibly so – and the unfairness is all stacked in our favour. I guess I can put up with that and not complain quite so loudly as I once did.

Monday, November 17, 2008

MercatorNet: Explaining away religion for the 100th time ... Denyse O'Leary

You'd think people would get tired of this, but ...

This time, anthropologist Pascal Boyer, of the ambitiously titled Religion Explained takes an inept swipe at explaining away religion:

From Part I:

In fairness, it is very difficult for a social scientist to write a book about religion that does not fundamentally distort its nature. Those who can write such a book usually have a background in the humanities -- Peter Berger comes readily to mind. Most attempts sponsored by atheistic materialists do not explain, they merely explain away.

Boyer, for example, constantly compares humans to animals, ending in the swamp of the ridiculous. For example,

Indeed, the extraordinary social skills of humans, compared with other primates, may be honed by constant practice with imagined or absent partners.

Hmmm. I don't suppose lemurs have imaginary friends; they probably don't have actual friends either. So something about humans is definitely different, .... Tellingly, while natural scientists quite often regard social scientists with contempt (having the style of science without the substance), Nature gladly prints an article by a social scientist if it tries, however inadequately, to explain away religious belief. The journal's editors would not likely print a similar article explaining away Darwinism as a mere "cognitive construct" whose "truths" about nature are no more valid than the "truths" of African mythology or medieval Catholicism. Darwinism is, after all, their cult.

Read all here:

From Part II:

Boyer closes with a self-flattery that is so naive as to, at first, provoke derision:
Knowing, even accepting these conclusions is unlikely to undermine religious commitment. Some form of religious thinking seems to be the path of least resistance for our cognitive systems. By contrast, disbelief is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.
But hold the laughter! To the extent that a non-materialist worldview is defined as delusional but a materialist worldview is defined as rational, the groundwork is laid for academic and legal discrimination against non-materialist points of view.

Here is how it unfolds: The non-materialist worldview cannot be supported by evidence because those who accept the evidence are, by definition, delusional. The materialist worldview can never be disconfirmed by evidence because only a non-materialist is likely to advance such evidence, and such a person is delusional. Here we have a justification for discrimination against, for example, Christian schools or Christians in academic life.

Against this background, a group of non-materialists in neuroscience recently held the “Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness” symposium at the UN (September 11, 2008), co-sponsored by the Nour Foundation, UN-DESA, and the Université de Montréal. They were promptly attacked by a hit piece in New Scientist, a reliable standard-bearer for materialism, which read a dark conspiracy to institute religious fundamentalism in the United States into the multinational proceedings. Scratch a materialist atheist and a truther emerges, full-grown. That's no laughing matter.

Read all here:

See also: The payoff for straining the brain - how focus and sleep really do improve your academic performance
Dorian Gray, I hope you believe in miracles, because cosmetic surgery ...

Andrew Newberg and the problem of measuring consciousness

Spotted: Neuroscientists in themovies - Andrew Newberg!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Matters Most?

Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt was Canada's First Finance Minister and Canada's First High Commissioner to Britain. Queen Victoria knighted him twice. When he was well past 60, he co-founded Lethbridge, Alberta with his son, Elliott Torrance Galt.

As a teenager Alexander Galt came back to Canada from Scotland while his father, cheated and shamed out of two Canadian companies he founded, died in poverty in Aryshire. Alexander vowed to become richer than the men who ridiculed his father. And he did. He vowed to become more powerful than them; and he was.

While some Canadians know Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt was the son of novelist and colonist John Galt, founder of Guelph,Ontario, not many know that he actually listened more to his mother, Elizabeth Tilloch Galt, than to his father.

Elizabeth, a deeply religous woman, was the daughter of Calvinist theologian and publisher, Alexander Tilloch. As soon as he earned enough to support Elizabeth, Alexander brought her to Canada to live in his house.

Alexander attended the Congregational Church in Sherbrooke with his mother until she died. (Later, he appears to have preferred the Anglican Church, but his wife, Amy, still took their children to Presbyterian Sunday School.)

Alexander's faith remained important to him through his life. Galt was the Calvinist Scot who kept his friends, John A. Macdonald and George Etienne Cartier, from discussing politics on Sundays.

Often, instead of going to church, Galt read The Book of Job and The Psalms alone in his study. Alexander, who never quite saw himself as a powerful man, found solace in these scriptures.

Alexander Galt never forgot the shame of his childhood. And he was dogged with fear that he would be called a fool and die in poverty like his father.

But God is gracious. At the end of his life, Galt died in his mansion in Montreal, peacefully, finally able to trust God.

The passage below comes from my book Stars Appearing: The Galts' Vision of Canada.

Alexander has spent years worrying that his family will suffer poverty if his Western companies fail. But as he celebrates his last birthday on the 6th of September, he is ready to leave Amy, the girls, and his investors safely in Elliott's care.

A friend named Doctor Potts comes to visit.

Alexander cannot speak, but he writes a few words on a blank page inside a book.

"I have much to be thankful for, a long life with many blessings, and I try to accept God's will as my most supreme comfort. No one could have had greater blessings in his family than myself. I do not pray to God to prolong my life, but only to support and strengthen me and to let my departure be tranquil."

A few weeks later Alexander dies peacefully. It is 19 September 1893. He is 76 years old.

His employees in the District of Alberta, Northwest Territories, erect a monument in front of the hospital he built for them in Lethbridge.

The Honourable Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, GCMG, (born 6th September 1817-die 19th September 1893) who founded this hospital for the sick and afflicted employees of the Alberta Railway and Coal Company of which Company he was president from the date of its formation. A Christian gentleman whose benevolence and sympathy for those in distress will long be cherished by his fellow countrymen at large as one of the Fathers of Confederation. His great talents were earnestly devoted to the development of Canada and the welfare and happiness of its people."

What is left of that hospital is part of the Galt Museum in Lethbridge. The white marble monument remains sealed to the wall; and visitors still read what Galt's employees had inscribed.

Alexander Galt would be happy to know his employees thought of him as 'a Christian gentleman.' He would be even happier to think 21st Century Canadians think of him that way.

At the end of his life, the companies and political victories were not the most important things to him. In the end, his family and God mattered more.

What matters most to you?

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.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Three Platonic Ideals: Goodness — Martin

I’m no scholar of the ancients; yet I’m often so drawn to ideas that ring true, that I have to give them further thought. The Greek philosopher Plato, centuries before Christ, spoke of three virtues,— Goodness, Beauty and Truth. The twentieth century snubbed its nose at these ideals as subjective wishful thinking, but such pseudo-sophistication wore out it’s welcome, when it’s ideas proved unable to stand up where real lives are really lived. Plato’s insight is worth our renewed consideration.

Of these three values, often the Christian community has embraced just two: Goodness and Truth. Similarly, even though the art community has rediscovered Beauty, it doesn’t have much to say about Goodness. Our "tolerant" Canadian society, while ready to accept Beauty and Goodness in and of themselves, is wishy-washy on the subject of Truth. I believe we need all three.

C.S. Lewis read George MacDonald’s novels when he was a young atheist. He later wrote, "The quality which had enchanted me in his imaginative works turned out to be the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live. I should have been shocked in my ‘teens if anyone had told me that what I learned to love in Phantastes was goodness."

When we portray or bring forth Beauty, Truth and Goodness in the novels and poetry we write, in the worship we offer, in the lives we lead, we are reflecting "the real universe" and reflecting its Creator. Hollywood has trouble portraying Goodness. It produces exciting (although sometimes two-dimensional) villains, but its "good guys" are often either boring or seriously tainted. It is a rare film that captures anything substantial of Goodness, Beauty or Truth.

I believe Christian writers often have trouble finding their way, too. Do we try so hard to show Goodness and spiritual Truth that our manuscripts are no longer true to life? Are we, on the other hand, so determined to show the truth of evil in our world that we have lost our taste for Goodness? I wouldn’t want to prescribe a code for Christian storytellers, but I wonder if even some of our best contemporary writers are having trouble here. Perhaps we would all benefit by reflecting — in a biblically balanced way — on Plato’s three ideals. Yes, stories in the Bible freely tell of sin, but there are certain ideals on which Philippians chapter four tells us to focus.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where do I stand? - Payne

Where do I stand with my work-in-progress novel, Shelter from the Storm?

First, I started with longhand, writing in a three-ring spiral binder. Then, I typed it all into the computer and continued to write my chapters on the screen. I sent chapter by chapter to The Word Guild’s online critique forum, ReVision, and received helpful feedback. I brought chapters to my monthly writer’s group, The Writer’s Crucible, for editing and critiquing help. I took a few days and sat with an editor to work on the copy to ensure that each word was exactly what it should be. I gave the manuscript to three different readers for their thoughts. I read the entire novel out loud.

I felt it was ready for the Best New Author contest. I printed it, filled out the proper paperwork, and hand-delivered it. I kissed it goodbye and prayed that it would make it on the short-list at the very least.

It didn’t make the short list.

I shelved it.

It’s been a year since I submitted to the contest. I am finally ready to return to the editing stage. I plan to take it one chapter at a time and add more humour to make it a more enjoyable read, especially since the subject matter is heady. I plan to play with the romance between Heather and Dr. Mott.

But in doing so, I realize that I must change my prologue or maybe even cut it out entirely. Ouch. A prologue must contribute to the plot. It has to reveal significant, relevant facts, to supply information that is vital to the understanding of the plot. It needs to set the novel in motion with a strong, usually emotion-charged event; at the same time, it needs to create an immediate affinity towards the protagonist.

Let’s have a look:


“Caitlin. Caitlin!” I called. I looked down the beach; no little girls. I scanned the bushes. No little girls. I ran towards the playground. “Caitlin! Caity-Cat! Caitlin!” I stood under the monkey bars and eyed the play centre. No Caitlin. I looked over to the swings. No Caitlin. My hands began to sweat. My heart pounded in my chest.
I ran towards the parking lot, screaming her name all the way. She wasn’t there. Where was she? Dear God, don’t let anything happen to my daughter!
Across Lake Simcoe, I could see the clouds had grown tall and billowy. Thunderclouds. They had rolled in swiftly. They blocked out the sun. Goosebumps rippled over my flesh.
I bolted across the small baseball diamond toward the concession stand. Closed. No one there. “Caitlin!” My voice broke in panic. I turned back towards the lake. The water looked dark blue, almost black. The wind blew loose garbage over the beach. I heard the sound of wheels scraping along the pavement. A young man, rollerblading along the path, slowed down. “You looking for someone?”
“Yes, yes. My daughter. I can’t find Caitlin. Have you seen a little red-head?”
“About so high?” He held his hand at his hip.
“Is that her over there?” he asked and pointed towards the bathrooms. “Caitlin!” Relief flooded my body. “Thank you. Thank you. Yes, that’s her.” I hurried to my daughter. Kneeling on one knee in front of her, I grabbed her shoulders. “Oh, Caitlin.” I didn’t know whether to hug her or scold her. “You scared me half to death!” I pulled her close. “Don’t ever, ever do that again.”
Caitlin’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry, Mommy.”
I stood and picked her up, her freckled legs straddling my hips. I hid my face in her thick hair and breathed in the smell of sunscreen and lake water. “Oh, no Caitlin. It’s okay. Mommy didn’t know where you were. I’m sorry for yelling. I was so scared you were gone. Don’t ever leave Mommy.”
I whimpered as I carried her back to our beach blanket. “I don’t know what I’d do if you ever got hurt.”

I realize that I developed my prologue as a tool to give hints about what’s to come later in the plot – to foreshadow. I believe this chapter sets the novel in motion and gives hint to what is going to happen later in the story.
But if I want to change the tone of my entire novel, then I must change the tone of my prologue. There is obviously no hint of humour in this. There is no hint of romance.
I can either take out the prologue or change it to reflect the new tone of the novel. What would you do?

Kimberley Payne

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Monuments of Remembrance - Laycock

I picked up an old magazine in a doctor’s office yesterday. It was an anniversary issue, dated Sept 11, 2002. The magazine, a Canadian publication, was dedicated to the remembrance of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. What I found interesting was the slant the publication gave to almost every article. Each one detailed how remembering the tragedy strengthened those who had been there and the millions who had watched the attack on television. One article outlined how a family of seven was remembering their dead father by planting a tree. Another covered the details of the ceremonies at ‘ground zero,’ and how the planning of the monument was helping the survivors take another step toward healing. A third article talked about the monuments of remembrance the United States has used to commemorate other tragedies, like Pearl Harbor and the attack in Oklahoma. Throughout each article the message was the same – remembering makes us stronger; remembering helps us heal.
We have known that for a long time. Every nation, every generation has erected its monuments, its symbols of remembrance of both victories and defeats. After the two world wars, Europe was dotted with them, and most have been maintained to this day. We can find them here too, in our own back yard - monuments to the dead, monuments set in stone so the generations to come will not forget. They stand as warnings and as tokens of honour and thanksgiving. We stand before them in solemn silence, and well we should.
Remembrance. Jesus used that word on the eve of what looked like a tragedy, as he served his disciples a simple meal of bread and wine. He used them as symbols, metaphors for his own body and blood which he knew would soon be broken and spilled out. Jesus told us to remember and we have. Our monument is an instrument of torture and death – the cross of Calvary. We use it as a symbol. We hang it on the walls of our churches and on chains around our necks. It is a universal symbol calling us to the remembrance of One who died for a purpose.
But there is another element to the cross. We need not stand in front of it in silence with sober faces. We ought to rejoice before it, because it not only symbolizes death, it signifies life. It not only portrays justice, it blazes mercy. It not only demonstrates wrath, it bleeds with compassion. The cross of Christ is a monument to the greatest victory in history. Jesus said – “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Remembrance heals. Remembrance strengthens. Especially when we remember Him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering - Meyer

For the second year in a row, I celebrated Remembrance Day in the First Nations community of Norway House. And once again, I was powerfully moved by the service.

Standing out on a point with an icy wind blowing off the frozen lake, I hear, accompanied by the sound of a cannon firing a 21-gun salute, each of the names of those residents of Norway House who honoured our country by serving in the armed forces. Seven community members gave their lives on the battlefield during World War 1 and seven during World War 2. Approximately 150 people from Norway House have served in the Canadian armed forces.
(Photo: Lowering the flag to half mast for ceremony)

What is significant to note is not just the sacrifice that these young men faced on the battlefield but what was awaiting them upon their returned home. Those who chose to serve their country in this manner lost their treaty rights and that meant that their children and their grandchildren also lost their treaty rights. For many, this meant that after they had risked their lives on the battlefield, they returned to find their homes were gone (First Nations people were not permitted to own their own homes but lived in band housing reserved for those who had treaty rights within that band). Many also found that the easy camaraderie that they felt with their fellow soldiers on the battlefield was replaced with a sense of not belonging anywhere - not back on their home reserves and not in mainstream society.
To all those First Nations soldiers who fought for our freedom and sacrificed so very much...
thank you.
Dorene Meyer
(Photo: Laying the wreath on behalf of mothers and youth)

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Tack För senast" or Lessons I’ve Learned from Lutefisk, Lefse, and Leif - Lindquist

I saw the upcoming topic, “Scandinavian Mysteries,” and thought, “Nothing to do with me.” A few days later, I got a note about it, and deleted the email. Several weeks passed. Then, one day while my husband and I were babysitting our 2-year-old grandson, Leif, we got talking, for some reason, about Christmas and about some of the traditional foods we eat, like julekake and potato lefse. All of a sudden, I slapped myself upside the head and shouted, “Scandinavian Mysteries!”

My husband, naturally, looked confused.

“I’ve lived for 35 years in a house where everyone else is Scandinavian!” I said. “And for all we know, my Scottish ancestors owed more than a few of their genes to the Vikings.”

He continued to look confused.

“True—” I walked around the room, stopping to look at the plaque that says ‘Tack För senast.’ “—my mysteries aren’t set in any of the Scandinavian countries, and my main characters are of Ukrainian and Jamaican ancestry, but surely there’s been some kind of Scandinavian influence on me in all those years!”

He nodded politely, and picked up a Dr. Seuss book to read to Leif.

And I began the fascinating, never-before-attempted task of analyzing the extent of that presumed Scandinavian influence on me and my writing.

My husband’s mother’s parents, Jacob and Agnes Nelson, came to North America from Norway as children. His father’s parents, Peter and Emma Lindquist, came from Sweden. All four ended up in Saskatchewan, where they met and married their spouses, farmed, and raised their families.

I married into the family when I was 24, but in 35 years, I’d never considered the effect they’ve had on me. Until now.


Of course, I can’t speak for all Scandinavian people; only the ones I’ve had personal contact with, but what strikes me the most, and what I think has probably had the biggest cumulative effect on me and my writing, is the contrast between their extremely practical nature with its sober integrity, and their love of fun and frivolous things. How else do you explain a people who eat both lutefisk and rosettes? One a plain cod fish, soaked in lye for preservation; the other a delightful deep-fried concoction of flour, sugar, and eggs with almond flavoring that has nothing to justify it except its wonderful taste?

I don’t associate fiction, including mysteries, with my husband’s family. It’s almost as if they’re too practical for such things. I know there are Scandinavian mystery writers, and I’ve even read some of their books, but for me there’s almost a disconnect. The Scandinavian people I’ve known love to tell stories, but the stories are usually true ones, with only a little exaggeration. There’s a reverence for the past, for the heritage that’s brought them this far, and a confidence in the future. And most of the stories show their very practical, “If it has to be done, let’s get to it,” philosophy.

Stories – all of them true – leap to my mind….

My father-in-law loved reading and would have preferred to go to university, but as the only son, he had to take over the farm when his father died. It was poor farm land, and he had to work long hours, doing jobs that didn’t come naturally. His carpentry skills were limited, too, but with four young children, they desperately needed a new house. There was no money to pay anyone else. So my mother-in-law decided to build the house herself. With only a young girl to help with the children, my mother-in-law nailed the walls together on the ground during the day and had her husband help her put them in place in the evening. Slowly but surely, she built a house.

When her fourth child was born with cerebral palsy, my mother-in-law did everything she could to help him. She even invented a type of walker so that he could get around.

At the age of 60, she decided it was time she learned to swim, and at 85, she continues to swim laps several times a week.

Her sister became a doctor at age 50 after deciding nursing was too restrictive.

I’ll never forget going over to visit Les’s Norwegian grandparents, then in their late 80s, only to find the two of them alone at the church manse, up on a ladder painting the ceiling to get the house spruced up for the new pastor.

Or Les’s Swedish grandmother, also in her 80’s, determined to keep on crocheting and knitting sweaters and other items for other people even though she could barely see and had to have someone sit beside her reading the instructions.

And then there’s the story of how his Swedish grandfather actually changed his name after coming to Canada. You see, there were two Peter Peterson’s in Swift Current Saskatchewan, and the mail was getting mixed up. So our Peter Peterson simply changed his name to Lindquist, which means “from the linden tree.” (Apparently there were quite a few linden trees where he grew up.) And he had no more difficulty getting his mail.

Any time I start to think I can’t do something, I recall some of these stories and realize I can do anything if I want to enough.


The Scandinavian people I know have a great love for good food. I have to say that the recipes passed down to me by Les’s grandmothers, aunts, and mother are, for the most part, quite elaborate, and often require special equipment: a variety of different implements for deep-frying rosettes and timballs, a krumkake iron, lefse grills, molds for kransekake (a totally neat layered cake in the shape of a Christmas tree), special tart pans for sandbakkeles, several types of lefse rollers, etc. etc. The contract between the practicality and even stoicism on one side and the amount of time and effort the women were willing to spend creating these very elaborate (and very good-tasting), but highly transient delicacies has always amazed me.

Krumkake (crumb cake), for instance, requires a round iron something like a waffle iron except flat. You put a little of the dough in the middle of the sizzling hot iron, then close the iron and flatten the dough. After a minute or so, you carefully take out the flat piece of krumkake and roll it on a special round wooden spindle, then let it cool to make a spiral log-like item. You don’t just make one, but dozens. And trust me, it can keep you hopping! All very time-consuming.

And I wonder how to explain the two sides—the practical and the impractical—except, perhaps, to say that we all need both. We need the serious moments and we need the frivolous, fun times, too.

And you’re thinking, what has any of this to do with my writing mysteries?

Up until now, I’d have said not much. I’d have said nothing. The biggest influences on my style of writing were the books I’d read by Christie, Heyer, and the like. But in the past month, I’ve come to realize that a good deal of my interest in people, and what makes them tick, has come, not from the books I’ve read, but from the people I’ve come to know in my extended Scandinavian family. I’ve realized that everyone (and I mean everyone) has a story to tell; that sometimes there are contradictions; and that circumstances affect people, but no more than people affect circumstances. And I am inordinately pleased that reviewers of my latest book, Glitter of Diamonds, have noted both the humor and the compassion in it. Yes, there’s a murder and all that encompasses, but far more important to me than whether or not people like my writing is that we all recognize that every person has a story to share, and that every story matters.

So, to my Scandinavian family, who welcomed me without reservation, “Tack För senast” (thanks for the hospitality).

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. is teaching a workshop for writers and aspiring writers in Barrie, ON on Saturday, Nov. 15th - Recycle Your Personal Experiences

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Spin... - Black

Spin... The world in which I grew up generally used the word spin to convey the idea of turning around, twisting, or whirling about. As a kid I’d spin round on my toes and fall down dizzy, my head–or at least the perceptions in my brain–spinning. I’d spin the wheels of my toy car or locomotive, or my bike. I’d spin my humming top, or whip my spinning top till it spun fast and steady. I knew what it was to spin. More abstract understandings and uses of the word came to me years later.

Still, as a kid, sometimes I’d try to fib my way out of trouble for some misdemeanour, and soon learned that doesn’t pay, and that "honesty is the best policy." However, the honest approach also resulted in trouble when I deserved it. And so, honesty morphed into ploys to tell the truth in such a way as to make the deed appear not quite so bad after all, or to spread the blame around, in hope of mitigating my own failure (and prospective punishment!). That was spin, although I didn’t know it.

The term "spinning a yarn"– making up stories, whether for entertainment, or for political or commercial ends, comes from the old process of spinning clumps of fibre, like wool or cotton, into yarn. Adults, kids, advertisers, public servants, and politicians, engage in spin all the time. It’s the spin doctor’s job to put the ‘correct spin’ on things; make their clients look good and their clients’ opponents look bad.

Now that both Canada and the USA have elected their respective federal governments, the question arises whether the political spinning of the past months on either side of the border will end? Will spin doctors be out of a job? Not a chance. As a breed they’re surely here to stay. Why? Because truth exists, and the truth in pure form will either commend or condemn. Decisions will be made and situations handled well or less well. Some citizens will benefit, while others won’t. To survive, those in office have to look good and appear to be doing well. Political parties not in office try to make themselves look good by making those in office look bad. Hence, spinning is here to stay.

Our putting the best spin on our own life’s conduct and condition doesn’t fool our Heavenly Father one little bit. Truth exists. Each fact and facet of our lives is fully known to Him. He is completely cognizant and understanding of every nuance of our emotions, motivations, and thoughts. No matter how relatively good or bad we may be compared to other human beings, there’s sufficient to condemn and little to commend us when viewed in the white light of His holy and righteous character. But, His truth sets us free from condemnation and guilt.

Remember how, as parents, we were glad when our children ‘fessed up, telling the truth of some disobedience they’d committed or careless action made? The process of reconciliation and moving on from the failure could then begin. When we stop spinning, our relationship with God our Heavenly Father can really begin. Israel’s King David experienced the relief of freedom from spin (Psalm 32:5 NIV): Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Peter Black

(This piece previously published in The Watford Guide-Advocate – November 6, 2008).

Friday, November 07, 2008

Which kingdom are you dancing in - Nesdoly

Canadians voted three weeks ago, our American neighbors three days ago, and in our area civic elections are a week and a day away. It’s obviously the year of elections and hard not to focus on the whys and wherefores of gaining influence, popularity and power.

We’ve seen how the politicians do it – slagging opponents while praising their own abilities which, they promise, will deliver Utopia – all paid for with our tax dollars of course. The media join the chorus, weighing in with whatever they can dig up, from what candidates wear to ancient history, in an attempt to tip the balance toward their favorites.

With this in mind, consider another realm, the Kingdom of Heaven. You know the whole other universe that a sci-fi or fantasy writer creates? To me the Kingdom of Heaven is such a thing. It’s the system of God’s reality that is, at its core, different from what seems real to us most of the time. But this kingdom reality is the actual reality. It’s the real stuff that’s going on under the surface of the apparent reality we live in (which operates like I’ve described above).

In the end, kingdom reality will be the only one that matters and against which the effect of our lives will be measured. Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5, 6 & 7) is a good place to read about this realm’s ‘laws of gravity,’ so different from our own.

Kingdom Waltz

First is last
Small is great
Give to get
Learn to wait

Proud is low
Humble high
God attends
Mourner’s cry

Take the pain
Turn the cheek
Bless the poor
Help the weak

Fast unseen
Always pray
Serve unsung
Joy each day

Love, not hate
All forgive
Win the crown
Die to live

God the light
Christ we’ll meet
Crowns will cast
At His feet

© 2004 by Violet Nesdoly

“Kingdom Waltz” was first published in The Vision (October 2004) as “Kingdom View."

Violet Nesdoly is a freelance writer who lives in Metro-Vancouver. Check out the Christmas special on her two poetry books - Calendar (2004) and Family Reunion (2007).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Do We Have Heroes in Canada?

First, a little self-promotion. My column on Canadian history runs for the first time in The Christian Herald, scheduled to be out November 9th. If you live in Southern Ontario, I hope you will pick up a copy of The Christian Herald and let the editor know what you think. Don't forget to email me your comments, too!

Thank you fellow Word Guilder, Denyse O'Leary, for encouraging me to write the proposal and to send it out to an editor, instead of 'wishing' someone would swoop down and offer me an opportunity. Thank you Fazal Karim, editor at The Christian Herald, for believing in the proposal and publishing my column.

Thank you everyone who has read my writing and said, "I didn't know Canada had stories like that." You inspire me, even when you send me back to the archives looking for answers to your questions.

A few days ago, a young Canadian emailed me with a challenge. "Can you find me any heroes in Canada? I didn't think we had any," he said.

I have to say, this saddened me quite a lot because the young man is university educated and has a great thirst for knowledge. Yet, he thought this country offered him no examples of great Christian leaders. How could we have failed to make him proud of his heritage?

It excited me too, because it is clear that he really wanted to learn about his own history. So, I typed off a list of names including General Currie, Laura Secord, Bishop John Strachan and about a dozen more. I'm still digging and sending him names when they pop into my mind. (I may have a write a whole book to answer his question because Canadian heroes don't often have monuments dedicated to them and, in my mind, that makes them even more heroic.)

Canada has more than her share of heroes, living and dead. Some of them are rich, famous, and politically powerful. Many eschew adulation.

Too often, we look at other countries longingly and wish we had their heritage, their political leaders, their wealth. (The wealth thing baffles me, because we are often wealthier and have less debt than the countries we look toward.)

It is good to admire and learn from people in other countries. If we can't do that, we become insular and backward in our thinking. But not knowing that we have our own heritage of faith and bravery and, instead, wishing we had leaders who were more like foreigners we see only on television screens is deeply ungrateful to our forebears. It is deeply unfair to our children, who need to be inspired to do great things. And it allows us to think that we can rely on other countries to 'carry the gospel, heal the sick, and bring justice to oppressed.'

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.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Loverly Book Covers! - Grove

I just got the "Okie-dokie" to share the amazing cover for Talking to the Dead with you! Yeah!!
Amy Kiechlin at David C. Cook is the brilliant mind behind this fantastic cover. When I first saw it, my jaw dropped. In an e-mail, I said, " Amy, you are very, very talented - you've taken the feeling of the book and translated it into a cover that tells the story."

She wrote back, saying, "I had a lot of fun doing it, and I too, just felt that God’s hand of creativity was giving me the design ideas and imagery that was outlined so beautifully in your writing."

I've said it before, but it bears repeating; the folks at David C. Cook have been a dream to work with. These talented, creative people go beyond the extra mile to ensure a stellar product from start to finish. One sense I get when I talk to the folks there, is that they honestly love their job. They are in it for the love of great books and take delight - true delight in the creative process with all its bumps and wiggles.

I've lost count of the hours I've spent gazing at this cover. It's just so perfect - such a hand and glove fit for the story I've written (and am still editing). And I've shed a few happy tears over it too. My husband pronounced it "Perfect." I asked him what he liked most about it and he said, "Your name's on it." Sweet feller.

Here's the blurb:

Twenty-something Kate Davis can’t seem to get this grieving widow thing right. She’s supposed to put on a brave face and get on with her life, right? Instead she’s camped out on her living room floor, unwashed, unkempt, and unable to sleep—because her husband Kevin keeps talking to her.Is she losing her mind?Kate’s attempts to find the source of the voice she hears are both humorous and humiliating, as she turns first to an “eclectically spiritual” counselor, then a shrink with a bad toupee, an exorcist, and finally group therapy. There she meets Jack, the warmhearted, unconventional pastor of a ramshackle church, and at last the voice subsides. But when she stumbles upon a secret Kevin was keeping, Kate’s fragile hold on the present threatens to implode under the weight of the past…and Kevin begins to shout.Will the voice ever stop? Kate must confront her grief to find the grace to go on, in this tender, quirky first novel about embracing life.
I'm so excited to be able to share this with you! Thanks for stopping by!
Bonnie Grove is the author of the upcoming book Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You (Beacon Hill Press, March 1, 2009. Her debut novel, Talking to the Dead (David C. Cook) will hit stores June 1, 2009. Learn more at

Conversations - Smith Meyer

I found one with an interesting twist. It seemed to come about quite without any conscious effort on my part. All of a sudden, it took a sharp turn—and there it hung—suspended between the two of us—waiting for the next instalment or chapter as surely as the book held in her hand.

Conversations...I love conversations! That’s probably because I like people. I find the infinite variety fascinating.

Conversations beautifully reveal facets of the one with whom we’re conversing. Face-to-face conversations (the best kind) conveniently can be held in many places—waiting rooms, across counters, in buses, cars, trains or planes, at work, at school, at meals, in living rooms, dens or even beds—you name it. You don’t need any special equipment that you need to lug along. We’ve all been given a set of ears with which to hear the words and most hearts can be trained to listen for the unspoken parts.

Conversations are held at different levels depending on our relationship with the person. Most conversations can be nurtured by a few questions or understanding comments or turned off by a thoughtless remark.

This particular conversation happened over my book table. People had been milling about and I had given many inquirers the same little spiel about the book if they looked at all interested. This customer had asked what the book was about so I assured she wanted to know. When I had finished, she asked, “And is there any Christian stuff in it?”

“Well yes, there is. The main character’s faith carried her through the difficult times she faced.”

“I might get the book for my daughter. She’s into that. She’s so spiritual she even wants to be a missionary. I don’t know where she got it from—not from me! I think I will buy the book. She might like to read about this woman.”

“I think she might. You see in all the difficulties the woman in the story faced, she could have resented her lot. I think many people would have—I am sure if I, in her circumstances, didn’t have anywhere but myself to find strength I would have become bitter.”

There was a pause. Up to this point, the conversation had been mostly about her daughter. I felt the next sentence before it was uttered. Oh I couldn’t have told you exactly what was coming, but I knew the next statement was going to reveal something.

“I’ve had to go it alone for almost twenty years.” It was somewhere between a confession and a defence. “My children are nearly out on their own now.”

We had a little more conversation then as I put change into her hand I gently suggested, “Why don’t you read it before you give it to your daughter?”

My heart was touched with sadness. My prayers have been haunted by the memory of her pain. In that short exchange I sensed the super-human effort she had put into doing the best in her power for her children. There was pain and anguish, loneliness and, yes, bitterness there too. I dare say she was feeling the tiredness that comes when we are nearing the finish line. There may even have been some wondering about what to do with life when her main attention no longer needed to be focused on giving her children a good start. Her life and mine became entwined in that one twist of a conversation. She will remain in my prayers.

Ruth Smith Meyer, author of Not Easily Broken

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Walking the Line with Johnny Cash - Hird

During Johnny Cash’s nearly fifty years of music, he sold over ninety million albums. He learned to sing while picking cotton as an impoverished sharecropper’s son in Kingsland, Arkansas. Cash recorded more than 1,500 songs including well-known hits like ‘A Boy named Sue’, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘Ring of Fire.’ Johnny Cash is the only musician who has ever been threefold-inducted into the Songwriter’s, Country Music, and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.”

More than 100 other recording artists and groups have recorded Cash’s song "I Walk the Line." Cash commented: “I wrote ‘I walk the Line’ when I was on the road in Texas in 1956, having a hard time resisting the temptation to be unfaithful to my wife back in Memphis”: ‘I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line.’

Cash’s life was often fraught with tragedy and heartbreak. “After my brother Jack’s death, said Johnny, “I felt like I’d died, too. I just didn’t feel alive. I was terribly lonely without him. I had no other friend.” Like his father before him, Johnny struggled for many years with addiction issues. His father was never able to tell his children that he loved them. Johnny Cash’s first marriage ran aground in the midst of workaholism and pill-popping. In Cash’ autobiography, he comments: “Touring and drugs were what I did, with the effort involved in drugs mounting steadily as time went by.” Amphetamines kept him going without sleep, and barbiturates and alcohol knocked him out. Cash comments: “I was in and out of jails, hospitals, and car wrecks. I was a walking vision of death, and that’s exactly how I felt. I was scraping the filthy bottom of the barrel of life.”

He knew that he had wasted his life and drifted far from God. In desperation, Cash decided to end his life in 1967 by crawling deep into the inner recesses of Nickajack Cave on the Tennessee River. There in pitch darkness he met God and then miraculously was able to crawl to the opening of the cave. There waiting for him was his future wife June Carter and his mother. That was Cash’s turning point in getting serious about battling his addiction. Cash stayed free of drugs until attacked in 1981 by an ostrich that ripped his stomach open and broke several ribs. While in hospital, he became re-addicted to painkillers. In 1983, his family and friends did an intervention, which included Cash’s going to the Betty Ford Clinic. Cash comments: “I’m still absolutely convinced that the intervention was the hand of God working in my life, telling me that I still had a long way to go, a lot left to do. But first I had to humble myself before God.”

In the midst of great trauma, Cash found that spiritual music helped bring him back from the despair of his addictions. “Wherever I go, I can start singing one of them and immediately begin to feel peace settle over me as God’s grace flows in. They’re powerful, those songs. At times they’ve been my only way back, the only door out of the dark, bad places the black dog calls home.” Cash began to find great strength in reading the bible and in prayer. He learned to stop hating himself, and to forgive himself and others.

During this time, Billy Graham became a personal friend and mentor. Billy Graham “was interested, but never judgmental...I’ve always been able to share my secrets and problems with Billy, and I’ve benefited greatly from his support and advice. He’s never pressed me when I’ve been in trouble; he’s waited for me to reveal myself, and then he’s helped me as much as he can.”

I thank God for the late Johnny Cash’s recovery from serious addiction, and pray that all of us will have the courage to change the things that can be changed.

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

-previously published in the 2008 Deep Cove Crier

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