Monday, December 21, 2009

God With Us - Lawrence

(This was first published on my website as a meditation in December 2007.)
Once more the Christian year rolls round to the last few days of Advent. We repeat the oft-told tale of God-with-us in a child’s body. The tale is oft-told but each year different as we change and grow in spirit. Our interpretation of God-with-us matures; we have a new understanding of the meaning of God’s life and light in us from the one we had a Christmas ago. God is the same—it is we who are different—changed by life’s events, our willingness to go the extra mile, love the extra measure, laugh the extra joy, and cry the extra sorrow.
These gifts, unwrapped, are the gifts of the Universe, the Divine gifts, the gifts born from struggle, freely accepted and freely given again. Though darkness may come in one way or another, yet light shines ever more brightly upon us and in us because spiritual maturity and light cannot die but must grow more strongly in the shadows where someone lights the Divine candle.
Pain that one endures knowing that its outcome will result in a cure is easy to bear. When the outcome of one’s pain or burden is not known or is uncertain, it is more difficult to bear. When one is willing to endure pain in faith that God has a good purpose in mind for the growth of one’s soul, it is worth the uncertainty of physical cure. To think that one has been chosen to witness to God’s love in endurance is a great honour.
Mary bore Christ two thousand years and more ago, not knowing what the outcome would be. She endured humility at the Virgin Birth, willingly accepting God’s request to bring the God-child into the world for human good. Let us bear our burdens with this same simple faith in God’s love.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-10

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Attitude Measurement - Smith Meyer

Several years ago after a pre-Christmas sermon on servanthood, these two poems came to me. Often I return to them at this time of year. I offer them to you for your contemplation as we near the celebration of Christ's birth.

A Double Take on Attitude Measurement

How great our God, to manger come,
How calm and still he lay,
As tiny babe of lowly birth
He slept upon the hay.

He grew to walk upon the earth,
A carpenter his trade:
As royal heir, he humbly toiled
As common things he made.

He did not deem it beneath him,
To hold a leper’s hand,
Nor to hold a child on his lap
Or help the lame to stand.

He walked among the common folk
And fed the multitude,
And though he was God’s very son,
Quiet, bore taunting rude.

Sometimes do we get to thinking,
As folks, we’re mighty good?
We’re owed a trouble-free living-
The poor – not understood.

We trample on each other’s rights,
To make sure of our own,
We greedily hoard our riches,
Leave hurting people lone.

We search to buy ornate gifts
Expect lots in return,
As more abundance we gather
For more we seem to yearn.

How good ‘twould be, this time of year,
To use the manger crude,
As you’d use a measuring stick ,
To gauge our attitude.

Ruth Smith Meyer

Manger Moment

A babe
In manger laid-
Royal splendor
Traded freely
For stable stall.
Inner strength,
Inner knowing
Who he was
Not changed at all.
Come adore him!
I knelt before him,
Taking full note
Of more than
Meets the eye.
I arose,
And as I stood,
I saw the manger
As measuring stick
My attitude.

Ruth Smith Meyer

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finding Our Voice - Dick

(The following is a guest post by Janice Dick who is a member of InScribe Christian Writers Fellowship, His Imprint, Chi Libris, The Word Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers and Toastmasters International. Among other writing, she is the author of two historical novels that won first place in The Word Guild’s Best Historical Novel in 2003 and 2004. Janice Dick may be found at

I’ve been amazingly blessed with grandchildren over the past seven years—seven of them. And we have just received word that there will be another one by spring. And yet, here I am, still so young!

While visiting Jordy’s family in July, I snuck away to the bedroom with him so we could talk privately. After all, a grandma has to get to know her little ones. I lay on the bed with six-week old Jordy and began to talk to him. He fixed his eyes on mine, connecting with my soul. He watched my face, and my mouth, and then his mouth began to move. He struggled to make a sound, and when he did, we celebrated. He had found his voice.

I tried making the same connection with Sydney at about the same age and the result was exactly the same. She wanted to express herself to me, and when she was successful she wiggled with pleasure.

As writers, we talk about “voice” and wonder what it is. Is voice something we create or something we discover? Jordy and Sydney taught me more about voice than any books or workshops could ever do.

Voice is who we are. Jordy’s cry is squeaky and pitiful. Sydney’s is demanding. Neither baby decided what he or she would sound like. They are who they are. We each have our own voice, are born with it in its raw form. This is the voice we eventually use for speaking and writing.

Voice is not something we create. It is in all of us. It is who we are, expressed in words, or the equivalent of words for the pre-speech set. We all have thoughts and feelings and ideas that long to be expressed, but they do not always come easily. Consider how varied the stages of development are from baby to baby. Some, very early in their lives, jabber in an alien tongue. Others refrain from speaking until they are older and then launch out in full sentences. Neither is right nor wrong; each is unique.

Once we discover our voice, we are responsible for developing it. How? By using it. Our older daughter practiced words until she got them right. Hers was a determined approach to capturing the essence of speech.

Find some of your earliest writing and read it over. Unless you were especially gifted, the early writings seem weak and unformed. As you grow and experience life, as you struggle to express yourself, your voice, both spoken and written, gets stronger.

Some writers, like my friend Bonnie Grove, broke out in an amazing voice that captivates and communicates in a most unique manner. Others, like myself, struggle to discover how best to express our inner selves on the computer screen. Either way, we are who we are. Let the struggle begin. Keep practicing.

I didn’t expect to learn about voice from Jordy and Sydney; it was a bonus. They and the other grandchildren have also taught me much about tenacity, but that’s a blog for another day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sleeping Giant Awakens - Part 2

The Aboriginal writing community has, in the past, been a relatively small and unknown element in the Canadian publishing industry. Now this awakening giant is becoming a major player in the field.

Still many challenges remain. I recently had a publisher turn down an excellent manuscript (he agreed it was excellent) because it was written in the Cree language. Another manuscript was turned down because the story premise wouldn't be acceptable in the mainstream market. When I talked to the author, she said it was Native humour. I agreed with her. It was something that a lot of people in the Aboriginal community would think funny but perhaps most other Canadians would not understand.
And joining the growing number of Canadian Aboriginal writers is a much smaller group of Christian Canadian Aboriginal authors. And yes, there is an added challenge for these writers. Their writing is typically not “mainstream.” Often the books are set in the far north (Churchill north; not Sault Ste Marie north!) where many Canadians have never traveled. Their plots, characters and dialogue may be more reflective of Aboriginal, rather than the mainstream, culture. But the Lord we serve is the same. Jesus’ love crosses time zones and transcends cultures.

A pioneer in Native Christian writing was a woman from the USA named Crying Wind. Her self-titled book, Crying Wind, crossed the cultural barriers into the Christian mainstream in 1977. Her publisher, Harvest House released her second book, My Searching Heart in 1979. More recently, Crying Wind has authored: When the Stars Danced and Thunder in Our Hearts, Lightning in Our Veins – both excellent titles available from

Today, many more fine Christian Aboriginal authors are joining her ranks and some of these are Canadian. Howard Jolly’s book, Hope for the Hurting, has become an important resource for parents, teachers and pastors who are counseling teens who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Free-lance journalists, Brenda Fontaine and Brenlee Longclaws, bring a Christian, Canadian, Aboriginal perspective to the articles they write. Children’s book authors Flora Rideout and Brenda Fontaine are paving the way for a new generation as budding authors such as Corrine Clyne begin their writing journey.
It is an exciting time we live in – a time when many new voices are blending with ours. And today, we have all have the joyous opportunity to step out of our comfort zones, open wide our hearts and minds, and read some books by people who are perhaps not so very different from us after all.

M. D. Meyer

Author of The Little Ones, available from, author's website and bookstores across Canada.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peace - Christmas 2009 - Shepherd

Each year, during the Christmas season there seems to be a word or a phrase that catches my attention and seems to recur throughout the season. I take it as God’s personal message to me for that Christmas. One year it was Emmanuel – God with us. Other times it has been words like joy or incarnation. This year it is peace.

Our world is in need of peace. We affirm again this year through so many of our Christmas activities the reality that only One can really bring peace to our individual lives and to our world. It is Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who calms our storms and who quiets our troubled hearts. His presence is synonymous with peace.

A few years ago, I sang in a choir and one of the songs I loved that we sang included these words. “Jesus came with peace to me. His strong hand was stretched to me. He, my burden took from me – my Saviour.” I also lived it.

I really do not like to fly, which was a challenge for me, as for many years I spent so much of my life in airplanes. I discovered a way to find peace and calm my fears when I flew. After I checked in at the gate, as I walked down the ramp to the airplane, I would whisper a prayer. I said, “Dear Lord, I am placing this plane in your strong hands. Please take us safely to … (wherever our destination was that day).” Then I pictured placing the plane, whatever size it was in His big, strong hands. I know they were even bigger than the largest jumbo jet. With confidence I then entered the plane, knowing it was in His hands.

Knowing that God is in control gives us peace. His disciples discovered that in the middle of the storm, Jesus could bring peace. He has not changed. He, whose name is peace, brings peace. As Paul reminded the new Christians at Thessalonica, “Now may the Lord of peace himself, give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3: 16.

When He is with us, we know peace. May that peace permeate our lives and our world this Christmas. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” Numbers 6: 26

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gift ideas for writers - Payne

‘Tis the season. Looking for some good gift ideas for writers? Here is just a sampling of what you can put in your writer’s stocking this Christmas:

* A good set of dependable pens

* Lovely notebooks

* An ergonomic keyboard

* Kindle or Sony e-reader

* Magnetic poetry

* Books on writing

* An inspirational coffee mug

* A nice candle

* Speech recognition software

* A laptop

* A maid, a cook and a chauffeur

* A quiet private writing retreat

Have any other ideas for Santa?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are We There Yet?

by Glynis M. Belec

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3

When Ruthie, Eddie and Annie came to visit one week, I was reminded about what it meant to be a mommy to junior munchkins all over again.

The week was…uh…well…full. Yes. That’s it – full. Full of creativity cleverly disguised as messes. Full of cooperative play opportunities often interpreted as arguments. Full of educational moments initiated by questions upon questions upon more questions.

When my visiting trio walked into a room they exploded. Books, toys, craft supplies, dress-up clothes I’d forgotten even existed, were scattered about the house.

Messes I could overlook. A sore back from bending to pick up after everyone could easily be soothed by a good night’s sleep. Who knew how many kilocalories I burned dancing around the kitchen with five-year-old Ruthie to the ever hip sounds of “Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo; How about You, You, You?”

Activity and creativity I could handle. It was the not-so-cooperative play part that sent me into colorful stages of bridling the tongue. Whining made me crazy. Bickering caused headaches. Telling tales grieved me somewhere in my teeth. That week I experienced a taste of all three. But I knew my junior relatives were going home in a few days. So I decided to grin and love them anyway.
The voluminous questions were the best. “Are we there yet?” was Eddie’s favorite. Every 60 seconds I had to give a run down on lap time, RPMs, distance, speed and ETA every time we went anywhere.

One afternoon we went swimming. I think the best question that day came from Ruthie’s lips. “Aunt Glynis. Why do you gots two towels?”
“Because I have a lot to cover,” I said with lilting laughter.

“Oh,” came the sweet little beep in response. Ruthie didn’t get the joke. She believed me. I could tell by the look in her eye. Now she would tell everyone I was fat and needed two towels to wrap around me. She didn’t hear me say I was kidding. I should have known better.

Then there was Annie. Annie was nine going on sixteen. She was a vegetarian, so she informed me. I thought vegetarians had to be at least 25 years old. Each evening she’d check out what was for supper and announce her hatred for the poor dead animal sizzling on the stove.

“Eggs are okay as long as they are not fertilized,” she told me.

I hesitated to tell her about Belshazaar, the macho rooster who dwelt amidst my contented egg-laying cluckers, lest she suspected. I pretended not to notice when I spotted her picking a bit of pork chop from her brother’s plate when no one was looking, though. I’ll wait ‘till she’s 25.

Night times were the best. I had no complaints then. Was it the anticipation of lights out and tender, young bodies resting peacefully between the sheets?

Nah…it was the stories. I loved the stories. I loved to tell the stories. I loved to act the stories. Bedtime was fun.

“Stand back…I’m going to sneeze,” said the elephant.

“Look out for the falling cloud!”

Ruthie, Eddie, Annie and I dove for cover under the bed. I was a kid again. I loved it.
I sure do miss those kid-like moments. Big kids don’t ask for bedtime stories. Adulthood requires adult conduct – which doesn’t often involve high drama and various sound effects. Childhood is just too much fun.

When I contemplate the scripture where Jesus talked about becoming like a little child, I get excited. I have a lot of grown-up hang-ups. But I also have a lot of child-like (much to the chagrin of many) urges. How hard can it be to become a child again?

My adult mind tells me the criteria for entering the Kingdom of Heaven involves a little more than whooping it up when the elephant sneezes, though. I’m thinking this is more about the flawless faith of a child and his ability to wholly trust. Can I do it? I think it’s time to evaluate how childlike I really am.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Facing fear in Change - MANN

Rosemary Cash said, “The key to change is to let go of fear.” I see this in my life, in the church, family situations and community life. It is my thinking that most people find change difficult to some degree, and fear can be an important factor in whether change
can be achieved.

To change, one must be determined to risk. It’s having the ability to believe in self, while at the same time, being able to look beyond the obvious to possibilities.

Or being able to sigh, admit when change hasn’t worked and revert to the initial plan.

A decision to change might enhance a particular position or ricochet to a whole new situation. Somehow the first option is the easiest. Who doesn’t want to build on a life already experiencing acceptance? Yet, the concept of finding oneself in a brand new situation created through change tests one’s faith and gives opportunity to draw on God’s guidance in new ways. Certainly, the latter allows the possibility of something we might miss if we hadn’t risk.

Winston Churchill said, “There’s nothing wrong with change if it’s in the right direction.” So how do we know if our choices will take us in the right direction or create chaos? And why does it have to be an either/or situation? Why can’t we have what we’ve got as well as enjoy what we’ve had the grace to change? This last option sounds much less stressful and offers some diversity.

This was my experience over the past three months when my friend Sharon suggested that my Grammie Books, as well as the collection of stories that I’d written and edited with grandkids over the last ten plus years, should go further than the Story-chair and the Christmas stocking. When I also considered additional resources of my newspaper grief articles and rural church support work, I was soon led in the direction of exploring how to create audio books/stories and marketing them on the internet.

This has been a tremendous challenge to me and I admit that fear showed its ugly face on more than one occasion. However, I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to make the necessary changes in personal schedules and mental aptitude to see this project through. There is an excitement in the Internet audio world that I find very invigorating, yet I cherish the times when I hold a book in my hand and see the words flow from one sentence to another.

Although designing a web site was not new to me, I found building a StoreFront was. But, this too has become a discovery that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. A win-win situation is good in any change, and I think my benefit was inviting the child in me to come out to play during this early season of retirement. I invite you to come and visit And don’t forget to visit The Playground before you leave the site.

Donna Mann

Take Time to Make Memories (1996)
WinterGrief (2003)
Aggie’s Storms(2007)
MeadowLane Audio Stories for Children(2009)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Advent -- A Time to Look Closely -- Black

As I’ve done scores of times over the years, I sat at the computer, knuckles resting on the edge of the keyboard. Lord, what do I write about today? I mused, then ran a few news matters of the week through my memory banks.

There was, for example, the hoopla over Tiger Woods’ apparent indiscretions, and our PM’s trip to China, and his being chastised by the Chinese leader for, among other things, his delay in making his first trip to the People’s Republic, and his criticisms of their human rights record. Next, I recalled the debate over the Swiss democratic vote to disallow its Muslim community from building minarets on their mosques, and the possible implications of the vote – was it right and fair? Is it a phobic response? And so on. Next, my thoughts drifted to matters closer to home – of families dealing with enormous grief and facing the loss of loved ones, at what is often considered the most difficult time of year. But then, I recalled a brief article I wrote for my church bulletin several Sundays ago, and decided I would build on its simple message with you.

How can we account for some of the things that grab and hold our attention? Take the common experience of the kid who quickly gives up playing with his new expensive toy, only to spend hours playing with, or in, the box in which it came. Or the woman who scours house and home all day in search of a lost, inexpensive trinket, even though she still possesses other very valuable jewellery.

Let the psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists implement studies, peruse data, and label their conclusions, as to what engages one person’s interest in some pursuit, or another’s interest in something entirely different. However, the sense of mystery about what interests people attracts me. For instance, why does one kid, coming out of the same stable family pod as another, have entirely different interests than his siblings?

My sons reflect this contrast. Chris, quite mechanically oriented, manages a parts department, and loves basketball. Jay jogs, and plays volleyball. He’s the one we might have least expected to become a Christian minister, yet is now in his eighteenth year of being one. Jerome, a schoolteacher, composes, writes plays, sings, and acts. Yep, the mystery as to what makes people tick, provides in part, the allure for studying human nature.

Consider: Reporter Jim usually reports the merely observable facts of an incident or story, whereas reporter Jane rises to a higher level of the craft. How? By engaging in investigative journalism. She looks more closely, inquires more deeply, and pursues more tenaciously, the people involved in an incident. Jane is interested in people, and wants to find out what happened to them, why it happened, and how it affected them. She writes the "story behind the story."

St. Luke, in writing his accounts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Acts, was that kind of a reporter. Although not one of the Twelve Apostles, through his thorough research and sensitive reporting, God has given us a wonderful view of our Lord Jesus, and a unique reflection of Mary and other personalities surrounding our Saviour’s birth.

You have a Bible or New Testament? Why not take the time to read deeply the Christmas event (Luke chapters 1 and 2; Matthew chapters 1 and 2)?

Yes, Advent is a time to look closely.

(© Peter A. Black. An edition of this article will be published in The Watford Guide-Advocate, Dec. 10/09.);

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Promise of Christmas - Laycock

Chaos reigned supreme. That’s how it seemed as we rehearsed our Christmas play. The first rehearsal didn’t really happen. The second one was only a bit better, and three quarters of the cast didn’t make it to the third. Those of us who were supposedly “in control” wondered if we were going to have a play at all.

That was nothing new. Every year it seems to happen. The choir director is tearing her hair out. Kids run helter-skelter, some don’t show up, some can’t find costumes or those made for them don’t fit.

This year seemed a bit more chaotic than usual. But somehow it all came together in the end. The night of the performance seemed to go well. I say seemed, because I was too busy trying to keep my “cast” quiet and focused, to notice if the play was working. One of the magi discovered he could use one of the shepherd’s headbands as a slingshot to wing the beads off his crown clear across the front of the church. That delighted the kids in the front row who dashed out to pick them up. Mary couldn’t stop squirming because her costume was made of wool, and Joseph kept changing his mind about which robe fit best – right up until he walked out onto the ‘stage.’

I wasn’t sure it had really all come together until the audience stood to applaud at the end. When many congratulated us on a job well done, all I could say was, “It’s a miracle!”

And that’s the promise of Christmas – it all comes together in the end. I’m sure the followers of Jesus, watching the drama of His life and death, felt the same way we ‘directors’ did. To those who thought they were in control, it looked like chaos reigned. From the moment of His birth, He and His parents had to run from those who wanted to kill Him. As He performed miracles, religious leaders plotted against Him. Even the disciples themselves didn’t understand His message. They were disappointed that He didn’t chase the Romans out of the country; He never did set up an earthly kingdom. Then, the cross. It looked like everything they tried to accomplish was doomed to fail. But in the end ...

In the end, the stone was rolled away. The baby born in a stable and crucified on a cross was raised glorified, to the glory of His Father.

And there is another promise yet to unfold. As the birth of Christ is overshadowed by the cross, which was blasted away by his resurrection, even that will be outdone by His return. One day, God has told us, “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength’.” (Isaiah 45:23,24)

It will be a miracle and it really will all come together in the end.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Christmas tradition - den Boer

Putting up the Christmas tree always was and continues to be one of my favourite family things to do. I don’t know why—could be a Charlie Brown quirk.

It’s certainly not because of the idyllic nature of this event in our home. Take our 1986 typical den Boer memory-making tree trimming. Why does this warm my heart?
To keep things manageable that year, Marty wisely suggested 19-month-old Michelle be in bed for the occasion. I vetoed this in favour of a truly family event. So, with all six family members in attendance we started the tree-trimming in the kitchen. Marty sawed the trunk to fit into the tree stand. Then he rammed the six-foot spruce toward its destination in the living room, brushing past doorways, children and furniture.
I followed behind, sweeping up a trail of sawdust and needles. Michelle cried. You would too, if a tree twenty times your size came rushing at you. But, by the time we had the tree straight in its stand, Michelle, with her forgiving nature and short memory, was ready to join her siblings in whatever happened next.
While Marty strung the lights, five-year-old Alison danced on the couch destroying the paper box which belonged to the lights. Paul (3) and Angela (7) headed for the cartons of decorations. I yelled out the procedure: “In one corner Mommy takes out the decorations. In the other corner Daddy hangs the decorations. Children take the decorations from Mommy to Daddy.”
A simple plan, but like many such plans, reality changed it beyond recognition. Mommy untangled a mass of wire hooks. Children handed her ornaments to be hooked. Children hung the ornaments on the tree. Daddy oversaw and rehung when necessary. Michelle walked around with a large unbreakable ornament until it dawned on her that others were handling many ornaments. Not to be outdone, she grunted persistently begging breakable ornaments from Mommy, to be brought to Daddy. She was so efficient at this that soon Daddy was juggling four ornaments at once.
When Michelle realized Daddy could not hold any more, she simply ran back and forth between Mommy and the tree trading for a new ornament each time. Finally all the decorations were hung and Michelle cried because it was over. I put her to bed.
That left Marty and the three oldest to put on the icicles which they undertook in the tradition which Marty brought to the family. Each icicle must be hung individually and must fall straight down.
Personally, being from a family of icicle flingers, I could not bring myself to join in this tedious task. Flinging icicles was once the best part of the whole decorating process, but for the sake of happy memories for all of us, I gave it up. The few moments of fun I would spend flinging would probably be nothing compared to the irritation Marty would suffer every time he saw the helter-skelter icicles on the tree.
Why is putting up the Christmas tree still one of my favourite things to do?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Raising the Bar - Austin

There is something about the writing life that seems to work backwards. A manuscript that wins acclaim, earns its place on a publisher's short-list, and feels complete -- takes on a different tone when subjected to a professional critique.

Requesting a critique anticipates flagging some weaknesses. There is fear of overly harsh judgment. A writer's ego is pretty resilient and has an intensely strong core, but is still subject to bruising. Generous praise for the good, makes it much easier to swallow the advice on less than perfect aspects of the manuscript.

Practical, pointed suggestions, a heavily marked document, lack of transitions pointed out, inconsistencies flagged, places where dialogue becomes cumbersome, or it is difficult to follow who is speaking -- these things, seen by a new set of eyes with professional skills, become painfully obvious when pointed out. They can also prove rather painful to fix.

Two weeks of intense effort (on a "completed" work) have resulted in a new chapter added, dialogue examined and dialect greatly reduced. A key character is introduced earlier with little winsome glimmers given throughout. Dialogue attributes appear much more frequently, and transitions have been added in several places.

Like good editing, the changes resulting from a professional critique are almost invisible. They do not change the author's voice. They maintain the integrity of the story -- where the story has integrity. They are blunt and honest enough to point out places where it fails. Responding to a professional critique can raise the bar. Mediocre writing skills, of necessity, become sharpened. Good writing skills gain that little edge, move that much closer to excellence.

There is a mental exhaustion that sets in, but there is also a healthy tension. A deadline looms. I can settle for 'good enough.' The manuscript did, after all, make the short-list. But is 'good enough' a worthy goal? I have heard both strong praise and harsh criticism for this work and know it is going to fully engage some readers while missing others. But because I have taken to heart those things the critique pointed out, the quality has gone up measurably. Some will choose to keep reading, who two weeks ago with a 'good enough' manuscript would have quit by page three. Others will read with deeper satisfaction and delight.

Putting my writing under the scrutiny of an editor or a critique team is a bit like giving a surgeon permission to go at me with his scalpel without anesthetic. Like most writers, I don't like my writing being under the knife. But I would be hard pressed to put a value to this experience. It has undoubtedly been worth the cost, in dollars and in time and effort.

Deadlines loom, and had I chosen to skip this process, I would still have a book I could take pride in. Yet I would always wonder if I could have done just a bit better. When I hold the published book in my hands, the investment in a professional critique, and the intense and demanding follow-up work from that critique will undoubtedly prove to be a good and worthwhile investment. For I will hold a much better book than I would have published just two weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Duet for Wings and Earth — Martin

In this meditative season of Advent, I am often seeking words and music to help carry my thoughts back through the centuries to the miracle of Christ’s incarnation. Every year I go back to past favourites; every year I discover new treasures.

For this year I have added to my celebrations Duet for Wings and Earth, a beautiful book of poetry by Barbara Colebrook Peace. The genesis of this collection was an invitation to write poems for performance at a Christmas concert, which was renewed annually. The poems are written from varying perspectives — that of God, of Mary, of Joseph, of a donkey, sheep, magi, moon and even the inn of Bethlehem.

“Bethlehem: the place where God
tore himself from himself”

Reading one or two individual poems, will only hint at the experience of dwelling within Duet for Wings and Earth. This is a book for meditation — meditation on the profound thoughts of the poet, and on the deep significance of all we already know of this story that comes flooding back into our minds as we read. This book is a perfect reminder of why God selected poetry as the medium for much of his communication with man.

“I tasted a new song on my tongue;
I wanted to run and dance and shout!
The day the angel came and I said Yes —
How could I know what it was?”

I learned of Barbara’s poetry this past June, when Duet for Wings and Earth shared the honour, with my own book Poiema, as joint category winners at the Canadian Christian Writing Awards. I am indeed honoured to be acknowledged along side such a fine book.

Read the review Violet Nesdoly posted of this book on this blog on November 25th. I suggest you should get a copy for your Advent meditations. Visit Duet for Wings and Earth is published by Sono Nis Press.

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Good King Wenceslas -HIRD

by Rev Ed Hird

One of the best loved Christmas Carols is the 146-year-old carol: Good King Wenceslas. In 1853, John Mason Neale chose Wenceslas as the subject for a children’s song to exemplify generosity. It quickly became a Christmas favorite, even though its words clearly indicate that Wenceslas ‘looked out’ on St. Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas. So Good King Wenceslas is actually a Boxing Day carol! For a tune, Neale picked up a spring carol, originally sung with the Latin text ‘Tempus adest floridum’ or ‘Spring has unwrapped her flowers’. This original spring tune was first published in 1582 in a collection of Swedish church and school songs.

Jolly Old St. Wenceslas
Who was King Wenceslas anyway? Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia who was murdered in 929 AD by his wicked younger brother, Boleslav. As the song indicates, he was a good, honest, and strongly principled man. The song expresses his high moral character in describing King Wenceslas braving a fierce storm in order to help feed a poor neighbour. Wenceslas believed that his Christian faith needed to be put into action in practical ways. Wenceslas was brought up with a strong Christian faith by his grandmother St. Ludmila. Wenceslas’ own mother Drahomira, however, joined forces with an anti-Christian group that murdered Wenceslas’ grandmother, and seized power in Bohemia. Two years later in 922 AD, the evil Drahomira was deposed, and Good King Wenceslas became the ruler. He became Bohemia’s most famous martyr and patron saint. His picture appeared on Bohemian coins, and the Crown of Wenceslas became the symbol of Czech independence.

Intergenerational Appeal
Even as a young child, I remember feeling moved as I sung this unusual carol. Why does Good King Wenceslas have such a deep and lasting impact on its hearers? Perhaps it is because there are so many levels of meaning to this carol. A child may hear one thing, an adult may hear another. I find that I can sing it again and again, and new meaning continues to pour forth from the carol. Recently the phrase ‘Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer’ really spoke to me. It reminded me that sometimes there are times in our lives when life and its stresses seem to overwhelm us, and we feel that ‘we can go no longer.’ The response of Good King Wenceslas was most interesting. He said: ‘Mark my footsteps, my good page, Tread thou in them boldly: Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.’ Wenceslas reminds us that when we are all alone, life can feel very bleak. It is at such times that solidarity with another human being can help ‘our blood freeze less coldly’. Wenceslas affirms that we are not alone, and subtly points to the basic Christmas message that Jesus our Master will never leave us in the cold.

In His Master’s Steps
In the last verse are the memorable words: ‘In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted.’ The author John Neale, an Anglican priest, shows us here that the essence of true living is learning to walk in our Master’s steps. All of us need a Higher Power to help guide us along our journey. Jesus said: "If anyone would come after me (and tread in my steps), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Our challenge each Christmas is to look beyond the toys and tinsel, to see ‘the Master’s steps.’

The Rev. Ed Hird
Rector, St. Simon's Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-award-winning author of Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Babe of Christmas - Lindquist

I know it's only the 27th of November, but judging from the abundant lights in my neighbourhood, the holiday programs on TV, the parades and office parties, and of course the numerous stack of sales flyers in my newspaper, it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas. I'm even playing Johnny Reid's fabulous new CD "Christmas" as I write this.

Ah, Christmas. We think of the lovely pastoral setting with stable, animals, tongue-tied shepherds, priceless gifts delivered by mysterious magi, a smiling Mary, a sturdy Joseph, and the babe, cozy on a sweet-smelling bed of fresh hay. The scene touches us in a unique way.

We delight in Mary's innocence and charming simplicity as she allowed God's child to irrevocably alter the fabric of her life. We nod in approval at Joseph’s resolution to see this through at any cost. We rejoice in the gift God gave us by sending His only Son.

But, too often, we leave it there, forgetting that the God who came as a small babe is the same God who caused deluges of water to pour upon the land, destroying everything except those gathered in the ark; the One who sent plagues upon the land of Egypt and fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah; the One who destroyed the army of Sennacherib, gave the laws and commandments to Moses, reasoned with Job, and wept with David.

At Christmas, we think of love. God’s love for us. Mary’s love for God. Joseph’s love for Mary. Our love for our families. But there was no love in the heart of Herod.

We speak of joy. Yes, there was joy in both Joseph's and Mary's hearts. There was joy in the eyes of the amazed shepherds and the songs of the ecstatic angels. But the magi brought the ointment of death, and Mary's heart was afraid even as she held her baby.

We feel the peacefulness of the stable, with the contented baby, born without blemish, lovingly cared for by his gentle mother in the presence of tiny white lambs happily munching their hay. But a lamb was the Jewish symbol of sacrifice.

Love? Joy? Peace? Yes. But disrupted by the smells of dung, the pricks of straw, the cold of the dirt floor, the distant threat of an army of sword-carrying soldiers who would swoop upon Bethlehem, bringing with them the sounds of women and men weeping as their sons bled to death.

We've made Christmas into a celebration of light and warmth. We think of family and friends, of tables spread with abundance, of brightly wrapped gifts, of giving and good cheer. But how does God think of Christmas? Does He perhaps see it as a time of unprecedented sacrifice—a time of wrenching Himself away from all that was truly wonderful and allowing Himself to become a helpless human being—taking the first step along a road that would end in unspeakable agony and pain?

Love? God's love. Loving us so much that He became one of us.

Joy? Our joy, as we realize that the almighty God was willing to suffer so much for us.

Peace? The ability for us to return to the relationship Adam and Eve once knew—to be in harmony with our Creator, simply by accepting the gift of God's Son.

Christmas is a wonderful time. But instead of getting carried away with the glitter or the sentiment of the season, let’s remember that the small babe held so gently in Mary's arms was the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and earth, that same Jesus who would one day say:

"No one comes to the Father but by ME"

"I AM the Resurrection and the Life"

"I AM the Bread of Life"

"I AM the Light of the World"

"I AM the Living Water"

"I AM the Door"

"I AM the Good Shepherd"

"I AM the True Vine"

"I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life"

“Before Abraham was, I AM."

This year, as we sit in comfort in front of sweet-smelling, glittering Christmas trees with their piles of brightly wrapped presents, let’s remember that the Christmas tree of the Babe who gave us our reason to celebrate was a rough-hewn cross.

N. J. Lindquist

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Beauty and Goodness of Romance Novels - Hall

By Linda Hall

In the past few weeks, romance novels have taken a hit. Entire blogs have been devoted to the fact that Christian romance novels are a) unimportant, (i.e. not leading to a worship of God) b) formulaic (i.e. they’re all the same) or c) rules driven (i.e. – puritanical and just plain weird). The implication is that Christian women shouldn't “waste their time” reading romance, especially Steeple Hill romance, because they are the simplest of all romances.

People read romance novels. These days it’s what’s keeping bookstores open, publishing companies in business, and the Toronto Star from going under. But still there is s stigma, especially for Christian women. Some time ago a judge in a romance novel competition wrote along the bottom of her judge’s sheet: "I don’t believe Christian women shouldn't read romance novels." To this day I don’t know how she got to be chosen to be the judge of that competition. Some Christian women I know actually apologize when seen in public with a romance novel in their laps.

I have written 'both' kinds of novels - important 'issues based' novels and I am now writing romantic suspense for Steeple Hill/Harlequin. I am perfectly honest when I say that writing for Steeple Hill is some of the most difficult writing I have ever done. It's way harder than my issues based novels where I could ramble this way and that. (If there IS a formula for writing a romance, could someone please send it to me?)

But more importantly, to me romance novels have to do with God. Yes. God. Some Christian romance writers say that we write romance because God gives us love and romance for us to enjoy. I don’t believe this for a minute. God didn't give us romance. It’s not for our benefit. It's for God's benefit. God IS romance. And we who are made in God’s image and know God are involved in the greatest romance of all time. Our romantic hero is Jesus, himself - the Great Romantic.

Go back and re-read the story of Ruth and Boaz (Boaz was the 'kinsmen redeemer' foreshadowing the Great Kinsmen Redeemer - Jesus Christ). If you enjoy poetry, read the epic poem, The Hound of Heaven, which tells the story of how Christ pursued us across eternity "with unperturbed pace," His love, His bride.

Therefore, every time I write a romance I am involved in an allegory, a parable which points to the GREAT romance. I am, in effect, re-writing again and again and again the story of how much God loves us, pursues us and eventually finds us.

One day we shall participate in the biggest and grandest wedding feast of all – the wedding feast of the Lamb. And talk about good food – our finest meals and most wonderful wines will have nothing on that banquet. So, until that time I will write that story over and over and over again in many different ways.

An excellent book that spells this out is The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. Have a look at:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book review: Duet for Wings and Earth by Barbara Colebrook Peace - Nesdoly

Title: Duet for Wings and Earth
Publisher: Sono Nis Press, September 2008, paperback, 64 pages
ISBN-10: 155039164X
ISBN-13: 978-1550391640

Duet for Wings and Earth is no ordinary collection of carol-derived rhymes or Christmas acrostics. In fact these modern Advent, Christmas and Epiphany poems by Barbara Colebrook Peace may permanently alter the lens through which you view the incarnation.

Begun in 2001 as a contribution to an annual concert, the collection of 21 poems explores Christmas from the viewpoints of God, the sheep, the moon, the Magi and more. Using poetic styles from free verse to pantoum and glosa, Peace gives us much to ponder.

In the first of three seven-poem sections, she sets incarnation’s stage. She imagines God’s song from before creation in mind-bending, cosmological thoughts of a time before time. Through Joseph’s and Mary’s songs we experience Jesus’ rich Jewish heritage.

Section two deals with events just prior to Jesus’ birth. “Song of Bethlehem” explains how Bethlehem is much more than “a circle / on a map.” “Song of the Inn,” a pantoum with repeating lines, echoes the innkeeper’s glib apologies.

Section three muses over the meaning of Christ’s birth. The poignant “Song of God: For Judas not yet born“ is followed by the final “Song of Mary: Light falls in parables” with lines that are a perfect sum-up of the book’s impact:

“… the song
I’ve been singing all my life
is a song about stretching

to enlarge my idea of you, and even
my idea of me…”

That’s what these mythical yet real, simple yet complex, accessible yet deep poems do. They retell the familiar story in a way that charms and woos us into a richer experience of the incarnation and its meaning.

Peace’s first book, Kyrie, was published in 2001. In June 2009, Duet for Wings and Earth won (tied with D. S. Martin’s Poiema) The Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Award 2009 for Book - Special category.

Duet for Wings and Earth would make a fabulous gift for the lover of poetry on your Christmas list. Or purchase a copy as a resource for the person who plans the Christmas services at your church. Of course you'll also want one of your own.

Order through Amazon or Sono Nis press.

(This review was first published in the November/December issue of Faith Today.)


Personal blog promptings
Writerly blog Line upon line
Kids' daily devotions Bible Drive-Thru
A poem portfolio

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Come, Lord Jesus - Carolyn Arends

This is from my newest Christianity Today column, which was recently posted on their website.

Come, Lord Jesus
Oh wait, He's already here.
From the October issue of Christianity Today

I was a guest musician at a church in Winnipeg, engaged in the familiar liturgies of a pre-service prayer huddle. One person prayed for the congregation's safety in inclement weather, another for the technical aspects of the service, and a third kindly remembered my family back home.

When my turn came, I must have used a phrase like, "God, we invite you here among us." I clearly recall the minister's prayer, which followed mine: "We know we do not have to request your presence, because there is nowhere you are not. So we celebrate the fact you are already here with us now."

My head stayed bowed, but my face burned. This guy is correcting my theology with his prayer!

The service went as planned. But throughout the evening, I was mentally defending my choice of words. Of course I know God is everywhere—I've read Psalm 139! I was requesting an extra measure of his presence, an outpouring of his Spirit. Or, if you want to be more precise (and clearly you do), I was praying that God would help us to be open to him. Aren't we just arguing semantics?

I never articulated any of these thoughts to the minister. But the dialogue I've had with him in my head ever since has gradually refined my thinking—a case of iron sharpening particularly dull iron. I now believe that pastor's gentle correction was necessary.

If the psalmist is right—that there truly is nowhere we can go to flee God's presence—why do we act like his attendance is intermittent? And why do we assume it's dependent on us?

"Halfway through the retreat, God showed up," we say. As if he wasn't there before we were, drawing us to that time and place.

"Lord, we welcome you to come," we pray. As if he needs us to usher him into the world he created. As if we do not "live and move and have our being" in him alone (Acts 17:28).

In the Gospels, Jesus makes a simple proclamation with seismic implications: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matt. 4:17). For those of us who grew up in the hot, scary shadows of brimstone pulpits, the command to repent causes an involuntary shudder. But the Greek word is metanoeite,* which is more invitation than threat. It means "change your mind" or "reconsider."

Reconsider what? According to Jesus, everything you thought you knew about reality. Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is near.

Most of us think of heaven as somewhere out there, the place where God watches from a distance and we will one day join him. But for the biblical writers, heaven is close. In fact, the "first heavens" is a term used to describe the earth's atmosphere. So when Jesus describes the invisible (but very real) realm that God inhabits, he lets us know it's not only out there, but also as near as the atmosphere surrounding our bodies and the air we breathe.

That Winnipeg minister was calling me to repent—to reconsider what I thought I knew about reality and the way God pervades it. I don't have to invoke God's presence. I only have to attend to it.

This change of heart and mind alters the way I approach discipleship. I suspect I have sometimes unconsciously used spiritual disciplines as smoke signals to get God's attention. Now I am learning that they are simply ways of letting him capture mine.

A similar change has occurred in my orientation toward evangelism. I don't have to give a nonbeliever something I have that she doesn't. I need only invite her to open herself up to what God is already doing all around her.

The other day I was trying to describe this shift in my understanding to my friend Roy Salmond. He ran to pull out an article he'd read in Time magazine more than a decade ago. It's an eloquent piece called "The Game of Catch," by Roger Rosenblatt, about baseball, parenthood, and the wordless communication between a father and son tossing the ball around. While the article is in no way religious, one thought in particular has permanently changed Roy's view of life with God.

"They do not call it a game of throw," Roy quoted, grinning. "They call it catch."

Monday, November 23, 2009

GOD IS WITH US - Bob Scott

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

For many, this coming Sunday, November 29th, will mark the beginning of Advent, the season during which the anticipated birth of the Christ Child is celebrated.

We always get excited at the prospect of a new little life coming among us. I’m a grandparent, now. When a grandchild was on the way, I was as excited as when my own children were born. We always celebrate a new birth in our church congregation.

I suspect that, for many, the birth of the baby in Bethlehem it is the sole reason for their seasonal joy. It is the celebration of a new baby and nothing more. For others, it is only one of two occasions when their thoughts turn to spiritual matters. It’s what we do at Christmas and Easter. For either group, that falls far short of the real reason for the happiness we should all experience.

We are not just celebrating the birth of a child. If we were, all we would be doing is holding a sanctified baby shower.

We are fortunate that we can know this child’s destiny. Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah spoke of his purpose in coming. He came to teach us about God’s love. He also came to die for us.

While he was among us he gave us the message of God’s amazing love and forgiveness for those who would put their faith in him. He came to call us to repentance and commitment. He instructed that we should follow his example.

He said that, if we would put our faith in him, we would begin to experience eternal life here and now. The question we should be asking is not “What if you died today?" Instead, it is “What is tomorrow looking like, and would you like some help and blessing in living it?” That’s really what Jesus was talking about.

I like the statement the late Charles Schultz puts in the mouth of his cartoon character, Charlie Brown. He says, “Eternity is a very long time, but not as long as it was yesterday.”

Why wait for the blessings that can start now and go on for all eternity? Why wait another day to understand the love of God for you. This season is about far more than a little baby born in a foreign country twenty centuries ago.

This Christmas, may we discover that there is much more to celebrate. Let’s seek direction from the Wonderful Counsellor, give our devotion to our Mighty God who is the everlasting example of a loving Father, and find time to contemplate the calm that only the Prince of Peace can give.


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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Giving Season - Smith Meyer

It’s that time of year again! Most of my life, it was a delight to take note of my family’s yearnings, needs and wishes and by Christmas time, find some way to make at least a few of them come to pass. Most of that time I also had to be creative rather than lavish because of the limitations of my bank account. That accomplished a few things. It taught my children that you didn’t always need to spend a lot of money to fulfill wishes and or even needs, and it entailed giving more of myself--so much that I felt more joy at watching them open their gifts than I did opening mine. However, when they were old enough to begin putting that same kind of thought and creativity into their giving, I received double joy.

As the children left home and I had less opportunity to secretly take note of what was of interest to them, it became more difficult. Then the grandchildren came along. It seemed any time I thought of the perfect gift, say in June or even August or September, they already had it before Christmas. Then they got old enough that their interest was in electronic gadgets of which I had no knowledge. I often feel myself caught on a tight wire with that old desire to find the perfect gift that fulfills a wish and is a meaningful expression of my love and care on one end and the fear that my old-fashioned need of creativity in my gifts won’t come through as such to the younger generation. The last few years, I’ve resorted to a cheque in their home-made card. I wanted to do more.

A large portion of my family’s birthdays come over the end of the year and the beginning of the next. They are kicked off by a grandson’s at the end of October. I walked back and forth on that tight wire as we neared the crucial date this year. The closer it got, the more tense I became. At the last minute, I devised a gift certificate for dinner out with Grandpa and Grandma. Imagine my surprise, when it was received with great joy and what seemed high honour.

Tonight he redeemed that certificate. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant, but it was a blessed time where a 13 year-old shared the concerns and joys of his life and some dreams for his future. It wasn’t electronic, it wasn’t expensive, but it was giving of myself and my time and it definitely was precious.

Holy Way – Lawrence

(This was first published on my website as a meditation in October 2007 under the title Wilderness Highway.)

A highway shall be there [in the wilderness], and it shall be called the Holy Way; …it shall be for God’s people, no traveler…shall go astray. Isaiah 35:8

For the last few days, I have been thinking about this wilderness highway that Isaiah speaks of and wondering what it means for us. When we (God’s people) are in a wilderness or difficult situation, a highway appears for us. This highway is called the Holy Way and Isaiah tells us that no traveler on this road shall go astray.

This highway is owned by God and is a way of spiritual pilgrimage where we grow to spiritual maturity and holiness as we go through life’s difficulties and joys. As long as we keep to this path that is provided we will not go astray.

The Holy Way is a free way for God’s people. There are no tolls to be paid to walk on this road; it is an open highway for all who call themselves God’s people and who desire to walk in God’s way and grow in God’s Spirit.

The Holy Way may come under attack and into disrepair but it is continually being defended and repaired by the prayers of God’s people and the Word of God. We, who are God’s people, help to keep this road in good repair by keeping in daily prayer and communication with God; by reading God’s word and listening to God’s voice.

In the Old Testament, we read of the prophet, Elisha, being surrounded by an enemy army. His assistant saw the enemy and was afraid. Elisha saw the enemy but also saw God’s army on the surrounding hillside. Those who are with us are more than are with them, Elisha told his assistant. He asked God to open the assistant’s eyes so that he could see what Elisha saw and trust in God.

The army of God’s love surrounds us. We have to learn to trust in that surrounding presence in order to overcome our fear and walk the Holy Way in safety. In partnership with God and God’s people we keep the road in good repair, mending the rough spots on the road as we go. The materials for the repairs are given to us in our daily time with God—our prayers, our Bible reading, our devotional reading, our contrition and forgiveness.

This is the spiritual way that we travel day by day on the journey of life. We face each joy and each danger with open eyes upon the Lord and listening ears upon God’s word. We walk the Holy Way in faithfulness so that we do not go astray.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Duke The Chihuahua On Editing - Dawson

(The following is a guest post by Donna Fawcett writing as Donna Dawson. Donna is a writing instructor at Fanshawe College, London, Ontario, an author of two-category award winning novel, Vengeance, and four other books. You can find her at her website, )

I realize that it is an unusual practice to post on a literary blog with the aid of a dog but Duke the Chihuahua is no ordinary canine. He is an astute pooch and has saved me unnecessary grief on a number of occasions. There are, no doubt, those who, upon reading this, might have an overwhelming urge to dial 911 and ask for assistance for a delusional wordsmith but I assure you that I am completely in my right mind. And Duke would be quite miffed at the implication that he was nothing more than a figment of my imagination. So what can a pampered and slightly overweight Chihuahua add to a writer’s web site? Plenty.

For example, Duke has just, in the past few days, pointed out to me the folly of his retaining the services of an ‘editor’ without doing a background check first. I must say, as you might have read on my website blog, that I did warn the little fluff ball but Duke is a rather independent sort and paid no heed whatsoever.

“Does the editor have some sort of certificate or credential to verify an education in editing? Is there a list of references? A track record of employment at a publishing house?” All of these queries and more I put before my canine friend and he merely flicked a foxy ear, popped that button nose into the air and continued to seal and stamp his envelope.

It is quite tempting to remind poor Duke of those questions now as he sits and stares at his online bank balance. It is very low I assure you. That editor didn’t come cheap and when I read the final draft from Duke’s purchase my eyes just about bugged out as much as his do on a normal day. My fuzzy friend had been had. The manuscript was a mess. And suddenly he had a burning desire to check into credentials—which didn’t exist. Duke has since continued to grumble about the expense of an editor that didn’t do his job and I am quick to remind him.

“Ah Duke, my champion of the writing industry, you remember what I’ve said in the past? That an editor is worth their weight in gold?” He could see it coming. “You’ve paid the weight in gold but have foregone the editing.” What could he say? Duke will be the first to tell you that a qualified editor is a must in writing. He simply had a lapse in common sense in the excitement of having finished that first book.

“So Duke, what piece of advice would you offer the readers from your store of experience?”

Mournful eyes relay the answer with eloquence. Don’t trust the phrase ‘I’m an editor’ without checking it out first?

Yes, wise advice. Whoever told you that must have been smart indeed Duke and you can stop growling at me now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Beginning as a Writer - Shepherd

Kimberly asked yesterday, “How did you get your start as a writer?” For me, it began in school. In the sixth grade, I had an English teacher who insisted that we write an essay each week. Every Friday we were to bring our essay to class. It was a great discipline. Her positive responses to my essays, made me believe that I might be able to write.

One of my passions, even at that age was reading. I always had a book nearby, so that I could escape into the adventures they provided. I am not sure when the shift took place, but at some time, I became more intrigued by non-fiction than fiction writing. I think it was tied to the development of my faith. Books nurtured my faith. Not only the Bible but also the writings of Christians who were authentic helped me realize the value of my faith in shaping who I am.

As a young adult, I read the books of Catherin Marshall, specifically Beyond Ourselves and Something More. She introduced me to ideas that were more powerful than fiction. They changed me from within, as I began to understand more about trusting God and living the adventure of learning to walk in obedience to Him. I discovered the opportunities He provides each day for interactions with others, in His presence. Reading such powerful writing stirred within me, the desire to touch the hearts of people with God’s love in the same way. Slowly my dream of writing was born. I wanted to write to make a difference in the lives of others, to help and encourage them the way that my mentor, Catherine Marshall had done for me.

The opportunity came after I had begun to work in full time ministry. I was required to complete a course of my choice in my first year of ministry and I chose a course on creative writing. During a visit to our town of the editor of one of our denominational publications, we talked about my writing and she suggested that I submit some of my pieces to specific denominational periodicals. I did so, and to my amazement, they chose to publish them. It grew from there, and as I continue to write the fire still burns within me, to make a difference in the lives of others, by encouraging them to see God at work in their lives and in our world. In doing so for them, my own faith is strengthened, as I know that the source of my creativity is the Great Creator.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Writing Testimony - Kimberley Payne

In the year 2000 God called my husband and me to Orillia, Ontario. I sold my home and my business and Bob left his job and sold his cottage. We bought a home in a town where we had no family and no friends and started a new life.

This was the first time that I ever stayed home with my children full-time. I worked when they were young and then started my own business when my oldest child started school. But in Orillia, I was home all day, everyday.

Being a social person, I sought out other women and ended up attending a Women’s CARE Group at the Christian Reform Church. It was there that I gave my heart to Jesus and began my personal relationship with the Lord.

At home, I took to reading and studying Christian books. I enjoyed such classics as Hannah Whitall Smith’s “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”, Josh McDowell’s “More than a Carpenter”, Catherine Marshall’s “Something More” and “The Sacred Romance” by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.

By following the advice of Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, I began to journal a minimum of three pages each morning. They were called, quite appropriately, “Morning Pages”. Through this process, I wrote about my fears, anxieties, observations and lessons learned as a new Christian. At first, my writing was between God and me. He revealed things to me that I never would have been open to receiving any other way. I remember the day when I was having a “discussion” with God about what my call in life was and He responded, “to write”. He told me to write to bring people closer to Him.

Since that day I try very hard not to miss a day without writing my morning pages. I share my walk of faith with others through my weekly column, Today’s Faith, in the Millbrook Times. God has done so much for me in my life, writing a book – Fit for Faith, and writing regular Christian articles are just some ways I can be obedient to His call in my life and bring others closer to Him.

How did you get your start as a writer?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Grounded! - Belec

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:19

Being a parent demands the ingenuity of a clinical psychologist combined with the patience of a saint. I am the first to admit that my own halo required an adjustment periodically.
All the psychology texts and childcare manuals in the world could not aptly predict the mind of my daughter when she was a precarious preschooler.

Amanda was four years old. The acquisition of a wonderful ever-expanding vocabulary coupled with the assertion of her independence had given her a whole new outlook on life.
She was catching on. She discovered it was not always necessary to hold mother’s sweaty hand each time she left the house. Mother had tricked her. She did not blow away after all.
Difficult as it seemed at the time, I had to start giving her a little slack. Friends would come to call – sometimes great big five year olds.
“Please, mommy, please can I go over and play in David’s yard? Please?”

I could not persist in denying her the opportunity to fellowship. She needed friends, I convinced myself. The time had come to allow her the freedom to go play in David’s back yard.
Things went well for a while. Then, one day, she decided to put me to the test.

Amanda had been playing two doors down with David. It was time for her to come home. She had not arrived so I stepped outside to attract her attention. I called - just a gentle reminder. She tossed a fleeting glance my way and uttered something about “…in a little while.” I called again. The sweetness in my voice was dissipating rapidly.

Her refusal to acknowledge my request to come home ignited my wrath ever so slightly. I kept my cool, though. Her disobedience persisted.
I marched over to where she was playing and scooped her out of the sandbox, ignoring her protests. David quickly disappeared. Finally, she realized I meant business, and she calmed down.

“I’m sorry, Amanda,” I announced, “but I am going to have to ground you for the rest of the day.” She inhaled deeply and held her breath.

Suddenly, fearful screams echoed throughout the quiet neighborhood and the tears began to fall as I hustled her home. “Aha!” I thought. I had found a punishment that really works.
There was something wrong, though. Amanda’s cries escalated. She sounded terrified. I began to feel dreadful. I knew she liked playing with her friends but why was she making such a fuss, I wondered?

I could not stand it any longer. I took Amanda into my arms and hugged her.
“Whatever is wrong?”
I rocked my little girl as if she was an infant. In-between hysterical sobs and a runny nose I found out what had caused the traumatic outburst.

Amanda’s concept of my new disciplinary tactic – grounded – was unfortunately quite literal. As I had sternly announced to her that she was grounded, she envisioned herself being buried between the carrots and the potatoes. How would she ever breathe? What about the worms? She hated worms. I had dished out a punishment that I had deemed appropriate, assuming she knew what I meant. Eventually she calmed down and I was able to cast a different light on the term, grounded.

As I reflect on my daughter’s disobedience, I think about the many times God has carried me kicking and screaming out of a situation. On more than one occasion He has grounded me and made me think twice about a foolish decision or a thoughtless comment I have made.

What did I learn through it all? I have learned that God is compassion and grace. He is understanding, merciful and patient – a perfect parent. I was not.
God grounding is therapeutic. It causes me to reflect. It forces me to listen to that still small voice that tells me to quit procrastinating and send that card, make that telephone call, pay that visit. It urges me to be still, and know that He is God.

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