Saturday, January 31, 2009

Belle Gucci - Eleanor Shepherd

We have been empty nesters since 1999 when our daughter took the dog to live with her, when we were returning to France for a second assignment there. Now that we have moved into the home where we plan to spend our retirement years, we decided we needed a little company, so last Saturday we went to the SPCA in search of an orphan.

The moment we walked into the room where the dogs were kept, I spotted him and he spotted me. It was love at first sight. His name was Shadow and I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get acquainted.

But, first the paperwork. We had to complete all of the forms so that we could be entrusted with this animal. I answered the questions to the best of my ability, but my confidence wavered as the adoption agent raised questions about some of my responses. In one case, I had checked the wrong box and gave the opposite answer to what I meant. In another case I had misunderstood the question. I began to perspire. This was obviously not going to be as easy as I thought.

Shadow was a golden retriever mix. He was a dog that needed space and I knew that. One of the questions on the form was what kind of a dwelling we lived in. I indicated that it was a condominium. There was no place for me to write that, this condominium was larger than the house where we lived in France for four years with our very active Brittany spaniel mixed dog. The other requirement for Shadow was access to a fenced yard. There seemed to be some possible negotiation about this one.

Do we live on the first floor of the condo? No, we are on the second floor. There is one flight of stairs to the outside door. We are not next to a park, although we are on the lakeshore and there is plenty of parkland there. No, it is not right at our door, we have to cross the street. The adoption agent tried to be helpful. She asked at least three people in charge if it was possible for us to have Shadow, in spite of us not meeting the exact criteria. There was no way they were going to release him to us. Despite my sadness, I knew they wanted to do the right thing for the dog. They were thinking of his needs and if you really love someone that is what you do, you put their needs before your own. I had to let Shadow go.

But we still wanted a pet. Maybe a cat is more realistic for a condo. We wandered around the cat room looking at them. After completing the forms, we were able to have a visit with a few of them. The first was a feisty little male kitten. He was not the least bit interested in cuddling. I suspected that life with him could become a battle of the wills. This was not the one.

The next was a female named Rose, who was reluctant to come out of her cage. She accepted some cuddling, but wanted to keep her distance, just the same. The chemistry was not working with her either.

Then we saw a kitten that seemed full of fun. Her antics amused us as she threw her ball into her water dish, just before coming out of her cage. She seemed like a good candidate.

We were trying to decide whether we should go through with this, when I spotted another cat. She was the only one in a stack of cages that were separate from all the rest. The place was a little overcrowded and I guess this was the only place they had left. She was a year old and had just returned from foster care. She peered out at me, as if to say, “Please, take me home?”

I asked if we could have a visit with her. As soon as we held her, we knew she was the one. She was both affectionate and independent and not too much of either, so we signed the adoption papers and she became ours. We could not bring her home until Monday, as she had to be sterilized. That was one of the clauses in the adoption agreement that we signed. The name she had been assigned was Gucci but we wanted her to be called Belle, because we think she is beautiful. So Belle Gucci has joined our lives and I am sure will teach us much and bring us joy as we make our home together.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Goal Planning - Payne

Back in December, Denise Rumble challenged The Word Guild members to share the plans we have for the New Year as far as scheduling time for our writing.

Instead of the usual breakdown of goals (for example, I will write 500 words a day, or I will send out 10 query letters a month) I have decided to try something different this year.

I plan to examine my goals in detail with respect to my personal values – those things I feel are most important in my life. I picked my top six values – health, learning, family, friendship, variety, and humour – and wrote at least two specific goals to pertain to each.

For example, I plan to attend The Word Guild’s Write! Canada conference in June. This goal supports my values of education, variety, humour, and friendship. I plan to read one fictional novel that has “laugh out loud” as a credit on the cover. This goal supports my values of education, variety, and humour.

I have twelve book projects that I am currently working on. However, instead of stressing about working on one and getting it done by a certain date, I plan to work on the project that fits my fancy for the day. This way, I continue to move toward my goal of completion but without the added stress of finishing to a deadline. I want to enjoy the whole writing process! This supports my values of health and family.

The other thing that I am trying is to break these projects down into smaller chunks. I’ve often read that it is not the best idea to start writing a book; but instead, to write smaller articles towards the goal of a book. For example, I want to write a book about the different types of trees in the Bible. What I have just offered to do is write a small chapter each week to be printed on the back of the church bulletin. (This is not an original idea…I took it from Peter Black’s Parables from the Pond. Great idea Peter!)

I don’t have an agent. I don’t have a publishing contract. And I don’t plan to stress about it. My goal this year is to get back to the joy of writing. To write what I want when I want without a schedule to bog me down.

Who knows…when a writing project is done, maybe I’ll feel motivated and energized to pursue publication. Maybe.

It’s the first time I’m trying this new approach to goal planning. Have you ever tried a new method of goal planning?

Kimberley Payne

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Once You Have Them, Then . . . - MANN

On these cold below zero mornings, it's interesting to see, what looks like, chimneys pushing out steady white streams of smoke. In fact, when one looks closely, it appears as if the smoke is hesitant of leaving the safe confines of the chimney to venture out into the cold. It seems to lift and then stagger as it pushes upward.

As I watched this on a recent drive through the country, I began to think of how hard it is sometimes to get words either on a clean white sheet or into the mix of other words. They seem to push and shove their way around in my mind and as I strive to find a place for them in some particular order, they escape and lose themselves in a myriad of phrases, terms and definitions. Like the smoke that leaves the chimney in a solid stream and soon disappears as vapour into the atmosphere, pronounced by the frigid air, so my words seem to dissipate into the canyons of my mind and memory.

But not all is lost in this venture. In the tumbling of words through my mind, I often think of new and original words that seem to be waiting to be birthed. Then I have the task to give them life, find the right place and relate them to other words.

So the adventure continues and constant awakening happens. Discoveries are made and new thoughts are created. Within time, a document is given birth, sometimes different from the original goal but often more true than originally intended. I guess I just need to let the smoke rise, hesitantly when appropriate and push its way into the unknown.

Keep in touch:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


One of the misconceptions that I encounter most often is the belief that God gives us rules solely for our inconvenience.
“Why can't I be like the folks on that renovations show who unfailingly use theological language in a non-theological sense when they see their new home?”

“Why are you always telling me I should find a Bible-believing church?”

“Why can't I just live with the guy? We love one another and are committed.”

The response, ''It's for your own good,” rarely receives a warm reception.

Taking the Lord's name in vain is wrong because He is God and, as such, any use of His name other than for praise or intercession is blasphemy.

Personally, I'd get a little upset if every time someone was surprised, upset, or amazed, they called out “Oh my Bob!” After a while, I think I'd quit answering. People would then be using my name in vain.

When we call on God, he intends to answer.

We are admonished not to give up meeting together as the faithful fellowship of believers because without that kind of support, we will not long survive the challenges of the life we live.
If Sunday worship is a chore, don't quit. Find a congregation where you are fed. Ask for God's guidance. I praise God for the place to which he has led us.

I'm in church three times a week, now. And I'm not even the pastor.

We live in a different world now than the one I lived in as a teenager. Declining respect for God; a move away from regular attendance at a believing church; these and more have led many losing sight of the plan God has for his world.
Some of the younger folk I counsel, and some older ones too, have lost sight of the fact that God gives direction for the welfare of his people.
And so, I have to advise young men who are not prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood brought on by disrespect for God's plan for sex and marriage.

I am asked what to do about the live-in boyfriend who wants to go out to watch TV at some other young woman's apartment--every week.

God says, in effect, ''You will avoid a lot of trouble in your earthly life if you follow these rules”
Even the Ten Commandments become affirmations if we see God's way as a prescription rather than a restriction.

Try it. (I’m using Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” for some of the text that follows.) God can give the assurance that, from this day forward, you can be assured of the following:

No other gods, only me. (Exodus 20:3)
You’ll know exactly what he is like. No more gods in your own image.

No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won't put up with the irreverent use of his name. (Ex. 20:7)
Reverence for God brings his approval.

You will joyously, Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Ex. 20:8)
Nothing can tear you away from Spirit-led worship and good teaching.

Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD, your God. (Ex. 20: 9, 10)
Not everyone sees it this way, but God promises to take care of that seventh day. Your business will survive and you will be energized for the work to come.

No murder. No adultery. No stealing. No lies about your neighbor. No lusting after your neighbor's house--or wife… (Ex. 20:13, 14, 15, 16, 17)
No! I’m not suggesting you are guilty of these things. They all come back to a selfish attitude. God says we can set our minds on good things, if He is the one who is in control. Jesus said that wrong thinking was just as bad as the act. (Matt. 5:21, 28)
God’s instruction is not given to take away your joy. The loving Father is giving, to all of us, the tools to live a life filled with joy.

If God is your co-pilot, switch seats. Give him full control.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Auto insurance statisticians tell us that the most common place for an accident to occur is near one’s home. We’re so accustomed to the route that we don’t pay much attention.

I think that’s the same for our culture, too. We’re so saturated with messages from our culture that we can stop noticing them.

Recently I was flying across the country for a speakers’ reunion for those of us who speak at marriage conferences in Canada. We left our small town of Belleville, Ontario, and headed to Toronto, with its impatience, hostility, and even anger. The ticket clerks grumbled. The passengers were grumpy. The security guards never smiled. And even after going through security things didn’t get better. Everywhere I looked were magazines depicting women in various states of undress. Novels with rather lewd titles screamed from the windows. People talking to themselves on their Bluetooth cell phone devices seemed to be yelling at their imaginary friends. The talking heads on the CNN television screens which seemed to pop up every twenty feet, announced anther shooting.

The magazines in Belleville aren’t much better. We have grumpy clerks, too, and business people striving to make even more money. But when it’s home, you don’t always notice. When I stepped outside of my comfort zone, I saw up close how ugly much of our culture is, as it presses in on us everyday.

Do you ever feel that weight? I know I did. My husband and I were flying out to Vancouver for the annual retreat for Family Life Canada, a group that has as its aim reaching Canada through the felt needs of the family. We work to keep families together, and to help people see that true change comes from Christ.

And as I walked through that airport, I just felt that it was hopeless. Where in our culture do we teach that sexuality is sacred within marriage? Where do we teach that marriage isn't about happiness, it's about holiness?

We don't.

And I began to be convicted, because so much of what I write is for the Christian market. We need to start speaking truth to the secular world, too.

I do have a syndicated column that I write in many community newspapers every week, and there I try to bring up family issues with regularity (though I often get lambasted in the letters to the editor). But most of my teaching is in the Christian world.

On the one hand, Christians need good teaching. We need to keep our marriages together so that we can be lights to others. We need to raise confident, godly children so the can continue the task of being light in the world. But it can't stop there.

We need to start taking our message further. I'm not sure what that would look like, but we need to start spreading out.

I've been doing a lot of work online lately, with social media and with podcasting, and I hope to branch out of Christian circles there. But the whole experience challenged me as to where our focus should lie.

What about you? What are you doing to redeem the culture? Let's not stay in our bubble. Let's move out. I'm just not sure how to do that.

Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. She blogs at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

©Linda Wegner


When I heard the unmistakable sound of our back door being opened, I turned to check the time. It was 2:30am. More stunned than afraid I rolled over in bed and that’s when I heard Grace’s voice: “Are you okay, Mom?”

By now I was up and standing beside our son, Len, and his wife. Again they posed the question: “Are you okay?”

After assuring them that all was well I asked why they thought otherwise. “We just got a phone call from a lady who sounded as if she was very sick. She asked if Len [a registered nurse] could take her to the hospital. We thought it must be you.”

Their concern was legitimate – they’ve taken me to hospital on a number of occasions but this time I had no medical problem. Unfortunately somewhere, someone else did.

We tried to think of who might be calling and then decided the next course of action was to check the telephone’s call display. “A blocked call,” Len told me a few minutes later. “Can you think of anyone else?” After another few minutes of deliberation and prayer together for the one needing help, we gave up and went back to bed.

Legitimate or otherwise, the call took place. Not only that, our willingness to help was real. Over the past few days since it happened I’ve thought about it a lot: Was this a prank call? Was it a wrong number…but if so, why did she ask for a specific person? What was the significance, if any, of the blocked phone number? The questions are many but we’ll probably never know the answers. (The writer in me has come up with several scenarios worthy of a novel, a first for this technical writer.)

In our distress God says: “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

Many times I’ve wondered how much of an influence the sentences and paragraphs I string together have had on my readers. Somehow it seems, at least to me, that those who write “Christian” pieces have an easier time of touching lives than I do. After all, how are hearts pointed to Christ by my account of the latest news in a struggling economy?

I don’t know the answer to that but I do know two things for sure: I pray for my readers and God answers prayer. I’ll leave the rest of the puzzle to Him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Three Platonic Ideals: Truth — Martin

In my recent blogs I have been talking about the three Platonic ideals: First Goodness (Nov. 14), then Beauty (Dec. 31); and now we’ll look at the third — Truth. These concepts have all been under attack in recent days. The politically correct are troubled by absolutes — particularly by Goodness and Truth.

Although Christians are comfortable with the word Truth, post-modernists have undermined it so that it’s viewed subjectively. In the same way that the ideal of Beauty has been watered down by the misconception that it is "in the eye of the beholder", many now contrast what is "true" to one person with what is "true" to another. Personally, I don’t like the word Truth to be used to mean "what I think is real"; we already have the word "believe" to indicate that. I prefer to save the word Truth to mean what really is, regardless of whether it is perceived or not.
If we don’t reserve this word for this purpose, we no longer have a simple way of expressing the idea of something that really is regardless of our perception. If I say, it is true that God sent Jesus to die for us, I don’t merely claim to believe it, but that it is fact regardless of what people may say. In his essay "The Death of Words" C.S. Lewis says that when "you have killed a word you have also...blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for. Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten how to say."
It is true, that sometimes believers falsely claim to have a corner on Truth. I think of the Catholic church persecuting Galileo because they believed in a geocentric universe. I think of when we use the Bible as a science textbook, dogmatically claiming to have a full understanding of everything that happened when God created the world, interpreting scripture in ways that may never have been intended. We need to proceed with humility as we speak of God’s Truth.
But we can and should speak of Truth — of what really is — because we have some unique insights to offer. As a poet I consider words to be precious, and concepts such as Truth to be worth protecting. The word Truth carries with it the idea of accuracy — that’s why it’s an ideal; if we remove this from our concept what is left of the value Plato praised?

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day - M. Laycock

Like millions of others around the world I watched the historic inauguration of Barak Obama on television. It was an impressive sight, seeing the millions of people who crammed the streets of Washington, most of them nowhere near where Mr. Obama stood to take the oath of office. Most of them knew before they arrived that they would not get anywhere near him. But still they were there. Over and over again you heard that word, "historic." Millions, it appeared, just wanted to be part of that moment.

I was impressed, too, at Mr. Obama's speech. His vision for his country is both noble and bold, considering the state of his nation. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be an American, standing in that crowd listening, and I could understand why the faces of many who listened were glistening with tears. Mr. Obama gives them hope, something desperately needed in the United States and around the world today.

But, as stirring as the speech and all the fanfare was, I felt a sadness as I watched from my living room. It seemed there was something missing in it all. When the speech was over I led my regular women's Bible study group as we looked at God's word and studied what the name, Adonai, means. It was an enlightening study, pondering what that word 'Lord' means to us, particularly when the author made mention of Nehemiah.

That ancient leader took on a task no less daunting than becoming the president of a great country. In the face of much opposition and powerful enemies he was charged with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem one hundred years after they had been destroyed. I imagine Nehemiah gave quite a stirring speech as he stood in the rubble and told the Hebrew people what they were to do. Part of his speech was recorded for us, and one line echoed down through history and off the page as I read it today - "Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome ..."

Mr. Obama's speech was eloquent as he charged the American people with their task of beginning to rebuild their country's strength and honour. But Mr. Obama neglected to mention the fact that nothing can happen without the enabling of the God who is in control of history.

I pray we, as well as Mr. Obama and all the leaders of all the nations, will remember God, for he is Adonai, The Lord, who is great and awesome, and it is He, only He, who can change the hearts of men and make them good.


Marcia Laycock is the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her devotional column, The Spur, goes out to thousands world-wide each week. Visit Marcia's website -

Good News now in Ojibway!

I heard some good news recently. All of the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament is now available in the Ojibway language. Though portions of the New Testament have been available since 1833, the entire New Testament was not translated until 1988. Now a revised edition of the NT and a large portion of the Old Testament is also available.

Many people in northern communities (north of 50th parallel) speak Ojibway as their first language. As many people who have learned a second language know, it gets progressively harder to speak in a second language the closer you get to heart issues. When I was in Poland as a student many years ago, I remember my frustration at being able to say “please pass the butter” but not “I’m feeling lonely today.” Having the Bible translated into the “heart language” of the people is a wonderful thing.

This Bible recently released by the Canadian Bible Society is unique in that it has syllabics on one page and our more familiar Roman script on the facing page. The reason for this is because many of the older people were taught to read Ojibway in syllabics but the younger kids are being taught to read their language using Roman script.

There are five dialects of the Ojibway language and this must have certainly made the translation more challenging. Also because First Nations languages have historically been oral rather than written, there are many variations when it comes to the spelling of words. For example, the word Ojibway itself is also written as Ojibwe, Ojibwa and Chippewa. The people themselves call their language: Anishinaabemowin since they are the Anishinabe people.

The work on this new Bible translation has proceeded under the guidance of Anglican priest Robert Bryce who served as a consultant to the Canadian Bible Society, working with Henry Hostetler and Ojibwe translator Jim Keesic.
Dorene Meyer
Author of Deep Waters, a compelling contemporary novel that will give you the opportunity to “walk a mile in the shoes” of Gracie, a First Nations residential school survivor, and experience her reconciliation to Sarah, the daughter who had been taken away from her at birth.

There is no “them and us” – there is only “us.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking at the Flip Side

Yesterday, I discovered something new about myself.

I've always told people I hate doing research. I thought it was true. I know other novelists who set their books in real locations and do meticulous research - even traveling around the world - to make sure that every single nuance of their books is accurate, from the names of streets and restaurants to the way their characters talk and dress. Just thinking about having to do all that work makes me tired.

And yet, I’m not a lazy person. Far from it. So, why do I hate doing research?

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. It’s not so much that I dislike doing research as it is that I like creating new worlds. And I realized that every one of my novels is in its own world in some way or another.

My four Circle of Friends novels are set in a small town in the prairies I named “Wallace,” not unlike the towns in Manitoba and Saskatchewan where I grew up in and taught school. It isn’t any of those towns, but it has little aspects of each in it because I know how it feels to live in a small town.

I had great fun creating Wallace - deciding where Main Street would be and where the school would be and where each of my characters would live; figuring out where the highway would be, and so forth. I drew it all out on a piece of Bristol board, creating my own map. Later, I found the map very helpful in unexpected ways. Just looking at it, picturing what the town would look like if it was real, gave me additional ideas for the plots.

In Time of Trouble is set in the suburbs of a city, but I never use the name of the city. It’s a bit like Toronto, but not really. In a way, it could be any city. All I know is that I see it in my head as I wrote. I see the characters driving or walking on the streets. I see the house they live in. The image of Shane in the playground leaning against the swings is particularly strong. I not only see it, but I can smell the air and feel the coldness of the metal pole and the falling snow.

The Manziuk and Ryan mysteries are set in Toronto, but it’s a mythical Toronto. I give the police jurisdiction over the entire area, and ignore a lot of the red tape that would hamper a real police investigation. That's because my focus is on the character and the plot, and I'm not trying to give a picture of a realistic Toronto police investigation. At the same time, I did do a lot of research on forensics and other relevant aspects of the plot and the people involved. While working on Shaded Light, I had fun creating an estate that used to be owned by a mafia family. I had a ball when writing Glitter of Diamonds, creating my own baseball dome and team and a sports radio station.

But what made me realized I love creating worlds is that I recently wrote a children’s fantasy, The Misadventures and Tribulations of Princess Persnickety. For that book, I got to create everything – a whole new planet, the kind of beings who live there, all the lands and cities and vegetation and everything. And doing that was very, very cool.

And the funny thing is, I actually did a ton of research in order to create a logical, interesting new world.

So I'm no longer going to consider myself someone who hates doing research. Instead, I now know that I’m really someone who loves to create new worlds. And I can't wait to create more.

Hmm. I wonder how many of my other weaknesses are actually strengths if looked at from the other side?

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. blogs on life at

N. J. blogs on writing at

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Writer's Trio -- Black

From the tailgate window aperture of our Ford Taurus wagon emanated a swishing, crackling sound, as motion-generated air eddies sucked and tugged at the plastic sheeting, secured by hockey tape, which I’d applied to keep out the sub-zero air. My wife May and I were on our way to an auto-glass shop located in a neighbouring town.

It was a lovely winter’s day ride–despite the ‘self-peevement’ of the fact that I was responsible for the damage, caused by my backing the car into our weather-stuck garage door, and that we would be paying the eight hundred bucks or more out-of-pocket, rather than lose premium no-claim insurance status (you know how it is, when you’ve got a five hundred dollar deductible, anyway).

Ice-fog hung in the morning air, allowing only the ghost of a wintry sun to highlight the hoar frost adorning everything–hardwoods, evergreens, ditch grass, and teasel. Neither were fence posts and wires, and rooftops and barns bypassed by nature’s skilful art. We remarked to each other how gorgeous everything was; that it was the kind of serene, picturesque winter scene that artists and calendar photographers may have to wait long enough to capture.

Certain beautiful things in life occur but rarely, when conditions are just right; often conditions over which we have no control. Yet we need to be in the ‘right’ place and time to witness them, and in a suitable frame of mind to appreciate them. That’s how it was that day. And that’s how it can be for the writer, poet, songwriter, and even the artist.

Inspiration comes ever so softly, even subtly at times, and in the midst of life’s challenges and frustrations, we can miss the magical moment, or we may be fortunate enough to catch it in a fleeting, breathless moment of wonder. A fickle frame of mind, besides causing inspiration to pass on by, can also cause it to quickly evaporate like the ephemeral thing it is by nature. How often has inspiration alighted like a butterfly on a flower, only to be chased away by a flurry of worry, annoyance, or distraction!

Publishing deadlines–especially for periodicals and newspaper columns–don’t wait for inspiration; and so, what can a writer do when the ‘magic’ just isn’t happening? Raising the gaze helps. Elevating the focus can lead to the moment of inspiration. This can move the mindset from "I’ve got this problem of a deadline; gotta’ have an article in by tomorra’, an’ have no idea where to start," to one’s taking a look out of a window, or an interested scan of a room, or even a thankful trip of a few steps (or many) down memory lane. And voilà!–idea and inspiration can happen yet again.

A writer’s trio: Inspiration, Idea, and Interest. Inspiration, I find, usually doesn’t operate in a vacuum, but rather acts as a catalyst in the presence of idea and interest. Ideas occur in the company of interest, and inspiration provides ignition that begins the process for transmuting them into something of potential interest to others–our readers.

Taking an interest in life, in the world around us, in the welfare of others who share our lives and the planet, and in the significance of small things as well as the large, raises our gaze to find the wonderful in the midst of the awful, and the amazing in the midst of the annoying.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8 NIV)

"Parables from the Pond" -- Written for children ... read and enjoyed by all ages."... a classic children’s book that could ... become the next story of choice ..." (Reviewer)ISBN 1897373-21-X

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Floater - Nesdoly

The Grinch, Nature or Old Age gave me a gift on Christmas Eve. I first noticed it as a darting spot on the computer screen when I checked my email.


I rubbed my eyes, blinked numerous times then looked at the monitor again. It hadn't gone away. Instead it hovered right beside the words I was reading and then, the second I moved my eyeball to see what it really was, darted away like a mischievous child.

Now I'd had visual impostors before. Floaters, they're called. Always in the past they had drifted through my visual field - occasional lazy black snowflakes that just disappeared. This was different.

Since I had no pain and could easily function I ignored the nuisance through a hectic Christmas day. However, when it was still there on the 26th I decided to do some deeper sleuthing.

Googling "visual spots" and "retina" yielded some alarming possibilities - retinal tears, detachment, blurry vision, vision loss. Frightened, I made an ASAP appointment with a local optometry clinic.

The result was a relief. A floater it was, though a big one, the optometrist said. The bad news, it will hang around indefinitely. More good news, our brains typically weary of registering such non-objects, learn to ignore them and we become oblivious to their presence. Unfortunately my brain isn't there yet.

This constant companion brought to mind a little poem I memorized as a kid. Here it is, modified just a tad to fit my situation.

My Floater
(With apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson)

I have a little floater that goes in and out with me
And what can be the use of her is more than I can see.
She is very very jumpy like a little black fruit fly
As she swoops and flits and quivers 'round the corner of my eye.

The funniest thing about her is the way she never stares
me full face-on but rather lurks beside me unawares
like a glass chip in a window, cobweb fragment, spot or thread
she’s a bit of protein darting through the humor of my head.

She hasn’t got a notion of how floaters shouldn’t stay
within one’s line of vision but should gently drift away.
The way she hovers near me, paranoia it must be
I’d think shame to stick to anyone like floater sticks to me.

Perhaps one morning early when my desktop is alight
I’ll rise and find my page displays without a spot in sight.
My annoying little floater will be nowhere about
because my brain has finally figured how to tune her out!

© 2009 by Violet Nesdoly

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Walls and Bridges

In 1877, my great-great grandfather, William Boyle built a house -- a beautiful stone house for his large blended family. I almost thought this house, along with tales of my great-grandfather's squandered inheritance, were fairytales. But this week I saw the house -- or at least a picture of it. Still standing. Still occupied.

The house still stands, but the family that once lived in it has scattered. The walls could not hold them. In fact,'walls' may have scattered them.

The lady who made time to tromp through snow covered rural Ontario to find my great-great-parents' land also sent me a picture of a bridge her grandfather built. A beautiful curved wooden bridge. It, too, stills stands after 100 years. Apparently, her grandfather built bridges in Western Canada too. I'm keeping my eyes open for them.

Aren't bridges beautiful things? Not only do they get you from one side of a deep ravine or a raging river to the other, they are beautiful architecture. Useable art.

I live in a city where more joggers, getting fit along the coulee top trails, turn east to look at the huge viaduct spanning the river valley than west to look at the outline of the Rocky Mountains and Porcupine Hills. Canada Post put our bridge on a stamp once.

Groups, like TWG are bridges too, linking people of diverse backgrounds in many regions of the country -- even beyond. Too often we talk of walls: rights and regional competition. What 'they' did and how we carry more than our fair share of the load. Too often we hold onto to our grudges and prejudices. Too often we take pride in building thicker and thicker walls and hurling insults at our kin -- and we are all kin if we go back far enough.

We love our walls, but we need more bridges,especially in Canada. Especially among Christians.

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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eating Elephants- Grove

It's an old proverb: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes elephants come crashing through our front door - uninvited, unexpected, they push their way in and take up all the room. Illness, job loss, relationship problems. Even a good problem like being too busy at work, or buying a new home can turn into fat, rude elephants and take over our lives.

I've been staring an elephant in the eye lately - maybe you have been too. And as I contemplate my elephant, I've been thinking about the best ways to take care of it. Should I push it back out the door, carve it up into manageable pieces, or just throw an area rug over it and hope no one notices? Hmmm

Have you ever noticed that when you first cut into an elephant with your quivering knife and fork that the initial cuts don't seem to make much of an impact on the elephant? They don't seem to be DOING anything! Such tiny bits come off - the elephant doesn't even notice, never misses them. It's so easy to drop our cutlery at this point, call it names like "Useless" and "Mistake".

But what would happen if we kept going? Kept jabbing and dicing. What if we didn't give up? What if we pursued our goal relentlessly? One small step at a time.

How do we hang on to our cutlery when all seems hopeless?

1) Remember you're not alone. God put you on the planet, but He didn't abandon you. He is with you. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is a constant presence who teaches and guides each one of us. On top of that, God has supplied you with family, friends, people who love you. If you go to church, you also have a community of like-minded people who will support you. With all those knives and forks, it takes less time to get that elephant eaten.

2) Look your elephant in the eye. Elephants come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes it's difficult to know just how big the thing really is because we are too upset, frightened, or depressed to give a good, close look. But when we examine our elephant an amazing thing happens - we calm down, stop being afraid, and can come up with a game plan. The elephant starts to shrink.

3) Remember you have choices. Don't let your elephant sit on you! Even in difficult circumstances you always have choices, options, and freedom of thought. Pray, talk to friends, and work to adjust your emotional response to the problem. You always have control over how you react to an elephant. Sometimes the way to change the world is to change the way you think about the world.

Problems come, and sometimes they are big, overwhelming, time consuming problems. Grab your cutlery, recruit your trusted friends and families, and lean hard on God. And don't give up.

Bonnie Grove is the author of Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You (Beacon Hill Press, March 1, 2009). Pre-order your copy today at,, or or anywhere you like to buy books online.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Green is Not My Colour - Smith Meyer

Green? Why that is a beautiful colour! But no matter which, out of a vast array of tints and hues in which green manifests itself, when it comes to representing my envy it certainly is not a becoming colour! Even though it is one of the colours of Christmas and it was the season, the growing tinge that was emanating from my life a month ago didn’t enhance anything at all.

In my case and at this time, it had to do with my writing and speaking career and the promotion it requires, but it tended to cast its glow on everything. I had ceased to look up and started to look around at those whose gifts I admired. I had started to think "If I was just a bit younger, a bit funnier, a bit more outgoing, a bit more assertive." —you know how it starts. Then Christmas was just about upon me. Now the greenish hue began to spread. "If I was just a bit more organized, a bit more on the ball, if I just would be one of those people who planned ahead, if I would only come up with the perfect ideas sooner than the night before, if only I would be better at seeing the whole picture," and on and on.

Christmas Eve came. I had been asked to give a short meditation for the choir before we gave our program for the gathered worshipers. I had been almost too busy to find something meaningful and I really didn’t feel that good about what I had come up with ("Last minute again," I thought.)

We gathered at the front of the sanctuary for a last run-through of the parts in which we were the least secure. Then— Bo-oing!! A few lines from one of the songs hit me right between the eyes. I don’t have the words right in front of me to quote them exactly, but the gist was that the wise men gave Jesus their riches and gold, the oxen and asses gave him their hay—and both gifts were equally accepted. (Emphasis on the equally.)
"Okay, I get it Lord! All you want is what I have to give."
(I won’t insert names past the first one as I haven’t asked for their permission, but I am sure
you can insert names of people you know whose gifts you would like to have.)
God doesn’t need me to be as humourous as Erma Bombeck nor as outgoing as ___. I don’t have to be as young as ___or super-organized like ___ or always see the whole picture as only God can. He wants from me just what I am able to give—and he will graciously and gladly accept it. A great peace flooded me.

The choir congregated in the upper room where we were to meet. I didn’t even get my notes out. I just shared what had been revealed to me and noted that right now, we had a gift of music to give to Him and prayed that is what we would do that evening—give what we had to give to Jesus.

Christmas is past, but the thought with which that hymn gifted me still gives me a different perspective that continues to permeate all I do. I pray that it will keep on accomplishing its transformation throughout 2009.
Author of Not Easily Broken and Not Far from the Tree

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Six Thousand Days Later - HIRD

Six Thousand Days Later
By the Rev Ed Hird+

Happy 2009! The New Year season is a time for both remembering and anticipating. This New Year, I particularly remember one of my mentors Ernie Eldridge who has helped me more effectively spend the last 6,000 days on the North Shore.

Ernie believed in me when I first came to faith in 1972 and reassured me that I had done the right thing. Ernie gave me sage advice about relationship choices, even assisting at my wedding thirty-one years ago. When I was completing my Social Work degree at UBC, Ernie carefully listened as I shared my dream about becoming an Anglican priest. After twenty-eight years of ordained ministry, I am grateful that Ernie could see potential in a well-meaning, rather naïve young adult.

In the mid 1970s, we started a singing group called Morning Star and a parallel LivingStone Productions which organized contemporary music concerts at Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the PNE Gardens. Thanks to Ernie Eldridge’s mentorship, Morning Star received a national grant that enabled us to sing throughout BC, including an extensive outreach to Vancouver Island. During that period, we sang extensively on the North Shore, including Hillside Baptist, West Vancouver United, and St. Simon’s North Vancouver.

As a social worker, I had the privilege of working for John Braithwaite in 1975-76 at North Shore Neighbourhood House. But I had no idea that God would one day have me spend several decades living on the North Shore. That was never on my radar screen. After four & a half years serving as the assistant priest at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Abbotsford, I knew in 1986 that it was time to become a Rector/Senior pastor. One of the first people that I asked for advice and prayer was Ernie Eldridge. Ernie agreed that it was time to move on. In ‘casting my bread on the waters’, I applied for two positions: St Thomas Chilliwack and St. Simon’s North Vancouver. When I met with the St Simon’s selection committee on Badger Road in Deep Cove, they asked me a lot of challenging questions. My answers did not always impress myself, but I left that meeting with a deep sense that I would be moving to the North Shore.

Ernie Eldridge always cheered for me when I was facing my next major transition. One time he went to bat for me with my bishop at great personal risk. Two of Ernie’s gifts to me that have been invaluable on the North Shore were his ‘Death & Dying’ and ‘Time Management’ courses. He taught me the need to prepare for one’s death and to grieve the inevitable losses that we will all face. While writing my book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, my wife and I were privileged to visit Ernie and Barb in Beaver Harbour New Brunswick before Barb died from ALS. Recently Ernie produced a thoughtful book ‘Hope, Help, Heaven’ on his last ten years with his dear wife Barb.

Because Ernie uses a time management system, he was able to write his book in which he journals his thoughts and activities on a daily and weekly basis. One of Ernie’s favourite verses was Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Through Ernie’s influence in 1982, I began using the Seven Star Diary system after my voice was restored through surgery. For the past twenty six-years I have regularly recorded my work activities in a journal format. As a result, I know exactly how many hours I have spent on any particular activity. Ernie taught me to ‘redeem the time’ because life is short and easily wasted (Ephesians 5:17, Colossians 4:5).

Through Ernie’s time management system, I am aware that I have now spent 6,000 days serving the Seymour/Deep Cove community. Time flies when you enjoy your work. It is a great privilege to serve each of you. It has not always been easy. In the past twenty-one years, I have been privileged to be involved in some of your baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Through the Deep Cove Crier and the North Shore News, I have been able to communicate with each of you in hundreds of diverse articles. For the last two decades St. Simon’s NV has served many of your children, preteens, teens and young adults through our gifted young pastors, the Rev Ken Bell, the Rev Josh Wilton, and Rebecca Bailey. In the past 15 years, I have had an opportunity to personally visit over 6,600 of your homes to see what you think and feel.

In this new year of 2009, I am excited about the possibilities of having even more impact in the Seymour/Deep Cove community. St Simon’s NV, which has been in existence for the past 63 years, has just celebrated its fourth anniversary at Lions Gate Christian Academy. We, the St. Simon’s NV family, are here to stay and committed to serving you using our time, talent and treasure. In the same way that Ernie Eldridge has helped me make better use of my time, I pray that each of us in the Seymour/Deep Cove community will learn to more effectively redeem our time and become better stewards of this sacred gift of our fleeting days.

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

-previously published in the January 2009 Deep Cove Crier

Friday, January 09, 2009

Epiphany – Lawrence

This is the season in the Christian church when we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to see Jesus in Bethlehem. The Wise Men were guided by God through the means of a star in the heavens.
During this whole season of the Epiphany we talk about light coming upon the world. This light is the light of Christ. What are we to do about this light of Christ that we are given? In Isaiah, we read, Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1 (NRSV). God sends us light and we are to respond to it by rising up and cultivating the talents we have been given to the glory of God.
The Wise Men came to Christ over 2000 years ago; but God continues to give us epiphanies today. We need to be observant of the hints of His glory, giving thanks for these bright spots in our lives.
Since November, we have received a tremendous amount of snow and the grey and short days can be disheartening. But there are uplifting moments in our gloomy winter days, if only we will see them. The other day, I saw a bright red bird on the snow pecking at the seed under the bird feeder. The red was startling against the pure white snow and my spirit was uplifted. This Pine Grosbeak, for that is what it was, does not usually come this far south—it is a northern bird, though I have seen it once before in the summertime. A gift of joy was given to me that day and I gave thanks to God for this blessing.
The days are getting longer, too, giving us hope that spring will come again, and life will return to the earth and to our spirits. It is probably no coincidence that the church proclaimed this time of returning light to be the season of Epiphany in the church calendar, with its emphasis on the light of Christ.
The Wise Men brought gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold to Christ. What gifts will we bring? The drummer boy of song brought his expertise in drumming; I want to improve my writing talent and find new ways to glorify God through my writing. What talent will you use to proclaim God’s glory to others?
© Judith Lawrence
Books by Judith: Glorious Autumn Days: Meditation for the Wisdom Years, and Grapes From The Vine: a book of poetry, are both available from

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Blogging ... don't pray for numbers, you might get them! - Denyse O'Leary

I had a curious experience yesterday. Over 18 000 people came to my lead blog, The Post-Darwinist. For no clear reason, so far as I can see.

This is the post, and this is my response.

The Post-Darwinist was started in May 2005, to update my book, By Design or by Chance?, a 2004 overview of the intelligent design controversy. As I explained in a recent post:
When I first started monitoring the controversy in 1999, I heard that it was dead every six months. Then every three months, then every few weeks ... . I was fascinated by the difference between what pundits said and what I knew was happening. So in 2003, I ducked lucrative education writing contracts and wrote a book (By Design or by Chance?, 2004) exploring the controversy. In 2005, I started a blog, Post-Darwinist, to log its continued development.
I feel sorry for the third- and fourth-rate tax burdens who have written me shrill missives, advising that I am completely wrong to have ever doubted the old Brit toff Darwin - who ripped off earlier scientists to create a never-demonstrated creation story for atheism.

They did pretty well in forcing the rest of us to pay taxes to support their religion, but that’s where the train stops, I am afraid. And don’t get me started on Darwin's virulent racism either. Just this on that:

Darwin and his fellow Victorian toffs were stuck with the creationist idea that we are all equally human. That's what the Bible said, but they didn't believe the Bible - however, they did not know exactly how to discredit the Bible. Darwin provided the toffs with a "scientific" means of discrediting the Bible, so that the hoped-for break between races of humans
will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. ( The Descent of Man)
So there it was at last. A "scientific" excuse for the toffs' existing sense of vast superiority and entitlement over other races. And the rest is, alas, history.

And Darwinists are still so justifiably sure of their hold over mindless tax-supported popular culture that, incredibly, they have somehow wanted to link Lincoln and Darwin as liberators. A culture that accepts such a patent lie could not be liberated from anything, ever.

But a sudden spurt of attention may be part of what we must get used to in the new weird, wild, world of the Internet. We replace the egg beater with a tsunami. And then what?

Well, one thing was massive abuse. I had no idea that so many people are bored, idle, or insane.

Also - and this might be my fault - I do not have a system in place for responding to abuse. Most of the time, people do not even notice my byline, and I have always preferred that, actually.

However, as an old-fashioned journalist, I feel - so far - that I must maintain a real e-mail address: That's actually ME, no aliases. I live in a town, like most of my readers do, and vote and pay taxes here, and would never represent myself as a better judge than the general public of anything - except how to report news in a way that people can understand.

And that's only from experience, not because of any claim to superiority.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Gift of Friendship - Shepherd

Henri Nouwen is a writer who succeeds in expressing thoughts that struggle for articulation in the depth of my being. I receive his daily meditations on my computer.

Recently in one of them he awakened a yearning in me. He spoke about how when we accept that through Christ we are reconciled with God we become messengers of reconciliation. That’s what I long to be. I so much want to bring peace in a world characterized by strife. Nouwen does not pretend this is easy. His December 27th devotional thought was essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence, arising from practicing compassion. Completely counter-cultural, this non-judgmental stance is born out of a deep spiritual life – a life attuned to the Spirit of Jesus.

On December 28th his message was about being safe places for others. This thought appeals to me, as it is what Christ does for me. Creating safe places is costly. It means risking vulnerability, and again refusing to judge or condemn. It demands that kind of humility. Yet it leads to profound reconciliation, as we honestly admit our need of one another.

As well as ushering in reconciliation, vulnerability produces fruits that make success pale in value. Henri Nouwen created a statement that I find takes me to new depths in understanding of the sacred. In the Daily Meditation for January 4, 2009 he is quoted, “A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds.”

Reflecting on these meditations prepared me for the thoughts that appeared on my screen this morning that spoke of the value of friendship. Perhaps this is the greatest gift we can offer to one another.

I am part of a group of eight friends who live in different places across this country. As often as we can, we meet together for the purpose of praying for each other. We each take a turn, sharing with the others our deepest joys and concerns. Then the group gathers round the friend, who has bared her soul, to pray. It is a profound experience of creating a safe sacred space for each other, of experiencing reconciliation on a profound level and of knowing we are loved.

This year we have chosen one particular day in the month when we all fast for one of the group. Today, I have been the object of the prayer and fasting of my sisters, my friends. In the depths of my being, I have felt loved, by God through the caring of my friends. I understand a little bit more about the incredible words of Jesus who said we are not His servants but His friends. Wow!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Mother's Memoirs - Dawson

Recently, my daughter came across an old cook book that belonged to my mother. Some of you may know that my mother graduated into heaven a few years back. Our family felt the void of her home going and it was with pleasure that I received the phone call from my daughter saying that Mom had left a little note in the cook book. I'd like to share that note with you.

"Memories of youth
by Freeda Dawson

Each year drops a thin veil over the preceding year and as you get farther away from the years of youth the accumulation of veils becomes a thickness substantial enough to conceal and hide. Only in certain moments when some memory stirs will that thickness slit through with a look at youth and then the slit in the veil closes again. Veils, some bright, some sombre, fall together and lose all particular colour, merging into a gentle grey."

I have often wondered where I received my love of writing. And I have dearly missed the connection with my mother. In one fell swoop, my daughter gave me two gifts. I now know where my use of the pen springs from and that connection, through my writing, is re-established. We truly are an extension of our ancestors. My only regret is that my mother didn't write more of her musings. Many blessings as you pass on parts of yourselves to your children, your extended families or your readers.

Monday, January 05, 2009

How Transparent Are We? - Gregoire

The problem with authors is that we think we have an image to uphold.

If people are going to buy our books, they have to want to be like us. And they have to think that we have something to offer.

And so I think there's a tendency among authors to try to come off as "the expert": the one who has it all together.

Do we do that?

I know I'm tempted to. I don't want to ever admit that sometimes I think my husband is annoying because of course I write marriage books. And would I ever admit to yelling at my kids?

I never used to. But then I began to have this nagging doubt. Are we really glorifying God if we try to come off as if we are perfect--like there is no more growing to do. Is that biblical? After all, in Romans 7 Paul admitted he still had struggles. And I bet those Romans took the rest of his letter more seriously because of it! When he admitted he struggled, just like they did, Paul became more real. And the focus became God, not Paul.

When I speak, I frequently mention the struggles I still have. I tell my testimony, which is full of mistakes that I've made and things I've had to overcome. But I never want to look like I've finished running the race. And there's two reasons for this.

The first is, like Paul, we need to give glory to God, not try to win it for ourselves. We aren't perfect, and God isn't finished with us. If we're scared that people won't buy our books or take us seriously if they see our flaws, then we're really selling a lie anyway. What we write isn't Scripture; it is the words of fallen individuals who are doing their best to love God and reveal Him as He has shown us. But that includes revealing how He is still working in us. That shouldn't mean that we glorify sin; Paul certainly didn't. But it does mean that we need to be humble.

But the other, I think, is even more fundamental.

What is our goal when we write and speak? Is it to transmit knowledge, or is it to see lives transformed?

God works best when we are real and when we are vulnerable. Honesty is where He shines through. Haven't you been touched more by a speaker's tears, or by listening to the struggles of those that you respect and admire? It shows that they struggle with the same things you do, and if they struggle in the same way, then it's OKAY to listen to them. Their message is relevant.

Too often I think people tune our messages out because they think, "I could never do that", or "my family will never be that perfect". Why listen, then? It may be interesting to read, but they're not going to change what they do because they don't see how our message can impact their own families. We're too far above them. (I talk about how this relates to speaking ministries here!)

Now my fellow authors know that's the farthest thing from the truth, but I think that's what people often feel. When we can be vulnerable, and expose where God is still working, then we invite people to journey with us. We're not on a separate road; we are fellow travelers.

So for my author friends, don't be afraid to admit your mistakes. And for our readers, know that we struggle, too. Forgive us for it, open your arms to us, and encourage us back! For that, I think, is what God truly desires.

Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life. She blogs at

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Shredding My Words - Wegner

Although I’ve had little success with New Year’s resolutions, every January I spend some time contemplating what may be ahead and my role in making this a good year. That often leads to “commendable deeds” as opposed to iron-clad declarations. Over the first weekend of 2009 my first good deed involved a major clean-up of my home-based office. There wasn’t a lot of cleaning to do, as such, but it was shredding paper that posed the greatest challenge.

Good thing I’ve got a reliable large-capacity paper gobbler, going through files and binders was a massive effort. As a researcher, writer, and general paper collector, I’ve filled the shredder bucket several times and there are still piles of old notes, meeting agendas, draft reports and who-knows-what-that-was-for paper. It’s all headed for the diamond cut home of deceased documents.

Sometime in this process of ridding myself of a mountain of once valuable information, I realized that it wasn’t just paper I was shredding, it was words. Words that once were the embryonic beginnings of a published article or report hit the cutting blades with little thought. Sentences, worked and reworked, became part of a bag of confetti-sized waste material. I can only hope and pray that the finished projects yielded more value and met a better end than their beginnings.

“…so is my [God’s] word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NIV-UK)
PS: For those as environmentally conscious as I am, this shredded paper will soon find its way into our “lasagna composting” mix along with freshly gathered sea weed and a purchased load of horse manure. May all those shredded words live on in the peas and beans we’ll harvest next Fall!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Emmanuel - Austin

The hype is behind. Christmas has come and gone. Kids are heading back to school and life will return to its previous blend of challenge and tedium. The flurry of activity in churches will subside at least a little, and for most people in the western world, the claims of “Emmanuel – God with us,” will once again be pushed to the recesses of their minds.

On the streets of any community in Canada today, the average person knows as much about Santa Claus as about Jesus Christ. They don’t take Santa Claus very seriously, although if they have small children, they learn to use the language well. I wonder how different we, the church, are? We use the language pretty well, and not just with small children. I own multiple translations of the Bible and can quote lengthy passages. I’ve read it cover to cover enough times that I do pretty good in Bible Trivia games. But that old question that was asked quite frequently a number of years back bothers me a bit today as I sit at this keyboard – “If I was accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?” If the same criteria was used for my belief in Santa Claus as for my belief in God, how much difference would be found?

Does ownership of multiple Bibles place me in some unique league? Do I dare confess that there are weeks when I’m working hard on some project when my dictionary gets more use? Do I dare confess that at times I weary of the Bible? With all its incredible stories, its wonderful and varied writing styles, its magnificent poetry and the message of God’s love that lives and breathes in its pages, I sometimes want to run from it, hide from it, shut out its claims on my life.

I can read a novel and take or leave what it says. I can thrill to the story, even when I can’t turn off the red pen in my brain. But the Bible changes me, and sometimes, to tell the truth, I’d rather not be changed. I’m within a few weeks of that magic age when I’m eligible for a number of “senior” privileges. I’ve gotten used to my quirks, including my failings. For the most part I’ve learned to live with who I am, strengths and weakness, foibles and foolish dreams included. But the Bible always seems to call me a little higher. It takes work to climb higher. It takes effort. It takes diligence and alertness. And sometimes I’m just plain lazy. I want to see the view from the top of Mount Everest, but the work of climbing Mount Everest has never been one of my dreams. I want to keep the wonder of Christmas alive through my year, but the offence of Christmas – the Creator of the Universe making His bed in a feed-trough in a stable – first visited by shepherds, who didn’t stop to shower and shave – I want, somehow, to sanitize that picture, to make it more acceptable. That isn’t the way I would have planned it, and I want, somehow, to remake God, at least in small ways, in my image. But Christmas in a (watch where you step) stable – shatters my feeble attempts at redesigning God.

The hype is behind, but the truth remains. We are a visited people. Emmanuel – God with us is reality, because Christmas is historical fact, and the stable was the chosen place.

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